Posted by Kate Morris

It’s the New Year and I can guarantee there will be a ton of new people at my gym this week ready to work on their resolutions (and generally getting in the way </grumbling>). In SEO, some resolutions might include working on personal sites (I might have a few abandoned sites…) or writing more blog posts. Resolutions have never really worked for me though. So instead of giving you SEO resolutions for 2011, I’d like to inspire some exploration in the New Year when it comes to your search marketing campaigns.

The following five areas are either up and coming, or becoming major cornerstones to every search marketing campaign. The first is my personal “to-do,” and the others are always on the “I need to look into that” list for most search marketers I know. Each has a clear impact on optimization, traffic and conversions. After all, the end goal still is and always will be the conversion, whatever it is for you.

I’d love to hear what it is that you want to work on in 2011. Maybe you’ll inspire some YOUmozzers or SEOmozzers to write some posts to help you out. Or just maybe … you will be the one writing a post. 

Exploratory Tactic #1: HTML5

This new way of coding is cleaner and allows designers to do things that HTML 4 and CSS (which are preferred by most SEOs) could not do before. HTML5 is changing the way sites are designed, crawled, and used by consumers. Long gone are the days of Flash, Tables, and other code hogs.

Here are a few sites that are utilizing HTML5 elements to enhance the user experience and increase search engine understanding of the site. Not saying learning and using HTML5 will rank your site better or increase your indexation rate, but depending on what you were using before it just might.

aquatica yacht services

And our very own RIchard Baxter’s SEOGadget and he has a great post on HTML5 as well.

SEO Gadget

As are most SEOs I know, I am a self-taught coder and very dangerous. I am sure with some fun nights of coding (some yelling will be involved), studying sites using HTML5 and begging the members of WebmasterWorld for help, I can get this new stuff down pat. And so can you.

Exploratory Tactic #2: A/B Testing

My good friend Joe Hall brought this one up on Twitter. As a frequent panelist on the Landing Page Optimization panel at PubCon, I know there are many people that always want to try A/B testing but never find the time to do it. So much can be learned with testing and many more conversions made.

This year if you are still finding a lack of time to test landing pages, here are some things that might help.

1. Hire an intern
Interns are plentiful if you work near a university. I got my start in search marketing in college and that gave me a nice lead on most other marketing graduates. An intern can be hired at a small cost ($10/hour) for 5 hours a week to put together tests and collect the data. That’s a mere $200 per month! Think about contacting the local university and look into the computer science, advertising, and business school for possible candidates.

2. Use Google Website Optimizer
It’s hard to take the time to come up with ideas, build the pages, and track everything. In comes Google Website Optimizer, which automates the much of the work for you. And best of all it’s free!

3. Use a service like Ion Interactive
These systems are easy to use testing grounds for landing pages but specifically for marketers, not developers. You can change things about a landing page using their WYSIWYG editor and test the changes immediately without the need to involve developers or your IT department. How you ask? These pages are hosted on the service’s servers (sent to your chosen subdomain) so there is no need to involve your IT department until you’re sure you have the version you want. 

Exploratory Tactic #3: Microformats

Local search marketing is all the rage because the global community is looking more to their local area than ever before. The search engines are responding by changing the way search results are displayed. If they see that users’ intent for a search is to find a local provider, they are showing integrated local results. These results are outranking and being mixed in with natural search results. The result are natural looking listing that have more items like location markers and stars from review ratings that draw the users’ eye to those listings.

For local businesses, coding your website with microformatted data will allow for better information updating in the search results. For businesses that provide reviews of local businesses, microformats of those reviews can provide another way to gain traffic from local searchers looking for the lowdown on local businesses.

Red and blue lit neon sign

Google has helped by providing a guide to microformats and a handy code-checking tool that can tell you if you have implemented microformats correctly.

Exploratory Tactic #4: Guest Posting

We all hate link building, and yes it has gotten harder to do. The best way to gain backlinks is still good old fashioned marketing, but guest posting (done right, not spammy) is another good way of gaining some links. If you take a look at my own personal site’s backlinks (on OSE), you see that most of my links come from guest posting and being a part of other people’s postings.

Guest posting allows you to not only link back to your own site, but also give others the attention they deserve. That is the key here, linking to others. Link karma is real, if you send out the links, they will come back to you. That link to your own site is usually at the bottom and could be discounted someday (if bad guest posts get out of hand). My coworker at Distilled, Justin Briggs brought this up recently in another SEOmoz post. 

But links are not all guest posting is good for. It also allows you to display your knowledge on a specific topic. Becoming an authority on your chosen topic can not only give you more links down the road, it would further your own career. In addition, the sites you guest post for get the content needed to rank well. The better you write for them, the more popular the page will be, and the stronger that link will be for you and everyone else. Guest posting is the best win-win-win around. 

Have I mentioned YOUmoz? *wink*

Exploratory Tactic #5: CRO

In the end are conversions. We all are online for a reason, to get conversions of any and all kinds. Your conversion can be a lead, sale, click to advertising, awareness, or retweets for just a few examples. There are so many kinds of conversions, the one thing you need to think about is “what do I want out of creating this website.” Once you have that, all of your future decisions should be based on that goal.

Conversion Rate Optimization is the idea that everything you do in your marketing should increase good conversions. From your PPC landing pages to your unused and unloved thank you pages, conversion rate optimization is utilizing your entire site and marketing offers to increase your bottom line. If something like ranking #1 for your favorite keyword isn’t converting visitors, then that time and effort needs to go into something new.

The pinnacle of CRO is tracking conversions on every marketing effort. Know what your conversions are and how much you want to be spending for those conversions. After that is set, start testing away. Be sure to test for a good time period and keep the rash decisions at bay. All CRO decisions should be made with a valid set of data. Making a decision after a week is probably not statically significant.

2011 new year against a skyscape

This new year, test new things, push new boundaries, and don’t worry about what the engines think (to a degree). They care about the end users and so should you. Once your site is set up with the right SEO foundation of good code and structure, focus on getting good traffic and converting that traffic. Y’all have a great new year!

2011 and Open sign images compliments of Shutterstock

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