A year in the internet world isn’t like a year in the real world. The time seems to move faster here. Internet years are kind of like dog years that way. Everything happens so quickly, changes come in rapid succession; news hits us in a constant and often overwhelming stream. New developments, tools and breakthroughs in technology happen on an almost weekly if not daily basis. So no wonder every year feels like ten. But it’s also true that as the years go by and everything around us seems to change, some things will always remain the same. In this New Year as a link builder, and for link builders everywhere, our goals should be to embrace the new while carrying with us the wisdom of the past.
1. I Will Try Something New
This year I’m going to spend more time trying new things. In the world of link building it may seem like there’s a million different techniques. Most of us find one that we excel at, or that we can sell, and we lock into that methodology and hone our mastery to a spear-point. When we reach that level it’s easy to feel like we’ve made it up the mountain, but no matter how great the view is it’s still only a plateau. It’s time to stop being comfortable, put our gear back on and start climbing to the next peak.
Whatever strategy you’ve adopted, this year will be a chance to break out of that routine. There are new tools, toolbars and programs developed every day, and the onslaught of these devices can be nearly overwhelming. So it may seem easier to ignore the tsunami and hide out in the comfortable shelter of what we know. But this year, I’m going to put my umbrella away and go play in the rain. Yeah, there may not be time to try every new tool that becomes available and let’s face it, not all of them are cost effective. But that’s no reason not to explore the options. The more time we spend taking advantage of free trials and limited availability the more insight we can gain into the possibilities that exist.
Beyond new tools, it’s time to try a new angle. We all have our own techniques for link building and tinkering with those can feel like messing with grandma’s recipe for German Potato Salad. It’s just not right. But unless we start claiming unfamiliar territory, we’re never going to reach our manifest destiny. If you’ve never had a piece of linkbait go viral, make that a goal. If you’ve been using automated programs, get down and dirty and try doing it by hand. If you’ve never tried asking for a link through a medium that does not have a motherboard, 2011 has 12 months for you to change that.
Working in SEO is a little intimidating. It’s a gigantic landscape with hundreds of little niches and specialties. We all have our areas of expertise that we are comfortable with. But when you go to a conference or some other large gathering of internet professionals, you start to see the much bigger picture and begin to realize how much you don’t know. A new year is as good a time as any to rectify that. Maybe that means attending more conferences, and sitting in on more sessions about unfamiliar topics, or simply reading more about subjects outside of our forte. Whatever method works, it’s good for all of us to expand our thresholds.
There is a virtual color wheel of internet specialties. For each one of us on the spectrum there is an opposite but complimentary field. The goal is to figure out where your specialty lands, identify the niche across from you, and bridge the gap. Whether its link builders learning about programming or social media specialists learning about web design. It may seem like these are skills you don’t need to do your job and maybe you don’t. But a greater understanding of the symbiotic environment we all inhabit will undoubtedly make you better at your specialty. This year I’m going to tackle the subjects that intimidate me, and I hope you will too.
2. I Will Network More
In this business, you can interact with a lot of people on a daily basis, even if you are sitting alone in a room all day. I’ve been very fortunate in 2010. I’ve made a number of new friends, some of whom I’ve never even met. I’ve learned from them and been inspired by them and if you’re reading this, I hope you know who you are. The more people we know, the more we can learn. That’s why this year’s challenge is to do an even better job of making new contacts and to make the most of the ones I have. It’s time to cast a wider net, learn more names, follow more thought leaders, and make more introductions.
Gatherings of people are always a great way to get a handshake and some face time. You may find someone is much more approachable than you ever would have imagined, and other times you discover that someone is kind of a jerk. But both insights are useful. Because it’s not always about making friends, it’s about gaining an understanding. It’s seeing how all of the moving parts fit together and figuring out the dynamics of an industry. Even a brief meeting is enough to warrant a follow up email, or a connection on Linked In or Twitter. The beauty of the digital age is that we can turn chance encounters into long-term connections simply by clicking a button. When face to face meetings aren’t an option, social media allows us to learn more about someone without being totally creepy. This year I’m going to seek to turn more people I am aware of into people I know. I’m also going to do a better job of maintaining the relationships I do have and re-visiting the connections I’ve let slide.
3. I Will Be Braver, Tougher and More Fearless
Both of my other resolutions all lead into this one, I’m going to stop being so afraid. I’ve been writing for SEJ for a year now, and I’ve learned a lot, from both encouragement and criticism. But it never stops being nerve-wracking to send out a new blog post. There’s always that fear of condemnation and disappointment. Anytime you put yourself out there you run the risk of rejection, and that’s true of anything; love, life, blogging and link building. Survival requires a thick skin, no matter what you do.
Speaking of think skin, John Wayne said “Courage is being scared to death… and saddling up anyway.” I like that. I like it because I think most of us are terrified of failure most of the time, but we still manage to move forward. I think it’s ok to be afraid, it’s healthy even. I also think that conquering any fear is the kind of victory that makes life worthwhile. Whether it’s being scared of heights and riding the Ferris wheel anyway or walking up to someone you don’t know and starting a conversation or attempting to learn a new skill. Sometimes the achievement is in the effort and not the outcome.
A braver, tougher more fearless link builder will try anything once. And then learn from their mistakes. It takes drive and discipline to become fearless, because it’s much simpler to play it safe. It’s easy to blindly send out link requests, automated or by hand. It’s easy to create new content for content’s sake, without going through a research and planning phase. It doesn’t take much to build a passive network that doesn’t really care about your work. But it takes bravery to be more selective, to put your time and effort into something that may not pan out. Because if it does will be that much more valuable and rewarding. Fearless means going after links you think are out of your reach, but doing it the right way with hard work and real thought. Tougher means not caring how many times you get shot down or what names you get called. It means speaking your mind in public, regardless of what the feedback may be. Because when you face every challenge with courage, you may just become an inadvertent mentor yourself.
I’m sure that 2011 will bring more of the same whirlwind of developments for all of us, but it will also strengthen traditions and illuminate the wisdom that never fades. Sometimes the speed of web evolution can feel like the tornado from the Wizard of Oz; it sweeps us up and lands us in a new place that is strange and unrecognizable. And in this place, there is no yellow brick road, or emerald city, and even though I do suspect there is a Lollypop Guild around here somewhere, there are no easy answers. But with the courage to try new things, and reach out to the people around us, we can always find the way back home. And when we get there we may discover a better, stronger, smarter version of ourselves ready to take on whatever craziness life throws our way. Here’s to a happy, healthy and healing New Year for us all.