Credit : ObiAkpere

The Zen Art of Search Engine Marketing

2007 has been a phenomenal year for the Search Marketing industry complete with PageRank drama, Google penalities, profitable business and the profilic rise of social media. Some have made Sphinn, Digg and Stumbleupon their second home, while others have forayed into even more advanced greyhat and blackhat seo techniques. But, what of 2008? If you're already a good SEM then it's time to get better, and if you're just starting out in the search marketing industry, its time you got your act together in order to play with the big boys of search. Here are ten ways to grow as a SEM in 2008 and consequently empower your business acumen and boost productivity and profitability.

10. Absorb More Information by Reading Less - Time to clean up your feed reader list my friend. As ADD prone as I am, I'm making a conscious effort to cut down on the number of feeds I subscribe to and instead focus on a core list of feeds that act as primary information sources for my business. Here's a quick primer: Subscribe to social media aggregation news feeds for the hottest stories and individual authority blogs for indepth opinion. Creating organized folders for your feeds can save a ton of time and make you feel much more productive as well.

09. Learn A New Skill - So you know a thing or two about on-page optimization, or maybe you're a linkbuilding ninja - but do you know enough PHP to code a new WordPress plugin as linkbait, or create an automated tool to make your SEO process easier? Try learning a new skill in 2008 that will enhance your search marketing skills, whether that maybe deeper involvement in social media, or mastering the art of managing your client's expectations.

08. Underpromise, Overdeliver... Always - Yes, the adage is as old as "Content is King" but it will hold true in 2008 as it was many years ago. This isn't a specific SEM oriented skill, but it can help manage unreasonable expectations, and make you look like a star in the process!

07. Network With Fellow SEM's - This year I had the opportunity to get to know a fair number of search marketing consultants big and small, all without actually meeting them physically. There's a fair number of snake oil traders in the seo industry out there, but you will find that the big names are actually down to earth, and genuinely friendly people. Make an effort to get to know your industry peers, as you'll often learn more from these humble gurus than any blog or e-book will ever teach you.

06. Plan.Plan.Plan - It isn't enough to to lay loose goals for the year ahead. Having an overall gameplan complete with Goals, Objectives, Plans, Strategies, and Tactics (GOPST) will ensure that you're already 50% ahead of your competition.

05. Quit Freaking Out About Your Stats - I have a love/hate relationship with Google Analytics. It's the same relationship I share with other analytics apps such as HBX, Comscore and every other darned statistics app that was created to reel me in to check on my unique visitors every 10 minutes. Instead of being obessive compulsive about Google Analytics, save 7.5 hours a month (15min X 30 days / 60 mins) to write quality content instead.

04. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment - Are you holding back on trying out that wicked SEO technique on one of your client's sites? Testing is one of the key processes in bring about a competitive edge, so get cracking on creating your very own test portals to enhance your SEO skillsets.

03. Create An Investment Fund - Save up a little from your project margins every time to invest into new projects, and partnerships. Every now and then I come up with a great idea that is bordering on being really profitable. However, ideas on their own aren't worth as much as ideas put into action. Concepts such as Digg, The Million Dollar Wiki, and Squidoo were once thought of as unfeasible business models, but have been rather successful to say the least. Next time you get that great idea, don't wait for someone else to capitalize on it!

02. Be Different - As our industry becomes more and more saturated, creating your own unique brand becomes just that more important in order to sustain and leverage your own authority as an SEM consultant or SEM firm. Whether it be a unique design, compelling copywriting, innovative business practices or another blend of business processes, being different will get you noticed much more than before.

01. Rinse and Repeat - Don't rely on your past laurels to leverage your business success. Consider your past successes as a bonus to one's you're planning to achieve in 2008, and don't ever stop and bask in the glory of your achievements. Instead, learn from your mistakes, capitalize on your strengths, integrate better with your colleagues and rinse and repeat your SEO best practices to create a winning business model.