Let’s face it, New Year’s resolutions are kind of B.S.
Especially this year.
It feels like just leaving the house would be a great New Year’s accomplishment these days, right?
The first of January felt for many of us like an arbitrary date on a calendar that came and went.
And yet, our imaginary stopwatch of personal change hit “go” at 12:01 a.m.
Since then, we’ve collectively held our breath to see how long we can maintain these self-made promises before we get knocked back into comfort food and Netflix binges.
Quarantine-induced cynicism much? (Full disclosure: I’m an New Yorker, so I might have been born this way.)
I guess my New Year’s resolution is to be more positive in 2021.
But seriously, as I sat in the same seat, in front of the same desk – near the same bed, in the same room I haven’t left for months – I asked myself, “How can we make New Year’s resolutions better this time?”
My first step was to figure out that my resolutions were to:
- Contribute consistent, long-lasting value to my friends and peers in the SEO industry.
- Empower others in our industry to share their wisdom and learn more from each other.
- Learn more and deeper from experts in every field I care about.
- Practice conscious gratefulness.
So, being a lover of all things optimization, how do I fulfill my New Year’s resolutions — make better ones?
Steps for Optimizing My NY’s Resolutions
Step 1: Ask smart friends I admire to share their resolutions.
Step 2: Find common themes among answers to the questions I asked.
Step 3: Share them with a larger audience (i.e., readers) to hopefully inspire people who may choose to own in these resolutions themselves.
Step 4: Provide topic-related hashtags and social handles for my resolutions so that readers can share valuable resources, insights, and learnings with one another beyond the life of this article.
Step 5: Hold each other accountable via these hashtags and micro-communities to make sure we stick to our goals.
And this being 2021, there is the X-Factor: This might be ignored and go nowhere…
I’ll still be grateful for the opportunity to try.
Not Your Usual Yearly Resolutions
I asked some of my smartest and most giving industry-expert friends to share their New Year’s resolutions.
But I didn’t want to just build the same ol’, same ol’ roundup post.
So we’re going to do this a bit differently!
Let’s make this the first interactive post built to help the readers and contributors alike create and stick to their New Year’s resolutions.
I Want to Learn More
I asked my panel, “What do you plan to learn in 2021 and why?”
Some of the themes that emerged revolve around better data visualization, deepening our understanding of Google’s evolution, and mastering new tools.
- SEO has big data sets, and knowing how to access and visualize them is a priority. (Use tag #SEO2021DataVis)
- Learning new Google considerations such as Core Web Vitals and Web Stories is key in 2021.
- Mastering new tools like Power BI and new programming languages is also high on our list of priorities.
Want to join in on this resolution?
Use this hashtag on your favorite social platform: #SEONYRLearning
“I want to learn more about Power BI. I’ve just started diving in and realize how awesome it is, but I’m a total noob.” – Greg Gifford – Vice President of Search, SearchLab
“In the last couple of years I’ve set a learning goal: In 2019 it was to learn how to optimize videos in YouTube (which I did by starting and optimizing/growing Crawling Mondays). In 2020 it was to grow my #SEOFOMO newsletter (which I did taking it from 1.7K to 8K subscribers). In 2021 I have as a goal to learn how to leverage Web Stories within my content projects (and at some point clients) optimization process.” – Aleyda Solis – International SEO Consultant & Founder, Orainti
“My educational goals for 2021 are to get more clarity surrounding Google’s direction for Core Web Virals and how much of a role they will play in rankings.” – Jim Christian – Founder & Partner, Digital Marketers Organization
“I want to sharpen my SQL skills.” – Wil Reynolds – VP Innovation, SEER Interactive
“I would like to improve my data visualization skills. More and more of the sites I work on are dealing with very large data sets, and it’s important to be able to identify trends and patterns at scale. It is also important to be able to pull together data from various sources, given how many different metrics work together to produce SEO outcomes.” – Lily Ray – SEO Director, Path Interactive
“Python and/or JS – to add more tools to my belt.” – Doc Sheldon – Founder/Owner, Intrinsic Value SEO
Strengthening Our Industry & Community Ties
We asked our panel, “What do you plan to do more of to forward your search goals in 2021? Why?”
They agreed that making search better means learning more creatively and sharing those learnings.
- Team building is never done.
- We need to commit to daily creativity in our practice.
- Sharing our experience with others to build and grow our community.
Want to join in on this resolution?
Use this hashtag on your favorite social platform: #SEONYRIndustry
“[I’m going to] hire more smart people to work with. With the right talent we can do anything.” – Greg Gifford – Vice President of Search, SearchLab
“Spend more time understanding client issues that search data can help shed light on.” – Wil Reynolds – VP Innovation, SEER Interactive
“Since I run a conference I’m likely going to bring in the greatest minds to collaborate and test some of the theories that surround Core Web Vitals.” – Jim Christian – Founder & Partner, Digital Marketers Organization
“Writing and speaking. I want to use my background in teaching and my experience in-house to make smart SEO more accessible to new practitioners, non-specialists, and general digital marketers, and help them to make smart SEO easier for their colleagues.” – Claudia Higgins – SEO Insights Strategist, Conductor
“SEO is becoming more and more creative over time. Collaborating with teammates to produce forward-thinking, creative approaches that set us apart from the competition will be increasingly important in 2021.” – Lily Ray – SEO Director, Path Interactive
Less Screen Time, Fewer Distractions
New Year’s resolutions are all about cutting out the bad stuff.
We asked, “What do you plan to do less of in 2021 and why?”
It’s no surprise that focusing by cutting out useless meetings and digital distractions topped the list.
Getting focused on search also means getting over “glamor metrics.”
- Scrolling, whether doom-scrolling or just daydreaming, is a waste of time.
- Paying less attention to glittery metrics that only tell you what you want to hear.
- Quit letting the digital comms (emails, DMs, texts) break your concentration.
Want to join in on this resolution? Use this hashtag on your favorite social platform: #SEONYRLessIsMore
“I plan on spending less time focused on content + links for pure traffic reasons. I have a terrible habit of getting distracted by glamour metrics and I need to get laser-focused on ranking for terms that produce revenue for our young and hungry team of experts.” – Tim Brown – CEO Founder, Hook Agency
“Wasting time passively scrolling and trying to use my time more intentionally. I also need to stop saying ‘yes’ to everything so I am only committing myself to projects where I have sufficient bandwidth to provide something of real value.” – Lily Ray – SEO Director, Path Interactive
“Instant responses to emails. Carving out dedicated times to respond to email, etc., so more time is invested/planned for learning and thinking.” – Duane Forrester – VP of Industry Insights, Yext
“I plan to do less manual reporting and manual creation of observations. My goal is to get both myself and my team from a place of observations to insights, and being less tactical and more strategic with our recommendations.” – Christi Olson – Global Media SEM Team Lead, Microsoft
Focus, Grit, & Getting It Done
Cutting out distractions is the flip side of finding your focus, and good habits are how focus happens.
We asked, “What habit do you want to gain in 2021? How can we help hold you to it?”
Answers ranged from Bruce Lee wisdom to making reflective writing a habit.
- Doing one important thing very well means making a habit out of it.
- We need to structure our time so we prioritize good habits.
- Good habits means making sure our goals and our habits are aligned.
Want to join in on this resolution?
Use this hashtag on your favorite social platform: #SEONYRGetItDone
“Leaving an hour to write every day so I’m able to finish my “Fruitful Consultant” book before the end of Q1 in 2021.” – Aleyda Solis – International SEO Consultant & Founder, Orainti
“I think changing my perspective on what success REALLY means. Up until this year I’ve always measured success by monetary gains. But 2020 really got me thinking that I should be basing success off my own happiness. You guys can help by attending events, reaching out to members in our community, and reminding everyone that life is short, enjoy it!” – Jim Christian – Founder & Partner, Digital Marketers Organization
“It’s like Bruce Lee’s quote, ‘I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.’ Replace the word ‘man’ with ‘team’ and you’ve got a scalable content strategy with clusters of keywords. You can hold me to it by saying ‘hi’ halfway through 2021 and asking if I’m scaling content lists with Wildcard content, and topic clusters.” – Tim Brown – CEO Founder, Hook Agency
“Daily bike rides. How can you help? …get me a Peloton! Kidding aside, I’d like to gain a better ‘mental toolset’ to help me focus and drive more practical overlap between what I know, areas to learn more and how this can translate to helping businesses set strategies.” – Duane Forrester – VP of Industry Insights, Yext
“Own my calendar and block ‘development and learning’ as well as work time that I’ll hold near and dear to my heart. Then during that time I commit to myself to not checking and responding to emails but to use it as focused time for learning as well as moving my big rock projects forward.” – Christi Olson – Global Media SEM Team Lead, Microsoft
When Good Habits Become Bad
Being competitive in business is good, right? Being laser-focused on winning is good, right?
Until you realize you’ve gone off the rails on a crazy train.
We asked, “What habit do you want to get rid of in 2021? How can we help hold you to it?”
Many of the answers to our question said a good resolution means getting rid of once-useful but self-disabling behaviors.
- Working too hard is a bad habit.
- Bad habits make you lazy and keep you from developing good habits.
- Quit obsessing over useless trivia!
Want to join in on this resolution?
Use this hashtag on your favorite social platform: #SEONYRKickHabit
“The tactic I’d like to see go away is individuals making observations (calling out data changes) without including actual insights — the why and the how behind the changes that have been happening and occurring.” – Christi Olson – Global Media SEM Team Lead, Microsoft
“Working too hard/long. Family time is more important than anything.” – Greg Gifford – Vice President of Search, SearchLab
“Waiting for permission.” – Claudia Higgins – SEO Insights Strategist, Conductor
“I think the habit I’d most like to get rid of is feeling horrible and stressed out when things don’t go as intended. Life is about ups and downs, but as digital marketers, we tend to be ‘people pleasers’ and take things personally when we aren’t necessarily at fault.” – Jim Christian – Founder & Partner, Digital Marketers Organization
“I want to stop worrying about competitors – I find myself Googling the same couple keywords every morning like it’s a bit of a tic, and being annoyed if that competitor shows up above me this time. But if I could get out of that habit, and focus on the fundamentals, I think I’d actually have better overall rankings. Not sure how you could help hold me to that! :)” – Tim Brown – CEO Founder, Hook Agency
Bonus Question 1: 2021 Will Be the Year I Finally_________
“Automate everything possible!”
“Start traveling again (hopefully!)”
“Live the life I want versus the life I think I want.”
“Write a book in English.”
“Invest in more real estate.”
Bonus Question 2: 2021 Will Be the Year Our Industry Finally _________
“Stops putting up with Google’s tyranny. God, I wish that could really happen. They’ve gotten away with far too much for far too long.” – Jim Christian
“Achieves diversity”– Aleyda Solis
“Gets widespread, high-level buy-in in businesses. 2020 has shown the importance of digital presence, and digital presence without SEO is a wasted opportunity.” – Claudia Higgins
“Sees a massive increase in machine-driven content production, leading to a huge increase in misinformation. This will force the industry to understand that human approaches don’t scale easily to solve machine-driven issues.” – Duane Forrester
“I’m afraid I can’t see our industry collectively doing anything… we’re all too individualistic. We can’t seem to even talk civilly about setting a code of ethics.” – Doc Sheldon
Wishing a happy and safe 2021 to all my friends who contributed here and our entire crazy industry.
May we all help each other grow this year!
Headshots used with permission, January 2021