Now that the holidays are coming up, we all have a little time to unplug, unwind, and relax.  As you’re spending time with your friends and family, you can take some time to improve your professional skills and become an even better professional in 2013.

Here are 10 ways to up your link development game in 2013:

#1 – Read a Book About Copywriting

While marketing has completely changed over the past few years, people haven’t.  Take some time to brush up on the subtle art of persuading through the written word and image, with masters like Gary Halbert, Joseph Sugarman, or David Ogilvy.

I recommend:

Even if you don’t write advertising, all of those books will give you a deeper understanding of how to influence behavior through words and images.

#2 – Leave a Thoughtful Comment on a New Blog Every Day

Too often as link development professionals, we only network when we have to or when we want something.  This comes across as shallow (at best) or callous and selfish (at worst). 

If you have any free time these next few weeks, leave a few comments on blogs you like.  Not the big ones – but on smaller ones where the blogger doesn’t get a ton of feedback or traffic, and will notice and remember. You might make  a new friend.

#3 – Build Your Analysis Skills: Play with Excel or Code

One key to scaling linkbuilding is pattern detection – and computers can detect some types of better far better than you or me.

This holiday break, take some time and learn something new – in Excel, if you don’t already know Excel – or in a scripting language, if you want something more advanced.  Can you automatically find the backlinks in common across 20 sites in a niche or a SERP?  That’s a great place to start.

To learn Excel, I recommend Distilled’s Excel for SEO guide.  You can also use Niels Bosma’s SEO Excel Tools, which are amazing.

Learning to code in a scripting language is another matter all together – this is not for the faint-of-heart, so make sure you get a few hours alone with your computer and an ample supply of your favorite beverage.

There are lots of sites that can teach you how to code – I recommend:

If you like cartoon foxes in your coding books (and who doesn’t), you might enjoy _why’s Poignant Guide to Ruby.

#4 – Sign Up for a New Social Site and Build an Account

If you often sign up for brand-oriented social accounts, you can forget that people (typically) don’t use these to communicate with brands – they want to express ideas, share with friends, and amuse themselves on the internet.

To understand how normal people use social sites, sign up for one you don’t have and play with it for a few hours.  If you don’t have a Pinterest account or a Tumblr, create one and update it everyday.  You might have fun, and you can tell your friends and family that you’re ‘busy working’. 

#5 – Think of 5 New Ways to Pitch a Piece of Content

You probably have ways you pitch your content.  To get even more creative about this, think of 5 different ways you can make your content appealing, every time.

I originally learned about this idea from VC Dave McClure, who said in a video he writes AdWords copy based on the 7 deadly sins – one that appeals to vanity, one that appeals to lust, greed, sloth, etc., and then tests them to understand which appeal performs the best.  (I’m not an Adwords guy so I can’t speak to this advice.)

I find doing this makes me think differently – for example, for this piece, I could call it:

  • 10 Ways to Make More Money Next Year as a Link Builder
  • 10 Ways to Work on Your Link Development Skills While You Sit On Your Couch
  • 10 Ways to Become the Best Link Builder in Your Office Over Your Winter Break
  • 10 Ways to Improve Your Link Building Skills and Destroy the Competition
  • 10 Ways to Stay Competitive in Link Building in 2013

Not all of those are great – or based on the 7 deadly sins – but by creating new headlines, I came up with several new angles for this article, and really thought about my appeal to my audience and came up with new ideas about how to pitch this piece.

#6 – Learn Some New Advanced Search Operators

Advanced search operators let you find link opportunities like a lion chasing down a gazelle. 

You can quickly learn some new ones, and become at least twice as effective at link prospecting.

Try out some new operators from lists like these:

#7 – Learn Some Design and Photoshop Basics

With the rise of image-based sites like Pinterest and Tumblr, the web has become a very visual place.  If you’re still working predominantly with text, you’re missing a lot of big opportunities.

Unfortunately, you won’t always have access to design resources – so the next best thing is to learn the basics yourself.  You can learn the basics of design and Photoshop over a weekend, and use those to dramatically improve your content with great images.

Sites that have great design tutorials are:

#8 – Install 3 New Browser Extensions

The winter break is a great time to try out new tools you don’t have the time to play with during your workday.  One easy thing to do is install some new browser extensions and try them out.

Some extensions worth playing with are:

#9 – Make a Screencast or a Video and Upload it YouTube

Like images, video is another emerging opportunity for marketers.  Additionally, Google seems to love to rank YouTube videos for all sorts of informational queries, and YouTube itself is one of the largest search engines on the web. 

But making videos is hard – and certainly takes a lot of practice. 

One good thing to do with your free time is practicing your video production skills.  Make a screencast of something, and put it on YouTube.  You can also optimize it for YouTube search, and begin learning about the video search engine’s behavior.

#10 – Hack Your Analytics Tool

Analytics let you show that what you do makes money, which creates nice bonuses and happy clients. 

If you have some free time this holiday, work with your analytics tool.  If you’re using Google Analytics, learn to set filters and create custom segments.  Try to understand what sort of contribution you’ve made to your clients or company’s business last year.

If you know how to do that, spend some time hacking on your Google Analytics so you can set custom variables.

And if you know how to do both of those things, play with the Cardinal Analytics GAS – Google Analytics on Steroids package. It’s amazing.

#11 – Bonus: Put Your Contacts into a CRM and Wish Them a Happy Holidays

The Holidays are a great time to reconnect with people – why not take this opportunity to reach out to everyone you’ve contacted this year and wish them a happy holidays?  I recommend you put your contacts into a spreadsheet or PR & Linkbuilding CRM (like, say, BuzzStream), and wish everyone a joyous winter holidays.

Don’t forget to enjoy your holiday parties, get out there and have fun, and spend some time with your family.

Happy Holidays from All of Us Here at BuzzStream!

mattgratt

Matt works on customer acquisition at BuzzStream. Before BuzzStream, he worked as an SEO Strategist at Portent and a Marketing Manager at AppCentral (acquired by Good Technology). You can follow Matt on Twitter or Google Plus.

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