For many companies across all industries, these last few months of the year get very busy very quickly. Strategies are being created, budgets are getting approved, performances are graded and ROI is evaluated. Everyone is getting ready for the big push into the first quarter of next year. Since SEO is so long term, it makes sense to start thinking about your 2012 campaign now and make sure everything is in order for the new year.

Make sure that your SEO is ready to go in 2012 with these 4 tips:

1. Revisit your keyword research
Very few sites nail keyword research perfectly the first time. Just because a certain keyword gets X amount of search volume each month that doesn’t guarantee you’ll reap the benefits. Contrarily, a keyword you didn’t have much faith in when you started out might be over delivering. While certain keywords may look like they should have performed well for your site, now is the time to see if they really have. What keywords are performing as you expected them to? Which ones are underperforming? Are you seeing any trends that indicate new keywords (ones you didn’t purposefully target) are delivering a steady amount of traffic to your site?

Search behavior evolves over time, which means keywords that worked well in 2011 might not behave the same in 2012. Don’t be afraid to retarget new keywords, but make sure you are making changes based on your site’s analytics! You don’t want to remove a keyword that was working well by accident because you wanted to try something new.

2. Update your website content
What is your company doing new in 2012? Are you launching a new product? You need to make sure that new product page is up and running and connected via internal links to the rest of your site. Is your marketing department getting a new VP? You might need to add their bio to the “About Us” or “Management” page. Are you going to create a social profile for them that is associated with your company? Maybe you’re running a few end-of-the-year deals. These specials need to be added and removed from your site at the right time; you don’t want to be promoting your Thanksgiving Special well past Christmas. Now is the time to make sure your website and content accurately reflects the current position of your company.

3. Brainstorm blog/article topics
The number one problem most companies have with content marketing is coming up with topics. Start 2012 off right and start brainstorming now! If you feel like your own topic well is running dry, don’t be afraid to turn to your coworkers and employees for inspiration. For example, your customer service or sales team members deal with your target audience on a daily basis. Ask them to write down every question they get asked from a current or potential client. Each of those questions can be the starting point for a blog post.

You could also signup for your competitor’s newsletter or blog’s RSS feed. Since they target the same audience as you, those topics are probably right on point. What nuggets can you extract from their posts (never just copy!) and take your own, unique stance on. You can also get a good idea for what they aren’t writing about, an opportunity for you to dominate an unclaimed niche!

You can also ask your customers directly. Post questions on your social profiles and see what your target audience is interested in learning more about.

4. Run a link audit
A link audit is a good way to get an in-depth look at the link portfolio you’ve built up in 2011. Where are the majority of your links coming from? Are you top heavy in one category and light in another? Remember, the search engines like to see a diverse approach to link building. Not only does it demonstrate your commitment to white hat link building, it also protects your site in the long run. The more sources of traffic you have the less vulnerable your site is. For instance, is Google were to decide that all blog comment links were black hat, would your site lose the majority of its link portfolio?

Not only does it show you the links you’ve intentionally accrued over the year with blog comments, video marketing, social media marketing and so forth, it can also show you the natural links your site has earned. Since you have no control over these natural links, it’s important to identify the source of each one and determine if it will help or hurt your site in the coming year. If a lot of your natural links are coming from spammy, low quality sites or “bad” sites (pornography, gambling, etc) then you might have been the victim of a reverse SEO attack. Reverse SEO involves creating a spammy site and then linking to your competitors so the search engines think they are involved in black hat link building. You need to get a link building baseline so you know what kind of work you need to do in 2012.