It has been a sort of tradition among people to reassess what worked and try to predict what changes need to be made every time a year ends and another one begins. This is true in the world of SEO as well. And as we welcome another year, it looks like the focus is on discovery for small businesses. You can, therefore, expect to start reading and hearing a lot of advice and tips on SEO for small businesses.
In this article, we are going to give you that as well, but let us begin with a gentle reminder: SEO is a constantly changing process, considering that Google (still the world’s largest search engine and therefore one of the most important players in the SEO game) implements algorithm updates about 600 times each year. Rather than mapping out a new SEO strategy at the beginning of each year, therefore, it may be best for you to keep working hard at perfecting the basics of white hat SEO.
Keep creating highly-targeted, high-quality content for your site, and remember to always have a specific purpose for each piece of content you put out. Before you even begin the content-creation process, the end result for that particular content should already be determined. The content you post could be used for establishing a brand, promoting your brand, generating website traffic, driving sales, or any other purpose that may serve your business.
This will continue to be a very powerful aspect of SEO. Although it is no longer advisable to fill your content to the brim with keywords, you should continue to conduct keyword analysis and identify keywords and phrases that can help improve your search rankings. Remember that the key to taking advantage of keywords these days is no longer just using the right words; it is using the right words in the right way. Use your keywords and phrases sparingly and strategically within your content, and the right people will be sure to find that content.
After all the algorithm updates they implemented in 2013 and 2014 to deliver better search results, Google is now taking a closer look at how user-friendly websites are. This makes it important for you to make sure your website is as responsive as ever. Note that being responsive entails being as mobile-friendly as possible, considering that more and more people are now accessing the Internet on mobile devices. Unless you have a mobile-friendly website, you probably cannot expect to rank well on Google. You may still have a chance to get good rankings on other search engines, but do you really want to take Google for granted?
Social Media Interactions
Social media will continue to be an important tool for SEO, and it is especially helpful to small businesses that can hardly afford traditional advertising strategies. The hashtag, in particular, will be very useful to small business SEO this year. It can help increase your visibility and even drive traffic to your website. The key is using the right hashtags for every post in the most effective way. Other than that, you’d also do well to work on such interactions as retweets and shares, as these can help boost your brand’s online reputation and authority.
Your NAP (name, address, and phone number) have always been and continue to be critical to successful SEO. Inconsistencies and errors in your NAP could easily undermine all your efforts in optimizing your site. Note that the most common errors in NAP involve the failure to delete former titles, old addresses, and phone numbers that are no longer in use. Another common error you need to avoid is listing different NAPs across various platforms. If you have more than one business address or phone number, it is best to list them all on every platform you use, instead of providing a different address and/or phone number on each platform. Make no mistake about it: mismatched NAPs can definitely hurt your website’s search rankings.
Of course, even as you make sure the basics are all covered, your SEO tactics should also be flexible enough to accommodate the most recent changes in the SEO landscape. Here are our predictions as to the SEO factors that will increase in importance:
It goes without saying that you cannot take the local search for granted if you’re running a small business, especially if you have a brick-and-mortar operation. Include location-based keywords in your site content and take advantage of free tools like Moz Local. This helps ensure that you have accurate and consistent business listings on online local directories. It also pays to work closely with related local businesses as well as local news agencies. This helps you build a strong link network for your site.
Image and Video Optimization
You already know that it’s important to post images and videos on your site as a way of showing rather than telling your target market what you have to offer. This year, it will become more important for you to work on optimizing these images and videos, as sites like YouTube, Vimeo, Instagram, and Pinterest are expected to start playing an important role in the world of digital marketing. Note as well that the tags and keywords you use in your images and videos are expected to increase in importance where SEO is concerned. But the most important element in terms of online visibility is and will continue to be the filenames of your images and videos, so be sure to make them as unique and catchy as possible.
It has become increasingly important for small businesses to show up on a map when a local search is conducted on Google. This is especially true if you are primarily running a brick-and-mortar business. Getting your target market to discover you online is just half the battle; you also need to get them to actually enter your doors so you can convince them to make a purchase. And showing up on an online map makes it easy for potential customers to find you. Note as well that map marketing has become an important part of mobile marketing, as people are increasingly using mobile devices to search for local businesses.
Old School, New School
Elements like Meta Title, Meta Description, correct contact page formatting, unique image filenames, and the presence of your business address on the footer may have grown a bit quite in recent years, but they have never gone out of style. You will need to address these and other elements for every primary page on your website. Bear in mind that Google uses over 200 elements as ranking factors, and overlooking any of these elements can be a major mistake. No matter how great your website looks or how active you are on social media, you are unlikely to reach your full SEO potential unless these elements are taken care of.
Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising services such as Bing Ads, Facebook Ads, and Google AdWords were all the rage last year, such that 2014 is now considered a banner year for the entire PPC industry. This year, PPC is expected to be just as useful as it was last year and even more so when used in conjunction with your SEO strategies. Smart keyword selection, excellent copy, and the synergy of these two factors on your landing pages are the key factors for PPC success.
Since this is a relatively new tool, it is also practically unknown to non-professionals in the world of SEO and online marketing. Technically known as structured markup code, a schema is basically a universal code that works for major search engines. Using the language of search engines, it provides additional data for such things as business review ratings, contact information, products, product reviews, and services. Schema has proven to be of great help to small businesses last year and is expected to continue being important this year.
This year, websites that offer excellent user experience are expected to rank a lot higher than sites that simply use the right link-building techniques. This is because things such as clear on-site CTAs, site security, site speed, and site structure are expected to grow in importance as ranking factors. Therefore, it is no longer enough for you to strive to get links from legit authority sites. You should also ensure easy navigation to your site and within your site.
Above all, you should bear in mind that SEO is not a one-off thing. It is a never-ending and constantly evolving process. Therefore, you have to keep working on-site improvement and you have to keep striving to achieve top rankings. The moment you stop is the moment you lose the battle. No matter how small your business is, if you are serious about getting consistently positive SEO results, you have to bear in mind that this is a long-term investment.