SEO Myths vs. Realities in 2016

Search engine optimization is a never-ending game with constantly changing rules — so much so, that eventually old rules become blurred or obsolete. But old habits are hard to break, and many SEO experts are guilty of pressing forward with less-effective strategies.

Link building? What are you, a blacksmith?Search engine optimization is a never-ending game with constantly changing rules — so much so, that eventually old rules become blurred or obsolete. But old habits are hard to break, and many SEO experts are guilty of pressing forward with less-effective strategies.

It’s understandable, given the monumental shifts taking place in the SEO world. Just a few years ago, few people imagined that mobile websites, social media and smartphone apps would make such a big impact on the SEO landscape. And yet here we are, and these emerging technologies have already changed the game.

Building a good SEO strategy in 2016 means dispelling myths and accepting new realities. The way people interact with the Internet has evolved, and SEO experts who don’t adjust accordingly will eventually be riding the bench.

Myth: Written content is still the most important kind of content.
Reality: Video content has pulled even with text.

If written content is still more important, then it’s hanging on by a fingernail. The truth is that video content may have already pulled even with text content in terms of overall importance to SEO efforts, and it won’t be long until engaging video content dethrones written content. The simple truth is that video content is far more engaging and is more likely to be shared on forums, on websites and in social media. As search engines shift to reflect the kinds of user experiences that people want — and as social media posts become part of Google’s organic search rankings — the importance of quality video content will be undebatable.

Myth: My desktop site is more important than my mobile site.
Reality: Mobile websites are more important than desktop sites in some industries.

Most people now use the Internet more via mobile devices than desktop PCs. In April 2015, Google unleashed an update known by SEO experts as “Mobilegeddon” that gave priority to websites with suitable mobile versions — so we already know this is one of Google’s top priorities. In the past, it was easy to view mobile sites as optional novelties that accompanied desktop sites. That’s no longer the case. The way people interact with websites changes significantly when viewing the Internet through smartphones and tablets. Google is already embracing this reality, and SEO experts must do the same.

Myth: Building inbound links to my website is no longer important.
Reality: Inbound links never went out of style.

It’s easy to think that, with the growing importance of mobile websites and social media, perhaps the tried-and-true practice of link-building is no longer a necessity. Turns out, that couldn’t be more false. While backlinks aren’t as critical now as they were a few years ago, they’re still highly important and will help your site’s SEO ranking. If anything, the popularity of sharable content on social media has allowed opportunistic SEO experts to expand their networks of backlinks even further.

Myth: Social media marketing isn’t relevant to my SEO efforts.
Reality: Social media marketing is not only important, but it’s becoming vital.

This can’t be said enough — social media is dramatically changing people’s relationships with the Internet. An increasing number of people use Facebook and Twitter as their jumping-off points to other types of content. If you impress people on social media with engaging articles, videos or infographics, the result could be scores of new links being pointed back at your website. More links and more traffic means a better SEO ranking.

Also, Google now has a contract with Twitter to display tweets in the search rankings. Google is also indexing Facebook pages — this started last year — and it’s not uncommon for Facebook pages to be returned as search results to people’s queries. Going forward, social media marketing is only going to become more entwined with winning SEO strategies.

Google’s Mobile Algorithm Update: What You Need to Know

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. Due to the shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

Google announced some very big news about a major algorithm update that landed on April 21, 2015—yesterday. As I’m sure you know, mobile traffic and the number of Google searches from mobile devices is on the rise. Well, it’s more than rising, because it’s about to surpass desktop computer traffic online by the end of the year.

Due to this shift in how people are searching and surfing the internet, Google has updated its search algorithm to take into account more mobile signals.

What Does This Mean for Your Business?
Zineb Ait Bahajji, a member of Google’s Webmaster Trends team, said this Google update will have a bigger impact on search rankings than the infamous Panda or Penguin updates. If you’ve been following SEO for a while, then I’m sure you’ve heard of the Panda and Penguin updates, which both caused massive changes in website rankings.

In other words, April 21 should have sent a lot of ill-prepared businesses off of the first page of Google!

What Do You Need to Do to Fix It?
If you haven’t already, then now is the time to get serious about your mobile website strategy. Answer these three questions to determine if you were ready for the April 21 update:

  1. Do you have a mobile version of your website?

  2. Can Google’s mobile bots crawl your website?

  3. Are your mobile webpages easy to use and navigate?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you need to take action ASAP. Let’s go through each one in more detail.

1. Mobile Website
The two most common options to create a mobile website are:

  1. Create a separate mobile website on a subdomain like m.yourdomain.com. This is a great option if you have a limited budget. In fact, you can set this up for free using DudaMobile.com. If you have a complex website or a large e-commerce website, then this is not going to be a good option for you and I would recommend Option No. 2.
  2. Create a responsive website. A responsive website responds automatically to the device requesting the pages and displays the page differently depending on the device. Many popular CMS systems like WordPress have themes that are already responsive, so I recommend using an existing theme whenever possible. If you’re just getting started, then I highly recommend creating a responsive website rather than a separate mobile website because it’s easier to maintain in the long run.

2. Allow Google’s Mobile Bots
This should be fairly obvious, but if Google’s mobile bots can’t crawl your website, then Google is not going to show your website in the search results. It’s like your website doesn’t exist!

To check if Google can crawl your website, go to Google Webmaster Tools. Create an account (if you don’t have one already) and then go to the Crawl section in the left navigation. Then click “Fetch as Google”, select “Mobile: Smartphone” and click the big red button that says “Fetch.” Google will then tell you if there are any issues crawling your mobile website.

3. Mobile Website Usability
Finally, go to every page on your mobile website and make sure the pages are easy to use and navigate. Google started using mobile usability as a ranking factor as of April 21. Check all the images, hyperlinks, videos, and any other functionality normally available on the desktop version and fix anything that’s broken on the mobile version because that will drag down your rankings.

Go Deep!

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile. When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you only read one thing from me this year, this would be it: One of the biggest mistakes I see from businesses large and small is trying to do too much in mobile.

When they just get started they think they need to attack all aspects of mobile at once. Their mobile website, SMS, LBS, apps, search, mobile rich media … The list goes on.

If you look at some of the most successful brands doing mobile, EVEN the small businesses they focus on two … maybe three platforms within the mobile space and focus on that until they can’t focus anymore.

That’s what I call “going deep.”

As a small business owner you can’t be everywhere … It’s actually not even in your best interest.

You need to spend the time on what generates results for your business. Basically, the things that put money in your pocket.

So, when you’re getting started in mobile … heck, if you’re already executing mobile programs, I’d suggest you scale back and focus on two to three efforts until you’ve really mastered them.

It will allow for you to focus your efforts, your time and your money into things that you’re giving a chance to grow.

Giving 10 percent to 10 different mobile channels won’t deliver the results you’re looking for.

As a small business owner, you should go deep with your mobile website and SMS first. If you’re adding a third, I’d recommend email.

Between those three channels, you can create systems that turn prospects into customers and turn those customers into repeat customers.

Why waste time in the beginning spreading yourself too thin?

To be successful with mobile your best bet is to go deep.

4 Things Mobile Users Need

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up. With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

With the speed at which mobile technology and innovation is occurring these days, it’s almost impossible to keep up.

With more and more consumers adopting smartphones or tablets and relying on them in everyday shopping decisions, it’s put them in the driver’s seat. As a business owner, it’s your job to keep up.

The best way to keep up with mobile consumers is to understand their needs.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about an interview I had with Brad Frost, a thought leader in the responsive design community. He broke down what is essentially the mobile hierarchy of needs.

He used the pictured pyramid to discuss a mobile user’s needs as it relates to a mobile website; however, I believe these needs apply to more than just mobile Web …

In fact, I think these four needs are key to business success when integrating mobile into the business.

1. Access

At the foundation of the pyramid, you have Access. As Frost will tell you, this means giving the users what they want. When we’re talking about mobile Web, this essentially means giving them the info they are looking for. If they came to your site for tips on cooking the perfect steak … they should be able to find that.

As for overall mobile strategy, you need to consider what your mobile customer needs. Can you give them access to tools that will help them in their lives? Can you give access to specials or coupons while they are on the go?

Access is the first and most important component of success with mobile.

2. Interaction

As Frost mentioned in our conversation, interaction usually results in navigation as it pertains to your mobile website.

Simply, can the user get around your site to accomplish the desired result?

When considering your overall strategy, creating campaigns that allow consumers to interact with you and your business will often lead to deeper engagement and increased conversion opportunities.

3. Performance

Performance is often overlooked—mainly because marketers make too many assumptions about our user.

Your users won’t always have the fastest Internet connection and, despite that, expect your site to load faster than the desktop, although that rarely happens when looking at most mobile sites vs. their desktop counterparts.

Your mobile strategy should be focused on performance, as well. When I think of performance from a strategic standpoint, I think of giving the users what they want as fast and efficiently as possible at my lowest cost.

4. Enhancement

At the top of the pyramid, we have enhancement.

As Frost explained, mobile is inherently different from desktop. Mobile browsers can do things that desktop browsers cannot.

If your customer needs to complete a mobile Web form, you can offer your user different keyboards to help provide important info, such as a phone number.

When it comes to strategy, it’s important to remember mobile is different. Thus, you must consider how you can leverage that in reaching your goals. Can you use location or the accelerometer to give extra value to your customers as you begin to better understand their context?

Whether you’re developing a mobile website or looking for guides as you develop a winning mobile strategy, moving forward with the hierarchy of mobile needs in mind puts you in the best position to succeed.

As a small business owner, this can be your advantage. Because, quite frankly … many big brands fail to do this today.

Now it’s your turn … What are you doing to satisfy your customer’s mobile needs?

Overwhelmed by the Complexity of Mobile Marketing? Start Here

When talking to small business owners,  I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix … These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

When talking to small business owners, I hear a lot of reasons as to why they haven’t added mobile to their marketing mix …

“I don’t have time to manage one more thing … ”

“I’m not sure where to start … ”

“I feel like my competition has already done that … ”

“I can’t keep up with how fast the technology is advancing … ”

“I can’t afford to use mobile for my small business … ”

These excuses illustrate why it’s important to educate folks on the benefits and use cases of mobile and to demystify how it all works in order to eliminate the fear and uncertainty that prevent businesses from moving forward with mobile.

As those businesses begin to understand that mobile is just a piece of the puzzle they become less confused and you hear more of …

“OK, well. There are so many options. So how can it work for MY business?”

Well, I can tell you that if you’re asking yourself that question, you’re already two steps ahead of most business owners.

And you know what? It’s OK to be confused. The truth is, it’s overwhelming.

Mobile websites, responsive design, SMS marketing, MMS marketing, mobile optimized email, QR Codes, location-based services, augmented reality, smarpthone apps, tablets, NFC, the mobile wallet, mobile commerce …

Holy smokes!

Warning: If you try to jump into all of these areas at once, you will most definitely fail.

If you break down your mobile strategy into smaller parts, integrating one aspect at a time, it will become less overwhelming and you’ll be in a position for a successful mobile program without disrupting the rest of your business.

Remember … mobile is just one part of your marketing strategy. Take it one step at a time:

1. Start by planning how it will play a part into your existing initiatives. Mobile is the most dependent marketing channel to-date. You can’t view it as a solo initiative.

Plan accordingly and make sure it will play nice with your other channels, meaning there is one voice and one message. Chasing the “latest shiny object” thinking it will save your business will get you nowhere fast.

2. Focus on what works and what will delivers results to your business.
You’ll most likely start with your mobile site.

The most important thing to work on is making sure your mobile website is friendly. You’ve probably heard people say that having a mobile-friendly website will give you a competitive advantage.

To some degree, this is true—if your competitors are slow to execute. But, to be honest, a mobile-friendly website is now a cost of doing business.

As a small business owner you’re foolish if you don’t have a mobile friendly site. Let’s say you own a restaurant … A recent Google study stated that 88 percent of total search volume for the keyword “restaurant” comes from mobile devices. Do you own a bar? About 97 percent of search volume for the keyword “bar” is coming from mobile devices.

In fact, “restaurants near me” receives 10,000 searches a month from desktops. Guess what? It’s four times more on mobile devices.

This is the reason that you see restaurants and bars listed in the top of search results in Google from your mobile device but not from your desktop.

Small business owners seem slow to adopt mobile. Surprisingly, a restaurant study stated that 95 percent of independent restaurants do not have a mobile website, and only about half of chain restaurants have some sort of mobile site.

This means a lot of unhappy mobile searchers and no repeat visits.

3. You see, mobile searchers have a different intent than those on a desktop. They are looking for different things. When it comes to local locations like a restaurant or bar they most often look for your location, hours, directions and how to contact you.

4. What’s the cost of not offering these folks a mobile friendly version?
That’s easy … a whole lot of sales.

The same Google study found that 94 percent of U.S.-based smartphone users look for local information on their phones and 90 percent take action as a result, such as making a purchase or contacting the business.

90 percent take action …

Read that again.

Basically, if your site is not mobile friendly when a prospective customer is looking for you, the odds of you losing a sale are close to 100 percent.

5. Speaking of being more “findable” … If you list your business in the various directories AND location-based services, such as Google Places, Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook, etc., you’ll put yourself in a better position to be found. It’s like adding your listing to the Yellow Pages.

6. OK. So you built a mobile-friendly website. Now what?

Your mobile website is what many would consider a “pull” channel. This means that it doesn’t offer you the level of outreach that other channels do, but allows you to be right there when your customer needs you.

So next time, we’re going to dive into the second aspect of your mobile strategy to put in place. It’s actually the most overlooked part of mobile, in my opinion.

Seeing as how you are going to start mobilizing your website right now, you have time to prepare for the second part of your small business mobile strategy … mobile-friendly email.