The basic tenants of a solid SEO strategy have not massively changed from year to year, but Google continues to adjust its algorithms to keep pace with how consumers interact with the Internet.
If one theme has emerged so far in 2016, it’s that SEO is changing — perhaps more rapidly than usual — to keep up with the rising importance of smartphones, smart watches and mobile technology on the whole. Business owners who fail to adapt their SEO strategies accordingly risk being invisible to potential customers.
That said, I’ve listed six of the most current trends in SEO that all small business owners should be aware of. Keep in mind that most of yesterday’s truths about SEO still hold water today. Now, business owners must simply do more to avoid being left in the virtual dust.
1. Keyword Usage in SEO Is Evolving
Not long ago, keyword usage could make or break your SEO strategy. That’s because most people conducted Web searches by typing keywords into Google, and optimizing your landing pages with these keyword terms was a simple way to improve your ranking for these queries.
Fast forward to today, and it’s clear the game has changed. Rather than type specific keywords into search engines, more and more people are searching the Web by speaking into their smartphones and watches. Voice recognition apps such as Apple’s Siri were novelties when the technology first launched — the apps were more amusing than efficient — but now these apps have improved to the point of being just as functional as traditional Web searches. Now, instead of someone typing “Mexican food Seattle” into a browser window, an equally likely Google query will be spoken: “Find a Mexican food restaurant near Prospect Park Brooklyn.”
To capitalize on this trend, focus your content on themes rather than specific keyword terms. Strengthen your site by giving each page a distinct purpose. Make sure to emphasize local angles in your content. Blog about how your business is active in your neighborhood or district. Of course, keyword terms still have their place in SEO for small businesses, but now you must also think in terms of long-tailed keywords that are more likely to be spoken in conversation.
2. Get the Most Out of Deep Links
The most poorly optimized website imaginable would have all of its information crammed onto a single page. Clearly, that’s not a great idea, and instead your website should have different pages for each specific aspect of your business.
Deep links capitalize on this and help make your SEO even stronger. Simply put, deep links are hyperlinks that lead people to highly relevant pages “deeper” inside your website.
Deep links are likely to enhance how visitors interact with your site — they’re less likely to bounce and they’ll likely stay on pages longer because the information is more relevant. Combine these signals with a strong content structure, and Google is more likely to view deep-linked pages as more authoritative and deserving of better search rankings.
3. Invest in Social Media
One of the biggest debates among SEO gurus is just how much social media signals affect Google’s search rankings. Studies have shown that businesses that accumulate favorable social media signals — such as likes and shares on Facebook posts or retweets on Twitter — are more likely to get favorable placements in organic search results. Although Google officials have flat-out denied this is true, nobody is arguing that social media is going to become increasingly important in SEO strategies.
Already, Google displays pages from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social platforms in its organic search rankings, highlighting the need for small businesses to be active on social media. Socially shared videos, advertisements and blog posts (think deep links) can drive interaction on your website and result in more links, enhancing your site’s SEO. Also, more people are using social media platforms as their front doors to the Internet. It’s only a matter of time before search rankings on Facebook matter just as much as rankings in Google.
Regardless of whether likes and shares matter (and the data strongly suggests they do), there are enough other reasons to incorporate a strong social media campaign into your overall SEO strategy.
4. Engage Customers With Videos
Videos are the undisputed kings of grabbing people’s attention online.
More than 60 percent of Google searches are by people looking for video content, according to a report by Marketing Land. Videos are even more impactful on social media; a study by Socialbakers revealed that video posts on Facebook tended to get twice as much organic reach than any other type of content. Another study by Quicksprout.com found that Web pages with videos achieved search rankings up to 50 times better than pages without videos.
Small businesses can produce videos to establish themselves as authorities in their areas of expertise. Product demonstrations and how-to videos are short, sharable and don’t require big budgets to produce. Embed videos on your website, post them on Facebook and tweet them on Twitter. Don’t forget to start a YouTube page that could also get ranked high in Google’s organic results.
5. Optimizing for Mobile Is Now a Must
We’ve already reviewed the rising importance of voice recognition, videos and social media – all trends that are being driven by the widespread use of smartphones and other mobile devices. So it should come as no surprise that mobile Web design is also an absolute must in 2016. And by “must,” I mean MUST.
The benefits of mobile website design aren’t new – for the past two years, more people browsed the Web through mobile devices than desktop computers. However, now people expect to find seamless, intuitive websites whether they’re using large tablets or tiny smartphones. A mobile user who lands on a website that’s only functional on a 23-inch computer monitor is almost certain to bounce.
Many small business owners manage their own sites using WordPress or similar platforms, and most of those platforms offer free responsive site templates that adapt for mobile users. That said, you can’t go wrong with hiring a professional to ensure your site behaves properly on mobile devices. It’s that important.
6. More People Want Hyperlocal Search Results
Local SEO has always been important, but never more than it is now. As we discussed earlier in this article, more people are using smartphones and wearables to seek out goods, services and entertainment on the go.
Registering your small business with sites such as Google My Business, Bing Local and Yelp is critical if you want to have a shot at ranking in the local “map” results. Make sure all of your business information (such as your name, address and phone number) is listed correctly, and make sure it corresponds with whatever is on your actual website. Do the same for your social media profiles.
Starting a blog is another great way to harness the power of hyper-local searches. Blog about sales, products, company changes and even your customers. Make frequent mentions of your street, your neighborhood and the role your business plays in the community. Anything to strengthen the local identity of your business can boost your SEO efforts.
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