As the end of the 2017 first quarter draws near, it’s a good time to reflect on the SEO landscape, which has seen several exciting changes and trends emerge.
Early in the year, a number of new updates aimed at improving search results and reducing spam, were implemented by Google. Mobile ads, duplicate content, backlinks, social media, to name a few, were some of the aspects of SEO impacted by the changes, but it’s still early to tell how users will respond.
Businesses owners on the other hand, are being challenged to think harder, deeper and smarter about who they connect with, how they connect and why.
What should you be focusing in 2017 to grw your online business? There are 3 key insights that SEO professionals, web administrators, and marketing teams will benefit greatly from, when applied to any small business:
- Google My Business Is Indispensable:
More updates and changes are in the works for Google’s highly successful business search tool, Google My Business. Competition for positioning in the coveted Google 3-pak will make SEO more crucial to the success of your business in 2017 and beyond.
Including your business NAP information in Google My Business will give your business a decided advantage over businesses that aren’t, especially on local SERP, where geo-proximity is most relevant. Since most small businesses operate regionally or locally, optimizing your website for local results is the key to expanding. If you operate multiple locations, list them separately in Google My Business to maximize results in each.
Rumor has it that Google will be releasing a free website builder for businesses. Although it won’t be as customizable as some other providers (Weebly, WordPress, Wix), Google’s version promises to be highly optimized, which will level the playing field for entrepreneurs who don’t have the budget for a more involved online property.
- Small Businesses Are Missing the Benefits of SEO:
While small businesses have evolved and diversified their marketing channels, the pace of internet growth has left many in doubt as to where to commit their marketing dollars. Expanding your business, driving more traffic, and increasing sales is more difficult now than it was twenty years ago online, as competition has multiplied and the economy has lagged.
A 2016 poll by US based Mantra focused on 1,115 small business owners and their marketing objectives. Published earlier this year, the responses indicated that for the majority (51%), lack of knowledge, resources and time were significant barriers to marketing their business. Most revealing, however, was a 2016 poll of 2,773 business owners who indicated that they spent only 6% of their entire marketing budget on SEO best practises and strategies.
Small business owners have yet to fully grasp the value of SEO and the long-term benefits it brings to any online operation. By complying with Google’s best practices and implementing SEO strategies, you can attract more leads, instead of fishing for leads. SEO allows you to capitalize strategically on detailed marketing intelligence about your audience or target market, nuanced information about their preferences, habits and pain points you could never discover from a display ad, community flyers, or a radio commercial.
Instead of posting ads to Facebook, make SEO a priority in 2017 and seek out the expertise of a local SEO consultant. A site audit is the best way to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your website, and a great way to test the expertise of any prospective SEO expert you may be considering. Ask for a cost estimate as well and feel free to shop around before you commit to any SEO campaign or service.
- HTTP IS OUT:
Google aims to establish a new standard of security protocol for password and credit card enabled pages across the internet. Pages requiring a password or credit card information that are not secure (HTTPS) will be marked non-secure by Google’ s Chrome web browser, which could drive traffic away. Customers aren’t likely to stay on a page that Google Chrome has labeled insecure.
If you think about it, it’s the only sensible way to encourage universal compliance from businesses and ecommerce sites. Security protocols play a crucial role in authenticating traffic from external gateways, as well as ensuring secured communication between end-user and the server performing the request. Rather than penalizing businesses, the non-secure label points out an area of weakness that could potentially harm both you and your customers if left unaddressed.
Although converting your site from HTTP to HTTPS is time-consuming and requires technical expertise, there are several resources available online to make it easier and it can significantly improve your page load time, a key ranking factor for Google’s algorithm. Generally speaking, many website hosts sell SSL certificates and provide HTTPS configuration for their customers. If you have a web administrator, you’ll want to discuss a plan with them for implementing the new configuration because it will definitely impact your daily operations. WordPress owners should refer to Yoast for guidance.
Want more great SEO advice for your business? Request a site audit from Paul Teitelman in Toronto, and find out from a local SEO expert how to optimize your website for more business today!