The world of SEO is changing, and keeping up can be challenging for many small business owners. To make matter worse, many SMBs don’t think they need to do SEO properly. As the results, many small business websites can’t be found online; even if they do, they are ranked poorly on search engine.
Not ranked on top results of search engines can mean many things, but all lead to one after-effect: The websites fail to help the business to gain sales online – AND offline.
Small business owners certainly need help in having a solid SEO strategy in place. With that said, we are fortunate to be able to get connected with an expert: Meet Anthony Long, the head of SEO at Webs and former SEO Director for USA TODAY.
In this Q&A, we talk about the trends in small business SEO, as well as the SEO strategy that every small business owner can implement in order to get found online and – ultimately – increase sales.
Anthony Long (A): Hello, Noobpreneur readers. My name is Anthony Long, head of SEO for Webs, a Vistaprint company. I lead organic search strategy and execution for Webs, Pagemodo, and the digital services business of Vistaprint. I’ve worked on websites big and small including USA TODAY and AOL. Having founded a search marketing consultancy in the past, I’m a big fan of entrepreneurs and small business owners.
Q: What trends do you see in small business sector with regard to SEO implementation?
A: I see three important SEO trends relevant to the small business sector in 2015:
1. Mobile-friendly sites will rule
Mobile usage surpassed desktop for the first time in 2014. People are using their phones, tablets and other mobile devices more often than laptop and desktop computers. In order for search engines to keep up, focus will increasingly shift toward returning the most mobile-friendly sites in search results.
2. Local results will become increasingly important
Local goes hand-in-hand with mobile. The internet is now an everywhere-all-the-time medium. People are breaking out their mobile devices wherever they are to find local information and services near them. Google’s recent update of their local algorithm was prep work for this trend. If your business has a local footprint, make sure you’re listed on every local outlet possible – Yelp, Google Maps, Yahoo!, Bing, YP.com, etc. – with the help of local business listings tools.
3. Google will relentlessly pursue high-quality content
Google will not let up on its effort to deprioritize the least useful sites and return the most helpful. It do this to keep its own users coming back. As Bing/Yahoo! gain greater market share through partnerships with browsers like Firefox, Google will do everything it can to make sure it returns the very best results. That’s bad news for spammers and those who don’t play by the rules.
Q: I still see there are many small business websites which are poorly optimized, SEO-wise. Based on your experience, what is the reason behind small business owners’ lack of effort in on-page SEO, let alone off-page SEO?
A: From what I’ve seen, I think there’s less of a lack of effort and more of a lack of knowledge and experience. Business owners usually are wearing multiple hats trying to keep their enterprises going. They don’t have time to invest in learning and practicing SEO and may lack funds to hire experienced professionals.
SEO is a roll-up-your-sleeves endeavor that requires the investment of sweat equity. In order to enjoy the payoff, you’ve got to put in the work. But before you can put in the effort, you have to know where to start. I’d advise small business owners to do one of three things: carve out time to learn SEO, hire someone to focus on SEO part-time or full-time, or outsource to professionals. Otherwise things will remain stagnant and you’ll never gain momentum.
If you’re just starting out with SEO, I’d highly recommend Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide. You can’t get more official than the SEO guide from the world’s most popular search engine: http://www.google.com/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf.
Q: “Mobilegeddon” is here. What can small businesses do in order to respond to Google’s algorithm changes – before it’s all too late?
A: Mobilegeddon has arrived, but it’s not too late to make your website compliant with Google’s algorithm changes. Make sure your site is built for mobile. That means a responsive design that adapts to the user’s screen, regardless of how large or small it is. Additionally, the old notion of having separate URLs for mobile versus desktop has basically gone the way of the dinosaur. Use responsive design so that the same URL responds correctly to device size.
Today people are overloaded with information and they’re more pressed for time on mobile. Consider offering a summary of key points atop long-form content in mobile experiences.
Regardless of the format – blog posts, infographics, videos, etc. – content creators need to put the user first. That means avoiding any experience where users have to squint, pinch, scroll or zoom to access your content. Google outlines the steps you must take to return a mobile-friendly site in its blog post here: https://developers.google.com/webmasters/mobile-sites/.
Q: For small business owners out there who read this Q&A, please share one SEO strategy that they can easily implement today, that will potentially change their search engine ranking significantly.
A: Page titles are the most heavily weighted on-page factor. Make sure each page of your site has a unique page title that describes what’s on the page with relevant keywords searched in your category. Log into Google Webmaster Tools and review the “HTML Improvements” area under “Search Appearance”. Update any pages with missing or duplicate title tags. To find relevant keywords, use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Wordstream, and SEMRush. If you don’t have access to Google Webmaster Tools, sign up today.
Many thanks for your time, Mr. Long!