Every business, regardless of the size or industry, can benefit from a strong SEO strategy. But, the factors that Google and other search engines use to determine rankings are constantly changing, so it can be quite confusing for businesses new to search engine marketing. Here are five new SEO trends that could make a difference for your business in 2016 and beyond:
Your customers are no longer only searching for you on desktop computers. In fact, a report from Pew Research found smartphone and tablet ownership is increasing, and the percentage of people who own smartphones has already surpassed those who own desktop or laptop computers. What does this mean for your business? Your website needs to be optimized for mobile—and Google agrees.
In 2015, Google announced mobile-friendliness would be a factor in determining a company’s ranking for all mobile searches. Since this announcement, the importance of mobile optimization has grown as more traffic is stemming from these devices.
When you’re looking for a new place to eat on the weekends or a mechanic to fix your car, you likely head to Google and type in what you’re looking for, such as “Italian restaurants” or “car mechanic.” The first results that appear are those from Google Places, which will show only show you local businesses, including where each result is located, their contact information and a star rating from other users.
Because Google rankings have become so competitive, these local SEO results have become increasingly important to businesses that want to drive local traffic back to their sites. How does Google determine which local businesses will appear in this short list? Distance, relevance and prominence.
Although there’s not much you can do about distance—you’re either near the person who is searching or you’re not—you can make a few changes to help you with relevance and prominence. Google will determine which Google Places are relevant by matching local businesses to the search. The more information you provide on your Google business page, the better Google can understand what you do and match you up to relevant searches. Google determines prominence by analyzing how well known a business is online. This is done by searching the web for mentions of or links to your business, and by looking at Google user reviews. The more reviews you have—especially if they are positive—the higher you may rank for these results.
Focus on Local
But, all of Google search results are becoming more localized, not just those that are returned in Google Places. Using the previous example of “Italian restaurants,” you may notice once you scroll past Google Places, all of the results have to do with your current location. You may see a list of the top Italian restaurants in your city from TripAdvisor or websites of different restaurants near you. Local businesses should continue to take advantage of this by optimizing their website using their city or region’s keywords. It may be wise to add your business to local listing services, such as the Chamber of Commerce or merchant associations, so Google can attach your business’s name to your location and increase your rank.
Although this may benefit local businesses, it may become an issue for national companies trying to increase visibility in different cities across the country.
Keywords Are Important, But Not Everything
Don’t throw out your list of keywords just yet! Keywords continue to be crucial to SEO success, but in 2016, brands need to expand their focus to include long tail keywords as well.
Long tail keywords are longer and more specific than the typical keyword phrase you’re used to targeting. These keywords are used to narrow your targeting to help you reach the exact type of customer you’re looking for, but they’re also a great way to avoid competing with thousands of other brands.
Let’s say you run an airport shuttle business in Kauai, Hawaii that will take guests directly from the airport to their hotel. Previous efforts may have focused on targeting people who are going to vacation in Kauai by using keyword phrases such as “Kauai vacation” or “vacation in Kauai.” The competition for these keywords is probably so intense that your page will never make it to the top of the ranking. But, if you extend your keyword to “Kauai airport shuttle transportation” or “Kauai airport to hotel transportation,” you are bound to go up against fewer pages AND reach the exact people who would be interested in your business.
Although there aren’t as many searches per month for these long tailed keywords compared to shorter, more general phrases, you will end up ranking higher in these niche searches and attracting more valuable customers.
Content & Links Are Still King
Content and links are not going anywhere in 2016, so don’t give up on this SEO strategy just yet. Content will always be king in the SEO world, so if you’re just starting out with your SEO efforts, this should be your first priority. Here are just a few of the ways to make your content SEO-friendly:
- Frequently update your page with new content so search engines have to stop by and give you another opportunity to increase your ranking.
- Only use keywords that are a natural fit with your content, and include them in the first 100 words of each page of content.
- Use outbound links to other relevant pages to help Google learn more about your business.
- Create content that is at least 1,000 words in length. Content of this length usually ranks higher because Google has a better chance of picking up clues to learn more about your business, and more keywords are usually present in longer articles.
Although there are a number of ways links can affect your SEO ranking, growing your inbound links should be a priority in 2016. There are probably thousands of websites that have at one time or another linked back to an article on Forbes. To Google, this means Forbes is a valuable website with trust and authority, so the search engine may decide to rank Forbes higher than other pages on search results. The lesson here? Your business needs to build inbound links driving traffic back to your website to increase your perceived authority and therefore your ranking.
These new trends (and some familiar ones with new twists) illustrate why frequently evaluating and adjusting your SEO strategy is so important. If you require assistance with your SEO strategy, contact us for a free consultation.