Quite often, the small talk I have with the businesses I meet as well as with my industry colleagues revolves around the current state of SEO best practices.
From SEO experts to DIY SEO dabblers, everyone seems focused on making 2015 the year of discovery for small business.
For me, January has always been a time to reassess client strategies for the upcoming year. This is when I retrospectively assess what has worked in 2014 and also predict what will impact small business visibility on search engines in 2015.
The following SEO tips are what I predict for the upcoming year (or at least until the next algorithm change). I didn’t list them in any particular order, so while you read along try to envision how your business stacks up against these objectives.
Here’s to hoping you discover yourself in 2015!
Local Citation Management
A citation is any mention of a business’s (complete) contact information, and for local businesses, it’s one of the most important elements for local discovery. Citation building (think Yelp, Google Plus, YP.com, etc.) not only offers a direct link to your business, but it plays a vital role in quantifying your business contact information and building online brand recognition and authority.
Creating and sharing stories that drive purposeful action or provides intentful branding shouldn’t happen by chance. The notion that social media would be the marketing bullhorn for business is so 2007. Content marketing in 2015 will need to have the end solution planned in advance of publishing. Shares and likes are too easy to gain and haven’t been all that successful in driving significant monetary ROI. Effective content marketing in ‘15 will drive quantifiable lead generation, sales or branding.
Image & Video Optimization
Image and video sharing sites like Pinterest, Instagram, YouTube, and Vimeo and the increasing importance in organic image/video search will continue to drive the demand for file name and property optimization. Did you know that the file name of images and videos is the most important element impacting online discovery? (You’re not alone if you didn’t.)
As long as search engines answer search queries based on text or voice input (interpreted as text), using the right words to market your business will remain the most powerful attribute of any online marketing activity, on any channel, through any source. The axiom that “content is king” is nearly correct for it is the (key)words of the content that truly rule the marketing world—online and in print.
For brick and mortar businesses, online discovery is only half the job. Driving that traffic to your door is the second part, and being listed on the most popular map and GPS services will be vital as personal-mobile and in-vehicle connectivity usage continues to skyrocket.
Receiving social engagement through keyword-focused, intentful wording will trump likes, shares, and retweets by chance in the upcoming years. And it’s about time, too—I love #caturday as much as you do, but social signals are just far too easy to gain, so the value of their signal potential has so far been under-realized. Social interaction needs to focus on providing customer service and driving sales, leads and branding. Meaningful marketing with calculated interaction continues to add value to social marketing in ‘15.
Having viewers squint to view your website in the tiny screen of a cell phone or tablet isn’t going to work in 2015. Having a website that serves appropriately for each device (responsive) is nearly mandatory today, and Google is recognizing sites who are responsive by marking them as being “mobile-friendly” within mobile searches. How quickly websites load is also a SEO element to focus on, especially for mobile viewing. Check your mobile stats on Google Analytics to decide how eminent a mobile conversion is for your business.
In my experience, I find nearly every business has errors in their business citation data. The data that matters most for local businesses is their name, address, and (local) phone number, also known as NAP. Typical errors include businesses listing with old addresses and old phone numbers, call tracking numbers or inconsistent use of unit/suite numbers. Variations of a business name will also cause discrepancies in NAP. Like citation building, this is a foundational element of local marketing.
Old School is New School (again)
The basic elements of SEO never go out of style. Meta title (ranking factor) and meta description (conversion element) optimization, keyword targeting, formatting of the contact page, meta robot usage, and the use of footers for your global address and images with unique file names and alternate attributes are just a few of the items that need to be addressed for each primary page of a website. There are 200+ elements on each page of a website that Google uses as a ranking factor. I see hundreds of businesses each year with great-looking websites and vibrant social media channels who struggle with online visibility because these 200 elements of website SEO were overlooked. Nail the basics before digging deeper into more advanced SEO techniques or digging deep into social and content marketing.
PPC & SEO Combined Strategies
2014 was a banner year for pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, like Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook Ads. The success of PPC is largely dependent on three factors: keyword selection, compelling copywriting, and synergy on the website landing page between keyword selection and the written content. Managing PPC campaigns with knowledge of website SEO will continue to be a winning combination for business advertising in the upcoming year(s).
A newcomer and nearly unknown tool for non-professionals is structured markup code, most commonly referred to as its standards name of “Schema.” This universal code works for the major search engines and adds additional data (in search engine language) for things such as contact information, products, services, product reviews, and business review ratings (think Zagat reviews). This simple code was a powerhouse for local businesses in 2014 and will continue being important in ‘15.