2017 SEO Trends for Small BusinessesSteve Weir
As reliable as New Year’s Resolutions, so are the articles about 2017 trends. This year is no exception with entries from all walks of life, from catering to Social Media and all points in between. For small businesses and SEO, 2016 was a year of great change, and 2017 promises to offer even more change. Below are my thoughts on the 2017 SEO trends for small business, and advice for small business owners that want to stay on top of things and get ahead of their competition.
Google continues to be concerned with the speed of websites, and regularly admonishes site owners about site speed. Typically, when Google makes this much noise about something, an algorithm change can’t be far behind. While Google already confers an advantage to sites that are faster, we expect that faster sites will continue to be in favor with in 2017, and that there could be additional ranking boosts for faster sites from Google and other search engines.
SMB Advice for 2017: Make sure your site is fast. Run your site through Google page speed insights to learn how Google sees your site, and what you can do to fix it.
The Mobile Experience first!
This advice has probably been said the last 5 years in a row, but, it continues to be true. Each year more and more site visitors are coming from mobile phones and tablets. In the work that we do for small businesses, we are seeing mobile users and desktop users at parity for most sites, and many SMB customers now have more mobile traffic than desktop.
This past year Google ratcheted up the stakes by further demoting sites that were not mobile friendly, and starting to create a mobile only index of sites. Google also enacted a penalty on mobile sites that have too many pop ups that make it hard for users to read the content on the site. While only a few small businesses were impacted by the mobile pop up penalty, so many more were impacted by the mobile friendly changes. If your site is not mobile friendly now, you are damaging your ability to gain new customers.
SMB Advice for 2017: Check to see if your site is considered mobile friendly using Google’s Mobile Friendly tool. If your site is not friendly, it may be time for a brand new site, or a mobile friendly version using a 3rd party tool. Often, the gain in revenue that comes from becoming mobile friendly is considerably more than the cost of a new site.
Security – Security – Security
The other big area of Google’s rhetoric this past year was around having a secure site, which means having a site that secures any user data using SSL technology. You can tell if a site is SSL secure if it renders at https and has a valid certificate (your browser will tell you if the certificate is expired). Right now Google is giving only a nominal boost to sites that are not SSL secured, but, we expect that this will continue and will likely get stronger. In fact, Google recently informed some sites that they will receive a penalty if they are not SSL secure.
While most SMB sites don’t really take in much data that needs to be secured, it’s a good idea to move to SSL and stay in Google good graces. If you are a site with some personal information (like a doctor’s office), it is not only a good idea for SEO, but, for your patients security as well.
SMB Advice for 2017: Wake up the guy who designed your website, and have him convert it to SSL secure. It’s not that hard to, and it will be beneficial to you and your users for the long run… and while they are at it, add a good security plugin to your site, and switch to a more challenging password.
Fix your Location Pages
Businesses with multiple locations need to take heed. Google has recently put a hurt on sites that don’t have a clear hierarchy for location pages, and don’t have sufficient content on the page. A business should have a unique page for each location, and a clear directory so that Google can crawl the site and find it (not hiding behind a search box). The location pages themselves should have plenty of content that describes what the business does and should have the name, an address and a phone number in schema on the site.
SMB advice for 2017: Add schema to your site, and create a simple location page directory and a page for each of your locations. Make sure your Google My Business profile links directly to the location page for each location.
Google will continue to change their algorithm and their demands of small business owners throughout the year. These simple changes can help get you caught up to where Google is today, and put you ahead of your competition. Take a good hard look at your site to see if you can make any of these changes, and if not, talk to me, SEO Steve.