SME Digital Survival Guide
With SEO changing faster than the wind, what should your main focus be for the coming year ahead?
It may seem daunting for a small business without an army of specialist staff to take direction, but by making a few changes to your strategy you can make a difference to your online position. Take a look at our 7 focus areas that you should be considering when marketing your website online in 2016.
Knowledge Graph: Build your online entity
You may have noticed that your Google search now returns a selection of results from different sources for your query including: images, websites, maps and videos etc. This is part of Google’s new semantic search offering customers more choice for their query so that they do not need to leave Google and search elsewhere.
If you are not already using the data highlighter tool in Google’s Webmaster, now may be a good time? Do you run events, or have book reviews or articles etc? Mark up a page telling Google all about the event and improve the visibility of it in Google’s knowledge graph. Google provides a rich snippet of this mark up data in search results.
It is easy to do with no coding experience necessary. Simply log on to Google Webmaster. Click on ‘Search Appearance’ and you will see the data highlighter tool. You will need to add the URL of the page you want to mark up and then simply highlight the words on the page to match with each category Google asks for. When you are finished publish your changes.
You can use Google’s structured data to optimize website pages and build authorship. By marking up content you can help Google understand your content, build up author credibility and work towards becoming an online entity.
2. Keyword themes: Focus on a keyword group
You may be optimizing your blogs and website copy with a focus keyword – but is your work focusing on a core set of keywords and phrases?
Google is currently focusing on better understanding content across the web. Quality content is becoming increasingly important. By quality we mean over 1500 characters for a web page that is full of interesting information in your niche area for your readers. If you are an authority in your subject area that should be easy.
If you or your employees are writing articles, think about other words that naturally link to your keyword i.e. If your focus keyword is ‘Gap Year’ your page should probably contain other words such as: travel, adventure, volunteering, work, abroad, experience etc. When Google reads your site, its algorithm knows what other words tend to be used alongside your focus keyword in your title.
Take a look at the top websites for your focus keyword and get ideas from there. Download the Chrome browser extension called SEO Quake. Then go to the page with the search terms that you want to rank for, click the SEO Quake button and select ‘Page info’. Here you will find a list of the keyword densities on this page. After analyzing this page, you can work out other words that generally are used around your focus keyword and make sure you have them included in your content.
3. Brand build: Don’t link build
To grow a website online you need lots of links however, Google does not want you to build links nowadays! Confused? There has been a big overhaul in SEO Land and Google has cracked down on webmasters spamming websites to gain page rank. You still need links to rank but they should be organic, natural links. You should not be buying links or using a generator to create you loads. If Google thinks you are spamming your site, they will impose a penalty and your website could be taken off line. This process could potentially take months to rectify.
To gain links, treat online relationships as you would offline. Outreach and make contacts and ask if they want to link with you online. Keep any links relevant to your business, for example if you are a cycling tour operator a natural link may be to link with your local store that sells cycles or cycling clothes. Google understands the nature of websites that you link to and who link back.
The best online marketing is to build up your brand. In the future it is rumored that Google will be able to understand a brand mention and links may become redundant. In the meantime, spend time working on outreach and designing great content to share that will naturally develop people linking to you.
If you build links out to other companies, try not to focus on a keyword in your link, instead focus on the URL of the page you are linking to or the title of the page or article. This should help you steer clear of penalties.
If you are writing content it makes sense to use someone that is an expert in the industry or if outsourcing, choose agents that market to your industry as their niche. Many outsourced companies write blogs that are simply re-hashed from sources elsewhere, we call this ‘scraped content’. It makes sense that if your copy is light on the word count, knowledge and is optimized with just your main keyword, rather than a collective keyword group, this may look spammy to Google.
4. Narrowcasting: Engage with a smaller audience
Content marketing continues to be an extremely important tactic in search engine optimization. In 2016 we will see a bigger focus on ‘narrowcasting’. Companies will look at identifying a smaller audience and engaging with them through offline and online conversations, choosing narrower, specialist keywords.
Narrowcasting can be achieved starting with keyword analysis. Search for narrow keywords that may only get say, 50 hits per month. By placing your narrow keywords into a tool such as Wordstream, it will group keywords together giving you a keyword campaign to focus on.
5. Local marketing : Optimise for local results
For a small business it is important to you market your website locally. If you have not yet opened a Google Business Page, it is time to. Google will display your business information in the search pages as below. There have been a few recent changes in this area. For those of you that have been trying to grow your Google Plus page including the reviews, you will notice that these features are no longer supported. Customers will now instead interact with your business in the knowledge box, located in the search page.
This change may present a problem to those of you that have spent time building reviews on the Google plus page as chances are, those particular links may now be broken. If you are worried about this, the guys at Search Engine Land have produced a really interesting article: How To Get Google Review Links After The G+ Update. The article contains a step by step procedure on how to generate new links.
6. Mobile apps: Move on your online technology
Mobile has dominated 2015 and next year will be no exception. Google rolled out its algorithm affecting mobile searches in April 2015. Websites that are not user friendly on a mobile will see a drop in rank when customers search online using a mobile search. If you are unsure whether your site is mobile friendly, take the Google Mobile-Friendly test.
Consider investing in a mobile app. Statistics show that conversion rate offers 2 x the engagement if using an app compared to a mobile. People engage with apps more than browsing the mobile web. If you think about it, it makes sense. Apps such as Face Book, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, news, utilities and gaming dominate the home screen on phones. People tend to flick between apps rather than browse the web. If a customer downloads your app, your brand also benefits from the exposure of constant brand reinforcement each time the phone is used.
If your business has not got the budget to build an app consider integrating your business with apps already available. Last year Facebook bought WhatsApp. It is looking increasingly likely that the two apps will integrate. If Facebook integrates its business pages with WhatsApp it may offer the opportunity for brands to open up new personalized communication channels with customers. Unlike Facebook WhatsApp gives immediate access to people in our mobile contact list who are not necessarily friends on FaceBook. For brands targeting a younger audience this may be an exciting prospect with more and more younger people moving away from Facebook as their preferred social platform.
The takeaway here is that you do not have to necessarily build your own apps instead look at ways to update your communication and customer service channels that engage with the new modern customer.
7. Multi Channel Strategy: Streamline your business
Our last trend has already worked well for companies like John Lewis. This strategy interacts with customers via a combination of direct and indirect marketing methods. Customers now have more control over the buying process with so much information available to them at hand. Brands that have been successful are those who have integrated their processes. Customers now expect consistent experiences across all channels whether they order a product online, visit the store or make a query using their mobile. Because your customer will interact with you in different ways it is also important to build up a central picture of their buying habits, understanding how they behave at different points of the buying process and what their value is to your business.
If your customer can currently interact with you in different ways, determine whether they receive the same experience in which ever way they choose to communicate and whether the technology in place has the capacity to deal with each channel whilst providing central data of the user experienceMulti