Small business SEO has always been different from search engine optimization for big businesses.
With the smaller budget and shorter reach that comes along with being a small business, it is important to pay attention to shifts in the SEO paradigm and jump on them before your competitors do.
We’re not talking about flighty trends here—there will always be optimizers preaching false SEO gospel—we’re talking the very real changes that will affect your standing in the search results.
What changes are going to be made in 2016? What do you need to be paying attention to in the coming year?
1. Mobile search
Mobile search has already overtaken traditional search, but it is only going to continue to grow in 2016.
Many small businesses have gotten by without having a responsive or dedicated mobile website, simply because their potential customers could find them on Facebook or local directories, which almost always had mobile versions of their listings available.
This will no longer be the case. If you do not have a mobile website or a responsive website (the better option), now is the time to get one.
It might also be time to start thinking about optimizing your entire website specifically for mobile.
This doesn’t mean forgetting about your desktop and laptop searchers, but focusing primarily on short-form content that is better for mobile readers.
2. Load speed
If you are not already worrying about how quickly your webpage loads, you should be.
The consumer attention span is only going to shorten.
This isn’t because the consumer is getting stupider, it is because he knows that the most up-to-date, legitimate, and valuable websites are paying attention to load speed.
Slow page loading means an old, out of date website.
Fast page loading means a maintained, updated one.
If your webpage takes forever to load, bogged down by pictures and videos in the wrong formats, now is the time to start looking for ways to speed up that page.
There are lots of tools that can analyze your pages and tell you what you need to change to make your page load more quickly, but if you’re tentative about making your own changes, asking a website developer is a great alternative.
3. Location-based search
Google and search engines like it now have more information than ever before about the people that use them.
Because the majority of searches happen on mobile phones, which are equipped with GPS, search engines have the ability to see exactly where their searchers are at the time they make a search.
The same is true for desktops and laptops, which can be pinpointed using their internet service.
New search engine optimization strategies are going to be developed to take advantage of this data, beyond simply showing search results for a person’s general area before showing nationwide search results.
Search results are now going to be narrowed down to neighborhoods and reviews left on local directories are going to be much, much more important than they already are.
This should be a wakeup call to any small business owner who isn’t yet focusing on local small business SEO.
Start taking control of your local listings and implementing strategies that make you more visible in local results.
What Remains the Same
There are some aspects of small business search engine optimization (and SEO in general) that are going to remain exactly the same.
These are the foundations of SEO, on all levels. What “old” things do you need to continue to focus on in 2016?
For starters, content.
There are many who are crying the death of content, especially written content, believing consumer attention spans to be so short that they can’t even read a paragraph of text before getting distracted.
Websites that experience this phenomena are probably creating the problems for themselves, by lining their content with flashing, animated ads and formatting the text so that it is difficult to read.
Content is still and likely always will be king, with written content still being one of the most valuable types.
It’s not just important for search engines—written content is important to consumers, which is why search engines care about it at all.
Great content ranks better than generic, keyword stuffed content.
Focusing on making content that is honestly valuable to your target customer will always give you a better ranking than pumping out mediocre content.
Another “old” aspect of SEO that will continue to be very important in the next year will be authority signals.
These come mainly from offsite links to content on your website.
Social media campaigns, guest blogs, social sharing, reposting, etc. can all help you improve those signals so that your website looks more authoritative.
Authority is important because the number of websites, especially the number of junk websites, is increasing at an alarming rate.
Google has to sift through billions of webpages in order to compile their search results, and they know that if they don’t provide the very best search results, users will either start using a different service or they will give up altogether.
Authority signals prove that a website is what it says it is, that it offers information that people have liked enough to share to their own social media pages, that other pages have found valuable enough to link to, etc.
On top of the changes that need to be made to make your small business SEO 2016 compatible, continuing to produce great content and working on link buildings and social media campaigns will help make sure your SEO is rock solid for the next year.