You’ve probably already been told that search engine optimization is constantly evolving.

For a small business owner, this can make SEO sound big and scary and something that you have to pour hours into every week, just to stay ahead of the curve.

While SEO does take a little bit of time, staying on top of your optimization doesn’t have to consume your life, especially if you’re working with an SEO expert.

Looking forward to the rest of 2015, here are some of the best practices and SEO tips all small business owners should keep in mind.

1. Content continues to reign.

It was Bill Gates who coined the phrase, “Content is king,” in an article written nearly ten years ago.

Despite being almost a decade old (which is nearing old age, in internet-years), the statement is still true and will continue to be true, especially for small businesses.

When consumers do business with small companies, they want that personal touch, they want something meaningful and valuable—that’s the whole point of working with a small business, instead of a mindless corporation.

Valuable content will be your biggest asset.

2. Mobile is more important than ever.

Every year in the last three years has been touted as the Year of the Mobile Device. If any year is that year, it’s 2015.

Mobile traffic has already outstripped desktop and laptop traffic, which means that if your website isn’t mobile friendly, you are probably missing out on at least half of your traffic. If you don’t yet have a responsive design or a website made specifically for mobile users, get one up as soon as possible.

3. Backlinking is changing. So, it’s not really changing, but what aspects of the backlink Google favors is changing. Search engines now care far more about the content around the link, meaning that if your backlink isn’t surrounded by content that actually mentions or is even about your brand, Google’s not going to like it. In some instances, you might not even need a link. If a website talks about your brand and mentions you by name, that’s often going to be enough to count as a backlink.

4. Keyword are going to matter less and less. This is going to be hard for most long-time SEO-ers to hear, but keywords have not been a primary ranking factor for a while now. Gone are the days where you can just stick as many keywords as possible into your content and get a great page ranking. Of course, keyword ranking still matters, but search engines like Google are going to be paying much more attention to how well your website delivers what it promises. It’s mostly going to be doing this by measuring your website’s return on investment. A low ROI means that you aren’t being effective, and therefore, likely don’t deliver what you offer. A high ROI means your website is high value and works to convert page visitors into customers, clients, or patients.

5. Don’t discount social signals. Just as content is only becoming more and more important, your small business’s social footprint is becoming more and more important. This can be discouraging for owners who know that they can never compete with powerhouses like Nike or Coca-Cola, who has massive social media followings. Luckily, you don’t have to compete with those two brands, as you’re likely trying to attract customers from your local area, not all over the world. Content is closely linked to social signals, as what is likely getting the most social activity will be your content.

6. Keep your website safe. Cybercrime is on the rise, and while few people are still wary of online shopping, the danger of having your identity or personal information stolen is actually growing. Search engines are going to favor websites that have the appropriate security measures in place. Why? Because search engines want to protect their users. They don’t want to send them to websites where there information is going to get stolen—they only want to serve up websites that are safe to visit. Make sure you have all of the necessary protections in place to guard the information provided by patients, clients, or customers to your website.

7. Conversations mean more than keywords. Any freelance or on-staff content writer will tell you how often he gets requests to insert keywords like “best dentist New Jersey” twelve times into content. There are still SEO articles advising a high concentration of “exact match” keywords like this—despite the fact that they haven’t really been necessary since 2013. As scary as the prospect might be, Google isn’t just looking for keyword phrases, it’s looking at the whole of the content and evaluating its relevancy to not just the search phrase used, but the intent of the search phrase. Plus, searchers are now using more conversational phrases—mostly because they are no longer being taught in school to omit the articles and extraneous words.

8. Visuals are just as important as words. Google also isn’t going to just be looking at the words that you use on your webpage. It is also going to be looking for relevant videos, graphics, and images. The more visual your webpage is, the more likely it is to get a high ranking. Of course, that doesn’t mean you want to cut back on valuable content, it just means that you should definitely include visual elements, as well as content on your webpage. Don’t neglect one or the other.

Use these eight best practices to make sure your small business’s website has all of the elements it needs for search engine success!

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