Most small businesses are dreadfully behind the times when it comes to marketing themselves online. And this can be absolutely crippling for a new small business. Without leads, you can’t get customers, and the days of relying on foot traffic are gone with few exceptions.
These days, everyone has their smartphones or tablets out whenever they want to find or research a a business that they think will help solve their problems.
In fact, mobile searches have officially overtaken searches made from other devices, like desktop and laptop computers. And this trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Because online marketing and SEO are so crucial for every small business, let’s take a look at the things most businesses don’t understand about SEO in 2016.
1. Bigger Really is Better (from Google’s Perspective)
In some specific categories and industries, Google clearly favors some of the larger websites. For instance, if you were going to launch a website that sells jackets, it’s going to be next to impossible to get the #1 spot for search terms like “men’s jackets.” You might be wondering why, so just take a second to open a new tab and Google “men’s jackets.”
If you look at the top search results, you’re going to find heavy hitters like Nordstrom and Macy’s. Not only do they have massive ecommerce sites on domains that have existed for years (if not decades), also consider that they have a lot more advertising dollars to throw around. If you try to compete with them and rank for the same keywords, you’re never going to come close to achieving your goal.
Think about it – would Google really want to show users your website as opposed to an industry leader and a household brand? Of course not; Google wants people to have the best user experience possible, and Google isn’t going to favor a startup over a mega-corporation (with few exceptions).
2. You Don’t Try to Rank an Entire Website
The days of Google sending everyone to a home page are long gone. A lot of small businesses without SEO experience think that the goal is “to make the website rank #1 in Google.” But in reality, that’s not the case.
These days, websites are very segmented, and websites need to try to rank their individual pages. And some of those pages aren’t intended to be ranked at all. For example, most people have an “about” or “contact” page that typically isn’t a visitor’s point of entry to your website. While very important for the overall customer journey, these pages typically shouldn't rank in search engines.
On the other hand, you really want to strive to make all of your blog content rank very well.
3. You May Only Need a Few Well-Ranked Keywords
Some people have the idea that they need to rank high for every keyword in their industry or niche to be successful, but that’s not always true. If your niche is very small and narrow, it may be that you only need to rank well for three or more terms.
For example, you may have an ecommerce site that sells rock climbing ropes and harnesses. While you may sell ancillary products, your main business comes from rope sales. In that case, you may only need to rank for keywords like “rock climbing ropes” in order to be successful.
4. Content Marketing Is Incredibly Competitive
By now, every should have heard the phrase “content is king” - and it still is. But the problem is that everyone already knows this fact. You’re going to need to invest time and money creating high quality content that looks better than your competitors. There’s a lot of different factors that go into making quality content, but the point is you’re going to have to make a commitment.
Don’t throw up one blog post and expect it to go viral overnight. By the same token, don’t think you can rise to the top after a month of work, either. Because everyone is competing for the same users and clicks, content marketing, while very effective, is also extremely competitive.
5. It Pays to Stay Ahead of the Curve
Google has been rolling out changes to their search algorithm for years now. In such a long span of time, we’ve seen business empires crumble to dust and lose all their organic traffic overnight because they failed to adapt to the latest changes or launched a site redesign that wasn't search-ready.
The best way to stay ahead of the curve is to be an early adopter. For example, when Google first made the announcement that mobile-friendliness would be a ranking factor, it paid off to be one of the first websites to adapt to that change.
There’s always something new around the corner, and right now it seems to be the introduction of accelerated mobile pages. It’s better to make these types of updates sooner rather than later, so I’d recommend optimizing your site with AMPs before they become the next big ranking signal.
6. SEO Can Be Used to Target Specific Market Segments
Many small business owners have the misconception that the only goal of SEO and digital marketing is to rank high for long lists of keywords. They perceive this to be the “shotgun approach,” which doesn’t necessarily funnel qualified leads into their marketing funnel.
But there seem to be a thousand and one ways to drill into through demographic data. For example, social media marketing can target Facebook and Twitter users on specific criteria to drive traffic back to your site, thereby increasing exposure, visibility, and the likelihood that you’ll earn more coveted back-links.
SEO is one of the most needed marketing tools for small businesses, though it is taken advantage of the least. It’s sad to see small businesses pay big bucks for a flashy website, but fail to invest money in marketing that will actually drive visitor traffic to their site.
Remember, it doesn’t matter how sleek and sexy your website is if no one can find it online.