Small Business SEO Trends to Keep an Eye On

SEO0As we approach the end of the year it’s obviously a nice time to take stock and make sure all your logistical ducks are in a row, and that’s true of SEO and online marketing as well.

Lots of smart folks have already made some really interesting predictions and talked about key factors to consider in 2013.

I won’t focus on any specific crystal ball work, but I do want to call out five important trends that small businesses will want to keep an eye on in 2013.

1. Link Diversification is Increasingly Important

It’s obviously part of the focus in this post, and indeed it’s a really important SEO issue that’s become incredibly important in 2012 with Google’s Penguin updates, and will likely continue to be important.

From a small businesses perspective the important thing to keep in mind here is that a lot of SEO short cuts (such as spending a couple hundred dollars a month with an overseas SEO firm, or a firm that primarily leverages overseas labor) to get a lot of low-quality links with very aggressive and specific anchor text (meaning if you run Paul’s Plumbing and your company is located in Newton, Massachusetts, you would use “Newton MA plumbing company” to link to your site).

What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

The important thing to note here is that it’s not “always wrong” to get a link with targeted anchor text, and getting a stray link from a site that’s low quality won’t sink your site, but the links to your site need to be a mix of different qualities, with different linking texts, that don’t look the same as a spammy link profile. Some of the other trends will talk a bit more about how best to get there.

2. Content Thickness & Quality is Increasingly Important

Since a lot of those lower cost, more aggressive tactics no longer work, that means that the tactics that do work are and will likely to continue to be things that require more (or “thicker”) unique content and content of a higher quality. The good news here is that in a lot of ways high quality content works and will continue to work even better, because the lower quality tactics are no longer competing with it in the search results (because that content doesn’t rank).

What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

The biggest factor here for small businesses is that the $xxx per month outsourced, hands-off link building service will no longer be a viable option for getting quality search traffic. Small businesses will need to start to focus on creating solid content (or having some solid content created for them). In some cases, unfortunately, it’ll become more expensive to maintain the same rankings. The benefits are that this type of content (unlike getting 500 links from forum profiles) can drive referred traffic and have other benefits for your business outside of SEO.

3. Google Authorship May Become Increasingly Important

As Google rapidly updates their algorithm and looks for additional ways to sort signal from noise in search results, one thing to keep an eye on is Google Authorship. For those unfamiliar, this is effectively a means for an author to identify a page or post as his or her work to Google, and those posts are then highlighted in search results with information about the author.

What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

This is a fairly simple, low-cost opportunity to implement authorship to get some additional “real estate” in search results for your content, and also to build the authority of your Google profile in the event that authorship becomes a more important ranking factor. There is a great list of resources here that should get you or your developer started on implementing and understanding authorship.

4. The “Shrinking Organic Search Result”

There has been a lot of talk about Google’s shrinking SERP and the fact that results from a single domain taking up entire search results are getting more prevalent. This can mean that specific domains may get more of the search engine real estate, and/or it can mean that the search results are simply showing more ads and more Google properties.

What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

Unfortunately this really means that small businesses need to pay closer attention to alternative means of getting attention and traffic outside of SEO – if Google is “shrinking” the organic SERP by including more ads, it’ll likely become important for your business to understand how to get included in those ad blocks and how to optimize for them, whether they be traditional AdWords, Google Shopping, or otherwise.

5. Increasing Importance of Mobile & Video in SEO

None of this is news, but more and more people are using smartphones and tablets and the technology around consuming video on the Web is consistently making improvements. None of this is likely to be interrupted into 2013, so it’s important to understand how you can be well positioned to show up in various types of mobile and video search results in 2013.

What Does this Mean for Small Businesses?

The first step here is awareness – it’s important to think about how your customers and prospective customers behave when they’re looking for you. Not every small business needs to focus deeply on mobile and video, and of course you have limited resources, so ask yourself questions like:

  • Do my customers / prospects look for services like mine on smartphones and tablets?
  • What sorts of services are they likely to search for my business and businesses like mine on (Yelp, FourSquare, Google? Many of these types of sites and apps outside of Google can become a “search engine” as soon as someone starts querying them for information)?
  • If I create a video is that likely to reach my customers and prospective customers?
  • How much effort will it take to better position myself for exposure through mobile or video search?
  • Is that effort going to be worth it based on how much of my customer and prospective customer base is I’m likely to reach?

The good news is that while there are a lot of mobile-specific search optimization tactics, much of the work you’d typically do around good old fashioned marketing will help you to rank well in mobile searches. Video for small businesses can be a bit trickier, and of course can have a lot more benefits than just SEO. This is a great guide to thinking through a video strategy – just from the length of the post you can see there are several moving pieces to consider.

In general, I think most of the trends we’ve seen in 2012 and are likely to continue to see into 2013 are centered around:

  • Short cuts & lower cost SEO not working
  • Higher quality content and additional work being required to be successful (in some case to maintain or regain the same rankings you’d previously gotten for cheap)
  • The higher barrier to entry being an opportunity for some to get very high return for the additional spend and effort required to create good content
  • Google continuing to move into certain verticals more and more aggressively, so that understanding additional traffic opportunities through paid channels (and channels completely unrelated to search) becomes increasingly important

So small businesses will want to think about how this should impact their overall content strategy, as well as what it means for SEO as part of an overall marketing mix.

SEO Photo via Shutterstock

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