What Small Businesses Need to do to Improve Website Performance in 2017 and Beyond.
For years advice has been, and was reiterated in this article from September 2016, “webmasters should be free to focus on creating amazing, compelling web sites.”
SEO has evolved and is very different to how it once was. In 2017, small businesses need to acknowledge that is is not just about keywords, it is about semantics. Get into the mind of your ideal visitor. What are they looking for? Small business websites need to solve for their users, not for the search engines.
Various online marketing commentators say that SEO is dead. Optimisation in terms of H1s and meta tags, building a few links and watching a small business website rise to the top of Google, certainly is.
Although traditional SEO is still required, it won’t have too much effect on its own.
There has been no precise formula for SEO for some time (avoid pointless guarantees!) and SEO for small businesses in 2017 means getting the building blocks right with best SEO practice and adding in content that users want to find.
So, do the basics. There are 200 ranking factors that determine search results. SME’s don’t really need to focus on them to rank well, they do need to be aware of them to create a great experience for visitors.
Since 2011, Google’s algorithms have been looking to demote websites will thin content, thus promoting websites with good quality. A few tips from the Google webmaster blog back in 2011 includes how to measure ‘good quality’:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well?
- Does the site have duplicate content?
- Would you be comfortable giving your credit card information to this site?
- Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
The article goes on to outline more factors, you can find it here.
In 2012 a Google article mentioned: Include query terms normal people would use to find your product/business (e.g., “running shoes,” not “athletic footwear”), many SEO advisors bulked copy with synonyms the same article goes on to mention “Consider tag clouds and misspellings as fairly played out” pretty much putting this to bed.
Machine learning has existed since 2013. Search engines know that people searching for X, click on website Y so they know the click through rate and bounce rate, and will be able to reasonably predict that if a new customer types the same thing, which websites will be deemed more relevant (I am obviously oversimplifying here, there are still many other factors).
Search engines continue to evolve. Google has developed machine learning that helps their algorithms ‘understand’ and process long-tail queries which are often conversational and relatively new. For new search queries never seen before, how are results presented? There used to be a phrase called a Googlewhack. A 2-word search query that comes back with a single result in a search. Try typing in something that you think might be a Googlewhack – Google will try and work out what you are trying to find, rather than just take what you type at face value. Which is what it used to do.
Artificial intelligence in 2017 will evolve to compliment machine learning. However, it will be still about how to measure a website’s relevance to customers searching for X. Read more about the importance of understanding customer intent here.
For AI to handle conversational queries correctly – either this as a vocalised question or typed in common language – search engines needed to understand what the article is about, not just which words are in it. SEO in 2017 will be helping this process, not trying to deceive it.
There is evidence that this is already happening. Articles can rank for keywords that are not found anywhere in the text. The transition from “words” to “concepts” has already begun. Understanding the meaning as well as the relationships between words is known as semantic search.
Research has shown that the correlation between a keyword in the title tag, and the ranking for the search with that key word, was much smaller than expected.
It used to be essential to have an exact matching keyword in a title tag but Google is better at understanding the context of a page.
Small Business SEO in 2017
Instead of synonyms, small businesses need to consider other keywords that would indicate the context of an article. On the other hand, writing good quality articles, concentrating on the target customer rather that skewing the search results would do this anyway.
The basics of SEO are really the basics of a well-structured website with unique topics, titles, meta descriptions, keywords in the filename, lowercase and hyphen separated. Descriptive anchor text for every link. Easy enough.
To understand what small business SEO will be in 2017, we need to appreciate the various elements of good websites. Excellent high-quality authoritative content (backlinks), structured data, rich snippets, product listings, security, trustworthiness, user experience [loading speed, navigation (breadcrumbs)], mobile friendliness, duplicate content, reviews, social media, location, competition etc.
Focus needs to be on creating remarkable content that is clearly better than competitors. Then get users to consume and share that content.
How AI grows and improves search results in 2017 is best left to the engineers. Webmasters and SEO’s need to focus on user intent. Appeal to customers that are looking for and supply what they need. Whether that be advice, products to purchase or a great SEO service for small businesses!
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Based just south of Manchester in the UK. Online Customer Solutions provide SEO services to a range of small businesses.