The Importance of SEO for Local Businesses in 2016

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In 2016, it’s not a matter of ‘if’ you should have an online presence, but ‘when’ will you get started, and ‘why’ haven’t you gotten started yet?

Furthermore, SEO – or Search Engine Optimization – is more important than ever before for local businesses.

Don’t just take our word for it, this Google Study found that search results are a powerful way to drive consumers to stores, with 3 in 4 people who find local information in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores.

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Source: Think With Google

Yet leading customers to your business is only half the battle.

Google found that once in store, 42% of customers are searching for information online while browsing, with 64% using search engines and almost half of in-store shoppers heading to the retailer’s own website or app.

Personal devices such as smartphones and tablets have increased this convenience; with Google announcing more Google searches now take place on mobile devices than on computers. From this information alone it is no surprise when we say that you will need to improve or commence your SEO if you want local customers to find you.

If you’re ready to kick-start your 2016, but are not sure where to begin or what to do, here’s a list of SEO trends you should follow to help improve your business’s online presence.

SEO trends to consider for 2016.

SEO practices are evolving. Gone are the days where you would simply add a lot of spammy backlinks to 3rd party websites. Here’s 3 trends for 2016 that will guide your SEO activities:

1. Mobile optimized sites and local SEO are complementary.

According to Internet Live Stats, there are approximately 3.3billion internet users in the world (40% of the world population) as of February 2016, with the Americas as the second largest percent (21.8%) population online. Of the 3.3billion internet users, 52.7% were on mobile devices in 2015, with forecasts of 63.4% mobile users in 2017.

Another study has shown that consumers are more likely to shop on mobile devices than on PC’s. Due to this rapid growth of mobile devices, search engines have quickly adapted to this change (and are continuing to adapt). After announcing a ‘mobile-friendly update’ in April 2015, Google senior vice president of search, Amit Singhal, announced a few months later that they were getting “more searches on mobile devices than desktop.”

How this affects local businesses
It is now more important than ever to ensure your online presence is mobile-optimized, meaning that your website must accommodate changing screen sizes and interactive buttons and click-throughs to engage your customers. The April 2015 update also saw Google indexing and favoring mobile-friendly websites in higher search rankings, meaning you could potentially be pushed down several places for this simple reason alone.

2. SEO and Voice Search

With more people using smartphones, it is now easier to conduct voice search following the development of voice-activation such as Siri and ‘Ok Google’ but with this new trend comes a change in language use. While we are used to typing short, brief phrases in online search – such as ‘nearest gas station’, voice search is typically more conversational, for example ‘Ok Google…where can I find the nearest gas station?’ As a result, Google has adapted to understand these conversational commands much more easily.

How this affects local businesses
The convenience of voice search means that many more people are adapting to it, and consequently, your SEO keywords and content strategy must accommodate to your key phrases.

3. Click-through rates are falling for top organic search results

The organic click through rates of number 1 position in search results are quickly in decline, as shown in a comparison of these two charts from May 2014 and November 2015.
May 2014
May2014

November 2015
November2015

Source: Advanced Web Ranking

You can see the number one organic position CTR has dropped and can be evident as you scroll through the months on Advanced Web Ranking. The reason for this seems obvious when using a search engine. Top search results are now dominated more than ever by paid ads.

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Source: Search Engine Land

How this affects local businesses
It no longer matters as much as it used to whether your business is ranked as number 1 in search results. Google appears to be taking the same approach as Facebook, in that you must ‘pay to play’. Local search results however appear to take preference above organic results in a top three listing format known as ‘3 pack’, which can be achieved through a combination of local SEO and an effective Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy.

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Source: Google Results for ‘Best Hair Salon in New York’

In order to dominate this space, you should invest in Google AdWords to support your SEO efforts.

Tips and Advice for improving your SEO in 2016.

Now that we’ve reviewed the changing trends in SEO for 2016, here’s some actionable tasks to focus on to improve your local business SEO strategy.

1. Develop a Solid Content Strategy

A lot of brands are now hyper aware of the need to develop interesting and engaging content in order to establish a brand awareness and build a relationship with customers. It is no longer enough to create advertising campaigns to generate a reaction from customers, users want to obtain additional value from your business. Generating new and engaging content also assists with your SEO strategies, providing the content has tags and keywords which can easily be indexed by search engines.

Try these tips to guide your content strategy planning:

Use Visuals: Users are more engaged with photos, and content with relevant images gets 94% more views than content without image. This trend is quickly shifting to video particularly on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook, where ‘the type of posts most likely to reach the masses is now without a doubt, video content’.

Quality over Quantity: The average content length of the Top 10 Google results are over 2000 words, according to Serpiq. It is better to have one high quality piece of content with informative and valuable information than a hundred short posts of various topics. Quality content in your field of expertise will be better received and appreciated than a lot of smaller irrelevant posts.

Present your content via different media formats: Once you have spent time generating original and informative content, repurpose it into various other formats such as infographics, presentations and images. For example, create an image featuring a quote from the content piece and link it to the full article, revise it into a short presentation or slides, or turn it into video with the use of animations and voice over. There is a large variety of easy-to-use tools and resources to assist you to do this quickly and easily.

2. List your business in online directories

It goes without saying that the more you are listed online the higher your likelihood of increasing your brand awareness. Again as per rule of quality over quantity, you do need to make sure you are listing your business in relevant directories, for example a health and beauty business may be able to list on a national directory of health services, and you would avoid listing on agriculture and farming directories. Just because you can submit your business, doesn’t mean you should.

Sites with a high volume of users, such as Yelp are an excellent tool to utilize, and their rapid growth and partnership with YP (formerly Yellow Pages) has analysts forecasting it to overcome Google dependence.

3. Build quality links

Having quality backlinks that you’ve earned can be an excellent boost towards pushing your site into the top of the search results.

One great method of doing this is to network and connect with supporting businesses who will benefit from mutual exposure. An accountant can form an alliance with a business advisor who could redirect business to one another without risk of competition. Or a fitness center can connect with a sporting goods and activewear brand. Placing backlinks on one another websites will assist in boosting both of your businesses SEO so this partnership works well.

Another option is to reach out to bloggers and industry sites such as specialty news and information sites and offer to write a guest post based on your area of expertise. A small end blurb about you and your business can be shared at the bottom of your post.

Final note

SEO is an evolving, ever changing environment to which you need to ensure your SEO practices are up-to-date. The old method of trawling every sites and posting your information anywhere and everywhere is now commonly known as ‘black-hat’ optimization and it doesn’t work at all. Google is able to recognize and penalize this practice by pushing you further down the results and de-indexing your website. Google’s 2015 introduction of it’s ranking system for mobile optimized websites is just another example of how quickly the SEO industry moves.

While it may seem too fast-paced to keep ahead, professional publications and marketing companies such as our team at Declare Media will always be able to find ways to assist in boosting a client’s SEO effectively and professionally.

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