Another year in the world of SEO has come to an end, and it’s time to put together your SEO strategy and to-do list for 2010. A new year means another chance to capture rankings, to try out new marketing strategies and to take advantage of the areas where the search engines are looking to expand and place new importance. Because, despite what some may think, SEO for small business is not becoming less important. It’s more important than ever.
With that in mind, here’s a look at the SEO trends to watch out for in 2010.
It was during last month’s PubCon Las Vegas show that Matt Cutts, the head of Web spam at Google, told the audience that site speed may be used as a new ranking factor for 2010. Google’s goal is to help its users to find information as quickly as possible. How quickly a site loads definitely fits into that.
It’s been “the year for mobile” every year for the past five years and this year is no different. A recent Nieslen study found that there are now 56.9 million people looking for information on mobile Web sites (up 34 percent from last year). The push towards mobile has been heavily backed by the emergence of smartphones like the iPhone, Google Android and the popularity of Blackberry device. Combined, they mean that 2010 is the year where small businesses not only have to create a mobile presence, but where they have to create an optimized one, as well. Research says most consumers are not happy with the performance of mobile Web sites. Ignoring mobile means not only losing out on that initial transaction, but all future mobile transactions from that customer. That’s bad business. Can you really afford to do that?
Your first step to capitalizing on mobile is to find out how your site performs on small devices. Sites like BrowserCam (a paid service that offers a 24 hour/200 capture free trial) can give you an idea of how pages are loading, whether certain functionality is disabled, where it’s hanging up, etc. Once you’ve made sure it’s functional, take advantage of all Google’s new mobile services and free online coupons. If Google’s putting resources toward something, it’s probably a smart idea for SMB owners to follow suit.
Last year YouTube became the second largest search engine. This year it continued its dominance, bringing in more than 11 billion streams in November, up 17 percent the previous year and even down just slightly from the month before. If you haven’t been playing with the love affair that is SMB owners and video, it’s time to start. Because your competition probably is. Also, with news that the bigger companies may be pulling back, it opens up a big door for SMBs to hop in there and use video to take back valuable search space with the help of Universal Search.
Reputation Management Meets Real-Time Search
When Google put real-time search updates into the SERPs they unleashed a potential online reputation problem of epic proportions. They essentially opened the floodgates to give angry customers immediate power in the search results. You no longer have a window to reach out to an angry tweeter to ask them to amend their update or tone down that blog post. Google is pulling from tweets, from blogs, from news, from articles and other Web content and throwing it immediately into your search results, often right above your own site. All of this means that you need to be even more vigilant about monitoring the conversation in an attempt to protect your brand.
For a small business owner, your best line of defense is to build a listening station that will help keep you abreast of conversations as they happen. Waiting 24 hours to be notified of a fire may be 24 hours too late.
What do you do?
• Use Twitter Search to track mentions of your name, your competitors’ names, important keywords, locations, etc.
• Use Comprehensive Google Alerts to track blogs and news sources talking about your brand.
• Use Social Mention or WhosTalkin to track anything the first two may have missed.
• Start work on owning your Google 10 to neutralize anything bad that may pop up.
Using Twitter to Network Locally
In 2009 small business owners got comfortable using social media. In 2010 it’s time to take the connections they’ve made online and learn to leverage them off. For many SMB owners that will mean looking to Twitter to network locally and then grabbing that conversion in the real world. For example, if you own a local catering business, you don’t just want to use Twitter to be helpful and build your company brand. You also want it to drive business into your physical locations so that you can benefit from those relationships.
That will mean using tools and information like tweet location, the Advanced Search features of Twitter itself or third party tools like Twitter Grader or Twellow. More and more we’re seeing the tools and apps designed to integrate into social media to help create virtual neighbors. Applications like FourSquare are just the beginning.
Increased Awareness of Local
Tried and true SEO is more important now than ever before. If you haven’t tied up all your local listings and profiles, it is beyond time to do that. The search engines, especially Google, are looking at the consistency and completeness of your local listings in order to rank you for relevant queries. That’s a huge ranking factor that is 100 percent in your control. Take advantage of it! Corner the four corners of local search, go through the process of claiming all your local listings, dominate Yelp, manage your customer reviews, get quality citations and do everything you can to build the authority of your site on the Web.
Another trend we’re going to see with SMB owners this year is a move towards consolidating Web properties in order to make the ‘whole’ stronger. For example, a lot of small business owners have blogs that are currently located on Blogspot or WordPress.com. I think we’re going to see a lot of people start to move these on-site in order to build link equity and build a site that, overall, is stronger. When you have a blog located on a separate domain it means you’re trying to build links, authority and a community on multiple sites. You’re splitting your efforts. With Google changing things at whim and social media sites challenging our privacy, it’s going to strengthen the sites that you do have complete control over. There are plenty of free WordPress guides onsetting up WordPress and how to optimize it.
That’s my take. What SEO trends do you expect to see in 2010?