Google is always refining their search algorithm, but there are some fundamental things that we know Google likes, as well some trends we’re seeing.  So without further fanfare, here are the ZenChange SEO Basics 2017. Now I probably don’t need to tell you how important it is for your business to be found on the first page of Google.  But just in case, here are some stats for you to ponder:

  • 61% of users check the internet before buying products & services
  • 75% of users never get past the first page of search results
  • there are 131 billion (yes, that’s a “b”) Google searches made per month.

So yes, we want to be there, but what is the recipe for “Google Juice“?   If you think about it, Google is trying to create an online environment that is relevant, timely, collaborative and rewards reputable businesses while penalizing those who attempt to game the system or take advantage of customers.  So with that lofty goal in mind, here are our SEO Basics 2017:

SEO Basics 2017 Tip #1 – Keyword Relevance

As you might expect, when you enter a search term, Google will return the pages that most closely match what you searched.  Provided of course that the page also conforms to Google’s other rules that we’ll outline here.
SEO Basics 2017

This chart demonstrates the distribution of searches.   Here’s how it works.  If you try to optimize your website for a general search term such as “attorneys”, you’ll find it to be both highly competitive (and therefore expensive), and also not a great investment, since the term is not very specific or action oriented.  Is the searcher looking for a real estate attorney? a personal injury attorney? a family law attorney?  Now if we move further down the curve to search phrases that contain 2-3 words, such as “family law attorney”, we’ll see fewer searches and more specificity, but they will still be highly competitive and therefore time consuming and expensive to rank.  If you’re a small business, such as a law practice, the secret sauces is in the long tail.  These are the relative low individual search volume, but highly specific terms that are action oriented and more likely to lead to conversion to a client.  An example might be “how to get a divorce in Miami”.  This search term really makes it seem like the searcher had a direct intention!  About 80% of Amazon’s sales come from the long tail.  We capture this space by writing detailed, keyword rich content on targeted keyword phrases.  But, content alone is not enough and which keywords to go after depends upon the niches available to your after assessing your competitors.

SEO Basics 2017 Tip #2 – Website Performance:

There was a study done in Canada a few years ago that measured attention span and concluded that thanks in part to our mobile devices, we humans now have an attention span that is only about 8 seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish!  Google also knows that since most of us are glued to our phones and over half of web searches are from a mobile device, we become even more impatient waiting for a website to load, and so if your website doesn’t automatically realign itself vertically for mobile search (i.e. is responsive), then you’re out of the running.  And given that you only have our attention for about 8 seconds, Google wants your page to load in two seconds or less (one Mississippi, two Mississippi…) giving the searcher 6 seconds to find something on your page that entices them to hang around for longer.

Remember when you first took your shiny new laptop out of box?  Remember your happy oohs and aahs when you saw how fast it brought up your applications and searched online?  I’m betting that unless you have kept up with your updates and maintenance, if it has been a couple of years or so then it probably isn’t loading quite as quickly.  Your website is really no different.  Even if it was flying when you launched it, over time there will have been updates to the “operating system” (e.g. WordPress) and “applications” (e.g. your template and WordPress plugins) that are causing it to get a bit sluggish.  Not only is that costing you your search engine ranking but your website visitors are bailing also, which is costing you business.  The economics of SEO are actually pretty clear.  It might be time for a website tuneup.

SEO Basics 2017 Tip #3 – Social Proof:  

I still get clients who ask me, “Why would I want to put my business on Facebook?  I don’t want to post about what I had for lunch on my business page!”  Well guess what?  Your clients are on Facebook, and Instagram, and Linked In, and maybe Twitter, and they’re searching on Google so you want to be on Google+.  Google knows how much time we spend on social media.  According to a recent study, we spend about 5 hours a day on our mobile devices and almost 40% of that time is on social media.  So social media is important to us.  We are social creatures who care what other people think, regardless of whether we admit it (more on that in a moment).  So there are a couple of good reasons why you want you business to be on social media.  First, people are looking for you there.  When you meet someone at an event, they chat with you and take your business card.  If they think you might be a fit for their needs, they check out your website.  But they know that is really your online business card.  It is important, but is the “corporate you”.  They also want to know what you care about.  What do you share?  What causes do you support?  Who is interested in you?  They go to social media to find that and because of that strong trend in human behavior. Google cares.

SEO Basics 2017 Tip #4 – Local SEO

This tip is more recent and has a sharper upward trend than the first three.  But here is the logic, and it goes back once again to our love of mobile devices.  Since so many of our searches are done on mobile, Google knows that we are most likely looking for something nearby.  If we’re searching for a restaurant, we aren’t likely to drive to the next state for a meal, unless it is REALLY amazing.  And the same goes for the businesses we search.  The world may be connected by the internet, but all things being equal, price included, most of us would rather do business within our own communities.  That is one of the reasons for local offices.  You can’t do everything from headquarters.

So how do we optimize for Local SEO?  We claim the business’ “online real estate”, a.k.a. the thousands of directory listings local to our neighborhoods.  The most obvious are Google, Facebook, Yelp and YP, but there are countless directories to claim, some of which are specific to your industry (think Avvo) and some of which are specific to your neighborhood and all of which can link back to your website.  If you have ever moved your office, this work is extremely critical since if Google is confused about where you are, it won’t prioritize your page in the search results.  But having an accurate business name on these directories is not enough, to take full advantage you really should have images, video, a keyword rich business description, separate keywords, all of the business information fields completed, and (this is the tough part), happy client testimonials on each directory.  If that sounds like a pain to do on your own then you’re right.  It is incredibly time consuming.  If you’re the DIY type then by all means go for it.  But if you’d rather spend time running your business, you may want to check out our Local SEO service.  I have been talking a lot about Google in this post, but we can’t forget Bing.  While Google is the search engine used behind the iPhone, Bing is the search engine used by Android, and currently Android users outnumber iPhone users 3 to 1.

SEO Basics 2017 Tip #5 – 5-Star Reviews

As you have seen with the other SEO Basics 2017 Tips, Google really seems to be trying to reflect human preferences and behavior in its search algorithm.  Nowhere is that more obvious than in this next tip, which is to gather as many 5-star reviews on your business as humanly possible.  Now this does seem to be very specific to Google, as Bing doesn’t really seem to care about 5-star reviews as of this writing, but since Google currently boasts 64.4% of all online searches, it is worth paying attention.  An estimated 85% of consumers read online reviews, according to a 2013 study by Bright Local.  Of those, 79% say they trust an online review as much as a personal review by a friend or family member.  And, an increase in overall satisfaction rating of one star has been shown to average a 20% increase in business.

So how do you increase your 5-star reviews?  There is the DIY way of emailing your customers and asking them, but then of course you can’t really control whether they will in fact give you 5 stars, or on which directory they will review you.  If you would rather be in the driver’s seat, you may want to check out our online review management service here.

SEO Basics 2017 Game Plan – How To Get Started

So where do you start if you’re a small business with a smaller budget?  Remember the interaction between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in Alice In Wonderland?

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Really that sums up your marketing strategy pretty well.  How many of these tips you act upon, depends on where you want to go.  If you dabble, it is certainly better than doing nothing, but no one won an Olympic medal by dabbling in a sport, so it really becomes about setting realistic expectations.  Your foundation is always a great website, since if you do anything else to drive traffic to a website that loads slowly, looks dated or doesn’t have a compelling call to action, then you are literally throwing your money away.  But does that mean you need to have a $10,000 super extraordinary Rolls Royce of a website?  Not at all, in fact you can do just fine with something that costs two or three thousand dollars, as long as it is well tuned, looks slick and contains well written content.   If you’re on a really small budget and need something for a few hundred dollars, that is definitely possible, you just won’t be able to achieve the same results.

So once you have your great website, your next step is typically going to be a combination of social media, on-page SEO (for optimization of page speeds, META data and local SEO.  The level of investment and particular focus will of course depend upon your business and goals.  And then of course the faster you can get to review management the better.

How much work you’ll need to do and where you’ll go are specific to your business situation.  Why not give us a call at 305-702-0112 or request a FREE LIVE DIGITAL REVIEW to see where you stand?