There is SEO and then there is small business SEO. Often lost in the headlines of optimal conditions for highly competitive websites competing at the highest end of Google searches is that when it filters down to small business local or niche sites, often the competitive landscape significantly shifts what the priorities are. This is partly why I carved out my niche by helping small businesses. It is a unique and niche set of skillsets, but it keeps things interesting and challenging. The companies that focus on the big business SEO factors often don’t move the dial for small businesses. For example, a big investment in page speed may have no change in a small business‘ rankings because, in that particular competitive landscape, it just isn’t as important. The key is to focus on what matters most with the limited small business budget.
Small Business 2021 Resolutions for SEO and PPC
As 2020 turns to 2021, Google continues with big and constant changes to how both their ranking algorithms work, as well as the rules and tactics needed to succeed in Google Ads for pay per click advertising. In both SEO and Google Ads, the approach from a small business is considerably different from that of corporate America. I have written in the past about how to make your SEO plan algorithm proof and best avoid big drops with Google changes and updates. Below are some key things to keep in mind as we head into 2021
For Pay Per Click
- Negative Keywords: Google continues to remove control from the advertiser and moving us to letting them control our ad efficiency. Negative keywords are still a very important area where we have control. At one time, you could control things much better with the different types of keyword matches Google offers, but it has evolved to where we need to do much more upkeep work with adding negatives since we can’t advertise for exactly the terms we want and Google is even not showing us all of the specific keywords that received clicks that we paid for.
- Avoid Letting Google Take Over: Google is slyly sneaking in ways to automate everything we do. It is important to stay up to date on the latest news and emails from Google themselves. As we saw this year, they will sneak in an email that allows them to make adjustments to your campaigns without your knowledge. Don’t let this happen. Keep as much control as you can. Google approaches strategy with the idea of spending lots of budget to find out what works. Small businesses need to go into it knowing to some degree what is working and stay specific. You can then slowly open things up as you see things working. The last thing a small business can do is waste thousands of dollars testing wasteful keywords.
- Content is Still King: Content has always been king in SEO and it will continue to be. It is also the easiest way to make up ground on competitors in local or niche markets. Google’s job is to provide the best answer to a user’s search. There are many factors like speed and links involved, but to be in the conversation, you need to provide those answers. Google continues to get more and more specific with answers. Keep creating specific answers for your market. Blog posts with specific answers to customer questions based on your geographic market and industry will help you get into the conversation and get rankings and traffic that can then be converted to customers.
- Links Still Matter: Keep looking for links that are relevant. PR and local activity will help with this. Join your local chamber or industry groups. These are all helpful organizations that also provide links to your site that show Google you are relevant to that community. Depending on your market, these can be differentiators. We can help you get to the next level as well with our history of relationships and strategies to help here. These are still a core part of your ranking strength.
- Reviews: Keep asking for detailed reviews. It isn’t just about the score, but about what people say too. A coffee place that has reviews mentioning how great their mocha latte is will show up more for mocha latte searches. The more your reviews mention your “micro-services”, the more you can show up for these searches that aren’t necessarily business categories but get search volume. These services are also great seed ideas for new blog posts. You want a constant flow of new reviews coming in. Especially to your Google My Business (GMB) page.
- Speed: Technical aspects of your website are also important. Of course things like broken links can cause a bad experience and set you back, but speed is getting more and more important, which leads us to some of the new hot topics in the SEO world.
SEO Hot Topics in 2021
- Passage Indexing: This has become more of a hot topic in late 202o and heading into the new year. Google has mentioned they are able to index passages and provide answers to queries via a passage from a page on a website rather than the full page. We will see how this plays out. Many news and information blogs rely on traffic to sell advertising, and as is the case with many tweaks to the algorithm, this may hit them first. It shouldn’t have as much of a big hit to small businesses. Though I still recommend you create nice thorough and specific answers to questions relevant to what you do, the typical small business conversion traffic should still land on your GMB or your site pages for a while. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but it shouldn’t lead you to drastically change your content approach, though many companies may try to sell you on this.
- Core Web Vitals: Google has officially said Core Web Vitals will become a ranking factor in May 2021. As is often the case, this is just Google getting better at measuring things that have always been ranking factors. Speed has always mattered and this is just a more nuanced version of that. Google will tell you that UX or User Experience is the top-ranking factor, and this is just a better way to help measure this. As for many things in the SEO world, this gets tough for small businesses, as many tools for this that I have found (I will be writing a follow-up post on this) aren’t that helpful for small businesses. Sites that don’t have national level traffic often don’t show values on the latest tools. I’m sure more free tools will be on the way in 2021. All is relative in SEO, so if your competitors haven’t invested in speed, you may not need to prioritize it as much, but you should know. You can still use a tool like gtmetrix.com to compare your own site page speeds to others you are competing with. If the rest of the top sites in your market are outperforming you here, you likely need to put more resources into this.
Your Small Business SEO and Google Ads Solution in 2021
With 14 years of history focusing on small business combined with an A+ BBB score and a 5.0 average Google review score, you can come to us to help make search engine success easy. We know what matters and what doesn’t, and can blend with the strengths and weaknesses of your team to provide the support where and when you need it. Working with us fits like a comfortable pair of shoes. We let you keep working at what you are good at and bring your plan into supplement the pieces that you don’t have. Give us a call and find out how easy it can be.