With Google somewhat drastically updating their ranking algorithm a couple of times in recent months, and other big changes on the horizon, there are some very important aspects of SEO that small businesses have been getting away with ignoring for a while, that are suddenly becoming urgent needs. I want to address some of them below as we are starting to see successful sites dropping search volume significantly due to content issues that have been threatening for a long time, but haven’t really hit home in small business markets and technological advancements that are soon going to be absolute necessities.
Statistics are showing Google is going away from home page rankings quite significantly. The number of times home pages show up in search has trended downward and this tends to hurt small businesses the most, that have basic sites and have traditionally had their home page as their main content in local markets. We have been preaching for years that small businesses need to create a page for every concept they would want to rank for, such as individual products or services, or specific target markets. Despite these facts. Google tended to still just deliver the home page quite often for these more specific searches, and made us SEO’s look a little silly. Well, that is stopping now.
I have one small business where I recently analyzed their March organic page traffic with their June traffic. Despite having a gain in overall traffic, their home page dropped significantly in organic traffic while their top 15 other pages outdrew March 370 visitors to 2. This is just one small business instance, but it shows where the trend is going. Google wants to present the best answer for a query, and that is typically a specific page addressing an issue exactly. Whether it is a doctor treating migraines or a realtor offering rentals or home purchases. Google wants to give the searcher a page explaining why you are the best choice to help their migraines or offer the best choice for rentals or new home purchases. They don’t want to send people to a generic home page. That page is more to help keep the site together, but not necessarily for search unless it is a very high-level search. You just can’t survive anymore with one services page that lists each service.
One of the big findings from the “Fred” algorithm update a few months ago is that Google just isn’t putting up with “thin” content anymore. By thin, I mean those two or three sentence pages that often small businesses try to get away with to cover a topic. Those pages just don’t rank anymore. As I mentioned above, Google wants to provide a specific answer. Moreover, they want a thorough specific answer that explains the issue, addresses how you will solve it, and why you would solve it better than someone else. Correlations show top ranking sites averaging over 2,500 words. Though this can vary by industry and topic, you shouldn’t just look to address the 500 minimum requirement and should aim higher, and getting past 1,500 words.
No, you don’t want to just add fluff to hit your word count like that high school paper you wrote that had to be 1,000 words. Think of your users. They want everything available to them, but they don’t want to read it all. You should answer all those questions above about what the issue is and how you address it and why they should trust you, but answer it in very digestible portions, so users can pick out and only read what they want. Separate it with relevant images. Use bullet points and nice headings that separate the content and make it clear what the visitor will get if they read that paragraph. You can no longer survive with two or three sentence pages that just generically define whatever the issue. That won’t set you apart and no matter how strong we may have made your site, Google won’t put it up there.
Get Your SSL Certificate ASAP
In October, Google will begin warning searchers that your site isn’t secure when they see you in the results. You think it is hard to keep traffic on your site now, imagine if Google tells them you aren’t safe. The good news is this is a simple and usually fairly low-cost fix. Go to your host and get your SSL certificate. Often, new hosts will give you an SSL Certificate for free these days. If you are moving an old site, it may be a couple hundred dollars, but worth it. One thing to remember is to make sure your host does 301 redirects of all of your old http pages to their new https versions. Seems like a small thing but I have seen sites disappear because they didn’t do this.
At SMX Advanced, Gary Illyes said get AMP now. If Google is telling you to do it and it isn’t overly difficult, it is worth looking into. For WordPress users, there are AMP plugins that can be set up. Talk to your developer so you don’t mess up your site, or call us and we can help. In the near future, Google will be going to a mobile first index, meaning that they will use the mobile version of your site as the basis for all of your ranking. AMP, or Accelerated Mobile Pages, is a way to strip down the mobile version of your pages so that they load much more quickly. Speed is an important factor in your ranking and in just having a good user experience. Get AMP set up on your site as soon as you can.
You don’t need to know all of this, but send it to your developer, and things have progressed since then. As I mentioned, there are now plugins in WordPress, which many small businesses use, that can help implement this for you without knowing all the technological background.
Lots of these aspects we have been talking about for years. Even though AMP is fairly new, it is just a tool to help make your site load more quickly, which we have been talking about for years. It is time to set aside some time, or hire someone to address your content issues ASAP, before you disappear.