Several of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) trends to look for in 2010 are already becoming a reality in December 2009. Overall, search engines have been moving beyond website results and into delivering useful information that may go beyond what is contained on a website. For the average small business owner, the changes to the search engine landscape mean that a few tweaks and extra steps are recommended in order to direct customers to your business.
Here are a few items to keep your eye on for 2010:
- Real-Time Search Results. This doesn’t mean that a search engine will read your site the second it gets changed. Real-time results in search engines mean that breaking and current news stories will appear in search results faster. The downside for small businesses is that your spot on the search engine may temporarily get crowded out if there is news about your line of business.
- Personalized Search. In a nutshell, what you see on Google™ for a search may be different than what everyone else sees. Search engines are using personal search histories to craft more relevant results. For example, if you always look for your site on Google and click on it, the site will show up higher in your results, but not on the search pages of your prospects. With millions of different search histories changing Google’s results, understanding your true search engine position is going to become more problematic.
- Local Matching. As you may have noticed over the past couple of years, a search for a product or service may present you with a map of your town and local businesses. As a small business, you should make sure that you claim your local listing in the search engines and make sure your profile is up-to-date. Search engines are making it possible to get found without even having a website, but you will be better off if you can lure people away from the map (where they can comparison shop) to your own site, where they can find out more about you.
- Social Media. Have you got a Twitter or Facebook account, and is it linked from your website? Search engines have partnered with social media, and will even index Facebook status updates and tweets among their search results. Social media helps make your site more relevant, and gives you more opportunities to reach customers who are using smartphones and mobile technology.
- Site Commentary. Google has a Sidewiki feature that shows comments about sites in the search results. Anyone with a Google Toolbar installed can contribute. This feature was released in September, but is expected to have more of an impact as people add comments about more and more sites. Right now, Sidewiki does not appear to have an effect on search results, but any small business owner should work to ensure that the commentary is as positive as possible.
What should you do if you’re already in the middle of a traditional SEO project? The first thing to realize is that search engines haven’t abandoned their traditional model, which is serving up relevant content to ordinary people. You should make sure that your small business website contains the major words, phrases, and locations that someone would use if they were looking for what you’re selling.
As time goes on, search engines will improve integrating data from business registrations, phone directories, and other websites, so it is in your best interest to get your site connected with other online sources. You should also present an honest, credible, and updated Web presence that is going to increase customer confidence and help search engines categorize your site among the top results. Search engines are adding new features all the time, but they still rely on the same types of information to find your site and put it in the right category. As more search engine features are rolled out for 2010, small business owners may have a few extra tasks to complete, but the ones who stay up-to-date will have a competitive advantage.