(In other words, where are they looking…?)
As hard as us online businesses try not to be a slave to Google and the other major search engines, the truth of the matter is, we are.
Just like buying the cheaper supermarket own brand cereal and hiding them in a clear plastic container in a vain attempt to fool the taste buds of the cereal connoisseurs of the household does not work, trying to avoid Google and what it wants from websites is something that businesses cannot afford to do… too much.
You might think that it is OK to have the same content across all 40 pages describing your services in and around Frodsham, but Google chews it up, spits it out and says that is not building a quality website.
And so, through the fug of mince pie overload and increased cholesterol from the annual over-indulgence in local cheeses, here at Locally we spent some time sifting through the various online reports and articles about what this mammoth search engine wants from online businesses in the coming year.
The great news is that it is not complicated and the majority of online businesses are starting to swing in this direction anyway… the writing has been on the wall for some time. Following on from our post ‘your website is a live and kicking thing that needs feeding and nurturing’, we take a closer look at what you need/must/try to with your website during 2015.
Why please Google?
Because it is massive. And, its dominance shows no sign of wavering and shrinking just yet. With billions of users worldwide, why would you ignore this search engine?!
How the Internet, searches and relations between customers and businesses have changed
Cast your mind back to when there were three TV channels in the UK and having a colour TV was a novelty… actually, we jest, we don’t mean that far back but we thought it sounded dramatic and when you rewind the clock only a few years to the early days of the Internet and compare then to now, you realise the changes have been dramatic, more dramatic than the closing scenes of an EastEnders’s cliff hanger.
Back then, the run-of-the-mill Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a larger company back then was probably just shy of their 50th birthday, had learnt their craft and art over the years, with the Internet – a recent invention – providing a platform on which business was done to a customer. The thought that a customer had any real power or opinion was not entered into.
Fast forward to January 2015, and this seems almost ludicrous; a CEO of some massive brands can be whippersnappers with a handful of GCSEs but with a natural ability and flair for seeing what a consumer wants, and giving it to them – with bells on.
The Internet is now a place of engagement. If your website is all about the sell, sell, sell then no wonder you are no higher than page 102 in Google’s search rankings. Times have changed and we all need to keep up with them (harks back to ‘your website is a live and living thing’ post…)
Put the textbook down
Some things are not in those pages and what Google sees happening in 2015 is not in there yet, so sit up and take notice.
If you learn nothing else from this post, take away this fact: Internet users (your potential customers) are looking for sophistication.
Hitting customers over the head with information and broadcasts is no longer acceptable; people want information given in a more considerate way.
Another fact: the Internet is a restless place. Just as one thing is ‘on trend’ it changes, morphs and steals away and this is something that you, and your website, must be constantly alert to. Just because you have always had that bouncing graphic on your home page and no has complained, doesn’t mean it is not damaging your online viewed reputation. Stop harking back to last year and be ready to constantly move forward and evolve.
So what IS Google predicting?
- Mobile money will become the norm in 2015
We have talked about making sure your website is mobile ready in a previous post and now it seems this is more than just a must-have for aesthetic reasons. Financially, Google predicts that 40% of online spending will be via mobile devices so you need to be more than just mobile friendly; you need to be mobile active.
In terms of other financial incentives, Google reckon that coupons, vouchers, gift codes – call them what you will – will become more tailored and specific to customers. And, customers are no longer just searching for the best price, or so it seems.
Google also suggest that customers will pay a bit more, if the service they get is second-to-none. Cheap is not the name of the game, but customer service is.
If you have a high street presence as well as an online presence, be prepared for merging these two strands of your business even closer, with mobile payments – for example, using PayPal in store – possibly becoming the norm (although they also suggest PayPal may have a contender by the year’s end… is that a hint?!)
- Foster community
If you website is still a one-way track, with limited or no interaction between you and your consumer, then your website will, by the end of 2015, if not before, fall into a dark place. So, if you are not harnessing the power of social media to invite comments etc., you are missing a trick; Google predicts that consumers will rely even more on this ‘social branding’ to decide if a brand is the right one for them.
The local and the personal, suggest Google, will also become a bigger influence in the search engine terms used.
- Real-time is where it is at
And this means looking at the capability of your website and your online strategy for communicating with customers, quickly – if not, now (that is, real time). Emailing, tweeting or commenting on a company’s social media platform, only to have a delay of hours (or days!) is no longer acceptable. For small businesses this could present a logistical problem – how can you create the bespoke wedding dress with one eye on Twitter?) thus, outsourcing some of these powerful elements will become more important.
Take away points
Google is looking for, and predicting, continuous improvement in websites:
Search will be more location-based – so if you operate in and around a certain area, get this back on your website and optimise you content as such. Add to this real-time – scrolling news feed about your business, price, availability etc. – could see a significant return-of-investment (ROI)
Don’t be dull, boring and – dare we say it?! – predictable – do something different with your brand and let people know. If you haven’t sponsored a local event before, could this be the year you take a leap into the unknown BUT, don’t just sponsor it, stream it!
Relevant – you are a local insurance company, a client finds your website online, likes your prices and then ‘clicks to call’; your phone rings and you have a new client. This can work for so many businesses but it does take technical know-how… the great news is that there are people who can help set all this up and make it run without a hitch.
Your website needs to be working for your business – spending hundreds and thousands on creating a website is all well and god but, if it is not being accountable (working for the business as a platform for business and brand awareness) then it is wasted.