2018 is shaping up to be a big year in the tech world. Big changes are coming down the pipeline – and are fixing to trickle down into the small business world.
So stay ahead of the curve! We’re going to highlight 10 of the biggest trends we see impacting small business websites in 2018, and get into the challenges and the opportunities they bring.
1- Google’s Speed Update
Google, as always, has been hard at work trying to optimize the search process. Website load time is an important factor in a website visitor’s experience, and has been a factor in desktop searches for a while. But the magnitude of how speed impacts experience has been realized in a new 2017 study. So, as more and more search traffic has migrated to mobile devices, Google is re-tooling their algorithms to explicitly factor load time in their mobile ranking results.
That’s right: how fast your pages load directly impacts your ranking in Google, right alongside factors like relevance to the searcher’s query and the quality of the content.
So speed will be a crucial difference in small business websites in 2018. Small business websites will need to be sleek to compete, so make sure you know all the tricks (like image optimization) to keep your pages loading quickly!
2- Artificial Intelligence
Well, we don’t have to worry about Skynet. (Yet.) But AI is proving to be a major factor in how small businesses operate on the web in one major way: Algorithms.
You’ve heard the word before, and at its core an algorithm is just a set of rules for a calculation or a problem-solving operation. But internet giants like Google and Facebook have their own algorithms for how information gets distributed on their services.
The result? When it comes to your internet experience, algorithms determine just about everything, including
- what content you see,
- where that content is distributed,
- even what content and advertising you are offered.
As a result, small business owners need to keep these algorithms in mind. Put your best foot forward when considering market research, when and where to invest in pay-per-click-advertising, and how to best reach their customers. That way those algorithms can interpret and serve your content.
3- Smart Speakers
“Alexa, how many households will use some sort of smart speaker device?”
The answer is 70 million by 2022. That’s 55% of US Households.
Will you be taking advantage of that?
More and more of our searching is utilizing voice-activated technology. When you consider that the statistic mentioned above is only factoring speakers like Alexa and Google Home, and not phone-based applications like Siri, that’s a pretty overwhelming trend.
Voice-search is different than text-search. And it’s important to have search results compatible with all of those voice-enabled devices. Keep an eye out for voice-search trends– it may not be clear at this point what this trend means for your small business, but it’s important to be aware of it when planning for the future.
4- Featured Snippets & Rich Results
Let’s say you’ve been studying all the SEO tips and tricks, and after years of work you’ve finally got your website #1 on Google. Pretty cool, right?
Except now, you may not be the first result that people see on their search page. Now, there’s a phenomenon that we call “position zero.”
You see this all the time in your Google searches. Here’s an example:
Google looks for the most relevant information for the long-form search term, (in this case, “adopting a cat checklist,”) and then pairs that with the most relevant snippet it can find from the best quality content… regardless of whether it’s in the first position or not. And then it puts it at the very top of the results page.
Make sure that your content is relevant, ‘snippable,’ and aim for position zero rather than position one.
5- Content is King, and the King will reign
Content marketing has been a huge force in the online marketplace… and that influence won’t be waning soon. In fact, more organizations than ever are investing in content as a means to reach their customers.
That means that it’s going to be more challenging than ever to distribute your content in a content-saturated environment. How can you cut through the noise?
The best strategy to overcome this is to make sure your content strategy is nimble enough to succeed in multiple channels and mediums. People want to engage with different content in different ways… and possibly with different devices! I may want to watch a how-to video on my tablet, read a text guide on my desktop computer, or listen to a podcast on my phone. Is your content diversified enough to keep up?
6- Content Curation Standards
Speaking of content, the distribution of content is about to shift pretty dramatically in the coming year.
In the aftermath of the last election, both Facebook and Google have come under fire for the way in which their algorithms curate the content on their services. They’ve been accused of promoting content from spurious sources from less than savory origins. And as a result, both services are changing how they distribute content. Facebook has even gone as far as to announce that they are shifting their priorities away from sponsored content and toward content introduced by friends and family members.
The key to success in this more stringent curation environment? Make sure your business is investing in high-quality, valid, and relevant content that provides value to customers… and NOT more clickbait!
7- Tighter System Integration
More and more technologies are being developed to bridge the gap in what were once disparate systems. This means that more and more tech systems are able to talk to and integrate with one another. So systems that were previously incompatible are now able to be used together!
This is a huge benefit when it comes to automation. We like tools like Zapier which help all the parts of your business work together to come up with efficient and innovative processes.
8- Multi-Channel Experiences
This came up when discussing content, but more and more individuals are using multiple devices for different purposes. They may do research on a phone, and their shopping from a laptop. Or make an order from a tablet and then finish the transaction in a store.
Being able to jump channels is a huge advantage- being able to pick up customers and generate leads on one device and close the deal on another will help convert traffic into profit more efficiently than ever before.
These types of integrated experiences are going to be more and more prevalent in 2018. Expect to see more device-transferrable coupons and in-store pickup services to roll out over the next year.
So much of our life is tied up with our online presence, and as a result it’s becoming more and more crucial to be secure in all our internet-related dealings. Cybersecurity is one of the biggest issues in 2018s economy, and it’s an issue for small-business owners as well.
As we discussed, more and more of our devices are becoming integrated together… and the more connected our machines become, the more opportunities there are for a breach in security. This is why it’s important to have web security, network security, and device security across all levels.
Nobody likes to be a cog in a machine. Everyone wants to be special. And your customers are no exception.
People want what they want, when they want it. If you don’t target them with the right offering at the right time… someone else will.
After all, relevant content isn’t just desired – at this point, it’s expected by your customers. Are you personalized in your email marketing? Are you sending offers that your customers want? If you’re not offering what they’re buying, don’t expect the same results those strategies have yielded in the past.
Are you ready to implement these trends for your small business website? Sign up for a free site audit and we will work to optimize your site to take advantage of these trends, and more!