Is Google Squeezing Out Small Start-ups?
Earlier in 2016, Google made alterations to the layout of the first page of its organic search results. Advertising was shuffled, and local map results were reduced in number.
More recently, statements about mobile indexing made at Pubcon 2016 in Vegas by Gary Illyes, Google’s Search Analyst, have caused many small startups and solo entrepreneurs to wonder just how they can keep their head above water in the ever-changing landscape of search engine marketing.
The statements made by Gary Illyes include Google's' testing and establishing a separate index for mobile users in Google and t The possibility that this new mobile indexed will become the favored index by which Google determines results.
The transition could take place quickly and, according to Matt Southern at Search Engine Journal, Google is making it plain that mobile search is more important than desktop search.
All these changes have presented real challenges for small, independent startups. As Google begins to implement these changes small startups needs to adapt quickly.
David Trounce, the founder of Mallee Blue Media, whose on-page optimization format for first page ranking in Google is considered the industry standard for ethical SEO, says that,
"The rules of the game for small business and solo startups have not changed. Getting to the top in Google still requires the same basic framework. However, there are now some new elements to consider when it comes to design."
It will not be enough for startups to simply have a mobile friendly website.
The advent of Accelerated Mobile Pages has meant the inclusion or adjusting of new schema markup within website pages.
More than 50% of all searches are conducted on a mobile phone. And more than 50% of those searches are looking for local startups. Users want those results quickly and unless you are adapting your web presence for this new generation of technology you simply won't be found if you are beyond the first page of Google.
"Small startups are not being squeezed out of Google", says Trounce. "But they are going to have to adapt and adjust their site design and functionality to meet the demand and expectations of users and Google's search if they want to stay in the race.
What will adaptation to Google's new search priorities mean?
Startups that want to stay in the online marketing game are going to need to do several things including:
1. Ensure their sites are responsive and serving up the most critical content using the latest markup available to both desktop and mobile users.
2. Speed matters. Make the necessary changes to avoid bloated site content.
3. Ensure any mobile version of a website is verified by Google Webmaster Search Console.
4. Implement Accelerated Mobile Pages technology on their site and ensure it is functioning without errors.
Tools, including an official AMP Chrome APP and desktop validator, are already available for websites to check their compliance with accelerated mobile Pages.
For the solo startup wanting to stay ahead in their online marketing game in Google, they resources are readily available, and the most important factors remain the same.
- Make sure your site is crawlable.
- Keep your URL structure clean and canonical.
- Don't redirect your site visitors to your home page but to a relevant alternative page to the search query.
- Avoid duplicating content across pages.
- Annotate with Schema.org structured data
Bias toward or against small business in online marketing has been raised time and again.
Some see the agility of the solo entrepreneur as an advantage in gaining search engine results while others see the dominance of major brands which tend to land the first page of Google for the most competitive terms as undermining small business.
"The playing field remains level", believes David Trounce. "Enterprising startups may have to adjust their marketing strategy and be willing to diversify, but there are still plenty of opportunities to capture your market online.”
Google is only one of many sources of customer and client acquisition and small business need to be diligent in exploring all the marketing channels that are available to them.