Further to the comments by my industry colleagues, here is my more in-depth view with questions posed by Mark.
How would you characterise the changes to SEO, past, present and future?
SEO has changed a lot since I first entered the search marketing world in 2007, the past used to be more about a simple split of ensuring the site was optimised well from the on-page point of view and simply building links to the relevant pages to have a good impact, over time more factors have influenced SEO, algorithm changes have meant that we have had to adapt to what Google and other search engines see as the signals for improving rankings. Social media is playing a big part from around 2011 to present, not just for simple conversation but another tool on the marketing belt to help promote content as we entered into the content marketing world there are many factors to look at from now and in the future such as Content/Query Relationship, Off-Site (Backlinks), On-Site (Content Quality), Local Search, Secure / Non-Secure Sites, Mobile optimised / responsive sites.
Are business getting it wrong/right?
The majority of businesses that are working in-house or with agencies are being guided and are getting it right most of the time, I have experienced a number of employees attending training and taking advice from industry specialists, those that are getting it wrong seem to be ill-advised on the old school methods of SEO or simply haven’t evolved.
If they are getting it wrong, why is that?
Older SEO techniques are still being practised, examples of large-scale directory submissions, bulk article writing and paid for links are still very present and still being practised in the industry, this can lead to site problems with Google also a lack of current SEO knowledge can hinder, I mentioned not evolving and this is difficult if you have a small team that has other responsibilities other than working on the SEO of the site.
What are your personal experiences in relation to whether small businesses are struggling to keep apace of change?
Having worked within an agency for the past 7 years, small businesses can struggle to keep abreast of the ever-changing world of SEO as it’s hard enough to keep pace with algorithm changes, if the agency being used isn’t keeping up with what the industry is up to this will inevitably cause problems later down the line.
Is a lot of money/opportunity being missed?
Smaller businesses have a lot of opportunity to grow within specialist niches, the issue of if competing in a larger market, insurance is a big one as an example where high street brokers want to have an online presence, comparison engines dominate and brands with large budgets are competing also make it difficult. Looking at local based terms can help to drive business online where there is the opportunity to make more money online.
What can small business do to rectify this situation? Do they need a strategy? to employ their own staff to concentrate on content? Do they need to employ an agency? How do they discern between a good agency and a bad? Or are there any other measures they should be taking to ensure they don’t miss out on opportunities?
I believe there is a place for small businesses to compete in their own market, creating a strategy to grow with is important, things to consider like what is the business goal? How can they get there? also review the competition and look for the gaps in the market to compete. By having staff read and learn up to date information, attend training courses to improve knowledge will go a long way to help. Employing an agency will help depending on budgets, this can also help distinguish the good from the bad, what are you getting for your money is a big factor, small budgets can be used effectively other than just reporting or low-level link building.