You’re a small- to mid-size business owner—that means you probably put a superhuman amount of effort into showcasing your product or service, growing your customer base, and keeping up with the competition. But how can you reap the benefits of your hard work if you can’t gain access to the world’s largest marketplace?
The Internet is getting more cluttered with information by the minute, and you might be asking yourself, how can I make my company stand out online?
Search Engine Optimization is the answer, because it gives your website the best possible chance to stand out when people do a web search for your product or service. Coming into 2015 with an improved SEO strategy is one of the most effective ways to increase web traffic, go after your target customer demographic, and make sure your company’s value proposition doesn’t get lost in the online shuffle.
To help you get a head start, here are the 8 SEO best practices you should pay attention to this year:

  1. Focus on user experience

Google will be keeping a closer eye on user experience (they want their customers to find what they’re looking for, after all). The most helpful sites (think: clean, valuable, mobile-optimized, etc.) will get better search rankings. Keep in mind that this means basically a 180 degree reversal from the SEO of 10 years ago, which involved keyword stuffing and every other trick that ultimately resulted in confusing and unhelpful websites.

  1. Mobile is still key

Mobile optimization has been a good idea for the past couple of years, but mobile devices are continuing to increase in popularity and will likely soon outnumber personal computers. Think about that—mobile will then be the dominant platform and designing for PC will be the afterthought! The sooner you get on right side of this trend, the more your business will benefit.

  1. Inbound links from quality websites

Search engines will continue to value inbound links, but quality definitely wins over quantity. Getting your link on one legitimate, high-traffic blog is much more valuable than getting it on 10 small, unknown websites.

  1. Use long tail-keywords

More and more content online means increased competition for keywords. Long-tail keywords (think: longer and more specific) are taking on increased importance both because there’s less competition for them, and because their preciseness means customers know exactly what they’re looking for and are likely to act once they find it.

  1. Streamline your URLs

Like title tags, URL names help search engines identify what each webpage is about. Websites that use automatically generated URLs made up of long strings of letters and numbers don’t help search engines do their work. If that’s the case for your website, consider renaming all URLs to better reflect the main topic of each page, with dashes in between each word.

  1. Get conversational

Google’s Hummingbird search algorithm tries to account for the ways real humans do web search. That means conversational phrases and keywords based on spoken language win over long, complex sentences.

  1. Check other search engines

Google is obviously the major player in the search engine game, but other engines still account for 33% of all web searches. Don’t ignore your rankings on Bing, Yahoo, and Duck Duck Go, which might gain even more market share in the coming years.

  1. Organic SEO wins every time

Nobody really knows where search engine algorithms will be in two years, but what we do know is that they’ll be even less susceptible to tricks and even better at identifying quality content. The only way to future-proof your SEO strategy is to focus on producing valuable, entertaining content keeps readers coming back.
Following these eight strategies will put you in good shape in 2015 as far as search rankings are concerned. There’s a rule of thumb when it comes to SEO trends — when in doubt about a particular strategy, ask yourself if what you’re doing is trying to fool the search engine or to help it do its job. Stay clear of the former and focus on the latter to win at SEO this year.
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