Discussions of search engine optimization (SEO) almost always center on Google, and for good reason; the search giant has about 65% of the desktop search market in the U.S. cornered.
Jan. 20 brought some surprising news, however, when ComScore released its U.S. desktop search share report for December 2014. Yahoo! apparently nabbed 1.6% of Google’s share in a single month between November and December. This is likely due to a deal that made Yahoo! the default search engine for Mozilla Firefox users.
While the figure is small, it’s unusual for the shares to vary by even 0.1 or 0.2 percentage points per month, several experts have noted.
This may be a sign that SEO experts need to start casting their nets more widely. “While 1.6% isn’t massive, it might just be the beginning,” Emil Protalinski commented for VentureBeat.
Eyes on Google
Of course, even according to the latest data, Google is still by far the most-used search engine, with 65.4% of total searches on desktops. Bing follows next, with 19.7%. Yahoo! carries 11.8%, while Ask and AOL cover the remainder.
SEO and web development experts are making the case, however, that small businesses are benefiting from Google’s philosophy and the influence it experts over the market.
Search engine optimization can already be an overwhelming or frustrating venture for small business owners who don’t understand the process but rely on search engine traffic for customers. When algorithm updates like those that came near the end of 2014 seem to change the rules of SEO, some businesses can see their traffic rapidly drop if they don’t keep up with the times.
But “even if you have occasionally faced setbacks, Google’s algorithm updates have been great for business owners — especially small business owners,” Jayson DeMers wrote for Forbes Jan. 15.
The Simplification of SEO
How, exactly, have updates benefited small businesses? Essentially, every update improves algorithms’ abilities to assess websites in ways similar to how a human might.
“[D]espite a sophisticated backing, the tenets behind Google’s search algorithm are simple, and simple strategies are sufficient to achieve positive results. Google’s goal is to give users the best possible online experience, which means giving them the most appropriate, relevant and valuable results,” DeMers explained in an article for Entrepreneur Jan. 19.
Because Google is attempting to provide relevant results to its searchers, it is making an effort to de-prioritize the types of SEO that can be easily manipulated with large budgets or sophisticated keyword analysis, leveling the playing field for small businesses that couldn’t have competed in the past.
The new factors that Google has chosen to prioritize are the same factors that make a website appealing and useful to users. That means creating a mobile-friendly, quick-loading site filled with interesting content is now both a form of direct marketing and an SEO strategy.
“Google’s intent is good,” says Andreas Huttenrauch, Chief Digital Strategist at Globi Web Solutions. “They want to make sure that the top listings deserve to be there and that the system can’t be gamed. The other search engines are also aligned with this philosophy although they may be a little behind in implementation.”