It's official, we're hooked on Google.
More than 90% of buying decisions in the UK now start with an online search, and Google accounts for 9 out of 10 online searches in the UK.
So it's perhaps surprising that many small businesses remain unaware that 2012 has seen big changes in how the search engine giant determines their results.
Here are four practical tips that small businesses can implement to improve their Google visibility in the coming year.
Remove duplicated content
Google's notorious "Panda" update has led to sites being penalised where they are detected using content that was published elsewhere on the internet. Given the obvious temptation to save time by copying content from a competitor or re-hash some of their own, it's hardly surprising that this is a common trap small businesses fall into.
The solution is relatively simple. A free search at copyscape.com can identify duplicated content - simply remove and replace with something freshly written and equally relevant.
Publish shareable content
2012 has seen an explosion in content marketing and this trend is set to continue in the coming year.
Google algorithms are gearing towards new, relevant content that's shared across the web through social media and news syndication. This gradual shift is rapidly turning traditional link builders into bloggers.
A regular time investment to produce new content that's topical, shared through social media and news syndication is becoming an increasingly necessary staple within the marketing mix.
The next evolution of search engine science is likely to focus on "Social search", which effectively means the integration of a users social networks' knowledge within search results. This has already begun in the US and will be hitting the UK in 2013.
With such a dominant market share it would be remiss to ignore Google's own entrant in the social media space. Google+ may not have the user base of Facebook or Twitter yet, but it is easier for them to read social signals on their own platform so signing up and sharing content on this platform is fast becoming a must.
Think Local and Mobile
By 2014 more people will be using smart phones and tablets to browse the internet than PC's and laptops, and 75% of owners are already using them to get information on local businesses while on the move.
This opens a whole new realm of opportunity for location based businesses to drive footfall as SMEs can make their outlet more searchable by having a Google places profile and advertise promotions through localised sites like foursquare.
Neil Baker, Marketing Manager for digital marketing specialists Add People commented “Search Marketing is becoming a more sophisticated and diverse science and this trend will continue in 2013. Small business owners can invest time well over the Christmas break to assess their websites search performance and devise an appropriate marketing strategy for the coming year."
Add People are a Manchester based digital marketing agency that reviews and implements effective online marketing strategies for small and medium sized businesses. They were nominated among New Media Ages' top 100 interactive agencies in the UK for 2012. To find out more about Add People, visit their website, call direct on 0845 030 4040 or follow them on Twitter.