As a proactive carwash owner, you have been focused on search engine optimization (SEO) for your business. You most likely started with building an attractive website. Next order of SEO business was providing content, link building, link sharing, mixing in social media and basically following the trial of search evolution. In April, Google updated its algorithms to focus on mobile devices, particularly smartphones. Although the search company seldom announces algorithm changes in advance, businesses were afforded rare, beforehand knowledge of this recent change with time to prepare.

Although even with advanced notice, some carwash owners and operators were surely caught off guard when Google broadcast its latest update. However, interest in mobile devices and how buyers and sellers are using these devices should no longer be a surprise.

 Mobile’s increasing popularity

Cisco Systems Inc. research notes there are now more mobile devices on Earth than people. And, 53 percent of American consumers use their smartphones to access search engines at least once a day, reported a Google and Mobile Marketing Association Survey.

According to a recent report by the International Data Group (IDG), 61 percent of B2B users will watch mobile videos relating to their work, while 57 percent will access work-related mobile content outside of business hours. Additionally, according to a Forrester Research report, 54 percent of B2B companies selling online found that customers are using smartphones to research products. Furthermore, a BIA/Kelsey report showed that mobile search will generate 27.8 billion more queries than desktop search by 2016.

As mentioned, many business owners who stay on top of SEO were fortunately not surprised by the latest Google algorithm update, says J.R. Atkins (SomethingDifferentCompanies.com), who is an author, speaker and consultant on social media and online marketing. “Many people expected this update. Statistics on mobile use were becoming more prevalent in recent years,” he shares. “The timing was right for Google to announce these changes.”

 What this update means to you

According to CIO magazine, website owners must be aware that every page on their mobile websites needs to meet Google’s new standards in order to move up in the rankings. As a result of this update, Google searches will consider each page and elevate pages that meet the new criteria in search results, while demoting pages that do not meet the new guidelines.

“A poor performing mobile site can absolutely impact a business’ search potential. Some people have coined the term ‘mobilegeddon’ to describe what happens to websites that are kicked down the rank ladder at Google because of poor performance,” says Tom Mirabella, president of Wingman Planning. “Google looks for sites that are user-friendly, have lots of pictures, big text, working hyperlinks and a decent amount of traffic. Because of this algorithm change, the websites that fail in these areas will see their rank dropped. It’s like the Hollywood of algorithms — one day you’re number three and the next you’re 58.”

Adds Katie Harris, co-founder of Spot On Solutions, there is a two-fold risk for not having a mobile-friendly website today. “If your site is not mobile optimized, sure, you will be ‘dinged’ by Google,” she asserts. “However, you are also going to be ‘double dinged’ by the user, because they will not have a good experience and [will] not stay on your site.”

Research and industry insiders support that the popularity of mobile devices and usage will continue moving forward. “It is predicted by the end of 2015 that more than half of all searches will happen on [mobile devices]. That is why it is critical that all businesses make sure their sites are mobile-friendly,” explains Harris.

 Optimizing for mobile and SEO

Google’s new algorithm completely changes how websites are ranked, notes Mirabella. “The algorithm scans each page [of your website] and checks for responsive design elements, text sizes that are readable without pinching the screen and link placement. For those using Flash on their mobile sites, Google will penalize you for that as well,” he adds.

Helpful SEO resources are available that small and mid-sized business owners, such as carwash owners and operators, can use to ensure their SEO know-how is updated, shares Atkins. These industry resources include:

“There are also tools through Google that can help determine your site’s SEO performance [for mobile],” adds Atkins. “Google Webmaster Tools (www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/) is a good place to start.”

Implementing responsive Web design is preferred when looking to optimize your site for all devices, from desktop to mobile. While this approach may require an investment in time and money, Web designers and SEO experts, including Atkins, insist the returns will be immense moving forward.

“Mobile websites have to be fully functioning, meaning all hyperlinks work, all platforms are compatible and load time is quick,” asserts Mirabella. “Take the time to make [sure] your website is responsive, which will allow the site to adapt to whichever medium you or your consumers are using at the time.”

Other winning SEO ways

In addition to optimizing your site with responsive design, there are other ways to ensure a high ranking on search engines. Adding regular content on blogs is considered a best practice. “Current and relevant content is still a really big deal, and it will continue to be a big deal to Google,” shares Harris. “Search engines love hyperlocal [content] — they reward you for addressing your local audience.”

Another tip Harris has for carwash owners and operators is to claim, verify and update their business’ map listings on Google. “This is easy for owners and operators to do in-house, and it is a huge traffic driver,” states Harris. “It is something that small business owners often overlook, but I would recommend that carwash owners update their map listings, add photos and comments as well as encourage reviews from customers. These can all help boost your SEO efforts.”

Being active on social media, and particularly posting videos, can also increase your search visibility. Carwashes should upload videos directly to their Facebook page for maximum and quick SEO exposure. “Facebook is like the phone book nowadays,” explains Atkins, “It is simply part of doing business.”

So, what’s next for SEO? Atkins notices the trend toward user-friendly e-commerce and believes that it is the next level of “completing the loop.” Today’s consumers aren’t just browsing — they’re buying. This year, it is estimated that consumers will spend about $119 billion on goods and services bought via their mobile phones.

“There has been a lot of development in the search technology. In my opinion, the next piece after ‘Did you find what you were looking for?’ and ‘Did you go there?’ is ‘Did you buy?’ From a marketing standpoint, it completes the circle of SEO. If you can measure how many people visited the site and how many bought [something], it will help your planning on the front-end,” says Atkins.

While staying on top of SEO best practices and implementing the strategies needed might seem like a daunting task at first, owners shouldn’t get overwhelmed and freeze up. “A lot of business owners don’t know what to do, so they do nothing. This is when they can get in trouble because Google is always changing and updating. As long as you keep the user experience in mind, you are on the right track,” concludes Harris.

Sidebar: Building a website and SEO strategy

As carwashes look to build or improve their online presence, Mirabella offers the following tips:

  • Align your website with your marketing strategy and target audience.
  • Keep customers’ needs in mind.
  • Be mindful of your back end/software.
  • Consider responsive Web design
    • Automatically detects the size of the user’s screen and adapts the content to fit the device
    • Provides faster loading time
    • One website equals one SEO campaign to manage
    • Responsive sites perform well on search.
  • Utilize Google Analytics.
  • Consider hiring small business marketing firms to write SEO-friendly content mentioning your business.
  • Blog regularly.
  • If you create social media accounts, it is critical to keep them current (at least once per week).
  • Consider a Web page asking for positive reviews with links to your social media accounts.