Keeping tabs on your website’s search engine performance is one of the most important things an entrepreneur can do.

Are you showing up first in search results? Is your competitor ranking higher for the same keywords? Proper SEM has the power to drive revenue and brand awareness, but many small business owners fail to take full advantage of this tool.

If you’ve worried about staying up-to-date with this fast-paced industry, fear not. We’ve rounded up what’s new and important in the dynamic world of search engine marketing.

Sophisticated Sitelinks

Previously, mobile sitelinks consisted of just a few simple blue links beneath a Google search result. Now, Google AdWords has updated this feature to include interactive sitelinks that scroll on mobile. This allows business owners to add a greater number of relevant sitelinks beneath their search results. Why does this matter? This update makes it easier for mobile users to find the exact page they’re looking for, directly from Google. For you, this can mean more website hits from qualified leads.

Writing Ads for User Intent

Social media and blog content is much more successful when tailored specifically to your users’ needs and desires. But what happens when we apply these same principles to search engine marketing? According to Thomas Stern at ZOG Digital, retail companies should be doing exactly that.

Using data from previous audience behavior, you can glean insights about user intent and apply that to your SEM efforts. For example, when I type in "Birthday Jewelry," Pandora pops up with a search title that says Birthday Gift Ideas for Her. Pandora anticipated what its users might type in, and they wrote their content to cater to that intent.

write for user intent example

Location Search

Competing against corporate entities presents a constant challenge for most small businesses. However, today’s consumers are more interested in supporting local businesses that provide the products and services they need. That’s why taking advantage of local search optimization is an increasingly important strategy for entrepreneurs.

Succeeding at local SEO requires a two-part strategy including both authentic reviews and discoverability. This means that your Google business listing needs to be detailed, with information about your hours, products, location and contact information. Then, these details need to be supported with reviews that tell a positive, yet honest story about your employees, level of service and overall brand story.

Optimizing your local search listings isn’t a one and done task. From responding to reviews (both positive and negative) to updating hours of service or adding product offerings, it requires consistent attention. This only enriches your listing to provide a more thorough and searchable business description.

Voice Search Optimization

Thanks to its speed and hands-free convenience, more and more people are relying on voice search to discover products and services online. This growing demand has been met with increasingly sophisticated voice recognition technology. In fact, error rates dropped from 25% to just 5% in the past two years alone.

To take advantage of this increasingly popular search method, it’s important to think about how voice searches differ from those that are typed in. For example, voice searches are usually longer and more casual than digital searches, which typically involve 1-3 words.

Sherry Bonelli says that businesses can get into this frame of mind by tuning into client conversations. What sort of questions do people ask when they call your business on the phone? What do people say about your brand when they walk into your store? Paying attention to these conversational terms will help you create content that reflects how your target market would speak when searching with voice.

Strategic Schema Markup

If you’re not yet optimizing your website for Schema Markup, now is the time to start. Essentially, Schema Markup is website code that’s used to provide users with more helpful and relevant results.

Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper simplifies this process by allowing you to choose which content you’d like to add markup to. If you’re adding schema markup to a blog post, for example, you can tag different parts of the website with specific markups to provide more information to google. You can tag the article’s title, body, author, images, and more. This helps give your website context, allowing search engines to see what your content means and why it’s important, rather than just what it is.

Branded Shortlinks

If you use a social media scheduling tool, you’re probably familiar with the benefits of shortened links. In addition to zipping up long, ugly links to short clickable ones, they also provide more room for content when you’re short on space (looking at you, Twitter).

To take these short links to the next level, leading brand publishers are using custom links that include their brand name. Brand links help increase brand recognition and boost click through rates. Since branded links tend to drive more clicks, they also help to boost your content higher in search results. Rebrandly and tinycc are two popular tools for creating branded shortlinks.

Use of AMP Ads and Pages

To give their audience an incredible, lightning-fast mobile experience, more and more businesses are turning to AMP technology. This open source protocol is designed to help websites, ads, landing pages and more load quickly and beautifully. AMP achieves this experience by reading and determining the size and position of all elements before downloading them. This helps your search engine marketing in two key ways. First, AMP ads enhance the visibility, speed and performance of your paid ads, making a user more likely to click. Then, they help meet the consumer's expectation by providing a fast and engaging website experience that gives the user what they’re looking for, instantly.

Emphasis on Brand Queries

Branded keywords have double the conversion rate of non-branded keywords. Why? Because people searching for your brand name are already deep into the sales funnel. They don’t need to be persuaded of your products or services; they’ve already got you in mind. To serve these customers better, SEO experts are placing more emphasis on the use of branded keywords.

First, do a simple keyword search to find out what branded keywords customers are using. Chances are, people will be searching for your brand name along with terms like "promo code" “discount” and “coupon.” If this is what you see, do your qualified customers a favor and create a page on your website that caters to these needs. Make it easy for people to find a promo code or coupon, and if you don’t have these for your brand, consider making one. It doesn’t hurt to test, right?