What You Need to Know About Google’s Speed Update

 

A few weeks ago, Google announced that it is going to be factoring in page loading times on mobile devices when it ranks websites for mobile search. The so called “Speed update” is expected to be fully implemented in July of this year. That means you have about six months to figure out how to get your business website ready for the fast mobile web.

Why is Google Rolling Out a Speed Update?

Ranking websites based on loading times is nothing new. Since 2010, Google has been giving search rank priority to sites with faster load times. But that was for the “desktop” version of the site. According to Google, more than 50 percent of global search queries are now being done on mobile devices versus a standard desktop computer. As mobile-based search and other transactions increase, Google wants to give mobile device users a better experience. This is in part fueled by mobile users themselves who are complaining about slow mobile page loading times and mobile sites that are awkward hard to navigate, or don’t fully work.

Will the Speed Update Affect Your Business Website?

The short answer is maybe yes… maybe no. According to Google at first “Only a small percentage of queries will be affected.” But, if past behavior is any indication, small business owners would do well not to ignore the call for a better mobile experience, since it is only a matter of time before the mobile UX performance will be baked into the search rankings for all sites. We can think of the upcoming speed update as a heads up to developers and to those who hire them, that major changes are on the horizon.

What is Google AMP?

In order to make it easy for site owners to get their websites up to speed, Google has been a major force behind the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP) project. The AMP Project is an open-source initiative designed to make mobile pages load much faster. The project enables the creation of websites and ads that are “consistently fast, beautiful and high-performing across devices and distribution platforms.”

AMP is basically a stripped-down version of HTML. Fast loading times occur because the pages are designed for static, though enticingly clickable, content. Since the AMP project is built with existing technology, adding it to your website is actually pretty painless. All the major content management systems, such as WordPress, have plugins that generate AMP content automatically, and the best part is that it’s free, unless you are looking for premium support.

It’s important to note that Google started highlighting AMP enabled sites in its search results in 2016.

How Can You Test Your Website for Loading Time?

There are several tools that can help you see just how quickly your site loads on a mobile device. Usually, these platforms run a test and then offer not only a rundown of the results, but helpful suggestions for improvement. Some of the suggestions can be a bit technical, though. The two tools to start out with are:

  1. PageSpeed Insights from Google
  2. Website Speed test from Pingdom

Bottom line: the mobile web is only expected to growth in coming years. It is certainly the future of the internet, communications, and all kinds of commerce. But, with this trend comes the need for quick loading, seamless, and well-designed content. Whether or not Google’s July update with affect your site, you can’t afford to ignore it.

Is a BYOD Policy Right for Your Small Business?

Requiring employees to bring their own mobile devices has the potential to save your small business a significant amount of money, as the cost of purchasing and managing the devices is greatly minimized and employee productivity soars. But, your savings can be significantly compromised if your don’t implement a thought-out, comprehensive BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program

laptop-and-cellphone-1269437-mA recent study by Cisco’s Internet Business Solutions Group, reported that big corporations can save over three thousand dollars per employee each year with a BYOD program that gives employees the ability do their jobs from their personal devices. Much of these savings can be attributed to the fact that companies no longer have to foot the bill for new devices and data plans.

Many employees also prefer to use their own devices instead of having to carry around two sets of equipment- one set for business use, and another for personal use. This fact alone can lead to greater productivity.

But a BYOD program is not without its cons, and in many cases, these cost of these drawbacks, which include things like implementing new security measures, network improvements and support, can far outweigh the benefits.

So what does this all mean for your small business? The reality is that the cost of BYOD will vary significantly from one business to the next, and a lot will depend on the real behavior of your employees. What information will they need to access, and from which devices, and how much more will they work when all barriers have been removed? You also have to consider the real cost to purchase the devices and data plans versus the added costs necessary to maintain a BYOD infrastructure and the all-important security system.

If you choose to implement a BYOD policy, make sure you spend time figuring out how you will pay for services, for example, who’s going to pay for the voice and data plans? There are a couple of ways you can handle cost-sharing, but it’s important to pick one that will be agreeable to your employees. You will also need to create acceptable use and security policies that include a detailed rundown of the consequences of violation.

In short, if you are considering implementing a BYOD program in your small business, you definitely want to spend some time going over all the pros and cons. If there are more pros than cons, then go for it, but do it responsibly. If the cons are coming out ahead, then a BYOD program just doesn’t pay no matter how happy it may make your employees.

10 Top Trends for Small Businesses in 2012

Now that 2011 has passed (and what a wild and crazy year it was!) and 2012 is well under way, it’s time to look at some trends that will shape the upcoming year for small business owners. Taken as a whole, in 2012 you can expect to see a lot of maturing and fine tuning of some repeatedly trending topics, such as Internet marketing, the use of social media in business, and the proliferation and usage of mobile technology. The result: small businesses now have a more defined path to success both online and off.

 

 

Here is a rundown of some top small business trends:

 

1. Daily deals to build loyalty. Daily deals sites, such as Groupon and Living Social may have garnered a lot of attention last year, but not all of that talk time was so positive. The Internet is flooded with the stories of small businesses that ran a groupon or daily promotion with very little to show for it at the end of the day. The new year will certainly not see the demise of these sites, but rather their evolution. Look for daily deals sites to become more sophisticated, targeted, and local. Simultaneously, small business owners will seek to increase their follow-up efforts so that their daily offers and promotions will lead to more loyal customers.

 

2. Local search drives local business. In the new year, the importance of maintaining a local search presence will only increase, with local online directories, business pages, and review sites, such as Yelp! dominating the screen. Aside from helping Internet users access information on a local business, peer reviews and referrals will be big factors driving traffic and sales.

 

3. Personalized, real-time response. These days “service with a smile” is no longer enough when it comes to customer service- at least not when it’s online or over the phone. Consumers are looking for an instant, helpful, and personalized experience. This may take the form of a live web chat session with a customer service representative or a prompt response to an emailed inquiry or tweeted comment. Expect the continued usage and development of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions and other customer service platforms, such as ZenDesk among small businesses.

 

4. Bringing in the right traffic. Gone are the days where the goal is to bring as many people to your site as possible, such as with a viral video , article or social media event- especially if these activities are not directly related to your business. In the new year, businesses will be focused on bring in targeted traffic and then guiding their visitors along a carefully conceived sales funnel.

 

5. Mobile web. In November of last year, Nielsen reported, reported that almost half of American cell phone users (a full 44 percent) now have smartphones, and among those aged 25-34, that percentage jumps to 62 percent. Tablet computers and ereaders are also seeing a spike in sales and ubiquity. That said, this is another trends that small business owners cannot afford to ignore. At least, small business owners should make sure that their websites are mobile device ready. At most, some companies may stand to benefit from mobile-based marketing strategies, such as QR Codes and other forms of mobile advertising.

 

6. Mobile payments. The use and prevalence of mobile devices is not exclusive to consumers, many small businesses owners have been using smartphones and tablets in particular for businesses transactions and communication. Expect that number to increase in the new year along with an increase in mobile payments setups, such as the inexpensive Square or Intuit’s GoPayment

 

7. Email is still hanging in there. Far from being an outdated dinosaur when it comes to customer service and other forms of business communications, email is still where it’s at. Spamming people’s in-boxes, however, is not. The most successful use of email is in building long-term relationships through the delivery of quality content. With that relationship in place, email is a direct marketing conduit. Some email marketing tools popular among smaller businesses include: Vertical Response, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp.

 

8. Pain killers. The best selling point for 2012 is being able to convey how your product or service will solve problems, make life easier, and reduce one’s level of pain and discomfort.

 

9. The importance of trust. Consumers are looking for authenticity and honesty from the businesses they frequent, and they are getting adept at “smelling a rat.” Relationships and suggestions from within their social circles are also influencing their purchase decisions, sentiment, and ultimately, their ability to trust the quality and value of a company’s products or services.

 

10. Small businesses crunch big numbers. The new year will also see an increasing number of small business relying on robust, low-cost cloud-based data and analytical tools. These online tools allow small businesses to organize, mine and analyze vast arrays of data from market research, their website, customer behavior, marketing campaigns, and social media activity.