When you create a new website for your business, there’s a lot to do. You have to decide on a domain name, figure out your site design, and write the pages. There are pictures to be taken and plugins to install. Your main goal is to make the site active, so you can start converting visitors into customers as fast as possible.
With all that going on, new site owners often do a poor job addressing search engine optimization (SEO), and some ignore it completely.
Instead, online entrepreneurs should make SEO their highest priority.
Search engines like Google and Bing have sophisticated algorithms that determine where your site ends up in user’s search results. If you have a high ranking, your site will be listed near the top. If your site has a low ranking, the link to it will be buried in one of the later pages.
Since it’s rare for users to look beyond the first page of results, a low ranking means you won’t get much traffic, which will bring you fewer conversions.
So, how to make sure your site has a high ranking? The answer is SEO.
If you implement a strong SEO strategy and take periodic steps to keep it current, you’ll consistently see more traffic, and, in turn, generate more sales for your business.
In this article, we’re going to examine six of the most common SEO mistakes made by small business owners:
- Delaying Your SEO
- Using Keywords Incorrectly
- Failing to Provide High-Quality Content
- Practicing Poor On-Site Optimization
- Practicing Poor Off-Site Optimization
- Failing to Update Your SEO
Of course, we’ll also provide some tips on how to avoid these pitfalls. Let’s get started!
Delaying Your SEO
Don’t make SEO an afterthought.
It’s common for small businesses to create their website in two steps:
- Get it up and running.
- Come up with an SEO strategy.
It’s an understandable tactic since small business owners must be laser-focused on creating revenue. But that step-wise approach is not efficient.
When you revisit your website design and content with SEO in mind, it’s almost guaranteed that significant changes will need to be made. As you make these changes, it might occur to you that much of the effort you put into creating the pre-SEO version of your site was wasted. By addressing SEO from the beginning, you’ll only have to create your website once.
If you’re just beginning the process of building your website, start thinking about SEO best practices early. It will save you the pain of redoing your site later.
Using Keywords Incorrectly
A huge part of SEO involves nailing your keyword strategy. To attract prospects who are searching on the web, you must use the right keywords.
In this section, we’ll look at some things you can do to improve your use of keywords.
Target the Right Audience
When you think about your target audience, imagine a round practice target. There’s a distinct, red bullseye in the center.
In the same way, your online presence should be directed toward a carefully defined audience. If you take a generalized view of your customer base, you’ll miss the opportunity to connect with the people who are most likely to buy your products or services.
One way to zero in on your target audience is to come up with a list of customer characteristics. Picture your ideal customer and think about what their needs are. What problems do they have that you can solve?
Once you have a clear idea of who your customer base is, you’ll be able to use one of the many available tools to research relevant keywords. One such tool is Ubersuggest. It allows you to enter a ‘seed’ keyword and get a list of variations based on real-world searches.
The main takeaway here is that you should drop any general keywords in favor of specific ones. That way, you’ll directly target the people you want as customers.
Make the Most of Title and Heading Tags
Title tags and headings are the easiest places to put your SEO strategy to work, but many small business owners ignore them.
When ranking results, search engines place more importance on the keywords found in your titles and headings than they place on those in your paragraphs and product descriptions.
Make your title and headings unique, short, and not overstuffed with keywords. It’s smart to Include your brand name in these tags too.
Of all the SEO mistakes you can make, this is one of the easiest to avoid. Put some thought into your site’s title tags and headings and you’ll have one major part of your SEO task taken care of.
Find Low-competition Keywords
When searching for the products or services you provide, there’s a set of keywords that most users will type in. It’s important to know what those words are, but there’s a good chance that a competitor’s business will rank higher for those keywords than yours will. Your site may be in the results for those search terms, but on Page 2 or 3, where no one ever looks.
The good news is, there are less-common keywords that your competitors missed or decided not to worry about.
Use those keywords!
You’ll need to avoid using search terms that might never be typed in, but that’s the trick. In almost every category you can think of, there are at least a few keywords that exist in between the extremes of implausible and too popular.
It’s your job to use one of the many keyword research tools available and find your keyword sweet spot. One popular tool is SEMrush. It has a module to help you find low-competition keywords.
Don’t Be Afraid of Long-tail Keywords
A long-tail keyword is a keyword phrase that sacrifices brevity for specificity. In other words, it’s long, but it gets straight to the heart of what you sell.
The “long tail” idea is based on the bell curve of keyword search frequencies. The short, most frequently used keywords are the “head,” and the ultra-specific, longer, less common keywords are the “tail.”
Your long-tail keywords should be very specific to your business. They’ll have lower search volume, but the prospects that use them are going to be extremely well-qualified customers.
The end game here is to define a set of long keyword phrases that are specific enough to attract your ideal customer and are used frequently enough to have a positive impact on your conversions.
Failing to Provide High-Quality Content
Even in a field with minimal competition, if other companies are providing helpful content online, but you’re not, that’s bad. You’re going to lose business to them.
A common error that small- and medium-sized businesses make is ignoring the fact that online consumers have come to expect helpful information, not just a place to buy products and services.
Publishing high-value content that helps your site visitors solve problems will give you higher rankings in search results. It will differentiate your business from others and cultivate its brand identity.
Focus on creating regular blog posts that address your customers’ issues or pique their interest in your products. Publish a video tutorial or how-to article that provides value to your consumers.
The more help you give them, the more people will visit your site, and the more conversions you’ll see.
Keep in mind that SEO demands fresh content. Get something useful published quick, but then make a content calendar so you remember to push out a new blog post once in a while.
Practicing Poor On-Site Optimization
On-site optimization is the part of SEO that you have the most control over. Unlike off-site SEO, which has you worrying about links to and from your website, the task of addressing onsite performance factors begins and ends on your site.
A typical oversight here is missing a change in how Google ranks websites. Others include publishing pages with long load-time and ignoring mobile platforms. Unforeseen errors like that are all too common among small business owners.
The real pity is, onsite optimization mistakes are so easy to avoid. This section will tell you how.
Keep Up with Current Standards
About twice every year, Google changes some things about how they rank search results. Sometimes it’s a minor tweak that you’d barely notice, or, it could be a change that makes your ranking plummet overnight.
A recent example of this is when Google doubled the character limit for meta descriptions.
That made it possible for SEO-savvy business owners to improve their keyword usage by including more detailed descriptions of their products or services.
Anyone who missed that change also missed out on a great opportunity to maximize their SEO. The likely outcome of that mistake is that they lost business to any competitors that did take advantage of the updated standards.
Add a reminder to your calendar. A quick search twice a year will help you find out about changes to SEO standards, and you’ll be able to keep your site on the cutting edge.
Optimize for Mobile
A common SEO mistake made by small business owners is failing to optimize their site for mobile users. These days, most people access the web using mobile devices. It doesn’t matter if they’re watching a movie or shopping, it happens on their phone or tablet.
Google was ahead of the curve on that trend. Their search engine has been favoring mobile-friendly sites for years.
Large companies with a lot of money to spend will create a separate version of their website that’s optimized for mobile access. You don’t have to do that. By using responsive design and dynamic page elements, you can get by with a single site that works great on all platforms.
If you’re not sure how your current site design measures up in terms of usability on mobile devices, check out Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It tests your site and provides a report on how easy it is for customers to use it on their phone or tablet.
Minimize Page Load-Time
How can page load-time have anything to do with SEO? After all, page loading happens well after your site got ranked by the search engine.
Does Google know how fast your site loads before a user clicks into it?
For some time, Google’s ranking algorithms have been taking into account how fast your pages load. The faster the load time, the better your ranking will be.
If your pages load slowly, the most likely culprit is oversized imaged. Get your photo file size under control and your site’s load-time will improve greatly.
Increasing your site’s speed is kind of a win-win. You get to delight your customers and prospects with a great web experience and enjoy the benefits of improved SEO.
Practicing Poor Off-Site Optimization
When we talk about off-site optimization, we mean managing two things:
- Links from your site to other sites
- Links to your site from other sites
Getting those right can help your website rank higher in search results.
This section gives you some ways to ensure that your off-site optimization is up-to-speed, covering how to build a link network, and offering some suggestions about better leveraging your social media presence.
Establish a Link Network
When you create a link network, other businesses, and maybe some informational sites, will link to your website. Likewise, your site will include links to other websites.
The main reason to provide external links is to add value to your site. The reason to have sites link to yours is to generate more traffic. But both these things are also darn good ways to improve your SEO.
A site that has many high-quality links, and that is linked from reputable sources, will rank higher than one with low-quality links and poor backlinks.
To define a link network, reach out to other businesses and organizations to obtain guest posts. Agree to include reciprocal backlinks to each other’s content. Make use of regional business directories, articles about your area, and newsletters related to your field of business.
If your efforts stall, check out the competition. Noting the links on their sites can spark some ideas about the ones that would work for your site.
Finally, there are two potential gotchas when it comes to link networks:
- Don’t over-do it. Google’s ranking algorithm will penalize link-heavy sites if they don’t also offer a great deal of unique content.
- Don’t link to or from non-credible sources. You’ll rank higher if your business is associated with respected sites. Sites are punished if they contain links to (or are linked from) disreputable sites. SEO aside, heeding this suggestion will make your visitors happy and preserve your business’ reputation.
As long as your links are relevant and offer value to your prospects and customers, cultivating a robust link network can have a big impact on your SEO and your conversion rate.
Improve Your Social Media Presence
Many small business owners set up a Facebook page and Twitter account, then forget all about them.
Neglected social media accounts can actually do more harm than good. Prospects and customers click and see that you haven’t posted anything, and they aren’t impressed.
Promoting your business through social media should be a major part of your marketing approach. Social media interaction has become a very high-priority factor for search engines, used to indicate how well your business engages with its customers. The better your engagement, the better your ranking will be.
Failing to Update Your SEO
Even the most minor attention to SEO can make a notable difference in website sales performance. Unfortunately, that fact has made many small business owners complacent about keeping their SEO up to date.
Some site owners implement basic keyword tactics, immediately see increased traffic and conversions, and assume they have permanently completed their SEO task.
If that sounds like you, then you’re leaving a lot of money on the table.
Seeing a spike in sales after your first SEO overhaul is a great sign, but if you look at your sales numbers over time, it’s probably just that—a spike.
To maintain consistently high performance from your site, you have to regularly refresh your SEO.
That means first measuring your site’s performance, then focusing your efforts where they will do the most good. There are numerous ways to track your site’s effectiveness. You can get stats on how many visitors typed in your URL or clicked a bookmark. There’s data about referral traffic and info detailing user’s queries that resulted in traffic from various search engines.
Google Analytics provides powerful tools to help you fine-tune your SEO. You can do keyword research, analyze site performance, and get valuable insights into how site visitors engage with your content.
A way to get a quick SEO check-up is by using a tool called Browseo. It displays your site the way search engines see it. After you enter your URL, the tool displays your site with all the design elements hidden, allowing you to focus on the tags and content. If something important is missing, you’ll know that search engines can’t interpret it properly, and you’ll need to fix that.
Augmenting your site with great SEO is not a one-time job, it’s an ongoing task—an endless cycle of analysis and continuous improvement. You might have fantastic ranking today, but that can change fast.
If you regularly update your content and stay on top of the latest keywords for your field, you can make sure that stale SEO isn’t holding your business back.
Don’t Let Common Mistakes Hurt Your SEO
If you rely on your online presence to generate business, implementing a solid SEO strategy needs to be a top priority. Search engines are the gatekeepers of web traffic. Failing to satisfy the demands of their complex algorithms means your website will be penalized with reduced traffic.
Putting SEO low on your To Do list, flubbing your keyword usage, missing the mark when it comes to on-site and off-site optimization—these are all common, but avoidable, SEO mistakes.
There’s no reason to limp along with low search results rankings. If you come up with a strong SEO strategy and keep it current, you’re sure to get more website visitors, and that means increased sales for your business. Are you regularly taking care of your SEO?