Updated: May 19
These days we all spend an inordinate amount of time online -- reading, shopping, remote learning -- you name it. Which means establishing a strong online presence has become even more critical for small business success. While there are many potential online marketing tactics to tap into, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a powerful, relatively low cost approach that every small business should maximize. Unfortunately, time and again we see small business owners make the same SEO mistakes and our goal is to help you avoid these common pitfalls with our top ten ranking. Without further ado, they are:
“On a broad scale, I see SEO becoming a normalized part of marketing tactics, the same way tv, radio, and print are traditionally thought of as marketing tactics.”
Duane Forrester, Bing
1. Not building a proper foundation. Like any good program, establishing a strong foundation is key for long term success. With SEO, having a shaky foundation will cause problems immediately. Things like poor website structure/navigation, broken links (e.g. 404 errors), heavy graphical images, slow page rendering and loading times, etc. all show search engines that your site shouldn’t be ranked highly versus your competition.
2. No toolkit to measure success. If you’re going to invest time and money into optimizing SEO, you’ll need a basic toolkit to measure results. If you work with a marketing agency, they’ll help you set this up. If not, you’ll need tools like Google Analytics, Search Console, SEM Rush, etc. to measure your results. The good news is most of these tools are free or low cost for basic information.
3. Not understanding it’s a blend of technical and business skills. Many business owners don’t realize you need to be able to create interesting content for your target audience AND be able to index, tag, and use more “technical” skills to ensure the search engines find your website content. If you don’t know what meta descriptions, meta titles, alt text, URL slugs, etc. are you should do your homework to understand them and ensure each page has them properly updated. This is how the search engines index and find your website pages and is a must have on every piece of content.
4. Lack of compelling content. One of the more difficult aspects of SEO is you need interesting content to really grow. This can be in the form of lighter marketing assets such as blog posts, videos, and articles or more in depth content such as white papers and ebooks. Understanding your target audience is key as it helps you create the best content for their needs and the search engines will notice. One way to get started is to identify team members that are passionate about relevant topics and have them create initial drafts. You’ll need an internal person or external agency to manage the process but it’s a great way to lessen the burden of content creation while creating a solid pipeline of materials to improve your SEO.
5. Don’t understand the power of keywords. Keywords are one aspect of SEO that often go overlooked. Analyze and understand which search engine keywords your competitors rank highly for. Find gaps where they don’t have a good ranking and build content that helps you place in areas they aren’t capitalizing on. Keyword “stuffing” or re-using keywords many times on each website page was once a hot approach for SEO. While search engines have evolved to value stuffing less, it still is critical to include the right keywords you want to rank for on each page. Make sure to test various approaches (e.g. frequency, type, etc.) to see which works best for your business.
6. Lose consistent focus. Your SEO should continue to build over time just like your business. Creating a plan that includes a calendar is the most efficient way to not lose sight of your goals and ensure you are creating and posting periodic content to drive better search rankings and results. Project management tools such as Asana, Active Collab, etc. are great for managing the marketing calendar and content creation process.
7. Don’t integrate other marketing efforts. All marketing efforts should be integrated to gain the most benefit possible, which is especially true in digital marketing. As part of your marketing plan you should look at all tactics and ensure they are cohesive and provide leverage. For example, if you work with partners and host content on their websites, ensure they link back to your website. If you have a blog make sure it contains links to various pages of your website. Same goes with social media or guest posts on other blogs and 3rd party outlets. You’ll hear SEO experts talk a lot about the power of “backlinks” and this is what they mean. Links from other sites tell search engines your site is trusted and you have domain authority on the topic, which results in stronger SEO rankings.
8. Focus on one platform. Google is no doubt the dominant platform for search but it’s not the only platform your potential customers are using. Microsoft Bing is also popular and there are many niche search engines now too. It’s important to broaden your reach at the beginning, test different search engines, and ultimately focus on the most relevant platforms for your unique business. And like any good marketing program, it’s important to be thorough where you have a presence. Just like customers can tell when you cut corners, so can search engines. If you don’t have the time to properly test initial results, consider hiring an external resource to help.
9. Forget to create and maintain a Google My Business page. An underrated aspect of SEO on Google is a Google My Business page. Don’t forget to really make the most of it you’ll need to go beyond the initial setup. How? Periodically ask for customer reviews, post information such as your office hours, and upload current photos to keep it fresh and so Google sees consistent “movement” on your page.
10. Expect instant results. Like most major business initiatives, SEO can take time. Working with our clients, we’ve seen dramatic results in 30 days and have had it take much longer. It really depends on your business, the competition, how established the market is, etc. Working with an industry professional will help you get a better sense of what your goals should be and how you get there.
In conclusion, avoiding these ten small business SEO mistakes will help you achieve better search rankings, improve brand awareness, and source new customers online. If you have any additional questions or would like to schedule a free consultation with Persimmon Marketing, we’d be happy to help.