Search engine optimization for small and very small businesses.

The Top 7 SEO Things Small Businesses Screw Up

SEO mistakes are easy to make.SEO Mistakes Are Easy

Owners of small (and very small) businesses are usually highly skilled in what they do. But they often have insufficient experience with SEO. Despite our company name, there’s no “magic” in SEO, but it’s not intrinsically obvious either. I hope it’s helpful for you to know these pitfalls.

The Top 7 Things Small Business Owners Screw Up

1) Not starting SEO soon enough

Start your SEO as soon as possible.It’s very common for small business owners to recognize very early on that a website is indispensable to their business. They will often spend a great deal of time and effort in creating a website that is robust, full-featured, attractive, and even sexy. Often it will include a blog with months or years of laboriously crafted information.

But without SEO, all of that information may be inaccessible to potential customers. It’s like a Billboard in the Woods. Want to find out if your site is a Billboard in the Woods? Conduct a simple test.

Once you realize that your beautiful website can’t be found, SEO becomes a priority. And at that point, it may require you to make major changes in your website design, structure, and content. The sooner you start your SEO, the less work you’ll have to re-do on your site.

2) Writing for Google

Google's G logoYour audience is people: current and future customers or clients. But out of zeal to achieve high visibility in Google, many small business owners focus on Google instead of on their customers.

That can result in practices that violate Google’s standards, like creating doorway pages. It’s always a bad idea to try to fool Google into ranking you higher than you deserve. But even without that, thinking too much about Google and too little about your customers often results in content that goes overboard in terms of keyword inclusion.

Keyword stuffing makes a web page read awkwardly and creates a poor user experience which may well drive people away. A few years ago in Google’s Penguin algorithm update, they specifically focused on penalizing keyword stuffing.

3) Not understanding the customer

As business owners, we’re always focusing on what we do and the advantages or features of our products and services. It’s natural to write about that on our websites.

But that misses the point.

Don't put your customer tyo sleep by emphasizing features instead iof benefits.Customers don’t care what the features are; they care about what it will do for them. To get customer to buy from you or patronize your services, you need to explain what’s in it for them. What benefits you offer, not what features you have built into your products or services.

It’s also important to write with a customer focus in mind. If your web pages talk all about what “I” or “we” can do, it misses the marketing message. Your web content needs to talk about whatever desire, pain point, or purpose the customer has in conducting the search that brought him or her to your website. Good marketing copy is YOU-focused, not ME-focused.

4) Choosing unachievable keywords

Some keywords are dominated by big, national companies.It’s natural to want to focus your SEO on search phrases that people search for a great deal. Optimizing for a phrase that people search for hundreds of thousands of times a month instead of phrases that people search for 20 or 30 times a month. The problem with that is that such keyword phrases are usually way too competitive for a small business to compete with.

On the bell curve, keyword phrases that fall in the middle of the curve get the most searches, but are also the most competitive. Long tail keyword phrases — those out near the edges of the curve — can be finely tuned to focus on your unique selling proposition and good rankings are much more achievable for them.

Don’t optimized for car repair. Optimize instead for brake repair. And transmission repair. And each of your auto services. Even better might be to optimize for brake repair in [your town or county].

Don’t optimize for New Jersey lawyer. Optimized instead for New Jersey workers compensation lawyer. Or New Jersey child support lawyer. Or NJ real estate attorney.

5) Not writing enough

Copywriting for marketing and SEO is a valuable skill.Too often small business owners want to keep their pages short and “punchy”. You may recognize that people don’t have the patience to read a great deal of content. The Internet expression TL:DR has become popular lately. It means “Too Long: Didn’t Read”.

The mistake here is that people don’t read a web page the way they read a novel. They scan or skim, looking for subheadings to find the morsels that they are particularly interested in. If your copy is constructed well with frequent subheadings, it won’t be intimidating to the visitor on your site. And they can find what they need to know easily.

Beyond that, though, if you’re optimizing a page for two or three different but related keyword phrases, you need at least 300 words of copy to help Google understand what the page is all about. To include those keywords  on the page enough with fewer than about 300 words inevitably requires you to do keyword stuffing.

6) Having a single Services page

List of ServicesThis is a critical error I see a lot. In order to present the website from growing too large, a business will include a  page titled Services. On that page they may have a bulleted list of all the different things that they do, possibly with a sentence or two of description about each of them.

If a page is about everything you do, it can’t possibly be “all about” any one thing that you do. Let’s say your car repair shop does transmission repairs. If that is only one item out of a bullet list of a dozen or two services you offer,  Google is never going to want to show that page to somebody who’s looking for a transmission repair shop.

If, however, each item listed on your Services page links to another page that is truly all about that specific service, those are the pages that Google will like.

7) Forgetting about the code

Craft your meta description carefully.This is understandable. As a small business owner, you probably know little about HTML code — the computer code that tells a browser or phone how to display your page — and care about it even less. But there are certain things in the HTML code which the visitor to your site never sees but have a critical role in your SEO.

The page title tag is the most powerful place to have keyword phrases appear. That’s in the code; it’s not the main headline on your page.

The description meta tag often appears as a snippet in the search engine results even though it doesn’t appear on your visible web page. That can play significant role in whether someone clicks on your listing in Google or one of the listings below you.

There are a lot of coding techniques that can help your SEO. You ignore them at your peril.

8) Failing to monitor results

Google rankings can suffer unexpectedly.Your search rankings are going to bounce around a bit, and that’s inevitable. But if you’re not paying attention to them, and your rankings begin to slide, you may not notice it in your revenue numbers until much later. You should always monitor your rankings, your web authority, your competitive position, your social media presence, and your citations across the web. It’s also important to run periodic site crawls to reveal whether Google or other search engines are running into difficulty understanding what’s on your website.

Sometimes changes in Google’s ranking algorithms can begin to hurt you even though everything you have done up to that point is effective. For example:

  • Having a mobile-friendly website that’s easy to use on a phone was unimportant just a few years ago. Today it’s critical, and is a ranking factor at Google.
  • We didn’t used to pay too much attention to how quickly a web page loads in a browser, but now slow pages can hurt your rankings.
  • A few years ago, secure websites with URLs starting with HTTPS only applied to websites that collected personal information like credit cards and email addresses. No longer. Secure websites now enjoy a boost in rankings compared to those that are not secure.

As a small business owner, you can’t be expected to stay on top of every change in how Google ranks websites, but if you monitor your results you’ll know when something is going wrong. Only then can you take steps to fix it.

Rank Magic can help!

That’s rather a lot of stuff to be aware of and to deal with. And as a small business owner we know you have your hands full just running your business. That’s where Rank Magic can help.

If you’d like us to explore your website over the phone with you and highlight any problem areas you may not be aware of,  just give us a call. The call is free, but the advice can be priceless.

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