If your business has a website – it’s practically a prerequisite – chances are, you’ve heard the term Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. And you already know that SEO is a vital component of your overall marketing strategy. But are you doing the WRONG things when it comes to SEO?
The SEO landscape changes quickly – what was cutting edge six months ago is old news today – and staying on top of algorithm changes can be a challenge for even those businesses with deep budgets and dedicated marketing staff. And if it’s a challenge for the big boys, it’s even more so for small business. Demands on time, manpower, and financial resources add an extra layer of adversity to a small business’ SEO implementation. But small business can play on the SEO field by maximizing their efforts and avoiding, or correcting, some common SEO mistakes.
1) Don’t Block the Robots
Unfortunately, I see, hear, and read about this one all to often. Now you may be asking, “Why would I ever want to block the robots (aka search engine crawlers)?” And there are some good reasons for that. You might want to block the robots if:
- You have a landing page, or a specific piece of content that you don’t want in the search results
- You are developing a new site in a development environment
- You have a “by invite only” piece of content that you send to your email subscribers
The problem that I commonly run into with the is (a) the single page block is accidentally blocking every page on the website, or (b) the block from the development site wasn’t removed when it was launched into production.
Blocking the robots is bad because the good search engine robots will honor your request. What does that mean? Well to be very blunt, search engines like Google will remove your website from their index. Let’s face it – if you can’t be found in Google, then you don’t exist.
2) Expecting Immediate Results
If you build it they will come, right? Well, kind of. The SEO game isn’t rocket science, but it isn’t all sunshine and roses either. There are an unthinkable number of websites competing for search engine ranking. Think about this: Google fulfills over 3 billion search requests per day and over 1 trillion searches per year. That kind of volume and competition is a hurdle. Not that you can’t overcome those challenges and succeed with a solid SEO strategy, but Kevin Costner isn’t doing SEO for the voices in his head. A good SEO strategy takes time and nurturing. Your play should be on the long-term and your success will continue to win again and again.
3) Your Title Tags Suck
Ahh, yes. The Title tag. Yep, it’s still important and arguably the most important 512 pixels on you page. Did he just say pixels? Yes, I did. Due to the surge in mobile search, the major search engines are measuring title tags by their width, not the number of characters they contain. Generally speaking, a 50 – 55 character count will keep you under the 512 pixel width guideline.
The most common title tag improvements that you can make are:
- Include your brand at the end of the title tag, not the beginning. If there isn’t room, exclude it. Your brand is probably already included in your domain name and heavily in the website copy.
- Make sure your title tags are unique per page. Yes, every page needs a separate title tag.
- Include your most important keyword or phrase at the beginning. The first word is more important that the sixth.
- Make sure you title tags entice a click. Whether it be in the search engine results page or in an RSS feed, the title tag will drive a user to take action. Earning the rank is one thing, but make sure you don’t miss the click.
4) Focusing Solely on Rankings
Speaking of missing the click… There are endless promises for earning page 1 rankings or “top spot on Google,” but it is all snake oil. If you’re focusing on it superficially, then yes, rankings are a simple metric that you could interpret as success. But does that translate into real success for your business?
It seems odd to not focus on conversions, since conversions can affect your bottom line, but some sites are so focused on other aspects of SEO that conversions are an afterthought. Define what a conversion looks like for your site, and fine-tune the path you want your customers to follow to get there.
5) Ignoring Local Search
Mobile search continues to grow, with more than a quarter of searches done on smartphones seeking a specific (local) place or location. Increased visibility in local search, as well as content better optimized for location, will help improve your local search rankings.
Try it. Grab your phone and search for “hardware store” or “pizza” or “Target”. You will get local results in a map listing.
Map listings, schema markup, and other signals to reinforce your locale go a long way in earning that local search visibility.
6) Not Posting New Content
New content keeps your site fresh, giving search engines reasons to return and crawl your site for new information. New content gives you the ability to build topicality and become a resource for your audience and the search engines. Plus, it’s a great way to establish knowledge and industry expertise.
Posting new content doesn’t mean that you have to publish a new article every day. If you are a local plumber, your audience doesn’t expect you to be a news paper. I always encourage site owners and marketers to set obtainable goals on content so that you can create calendars and expectations for those that write your content. It could be that you publish once a week or twice a month. Maybe you publish on monthly How To article for you readers. The only wrong answer on frequency is zero.
7) Not Having a “mobile-friendly” Site
Smartphones have changed every aspect of how we conduct business, and a website that doesn’t display well on a phone screen is one that won’t get much mobile traffic. Mobile-friendly sites are given preference in search results done on cell phones. In-fact, a responsive website is a best practice recommended by the Google Webmaster Guidelines.
Google even has a great tool to test your mobile-friendliness.
SEO is a strategy that works best when it is tailored to your business’ individual needs. It may feel at times like you’re standing on the edge of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, especially if you’re a small business. The good news is, there is no need to jump into the deep end right away. You can begin in the shallow end and take care of the basic mistakes before you go any further, and your SEO will improve.