Common small business SEO mistakes (and how to fix them)

by Tim R @ Procredible

We’ve worked with many different small businesses, on both creating their website as well as helping them with their marketing, and we often see similar mistakes when it comes to starting marketing as wells misconceptions as what they expect from it.

Here are some of the common mistakes we see, both with the expectation of what they want from SEO and when they try and do it themselves. This can help you avoid some of the issues ad give you an idea of what you should do.

Choosing high search volume, generic keywords

One of the first things you will find when searching on SEO or website optimisation is to decide on the keywords you want to target. By keywords, we mean the searches you want to show up for. This sounds simple enough but can cause hurdles straight from the offset.

A common mistake is typing/searching for something generic, seeing a high search volume and then saying that’s what you want to rank for.

For example, if you sell watches, a common thing people will do is look at the search volume for the search ‘watches’. They will see that it has over 200,000 average searches a month (according to Google keyword planner) and decide that’s what they want to optimise for.

Google keyword planner watches search volume

The first problem with this is, that this search will be extremely competitive. The websites that will show for this will be well established and will take many years work to even stand a chance of showing on the first page for them, if at all.

The second problem is that this is an incredibly generic search, which not only adds to the competitiveness of the keyword, but also might not be the best to target as there will still be some expectations from the type of search. Looking at the top results, the types of watches you will find are generally luxury analogue watches, priced starting from around £100 to over £5000 and also more aimed towards results for watches

If the types of watches you offer don’t fit into those categories, then this would be a bad search to show for.

What you can do

Be more specific with your targeting

You should look for more specific searches, that are closer to what you are offering. Going back to the watch example, performing a quick search brings a number of different types of watches that would be a better place to start with your targeting.

  • Analogue Watch
  • Digital Watch
  • Automatic Watch
  • Chronograph Watch
  • Diving Watch
  • Dress Watch
  • Quartz Watch
  • Mechanical Watch
  • Pilot Watch
  • Field Watch
  • Smart Watch
  • Luxury Watch

From here, you could then look at making this more specific, such as ‘Women’s Luxury Watch’. If you have known watch brands, this could be another avenue to look at, such as ‘Men’s Hugo Boss Watch’. Don’t worry that the search volume for these searches will be lower, as the more specific you can target, the better the chance that you will have what they are looking for.

Create content around your keywords

What you should do next is make sure that your pages for the services and products you have are well optimised, then you will want to start building content around these subjects. This will make your website look more knowledgeable on the subject and increase its relevancy and open you up to further searches you may show up for.

As an example, you could create content on the ‘Best Analogue Watch Brands’, ‘What is the best smart watch to buy’. All this helps search engines see your website as more knowledgeable and relevant to what you are offering, helping increase what search results your website will show in.

Only considering being rank #1 on Google

Another common pitfall we see is that people only consider ranking in the first position on Google as the be-all and end-all of the website optimisation. Yes, the number 1 ranked website on Google will get the most clicks to the website, but there are multiple problem areas with setting this as the goal.

First off, there are no guarantees that this can be achieved, be wary of anyone who says they can get you to rank 1 on Google. Nobody outside of Google completely understands how the search algorithm works, and how it ranks the websites, varies depending on what is being searched.

There are also things outside of your control, such as the location of the person searching, their previous search history and interaction with the search results can all impact where a website might show on an occasion.

The second issue is that being #1 on Google indicates that you will be in the best position to get the traffic, this is not right. There have been multiple changes to the search results that have vastly altered how they show now, to how they did 10 years ago.

Before, you would search on Google and have 10 organic results. Now, when you search there are a multitude of different types of results that show up, based on the type of search, which can include:

  • Google search ads
  • Google shopping ads
  • Local map results
  • Google my business info
  • People also ask boxes
  • Featured snippets
  • Image results
  • Video results

These are only a few and multiple of these can be shown together on a single search results page, which add further places ways for people to interact with the search results, that can take away traffic from your website, even if you are ranked #1.

What you can do

Understand the search results

When you know what you are optimising and targeting for, take a look at what the search results look like, what types of results show. It may be that aiming for rank 1 isn’t the best way to drive traffic to your website.

You might decide that, for example, if there are video results that show on the page, that getting yourself positioned there is a better idea, as people are more likely to engage with a video. If it is a local map results, that improving your Google My Business page will help you show in the top map results and help drive more traffic.

Know when to move on

Another thing is, if you have worked and got your website ranking in the top 5 on Google for a key search, you may look at it and decide, the amount of work it will take to push your website higher in the results, compared to the return it will get is not worth the effort. Knowing this would then let you move your efforts to other areas you can improve.

Other places to be found

Though it may not seem like it, there are also other search engines outside of Google that you could potentially optimise to rank better in. Now, like almost everyone, we know that Google holds the lions share of the search market, meaning the majority of people use Google over other search engines.

This will generally mean that their marketing efforts will be only to push their visibility on Google, which might mean they haven’t done some of the necessary optimisations that could help them be more visible on search engines like Microsoft Bing.

Looking at what it takes to perform better elsewhere, might take less effort on a less used search engine, than it would on Google for results that could end up making a big difference business-wise.

Not knowing the results of your changes

We’ve seen people who have worked on their website, making changes and improvements, then not seen the results they were expecting to and thinking what they have done has had no impact. Then they make further changes, in some cases reverting what they have done, potentially undoing their good work.

Part of this issue is down to not measuring the results properly, the other part is expecting to see results fairly quickly. Here is the thing, different changes will have different impacts on the website performance, sometimes, you will see the fruits of your labour sooner, other times it will take longer. You just have to be patient and make sure you have proper website tracking in place and set a goal for what you want to achieve with the changes you’ve made.

What you can do

Get your tracking in place

First off, have tracking in place. There are multiple free analytics tools you can use to measure and see changes to your website. Depending on what the goal of the change is, will determine which tool(s) to use. For example, if you are creating a new page, you will want to see where the traffic that goes there comes from, which will mean an analytics tool like Google Analytics, where you can see the traffic stats and data.

However, if you are looking to lower the bounce rate and  increase the time spent on a page on your website, you will likely need a heatmap and session recording tool to see where visitors are looking on your website and how they interact with it.

Be patient with the results

A common saying is that ‘for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction’, meaning when we make a positive change on our website, we expect to see a positive result, whether this be increase in traffic, more enquiries or more longer website session duration.

The problem is that these things take time, the amount of time can vary depending on the changes made. Sometimes you can see a positive results in a few weeks, other times, it is a few years.

I will now show you a real life example from of the traffic to a websites blog pages below that ranges from 1 January 2014 – 31 December 2018.

This was the website traffic for a blog that I work on. When I started working on it towards the end of 2015, there had been blogs added to it, that ranged as far back as 2009. More were added intermittently, but not necessarily that regularly.

I started to create more content for it more regularly, and here is the analytics of the traffic to the blog pages from 2014 – 2018.

analytics traffic increase

As you can see from the image, the traffic increased a little from 2015 to 2016, stayed fairly steady across 2017 and then has a big upshot in traffic in towards the end of 2017. The numbers of added blogs for the years was:

  • 2016 – 23 articles
  • 2017 – 17 articles
  • 2018 – 25 articles

Now looking at the graph, the traffic increase is not huge from 2015 – 2017, if I had stopped there, I would likely would not have seen the larger increase that didn’t happen until September 2017, which is due to the build up of the content and accumulating larger growth from all of it, which we continue to see to this day.

So we need to be patient when making changes, and not be to rash in deciding something has failed, just because the impact isn’t seen instantly. If good, positive changes are being made to your website, just be patient, the results should be seen eventually.

Once you reach a certain level, thinking that is the end

This is a common thing we see where when a client or business reaches a certain threshold, such as ranking #1 for a specific keyword, they decide they don’t need to work on the optimisation and SEO of the website

This is based on if everything stays the same and your customers don’t dry up. However, the platforms that you rely on getting your customers from are constantly changing and updating to improve.

Google, for example, makes over 200 changes to the search algorithm a year. If these changes badly impacts your website, it can tank your traffic and visiblity, which means you lose money.

What you can do

Keep working on your website

Just because we at some point reach a certain goal, doesn’t mean we can start to slack off. Everything is constantly changing and evolving and we need to move with the times. This means keep doing the good things you do to improve your website, keep up with the latest advice, keep working towards making your website better.

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