6 Common SMB SEO Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

Ooops!I’m not an SEO expert. Lucky for me, my partners in crime over at Outspoken Media are. But even though I’m not an expert, that doesn’t mean I’m not careful to pay close attention to SEO best practices when creating and publishing content. Paying mind to search engine optimization ensures that I’m giving the search engines all the clues they need to determine what my content is about, while also giving customers what they need to know, as well. And if someone as non-technical as I can do it, then you savvy SMB owners can do it too.

Below you’ll find 6 common SMB SEO mistakes and how to very easily fix them.

Mistake: Using duplicate Title tags

Your Title tag is the hyperlinked text a user will click on when your site comes up in their search results. And when they click on your link and go to your page, it’s the Title tag that sits at the top of their browser acting as a headline for your page. Both these facts should tell you that crafting a good one is really important. So why are you ignoring it? Spend time writing unique Title tags for every page on your site. The goal of your Title tag is to tell visitors what the page is about, while also making it compelling enough that they’ll want to click through. For example, don’t make the Title tag for your site’s home page [home]. This doesn’t tell anyone what that page is about, nor would it entice anyone to click on it. Instead, use something like [Business Name + Keyword].

Mistake: Having no content

Your Web site needs content. The search engines need something to rank and you need a way to show authority with users and answer their questions. You want to write at least one page of content for every product or service that you offer. I know it’s a lot of work, but this is your business. If you have a retail Web site, don’t just copy the 3-line manufacturer description because everyone is using that description. Write your own. Write a real About page, write a company history page, have a page on all of your employees, etc. Create video content showing people using your product, create a video about how users can hack your product to be better, create a video giving customers a tour of your headquarters. Let them submit their own videos. Write text to go with the videos. Start a blog. Create a podcast. Include text with your images. Use Google’s Keyword Tool or Wordtracker’s Keyword Questions Tool to see what people are asking about in your niche. There are so many ways to get content on your site, take advantage of them. A site with no content is a wasted opportunity.

Mistake: Keyword-less URLs

Don’t STUFF them, but whenever possible you should be trying to get keywords into your URLs to help with your site’s search engine optimization. If you’re using WordPress, I recommend going in and tweaking your settings to better accomplish this. You can do that by going to Settings > Permalinks and selecting the radio button marked Custom Structure. Once you’re there you can decide if you want your URLs to end with /post-name/ or /category/post-name/. Depending on which you prefer, you’ll want to paste in one of the following pieces of code:

  • /%category%/%postname%/>
  • /%postname%/

And that’s it. Now you’ll be able to very easily alter your URLs to make them as keyword-rich and search engine-friendly as you can.

Mistake: Poor internal linking

We talk a lot about the power of links in SEO. You want people to link to you with keyword-rich anchor text as a way of telling the search engines that you are relevant to those terms. Well, then why aren’t you linking to yourself the same way? When you’re linking between pages on your site, make sure you’re using preferred anchor text to give yourself a boost in the search engines and give users a keyword-rich path to follow. You may not be able to control how other people link to you, but you can control how you link within your own site. Make it count.

Mistake: Using photos instead of text

I see this one a lot with small businesses. Mary owns a bakery on Main Street. The home page of her site is nothing more than a .jpg of her storefront with a link to the food menu. When you click on the Menu link to see what sounds good, you’re shown a scanned PDF version of the menu. This may be usable from a customer standpoint (and even that’s arguable), however, it’s useless from a search standpoint. The search engines can’t see or read your images. To them, Mary’s home page is blank and the menu doesn’t exist. If you want to appear in the search engines, you have to give the robots something to use to rank your site. And that means content. Whenever you’re using a photo, make sure there is also text to accompany it. And don’t rely on photos when words will do.

Mistake: Not using Alt tags with images

Related to the item above, spiders can’t see or read images. To help them get an idea of what the image is about, you need to include alt text that describes the image on the page. If you can, write the alt text to include a relevant keyword to again get that added boost. Again, it’s one of those small, little things that has a real impact.

Those are a few easy ways that you can quickly boost the SEO power of your content. They may seem like little things, but together, they pack a mighty powerful SEO punch.


Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

13 Reactions
  1. Great points Lisa. If followed, I firmly believe that most SMB websites would improve their organic traffic by 100% within 3 months.

  2. Thanks, Lisa!

    Good stuff, and all of us have so much to do!

    The Franchise King

  3. Hey Lisa
    Stellar post, as usual.
    I always miss the alt tags on my images. Thanks for reminder.
    A site I recommend to all of our Sales Rescue Team customers looking to improve their website sales is Hubspot’s Website Grader Tool. It rocks. I’m sure you’ve seen it, but if not, it crawls your site and comes back and gives you insights into how you look to the search engines. Gives you a score, too. It’s free and you can go back once a quarter and see if you’re improving. Basic stuff, but helpful, especially for small biz owners. I often just run it for them and save it as a pdf. Good place to start.
    Disclosure: I’m not affiliated with Hubspot – just a great tool. They offer one for FB and Twitter, too.

  4. Good Tips! Most websites can improve their rankings alot by just following your tips.

  5. I agree with the well stated point Mistake: Using duplicate Title tags.

  6. Great post. All points that a novice at SEO would not necessarily know about.
    And thank you, TJ McCue, for the tip on Website Grader. Their report was very helpful. (they have a twitter grader as well!)

  7. Lisa: Thanks for a refresher when it comes to SEO.

    TJ: Thanks for the reminder of Website Grader. I started to test my new Ego Sole Trader site, but I got this message: “The connection to the server was reset while the page was loading.”

  8. Hi Lisa,

    Great article with useful tips and reminders. While I have read that the keyword meta tag does not have as much as an impact as it did before, I am curious if you have ever heard of an SEO practice of NOT including commas in the this tag?

    An SEO person advised this to our team, so we implemented it. The reasoning the person gave is that you could form more keyword phrases without commas (e.g., ‘dental lab products’ could be ‘dental lab’, lab products’, or ‘dental lab products’). It made sense to me, but I have yet to come across any other site that is doing this too.

    While our company is very well known in our industry, our much smaller competitors are outranking us on Google even with factors such as us consistently distributing press releases and our competitors not sending out any at all.

    I am trying to dissect the coding of our site and our competitors, but I am not an SEO expert. I also just started working at my company in July, so I am not sure about how Google rankings were before I joined. I know there are many off-page factors that affect SEO, but I am just trying to build a list of little changes we could possibly make to coding for now. Any input about the comma vs. no comma practice, if you or any other readers happen to know, would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks again for a great article!

  9. Nice tips Lisa — and easy to understand!

    …you can always come work for me! 🙂

    John Barremore
    Houston, TX

  10. Sites that are completely flash based. Its hard to update and the search engine can’t read any of the content.