Toward the end of last year I shared six common SEO mistakes that small business often fall victim to and how they could avoid them. As there are obviously more than six mistakes that often plague our websites, I thought today we’d dig into a few more. I mean, sure, let your competitors keep making the same old mistakes, but let’s make you better, right?
Below are five more search engine optimization strategies for small business owners to be aware of and avoid.
Targeting the keywords your competitors are: For a small business owner unsure of which keywords are important to their business or what phrases they should be optimizing their content for, it makes sense to go into your competitor’s Keyword tag and raid whatever they’ve got in there. And, to some degree, it’s not a bad idea. Being aware of what terms your competitors are going after can alert you to phrases you may not have considered or give you insight into their marketing strategy. However, that’s differently than blindly targeting all of their keywords you see. Just because someone in the same field is going after a particular term, doesn’t mean it will convert for you or that it makes sense to your business. It also doesn’t mean that term is working for them. Definitely do some competitive intelligence to see what they’re doing, but know why it is you’re targeting the terms you select. You can’t simply pick up someone’s SEO strategy just like you can’t copy their entire marketing plan.
Building links only to the homepage: When you’re thinking up link building strategies for your Web site, consider your whole Web site, not just your homepage. When a user does a Web search, you want them to find the most relevant page on your site. As your home page will tend to focus on more general topics and keywords that may not be the page you want a searcher to land on. If they’re looking for knee-high boots, you want them to land on your page specifically about knee-high boots, not a page that talks about boots, tops, accessories and luggage. In order for that to happen you need to build keyword-targeted links to that page so that Google knows that’s the most relevant page on your site for that search.
Reciprocal linking: I’m surprised this is still an issue in 2011, but I still see it getting small business owners in trouble. All those emails you receive as a business owner that go something like, “I’ll link to you if you link to me” should be immediately deleted. Right now. Reciprocal linking is not something your small business should get involved with – it’s detectable to the search engines and it’s often not going to provide a good user experience for your audience. It’s worth noting that linking to someone who also links to you, is not a bad practice. But participating in schemes for links is.
The index with useless pages: When you were a kid, you couldn’t wait to be a grown up. And when you’re a scrappy startup, you can’t wait to become a big brand. One way some small business owners will attempt to appear bigger is to create bigger sites by writing endless amounts of shallow content. This has never been a good strategy, however, with the release of Google’s Panda update, it’s an even worse idea. The Panda update released by Google did not take too kindly on sites that either have a large number of low quality pages or that had too many duplicate pages. When it comes to creating content, it’s really important to remember that it’s quality, not quantity that both users and Google are looking for. Do keyword research to find what users are looking for and then craft content that addresses those concerns in a thought-out and knowledgeable way. Don’t create pages just for the sake of it. Before it was just bad practice, now it can actually hurt your site.
Splitting your SEO efforts among multiple domains: As a small business owner, you’re typically going to be better served keeping all of your SEO efforts onto one domain. If you’re creating an event, a training seminar or some type of course, you don’t need to create another site to showcase those efforts. Instead, create a separate section on your existing site for that content to rest. Splitting up your efforts too much can distract from your ranking goals, diluting your link popularity, your focus, and your users.
Above are five more SEO mistakes small business owners should be on the lookout for to prevent making them on their own sites. What mistakes have you learned and grown for? You can share. This is a safe zone.
Great points! I completely agree that when you’re new in this, it’s not at all a bad idea to look into what your competitors are using. Having a look at the keywords they’re using would give a pretty good idea of what keywords your customers might use. Another great point was of not only linking to your homepage but to other site pages as well, that’s a common mistake made by many, I am glad you highlighted it. Thanks for sharing!
I would add spammy blog comments to the list. It always amazes me when I see a legit business trying to leave a comment on a post with something like “Nebraska Salon” as the name.
This is such a great post! As more and more small businesses pop up on the Internet, sharpening my SEO skills is proving to be extremely imperative. Knowing what NOT to do is so helpful.
I particularly liked your tip: “When you’re thinking up link building strategies for your Web site, consider your whole Web site, not just your homepage.” This tip will help me in expanding my SEO opportunities.
I am in full agreement with Robert Brady about spammy blog comments. I am always so shocked to see spam show up on my blog posts!
Thanks, again, for this great post. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
I could probably put together a whole other blog post or two for you with the things I see every day. How about some of these common mistakes I see all the time:
– Believing your hosting company is truly an SEO expert: It’s been my experience that this is rarely a good thing. Hosting companies provide hosting as their core business and most only offer SEO as an add-on to make extra money when in fact they aren’t truly equipped to be of much help.
– Not taking advantage of free analytics to track your traffic, conversions and bounce rates at the very least: Google Analytics is free and easy to install. It gives you some valuable information that will help you grow your business. If you don’t understand the data, there are lots of help files and books to assist you.
– Not having your phone number or contact information prominent on your pages (not really SEO related but important none the less): This is especially important for those businesses who rely on speaking to the customer to be their biggest conversion point. There’s no harm in having your phone number listed where it’s easy to see, and a contact page that’s easy to find.
– Being too shy to promote themselves with any type of PR push that would have online benefits and link benefits: Press releases, news articles, event announcements etc. These are all valid “buzz” starters and when leveraged properly, can be a great source of inbound links as well. Plus, don’t forget about the positive reputation management benefits as well, and the additional mentions of the company whenever someone does a branded search.
– Not taking advantage of using other types of content like videos, images and the like to increase their SERP listing chances: Content doesn’t just have to be words anymore. The IM industry has preached that content is king for so long that sometimes people don’t see the finer print saying that other content helps too. If there are reasons for having videos, images, slideshows and the like on the site to help sell your product or service – and it compliments that quality content you already have on your site, then do it. Google now displays mixed results all the time so it doesn’t hurt to increase your chances of being listed.
I’m sure there’s tons more Lisa, but those were at the top of my list. Keep up the good work!
Taking google keyword tool results at face value. That or thinking of SEO as something you “do to” a website
One I’ve seen way too often is having a very common or generic business name so you can never show up in search results. Unique is the way to go!
Your insights here make a lot of sense, especially the last item. Imagine splitting up all those traffic because you have to keep your .com,.net, and .org sites altogether – all with the same name. So, with Google Panda on the loose, does anyone here feel that we’ll see the imminent death of black hat SEO? I think it’s high time to stop playing tricks and provide value, for real. Thanks for the awesome tips!
All really good points.
The first point about competitors keywords is one that constantly comes up with customer wanting to know why other sites are above them for certain terms. These are usually irrelevant terms competing sites are going after and not us. Educating them can be a struggle.
A link building point I keep coming up against is the quality of links being built to the Home page. All too often people are obsessed with not only building as many links as possible to the Home page but not really caring about the quality of the links they are gaining. An article I’ve written that you might be interested in reviews one of the so called time saving link building tools out there: http://www.koozai.com/blog/search-engine-optimisation-seo/link-building-tool-submiteaze-saves-you-money-wastes-your-time/
Killer post Lisa! I especially like your point about not copying your competitors. I think that this applies not just to keywords, but to SEO tactics in general. Absolutely do the research to find out what competitors are doing, but rather than blindly copying their strategies, see where they might be lacking and capitalize. And just because your competitors are doing it doesn’t mean that it’s the best and only way to go.