Search engine optimization has grown into a marketing strategy no company should ignore if they want to be competitive these days. Sure, if you have a physical storefront, you’ll get the occasional customers from simply walking down the street—but getting customer traffic to a website? That’s another beast altogether. SEO is essential for getting users to find your website and get more digital customers.
But SEO is a hard thing to get right if you’re not a dedicated SEO expert. More often than not, small businesses do more harm than good if they start working on SEO without doing the right research. Here are four mistakes small businesses often make with first starting SEO efforts.
You’re not investing in SEO from the beginning
SEO is a slow-moving marketing strategy. Since it takes a long time until businesses start seeing results with SEO, many businesses make the mistake of not taking SEO seriously and don’t even try. Instead, they focus on marketing strategies that will provide them with fast results. And while those strategies might give businesses a short boost in customers, it’s not a long-term solution. If you want a steady stream of traffic, new leads, and converting customers, you need SEO.
There are lots of resources put together by SEO experts to help small businesses learn about the SEO industry and best practices. Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and The Moz Blog are trusted resources that help people stay up to date on algorithm changes and good strategies.
You don’t have clear success metrics
Since it takes a while before most businesses start to see results from their SEO efforts, it’s easy for small businesses to put their marketing on autopilot. As long as the ads are running, they’re happy. But SEO involves lots of little changes, updates, and research. If you’re not regularly looking at the data and keeping an eye on key SEO metrics, you’re not going to be aware of how your SEO work is actually performing.
If you’re just starting your SEO journey, some of the most common metrics SEO specialist look at include:
- Organic traffic
- Keyword rankings
- Bounce rates
- Pages per session
- Page load time
- Click-through rates
You’re straying from “White-Hat” SEO practices
Search engine optimization used to be a lot easier—and a lot more problematic. Back when the internet and search engines were still relatively new, marketers were able to game the system and get their websites to rank high with little effort. They would (and still sometimes do) use what the industry called “black-hat SEO”—aka bad SEO strategies that search engines will penalize you for if you’re caught using them. Keyword stuffing, buying links, and hidden content may help you rank higher for a split second, but if Google catches you doing it, you can get in lots of trouble and harm your website’s rankings for a long time.
Before starting SEO, make sure you read up on the differences between black-hat and white-hat tactics, and steer clear of any grey areas. It only takes being caught once for your website rankings to tank and your business to decline.
You’re not staying up to date with SEO updates
Sometimes, Google will let the marketing world know about updates before they’re rolled out. But most of the time, marketers are left in the dark about algorithm changes. This can lead to immediate drops in traffic or keywords rankings with little information on why or how to fix it. If businesses aren’t staying up to date on the SEO world and their own analytics, it’s easy to miss things. And a missed update can severely hurt small businesses' sales.
If you’re running your own business, it’s hard to find time for marketing and reading up on the SEO world. Try to set aside some time every week just to read reputable blogs about the industry. You’ll learn about best SEO practices, algorithm updates, and lots more about how to use search engine optimization to help your small business grow.
Guest post courtesy of Miles P. Murray