Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is vital for the success of small firms on the web. That has been an established fact of business life for years. There’s no point having a wonderful website if no-one can actually find it. SEO draws visitors to your site, generates leads, and can ultimately be the difference between your company’s success and failure. Yet, despite the importance of getting this right, many small businesses still make these 5 common SEO mistakes.
Are any of them holding your business website back?
#1 — Not Taking SEO Seriously
Okay, so SEO can be obscure. If you try the DIY approach, it can be complex, time-consuming and technical, too. If you own a business, you’re probably bombarded by “Guaranteed Google Top Spot” spam from self-proclaimed SEO “gurus” every day. Yet, as you may have heard, anyone who guarantees that is almost certain to be a fake. A lot of them even offer outdated or just plain bad advice in their emails.
Does any of that justify ignoring SEO? No. It explains why many business owners do so, but if you want to compete online, you have to get over these hurdles.
“…but how?” — I’m glad you asked…
Success is built on stats. You’re leaving money on the table if you aren’t basing decisions on the best stats you can get. Google Analytics is great for monitoring traffic that reaches your site — but what gets traffic to your site? That’s what an SEO and Competitive Analysis tool like SEOProfiler is for — or the SEO Reports that I can offer.
If you’re looking for cheap SEO, the DIY approach using those systems really is your safest option. Whether that’s really cheap or not depends on how highly you value your own time, though. The learning curve can be pretty steep, too — and search engines ban sites that use quick-fix (“black hat”) tactics to gain fast results. Safe (“white hat”) SEO takes time. That’s why no-one offering cheap or fast SEO can be trusted.
If that seems a bit overwhelming — well yes, it can be. That’s why I also offer hands-on help with your local and national SEO Campaigns.
#2 — Weak Content
Content is, and probably always will be, king. The better the content of a website, the more likely it is to rise through the search rankings. Content should be well-written, easy to read — and above all, helpful to the user. Google prefers content that is genuinely beneficial to the reader, rather than just promoting a business.
Contrary to common (outdated) beliefs, longer content is more popular and effective, too. Google prefers pages with at least 300 to 500 words of (original) text content. More is better, but anything else risks a “thin content” penalty.
Why? Because research has shown that’s what audiences prefer.
Your visitors are more likely to read, share and link to a single, highly informative article than a bunch of short ones. This is the essence of content marketing — whether it’s text and images, or an engaging video, good content builds trust and links, both of which help with SEO. As long as your article has plenty of structure to keep it readable, delivering value to your audience is what really matters.
#3 — Duplicate Content
Intellectual property and copyright laws aren’t very well understood online. Sadly, many people think that they can copy images or other content from another source and use it on their own site, as long as they provide a link to the original source. This isn’t the case. Unless you have licensed the content properly, it’s a copyright infringement.
It is also likely to lead to the site being penalized for duplicate content, which can easily kill off all aspirations of SEO success. If content is king, then duplicate content is the court jester.
Search engines are now smarter than most people think, so such genuine stock media isn’t likely to incur duplicate content penalties. Simply copying images and blocks of text from other websites is, however.
In fact, one of the simplest, yet most common SEO mistakes is to use the same title tag for every page. Duplicate title tags look lazy, and tell search engines that all the pages are about the same thing. So, it’s hardly surprising that this results in poor search engine rankings.
An incorrect website setup can lead to duplicate pages on your own site, too. You may not see them, but search engines can — and even duplicating your own content can undermine your SEO. Whilst this may not seem that smart, it deters some “black hat” SEO tactics and rewards the effort put in to building a site properly.
In short, it pays to avoid copying others and to get things done properly.
#4 — Low-value Backlinks
Some common SEO mistakes happen when you’re trying to do the right thing, but have just been sold on bad advice by a dodgy SEO “guru”. Selling links in bulk is the classic scam of the fake SEO specialist. It’s a quick way to waste your money and risk search engine penalties into the bargain. It’s easy for a “link farm” to deliver lots of links if their quality isn’t a concern — but it is.
Low-value backlinks are worth very little to your site. It’s far better to secure one high-quality backlink than 10 low-value links. Quality will always be more important than quantity in the eyes of search engines.
Google used to actively penalise sites for having too many incoming links from low-quality sites. Recovering from such penalties required site owners to either get the linking sites to remove the links, or — as that wasn’t always possible — to “disavow” those links to Google. Now, Google largely ignores such links, so that they simply don’t offer any benefit. However, penalties may still apply if Google thinks your site’s “link profile” looks unnatural — for instance, as though you have been trying to rig your rankings with bought links.
So, it’s really quite simple — don’t buy links to rig your SEO rankings. Especially not in bulk.
When Paid Links Are Safe
…and the next question is usually, “…but what about paid adverts? Or ‘guest blogging’?”
Well, paying for an ad, or commissioning or writing an article on another site, to drive traffic back to your own site through a link is legitimate marketing. Press releases — and most traditional advertising — work that way, so relax; these tactics aren’t ever likely to become invalid.
But how can search engines tell what a link was intended to achieve?
Well, links that have a (hidden) “nofollow” tag won’t affect your search rankings directly. So, as long as your ad carries that tag, Google will know that you’re just trying to gain traffic, not to affect your SEO, and won’t penalise you for buying it.
#5 — Keyword Stuffing
Once upon a time, keyword stuffing worked. Website owners would use as many keywords as possible in their copy, and then a few extra in the footer section of their website just for good measure. Some of those keywords might be hidden in the code. Search engines even trusted what site owners put into the “keywords” tag.
None of those techniques have worked for many years. Search engines are now more likely to treat a page that tries any of them as spam rather than sending visitors to it.
Still, those who don’t know much about SEO are often unaware of how much it has changed over the years, let alone how much it changes almost every month. So, outdated advice and ineffective techniques linger on and small businesses keep making these common SEO mistakes. At best, they reveal a lack of expertise. At worst, they can make your site look spammy and attract SEO penalties.
When it comes to SEO then, old advice is not necessarily good advice. If you can’t afford the time to keep up, get help from someone who can.
What To Do About Common SEO Mistakes
As important as SEO is, keeping up with it is hard work. So, it’s perhaps inevitable that small firms tend to make these common SEO mistakes. What really matters, though, is how you respond when you learn of problems like this that could be holding back your website from reaching its full potential.
If you want to compete, you can’t just ignore SEO, or be complacent about making common SEO mistakes. You need to fix them — or get someone trustworthy to fix them for you.
How do you know who to trust? Well, testimonials can help, but at least look for an established business. Scammers tend to be fly-by nights, disappearing when Google’s penalties start catching up with their clients. Oh, and serious SEO experts rarely call themselves “gurus”. SEO is not magic, just hard work. So, we may be specialists, but we’re technicians and marketers, not mystics!
Of course, if you’re looking for SEO services in South Wales or the Southwest, especially around the Cardiff – Newport – Bristol area, I’ll be happy to help!