10 SEO Mistakes For Small Business Owners To Avoid and How to Fix Them

Ever wondered why your competitors are showing up on the first page of Google but after checking your ranking position, your website is nowhere to be found?

It’s a sinking feeling because you’ve probably spent a lot of time and money on your website and you just don’t know what you’re doing wrong.

The number one reason for a website not appearing on Google is badly applied SEO — or, in some cases, no SEO at all.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation.  It’s what makes your website searchable, so people can find it on Google.  When it’s done correctly and consistently, SEO should get your website in front of your target audience.

But if you’ve no experience of SEO, you might be making SEO mistakes that are costing you customers.

While there are literally dozens of potential SEO mistakes to avoid, I’ve rounded up the top 10 easiest mistakes to fix and given you actionable tips to help you.

As a side note, I talk about Google when referring to search engines, simply because it’s the top search engine with 92% of the market.

So, let’s get started.

1. Ignoring HTTP status

You may have noticed that website URLs start with HTTP.  Most have an S at the end.

But is HTTPS really necessary?

The short answer is yes.

The longer answer is that when someone sees the S, it shows them that they are visiting a secure site. Even if your website is primarily an informational site (i.e. you’re not selling products or services directly from your site), it’s still recommended to use HTTPS.

How do you switch from HTTP to HTTPS?  Contact your hosting company who will set you up with an SSL.  This is a bit of code on your web server that provides security for online communications.

HTTPS protects the integrity of your website and helps prevent intruders from tampering with the communications between your website and your users’ browsers.

How to fix: Contact your hosting company to get your SSL certificate installed.  

2. Using Call To Action buttons that don’t lead to conversions

A CTA, or Call To Action, is a clickable button or a short sentence on your website that asks the user to take action. It could be reading more, buying something or contacting you to make an enquiry. CTAs are important because they help to convert visitors into customers.

Before writing the CTA text, you’ll want to think about the purpose and goal of your message. Do you want to capture leads? Do you want more customers? Or do you want more traffic to your website? Whatever the purpose is, your CTA should always support it. If your text aligns with the benefit that the consumer is going to get, they’re much more likely to convert.

A powerful CTA is short and precise and a single sentence or a couple of words can easily do the trick.  It’s best not to use generic words such as “Buy Now” or “Try Me”, which aren’t very effective.

Instead, use time-sensitive words such as “Try now” or “Free trial.”

Make sure you’re placing your CTAs in the right places on your website. You don’t want to just place it at the bottom of your website or just above the fold. It should be placed where it makes sense.

Have your CTAs sprinkled throughout your page so people don’t have to keep scrolling up or down to click on them.

Here’s a great example from Asana which invites the user to sign up without the commitment of paying right away. It’s hard to resist, right?

Webpage from Asana with text and call to action button

 

How to fix: If you aren’t sure about which CTAs to include, have a look at your competitors to see what they’re doing. 

3. Poor content

When it comes to what you say on your website, whether it be on your static web pages or on your blogs, what you say and how you say it matters.  In fact, it matters a lot.

If writing isn’t your forte, then hiring a professional copywriter or proofreader might be a wise investment.  Spelling and grammar mistakes and sentences that just don’t make any sense give a bad impression.  Equally, web copy that’s been written by a non-native speaker can be spotted a mile off, so avoid this at all costs.

You may have come across companies that offer to write hundreds of articles for you at a very low cost.  They will be using the highly frowned upon black hat tactic of using software to “spin” articles to make Google think it’s a different article.   Content spinning is an outdated and ill-advised SEO strategy which could very well land you with a penalty from Google.  Instead, write unique content that’s interesting and provides value to your audience.

Having duplicate content on your website is also a very big SEO mistake. There are several ways you might end up with duplicate content on your site. For example, if you copy and paste words from a rival company’s website. Or if you provide the same service in several different cities and repeat the same page for each city, with just the place names changed.

Remember everything you write should be unique — not duplicated from another site, or from other pages of your own.

Google also pays close attention to the relevance of your content.

If your core business is plumbing, but a large proportion of your content is about your family dog this could count against you.

Everything on your site should be relevant to your core business. And you should be answering the questions your customers are asking.

How to fix: Get some help from an SEO copywriter who can conduct a content analysis and fix your copywriting issues.

4. Ignoring internal links

An internal link is any link from one page on your website to another page on your website. Both your users and search engines use links to find content on your website. Your users use links to navigate through your site and to find the content they want to find.

Web pages with no links to them are known as “orphans”. These pages are not indexed and can’t be seen by Google.

If Google can’t see a page, neither can your customers.

Using the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO. The more links an important page receives, the more important it will seem to search engines. Therefore, good internal links are crucial to your SEO.

Say, for example, you’ve got a great piece of content that’s 3000 words long. It’s comprehensive and packed with valuable information. Linking to this long content from your shorter blogs will show Google that the long content is important.

How to fix: You might already have Yoast SEO installed on your website.  The premium version helps you to work on your internal linking structure.

5. Not providing a good user experience

Google talks about user experience a lot and it’s not hard to understand why.  What people expect from a website now is far different than in the past.  People are busy and impatient. No one is going to wait 10 seconds for a website to load.  Nor will they like or trust a website that’s outdated, nor one that looks like every other website they’ve seen.

There really is no reason to make this SEO mistake, but sadly a lot of companies do.

First, let’s discuss loading time.  According to 2018 research by Google, 53% of mobile users leave a site that takes longer than three seconds to load.  That’s over half of your visitors that won’t stick around.  If you’re not sure how fast your site loads, you can find out using GTMetrix.  And if there are loading issues, you can discuss it with your webmaster who should be able to resolve it.

Second, there’s the design of your website.  Now, if you ask ten people what they think about a website, you’ll get ten different opinions.  But, you can’t go wrong with a modern theme.  If your website is stuck in the last decade — or worse, looks like it’s stuck in 1999 — then it’s worth the investment in a new updated design.  A great design is more likely to make visitors stick around — and, more importantly, make them want to contact you.

Third, there’s navigation to think about.  Your users want to get what they want quickly. So, if they want to hire you for your services, you don’t want to send them on a wild goose chase around your website to give them the information they are looking for. The three-click rule is an unofficial web design rule that suggests that a user should be able to find any information with no more than three mouse clicks. You should also fix any broken links.  A 404 error is really off-putting and it’s likely at this stage the user will just leave your site altogether.  Keep the navigation simple.

Then there’s the question of whether to use stock images or not.  This is one of the most common SEO mistakes I come across. While stock photos aren’t directly referenced as harmful to search rankings by Google, they could indirectly affect user experience. If you’re a local business run by one person, or by just a few people, wouldn’t you want to showcase your brand with pictures of you and your staff?  People buy from people and showing your visitors who you and your company are, in a transparent way, builds trust.  So it’s much better to invest in some professional photographs of you and your business rather than relying on stock images.

How to fix: Screaming Frog is a free tool that will flag broken links and other errors affecting user experience. Avail of a local headshot photographer for some fantastic photos.

6. Not optimising for local search

If you have a business where you provide a product or service that’s not solely online, then it’s crucial that you optimise your website for local search.

Fact is, 46% of all searches have local intent.  That’s a whopping big number, I’d say.

Having a well-optimised Google My Business profile is the first step in optimising for local search.  A lot of companies either don’t have a Google My Business listing at all, or they set one up and then forget about it.  This is a missed opportunity to get some of those local searches.

If you aren’t sure how to go about optimising your GMB profile, have a read through 9 Ways To Optimise Your GMB Listing.

7.  Ignoring mobile-first indexing

Mobile-first indexing means Google predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking.  Google is switching to mobile-first indexing for all websites starting September 2020.

If a site doesn’t have a mobile-friendly version, the desktop site can still be included in the index. However,  the lack of a mobile-friendly experience could impact negatively on the rankings of that site.  This means that for you as a small business owner, a better mobile experience would potentially receive a rankings boost even for searchers on a desktop.

If you’re wondering whether your website has been moved over to mobile-first indexing yet, there are two easy ways you can check this using the URL inspection tool in Google Search Console.

1. Use Google Search Console

Log into Google Search Console and click on URL inspection in the left-hand menu.  Type in your URL in the search bar and it will then tell you if your website has been moved over.

If you see the value “Googlebot smartphone” it means your site has been moved over to mobile-first indexing. If you see the value “Googlebot desktop,” then it’s still waiting.

URL inspection in Google Search Console

confirmation of mobile indexing

 

2. Check for Google Search Console notification emails

If you don’t have access to your GSC account, you can still check whether it has been enabled on your site if you have access to the email address assigned to your GSC account.

If you search for “Mobile-first indexing enabled” in your inbox, you should see any emails from the Google Search Console team notifying you that your site has been moved over.

Keep in mind that mobile-first indexing will only affect your website if you are running separate desktop and mobile pages. Responsive websites are unaffected by the change.

 8. Not optimising your images correctly

Large image files are one of the biggest culprits for slowing down a website. Small file sizes are vital if you want your website to load quickly — especially on mobile devices.

Optimising the images for your website helps you get the highest quality images with the smallest file size. You can do this by using the right format, dimension, size, and resolution. Image optimisation helps to improve your website’s load speed, boost SEO ranking and improve user experience.

The name of the image file helps search engines understand the content of the image in context. If it’s relevant, you can also use keywords in your filenames. Make them descriptive and don’t just name the camera filename something like Image-1.jpg.

Alt-text is a text-only alternative to the image that will be displayed if the image doesn’t load. Since the search crawlers have not learned to recognise the content of images, using the ALT attribute helps them to understand what the image is about. This makes alt-text particularly important for SEO.

How to fix: Log into your WordPress website and click on Media. Add alt-text and descriptions to all of your pictures.  Use Screaming Frog to flag images that are too big.

9.  Poorly optimised SEO titles and meta descriptions

Your title tag is the first thing Google sees when it’s looking at your website. Every page should have its own title tag. They should be relevant to what’s on the page in question and they should all be unique.

Title tags should be between 50 and 60 characters in length, which isn’t long — so you need to make every word count.

Appearing on the results page is one thing. But you also need people to click on the link to your website. How do you persuade them to do that? By using your meta description. The meta description is the two lines of black text on the Google results page. And it should be used to sell your site.

A well-written SEO title and meta description can dramatically improve your click-through rate — and this could be important for SEO. For quite some time, SEOs have hypothesised that higher click-through rates can increase your rankings.

And it makes sense why a lot of people share this belief.

For example, let’s assume that there are 10 results for a search query and 100% of the clicks go to result #5.

If everyone is clicking on the same result, that may tell Google that result #5 serves search intent the best, right? It’s always a good idea to optimise for click-through rates because more clicks equal more traffic.  And more traffic equals more customers, which is the ultimate goal.

The example below of a landscaping company on page two of Google doesn’t have a compelling SEO title and the meta description runs out of space.

seo title and meta description on SERP

How to fix: Preview SEO titles and meta descriptions using Yoast SEO or Screaming Frog to make sure they’re displaying in full and are not truncated.

10.  Not having realistic expectations

SEO is a journey rather than an endpoint and getting a high ranking on Google doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, effort and quite a bit of patience to get your website to the top. If anyone tells you otherwise, you should be suspicious of their methods.

Added to that, your competitors are people who are just as eager as you are to get first page results.

If you are ranking on Google, don’t be surprised if your ranking fluctuates from time to time.

A decrease in ranking might be because a competitor has just completed a ton of SEO work on their site.  Or because you haven’t been blogging as much as before.  Or because of a new Google core update. The key is not to panic.

NEED SOME HELP WITH YOUR SEO?

Don’t make these SEO mistakes.

Do you have a website that isn’t showing up on Google?

Or a website that’s fallen down the rankings and you don’t know why?

SEO is incredibly complex. There are over 200 ranking factors that influence where your site appears on Google. Not to mention competitors trying to steal your ranking position and algorithm changes you need to prepare for.

Managing it all is an overwhelming task for any small business owner.

This is where Savvy SEO can help you.

And I’ll take care of your website, so you can focus on what you do best.

Get found on Google. Turn searches into clicks and clicks into customers.

If you’d like to find out more, call Sonia on 07566 230636.