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5 Ways Small Businesses Sabotage Their SEO

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Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can be hugely rewarding. The long hours of research and work are more than worthwhile when a client doubles or triples their sales as a result. And that's particularly satisfying when it's a new or small business which has been able to compete with larger competitors due to the right SEO strategy and approach.

But at the same time it can occasionally be frustrating. Particularly when the best SEO efforts are undone by a simple decision or mistake which could have been easily avoided. Fortunately we're able to help our clients avoid sabotaging their SEO, but we've seen some common problems when we're asked to review sites belonging to potential new clients. And we've seen a range of mistakes occur when clients decide their SEO is 'good enough' and they don't need to continue investing.

So here are the most common 5 ways small businesses sabotage their SEO. Make sure it doesn't happen to you!

1. Not Allowing Enough Time for SEO to Take Effect:

If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner spending money, you want to see a return on their investment as quickly as possible. That's entirely understandable, but sometimes it means an impatient decision to stop - just as SEO work is starting to take effect.

Search Engine Optimisation doesn't just involve making changes to your website, but also ensuring those changes are picked up by search engines. That can take some time, particularly for new or small sites, or those that haven't been updated in years, and then those positive efforts needs to start appearing in search results, at which point the effects will start to be felt.

Not only can it take a few weeks for initial changes to be seen and indexed by search engines, but often you'll see gradual improvements over time, rather than a jump from nowhere to being number one for a search. And that's especially true if you're trying to rank highly for a competitive term, and one which might have lots of big and established companies spending time and resource on it.

We always provide realistic targets and expectations, but we've seen some small business owners complain that they haven't started dominating search results in a matter of days! If you want really fast results, paid search advertising is a viable option but it can be expensive to maintain.

2. Replacing optimised copy without realising:

It's great when a small business website is regularly updated. News, blogs, case studies and testimonials all benefit from a regular flow of fresh content being added, and the more you can provide those types of material, the easier it becomes to get great SEO results.

But there's a difference between being able to add content to a site, and being able to craft well-honed text which is optimised for both search engines and converting customers. That's why we have trained and experienced copywriters to go through the websites we work on.

A good SEO copywriter will combine keyword research with potentially houses of work to get your website text as good as possible. So imagine the frustration if that copy mysteriously disapears? Especially if the replacement swaps keywords for spelling mistakes and typos.

That's why it's best to check before making any changes to key pages on your website, or to focus on adding the blog, case study and testimonial information that you're best-placed to provide. And do make sure you're adding text which is spelt correctly, grammatically correct, and ideally comes with great quality images.

3. Redesigning Your Site to Be SEO-Unfriendly:

Beyond copywriting and visible improvements, a lot of Search Engine Optimisation involves technical specifications, requirements and changes. You want search engines to be able to quickly and easily load the website, find relevant information, and not encounter technical issues.

We're lucky to combine in-house SEO and design experts, who can create something which not only looks great, but works for both SEO and customers. But not every design agency or web developer has more than a passing grasp of SEO, and quite often their knowledge can be based on best practice which has been replaced in the meantime.

Most of the popular choices for website software include the option to hide your website from search engines, which is useful while it's being built, but has occasionally been left in place by the odd designer. Or attempts to change hosting servers result in your site being taken offline after a mistake with your Domain Name Server.

It's good to regularly refresh and update the look and feel of your website. The rise of mobile internet users and the need for a responsive website is one good example of how the right choices can have a positive impact on your visitors. But make sure that you're not ditching potentially years of hard work for the sake of a quick redesign.

4. Falling For Cheap SEO and Link Sellers

Good, reputable SEO takes time, as we've mentioned. It also requires experts who have not only built up their knowledge, but keep up with the latest news and changes. Search Engines are constantly innovating and updating the way their work, and you don't want to spend time trying to use a tactic which is no longer effective. But the skill involved does come with a (reasonable and cost-effective!) level of commitment.

That's why countless solo entrepreneurs and small business owners are tempted by the extremely low cost offers from some agencies and SEO tools. The prospect of ranking at the top of Google for just £50 seems hard to resist.

But we've yet to discover a low cost package which doesn't do more harm than good. If we had, we'd be using it ourselves! Most cheap SEO offers involve 'spinning' content (automatically rewriting copy hundreds of times, usually resulting in something close to gibberish), and getting automatic links from a huge range of potentially shady websites.

Even if the service worked, no-one seeing nonsensical 'spun' content is going to think you're trustworthy to spend money with. And the likeliest outcome is that the automated links will end up earning you a manual penalty from Google, which is expensive and time-consuming to repair. Essentially you end up paying three times - first you buy the cheap SEO deal, then you pay to have the damage done repaired, and then to have your Search Engine Optimisation done properly.

You wouldn't trust someone offering you a new Ferrari for £50, so why trust a cheap SEO deal when getting to the top of relevant search results could make you enough to own several Italian sports cars?

5. Not Thinking From Your Customer's Point of View:

When you're living and breathing your business 24/7, it's easy to get caught up in it. Every industry has specific terms and jargon, and quite often we find that business owners and industry insiders might use totally different language to customers.

From your SEO and any other marketing efforts, to your website, and your products and services, you should try to view everything through the eyes of your customers. Will they know what specialist industry terms mean, and are they even searching for them?

That also extends to areas like Customer Service and Social Media Marketing. Although reviews and social network updates don't have a direct impact on Search Engine Optimisation, they can drive or damage your business in their own right. Do you respond promptly to enquiries and encourage positive reviews by providing a great experience?

These are just some of the common ways small businesses tend to sabotage their SEO. The good news is that if your competitors are all making these mistakes, it'll be easier for your company to get ahead!

And avoiding the mishaps is relatively easy:

  • Try to view everything from the perspective of your customers
  • Be realistic about the cost and time of quality SEO, which will give you long-term benefits you can trust
  • Don't get sucked into cheap SEO spam offers which will damage your website and reputation
  • Pay attention to advice and training on which parts of your site to update, and how to do it.
  • Don't throw out good SEO for the sake of a shiny design that customers won't be able to find to appreciate.