Do you rely on your website to rank well on Google for sales or sign-ups? If so, then optimising your website for search engines is imperative. To help you out, here are some common SEO mistakes you need to avoid.

Here at Optimise and Grow Online, we talk to a lot of small business owners who are in the same boat as you. They’re spending a lot of time and energy trying to improve their SEO.

But SEO isn’t called a beast for nothing. There are many, many aspects to getting it right.

Some are wrapped up in your copy. Some in the technical setup of your website. And some require knowing what your clients are searching for, as well as the intent behind their searches.

And because it is such a specialised topic, I’ve seen quite a lot of SEO-related mistakes out there.

Here are 10 of the most common SEO mistakes, and how you can avoid them:

SEO Mistake #1: Trying to optimise for generic, high competition keywords

Keyword research is a very important aspect of your SEO efforts. It takes time and there is a process that needs to be followed to reap the benefits.

Here’s why it’s important to optimise for targeted keywords:

Let’s say you sell black cocktail dresses in different styles. Maybe you’ve got a strapless number. Or one with a side split. Or one with both. So you try to optimise for the keyword “black dress” because that’s what you assume your customers search for.

But this term is vague and, because it’s only two words, it’s going to have high competition.

It’s not a targeted keyword because it could easily be linked to searches for:

  • “what is a black dress”
  • “what black dress to wear to cocktail function”
  • or “black maternity dress”

All of which are great searches, but may not apply to your particular product.

A more targeted keyword phrase would be “strapless black cocktail dress with side split” because we know with more certainty that anyone searching for this is definitely looking for your product.

SEO Mistake #2: Targeting keywords that don’t apply to the searcher’s intent

If you did end up ranking for a generic keyword like “black dress,” it is likely that the traffic visiting your site may not convert very well because the intention of their search doesn’t match what you’re offering them.

It’s the intention of a search that is important when it comes to targeting customers with your content. Go one step further with your keywords by considering the intent behind their search.

Consider this. . .

Anyone who performs an online search is in one of the 3 stages of their buying journey. Which stage will depend on the results they are shown.

  • Are they in the awareness stage where they’re researching a solution to their problem (“cocktail dress code ideas”)
  • Or maybe they’re in the consideration stage where they have found the solution to their problem and they are considering lots of options (“black cocktail dress styles”)
  • Or they could be in the last stage, the decision stage where they’re picking and choosing between solutions (“best strapless cocktail dress near me”)

Knowing where you want to target your customers in their buying journey will impact the keywords you target.

SEO Mistake #3: Adding an SEO plugin on their website but not understanding how it works or how to use it

Some content management systems have made it easier than ever for business owners to work towards optimising their content for greater ranking power.

There are many plugin options available, with the most popular being the Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress.

There are two common SEO mistakes I see with regards to this plugin:
  • Business owners assume that by just installing the plugin, the work is done, and their content now ranks for keywords.
  • Business owners focus on the ‘green light’ obsessively, thinking that it means their SEO is excellent.

Unfortunately, neither of these is accurate.

Once the plugin is installed, it needs to be set up accurately to reflect how Google can find and then crawl your site. There are many options, and although a very user-friendly, some choices require specialist knowledge. When in doubt, ask your SEO to help.

The traffic light system in Yoast is there to support your SEO efforts, but it is not the be-all and end-all. In fact, some prominent SEOs disagree with the number of optimisation activities Yoast recommends. Use the ‘green light’ as a guide only.

If you focus on delivering quality content that matches your customers’ search intent, then your content should be optimised correctly.

SEO Mistake #4: Forgetting about local search

#buylocal and #supportsmallbusiness are trending hashtags on Instagram for a reason. The trends are shifting, and more and more people are starting to look for services within their local suburbs.

Even if you offer your services globally through your virtual business or online products/offerings, don’t forget to target your local area as well. You are missing a big piece of the customer pie if you forget to cover your own backyard in your optimisation efforts.

Here are some simple ways you can consider local searches:
  • Add location keywords to your website title
  • Include your location in your meta titles and descriptions
  • Add location keywords to your eCommerce store
  • List your business on local and industry directories
  • Create and then maintain your Google My Business listing

SEO Mistake #5: Not optimising at all

There was once a time, many moons ago, when just creating content may have gotten you noticed online. But unfortunately for small businesses who don’t have a lot of paid advertising budget, that time has well and truly gone.

If you are publishing content to your website that isn’t backed by any form of research (think: product, competitor, keyword, or audience), then I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you – but no one is going to find your website.

Creating a website and using it as a tool to sell your product or service online is relatively simple and easy to do. However, it’s the strategy behind the tool that will make or break your business.

Spend the time learning what your audience is searching for (keywords) to inform your content creation (are you answering questions or offering solutions) so that you capture their attention at every stage of their buying journey and making it easy for them to buy from you.

SEO Mistake #6: Obvious lack of any linking strategy

Linking is what makes the internet go around (it is the worldwide WEB, after all!).

Many small businesses are so intent on creating content to support their product or service that they forget to send out links to other relevant pages.

Links can be internal (pointing to content that already exists on your website) or external (pointing to content on a different website) and there are benefits to each.

Benefits of internal linking

Linking to your own content demonstrates that you are offering content to your customers that goes deep on a specific topic. You may create content about a parent or pillar topic and then branch out to related topics to provide depth as well as a breadth of information. Your website is literally a web of information.

Benefits of external linking

Linking to external sites demonstrates to Google that you back up your service or product with other credible sources. It’s also a good idea to set your links to “dofollow” as this is best practice and tells Google you’re sharing all the crawling juice that’s available.

SEO Mistake #7: Buying backlinks in an effort to have more than your competitor

Buying lots of backlinks would have worked for you back in the day because it was all about the volume of backlinks. And if you had a tonne, then you would outrank your major competitors and you’d win the traffic.

But that isn’t the case anymore – it’s all about the quality of backlinks, not quantity.

As a small business owner, you want to create authentic relationships with influencers and thought leaders in your niche so as to get links back to your website that are trusted and relevant. Google wants to know that the content you’re creating is so high value that other authority websites are sending links your way.

This part of SEO can be time-consuming but is worth it when your website starts to rank for high-competition keywords that drive more traffic.

SEO Mistake #8: Ignoring the technical side of things

The technical set up of your website is just as important as the copy on your pages when it comes to optimising for search engines. I can’t cover all the ranking factors here. However, here are two common issues I see on small business owners’ websites:

Slow site speed

Keeping your clients waiting is never a smart move and the same goes for your website. If someone needs to wait more than 5 seconds for a site to load, then you’ve lost them. Improve your site speed by installing and optimising a caching plugin.

Site isn’t mobile-friendly

With the recent switch to mobile-first search on Google, it is more important than ever to ensure that your website is responsive and viewable on mobile (well, any device really, but mostly mobile). There are many tests available online that can tell you how your website stands and offers solutions if necessary.

SEO Mistake #9: Forgetting about your images

When it comes to optimising content, I often see a lot of small businesses forget about their images. Images play an important part in your website’s overall SEO and there are a couple of things you need to consider when it comes to getting it right:

Increase your site speed by compressing your images

If you’re uploading images in their original high-definition sizes, then you’re going to slow down your website. Either compress your images with a plugin on your website or resize them before you upload.

Include your keywords in your image alt tags

This is a simple tip to optimise your website and you can do it immediately. When you upload your image, make sure that you include your keyword (or keyword synonym to avoid spammy keyword stuffing techniques) in its title. When you assign your image to your content, you need to help Google understand what the image is. This is done through your image alt tag. Including a relevant keyword in this description will help to optimise your content as well.

SEO Mistake #10: Just posting and praying (a lot!)

I’ve left the most common SEO mistake for last and it’s simply this: writing and then not sharing.

The whole reason that we try to optimise our website is that we want people to find it, and act (either buy, sign up, respond, or share).

SEO is a culmination of a lot of tactics and factors. If business owners are going to spend their precious time understanding it and then implementing it on their website, it is silly to just post content and then just pray that people will find it.

When you post your new article, blog post, product, or offer, don’t forget to share it through your network. This could be via your email list or on your social media profiles.

It’s a simple organic marketing strategy that a lot of time-poor business owners forget.

SEO is a changing game

Yes, with every Google algorithm change comes more optimising and tweaking to ensure that websites continue to rank. Your keyword research should underpin your whole online marketing strategy and should be reviewed periodically to ensure you are still on track.

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