Small businesses in particular can dominate local search if they employ good search engine optimization (SEO) techniques. However, according to Chris Rodgers, CEO and Founder of Colorado SEO Pros, there problems most small business encounter when it comes to their website copy. He shares the five most common SEO mistakes you can avoid with just a bit of awareness and planning.
Mistake #1: Waiting until after you launch a website to consider SEO
“We have seen more than a few horror stories where small business stakeholders decided to only start looking at SEO after their newly designed website was launched — only to tank all of the site’s existing rankings and traffic performance because proper SEO planning was not at the core of the website redesign and launch,” Rodgers says. Web developers, even great ones, are often not looking at all of the SEO factors that must be considered if you’re going to retain current SEO performance after launch. Rodgers says you need to consider SEO across the board when redesigning or re-launching a website. “The content created, the layout of the site, the information architecture, individual page content, all pages added and deleted, pages with URL changes — and especially 301 redirect mapping — can all have a massive impact on what happens to SEO after launch. If you don’t have an experienced SEO professional involved in the process early, you are rolling the dice. If you have any SEO equity built up, your may lose it all without a chance to regain it.”
Mistake #2: Trying to leverage SEO as a short-term business development channel
SEO does not function like any other advertising channel. It is not “pay to play” like PPC, radio, TV, print media, or other marketing outlets. Google and the search engines make the rules, and a good SEO provider will offer expertise and management. Their expertise will help you navigate a changing landscape that happens to have massive upside potential. “Don’t fool yourself: there are no real guarantees with SEO,” Rodgers warns. “Experienced SEO professionals create reliable strategies to improve rankings, traffic, and conversions; however there are over 200 variables in Google’s algorithm at play, and no human on the planet can control them all. Advertising dollars are continuing to explode in the SEO space because despite its challenges, SEO has one of the highest returns among all digital marketing channels. Just recognize that SEO is a longer-term strategy. If you are looking to make big moves in a short period of time, you may be disappointed. For that very reason, those who invest in SEO in the right way — over time — can reap massive rewards and achieve an ROI beyond any other marketing channel.”
Mistake #3: Having your web developer perform SEO
“Of course, good web developers know some SEO basics, but we have never met anyone that is a high-level expert at both web design/development and SEO,” Rodgers says. “There is just too much information to track and too many variables to consider. While web developers and SEO professionals may work in the same business, they definitely operate in separate specialties. I would compare it to the difference between a heart surgeon and an ophthalmologist: while both are technically doctors, they perform very different duties in very different ways.”
Even for the few web developers who are extremely knowledgeable at SEO, it is unlikely they will have the tools, experience, and skill set necessary to create and manage a comprehensive SEO campaign. “If your web developer is offering SEO, just understand that while they may be able to help you along the way, you cannot expect a high level of expertise and comprehensive SEO strategy — especially regarding ongoing SEO management, which is by far the hardest part,” Rodgers concludes.
Mistake #4: Purchasing a “too good to be true” SEO offering
SEO is difficult to do well. It requires a high level of expertise and years of experience to truly understand and manage this crucial function effectively over time, especially when the rules change and negative performance occurs. “There is no shortcut that works over time, and most of them lead to poor outcomes that simply waste your time, money, and effort,” Rodgers says. “There are legitimate SEO agencies, consultants, and in-house managers, and none of them are cheap. You will also find an almost limitless supply of SEO offerings sold by non-professionals to capitalize on the need for SEO among those who feel they can’t afford it. Mainstream marketing companies, digital marketing generalists, PPC agencies, web development companies, online media and advertising companies/websites, and countless others create their own brand of SEO management that is often sold as an add-on service that increases account revenue, while producing little result.” In short, if you want real SEO, you need to work with a specialist; don’t be duped by the fakers offering something too good to be true. If you really can’t afford SEO, work on getting educated yourself and consider hiring an experienced SEO consultant on a limited basis.
Rodgers suggests that to test a potential SEO provider, you should ask them to explain in detail their strategy regarding on-page SEO, off-page SEO, and technical SEO (crawl analysis and error resolution). “They should have a plan to address these three primary pillars of SEO, and be able to explain how and when they will address each one. I would also ask what paid SEO tools they use, because if they are not using any paid SEO industry software, they are going to be at a huge disadvantage. If they only respond to part of this list, or are confused by these questions, you probably ought to re-evaluate your options,” Rodgers adds.
Mistake #5: Organic traffic, website visibility, tracked conversions are increasing? It’s working!
To know if your SEO efforts are working you must create detailed tracking processes to gain the necessary insight. Google Analytics is free, and a great place to start. Install GA and create goals and events around your conversion points — e.g., contact page visits, form fills, email signups, web leads, and so on. Rodgers adds: “You can also use a number of SEO tools to track your rankings over time. A good one that tracks overall visibility without using specific keywords is SEMRush. If your rankings are improving, organic traffic is improving, and conversions are improving, you are probably on the right track with your SEO plan. Despite the need for SEO expertise, there are cases where a website offers the right content to the right users, follows basic ‘best practices’, and makes big progress over time. The devil is in the details, but if you’re tracking some basic metrics accurately, you should be able to tell if your program is working. If you’re doing SEO right, you should be seeing some legitimate opportunities come in from the website on a consistent basis, and be able to source them back to SEO with analytics.”
@kate_l_harrison and find my marketing consulting business online at katelharrison.com. For the green wedding professional certification class, visit greenweddingprofessionals.com.