Many small business owners are losing out on potential traffic, because their web presences are not fully optimized for SEO. This may be from inexperience, a lack of knowledge or time, or a failure to realize just how important SEO is. The good news is that those websites can be rehabilitated with just a little effort.

So let’s dive into the 5 most common SEO mistakes we see in small businesses, and how to avoid them.

#1. Being Too General

Many businesses don’t conduct audience research, and can’t target their digital marketing efforts appropriately. Perhaps they’re trying to be open to any potential clients or customers (the “all are welcome” approach) so they’re casting too wide a net. Despite the inclusivity, this is very much the wrong approach, and will stymie a business. Being too general will make your business seem bland to an interested party, and won’t do anything to attract a casual user.

Take the time to conduct some audience research, to get to know the details and demographics for your ideal customer. We like to do this by mapping out some Personas. We imagine our ideal clients as if they were characters in a book we were writing. We add demographic details like age and income, and in our biography for each persona we discuss their motivations, needs, pain points, past history, and more. When we optimize our site or create content, we have a much clearer picture of whom we’re writing for and whom we’re trying to attract.

#2. Using Exclusive Keywords

A keyword needs to connect your content with a potential user’s search. That sounds clear, but remember that keywords that might make perfect sense to you will not always be obvious to a potential user. They need to be able to connect with someone who might not have a clear idea of what to search for. You, certainly, might be familiar with the ins and outs of your industry, and you might be perfectly comfortable with the precise technical language it calls for, but you can’t expect that same familiarity in everyone.

Imagine a user who has never worked with someone in your industry. How might that person phrase a query? Would they talk about the problem to solve (“fix a leaky tap” rather than “half-inch gasket”)? What kind of phrasing would they use to describe your business, or to search for your content? It’s those keywords you need to target, to ensure that your site can be found even by those who haven’t already been there.

#3. Not Adapting to Current Standards

The standards for SEO change about twice a year. If you’re not keeping your SEO up to date, you could be losing out on considerable traffic. Back in January, for instance, Google’s character limit for meta descriptions doubled. Suddenly, sites had the freedom to target new keywords, provide more accurate descriptions, and make clever use of extra formats. Sites that weren’t optimized were at a significant disadvantage.

No small business can afford not to take full advantage of the SEO options available, and it’s imperative that your site doesn’t get left behind.

#4. Undervaluing Mobile Traffic

A majority of web interactions happen on mobile devices, now. Many users use mobile devices exclusively. It’s those devices with which they engage with content, make purchases, contact vendors, and more. Google, recognizing this new trend, has been pushing a mobile-first approach for over a year, and your business should be, too.

It may not be necessary to keep a dedicated, separate mobile version of your site. With responsive design and dynamic page elements, your site will optimize on the fly for any device. Users are unimpressed by sites that merely rescale, without adjusting resolution, menu structure, image size, layout, and so on.

#5. Not Cultivating a Link Network

No matter how well optimized your own page is, it needs to be supported by a robust link network to be seen by a potential customer or client. Off-Page SEO is just as important as the on-page optimization you do for your own content. When building a link network, reach out and partner with other businesses for things like guest posts, or backlinks in their content. Leverage business directories, blogs about the city, industry newsletters, and so on. Links should always be relevant and useful.

So, there you have it. The five most common SEO mistakes we see from small businesses, and what you can do to avoid them. With these basic SEO strategies, you’ll be well on the path to helping your small business to thrive.

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