7 Common SEO Mistakes

7 Common Mistakes Small Businesses Make on Their Websites That Hurt Their Google Ranking

I’ve met so many small businesses that spend thousands and thousands of dollars on advertising without realizing that they are wasting so much of that money. Why? Because when the customer searches for the products or services they sell, they’re nowhere to be found on the first page of Google. Branding can be an extremely useful tool, but people still rely on search engines when they first need a product.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t advertise; you should just shore up the bottom of your marketing funnel before doing a lot of outbound branding. At M2P, we recommend making sure you’re making a solid impression with the people who are already searching for your products or services before branding your name with people who are not yet in the market. A recognizable brand and a high search ranking in tandem though, can be a powerful combination.

In many markets, you don’t need to have a full blown SEO strategy to rise to a respectable ranking. I consistently run across the same few mistakes again and again that can hurt the Search engine optimization efforts of small businesses. Just shoring up these mistakes can help you rise quickly through the rankings.

1. Your title tag is too long or doesn’t contain your keywords

Given that the title tag is one of the most valuable pieces of SEO, it’s amazing how many companies have a title tag that hurts their rankings by being too long or not including keywords. Most SEO sites recommend a maximum length of 55-60 characters. And don’t try spamming your title tag with a bunch of the same terms either. It looks spammy to Google and to people who are actually going to visit your site. We recommend using your most important keyword, a vertical bar, and the name of your business. Something like this:

Internet Marketing Portland | M2P Marketing

Using Internet Marketing Portland all the way to the left of the title tag indicates to Google that this is the most important part of the page which gives that term a lot of juice in search rankings. Using the vertical bar then the name of your businesses looks more appealing to people who are actually conducting the search.

Using locations in your title tag is especially helpful for local businesses that might not be able to compete on searches without the location. For instance, if you’re a local divorce attorney in Beaverton, Oregon, you might not ranking for “Divorce Attorney,” but you could rank for “Divorce Attorney Beaverton.”

2. Your H1 tag lacks descriptive keywords

Along with your title tag, your H1 tag carries some of the biggest influence on how well your site will work. That’s why I can’t believe how many people have a big headline on their site that says, “Welcome to our website!” Not only are you not providing a good branding message to introduce people to your site, but you’re also not adding any SEO value by including one of your top keywords.

3. Your homepage lacks enough quality content

In the search world, the phrase “Content is king” gets repeated ad-nauseam, but it either hasn’t filtered down to enough local businesses, or companies haven’t invested in producing content for their site. Either way, your homepage should be filled with quality, unique content that provides visitors to your site with all the information that they need and also includes all the keywords that you are hoping to rank for.

Another benefit to this is ranking well for long tail search terms that you wouldn’t normally optimize for. If someone searches for “SEO and Programmatic Marketing Beaverton OR”, they are probably going to be the only one conducting that search, but we’d like to rank for it! The best way to do this is to have a lot of healthy content on your page to give yourself a better chance of matching the exact words included in the search. We recommend having at least 1000 words on your homepage to give search engines plenty of content to crawl and index.

You can also write blog posts to generate traffic and use programmatic marketing to promote those to people in the market for your services or products.

4. Broken Links

This is a tough one because broken links can be difficult to identify with the proper software. You can use Google’s Webmaster Tools, or we are happy to provide a free audit that tells you about any broken links you might have, as well as potential issues with your site.

5. Your images don’t have alt tags

Google indexes websites, but it also provides searches for videos and images as well, so labeling your images with search engine friendly keywords lets Google know that you have images that pertain to the subject at hand as well.

6. Your navigation bar is out of order

Google prioritizes product or service pages that are near the top of the navigation bar. Many companies will list their products or services randomly or in alphabetical order. Google gives higher priority to pages that are near the top of your navigation bar, so put your most important page towards the top. If you’re a dentist trying to prioritize cosmetic dentistry, that page should be at the top of your listed services in the navigation bar.

Sometimes, I see product pages that are not even accessible through the navigation bar or one click away from the homepage. This is an even bigger mistake. The closer your product page is to the homepage in terms of number of clicks, the more weight Google will assign it.

7. Your Google + Profile is not optimized

Google + didn’t turn out to be quite as successful of a social networking medium as Google hoped, but it still is pretty much essential for local businesses. The maps listing pulls a lot of information from the Google + profile that is attached to your website, so it’s essential that you make sure that this page is filled with quality information, all the information is accurate, and your reviews are in order. The maps listings are given high priority by Google, and customers prefer a business that is close, so it’s very important to have this part down pat.

While these recommendations should help your site, it might not do enough to get you to where you need to be in order to be found by customers. M2P Marketing can help you put together a strategy to compete with much larger competitors with much larger budgets. Our specialty is working with small to mid-sized businesses, and we know the Portland market extremely well.

If you have any questions, give us a call. We will give you a free site audit (some companies charge up to $150 for this), make some custom recommendations for your site, and see if working with us would be a good mutual fit. We can’t help every customer, especially since we only work with one company per industry. But we’d love to sit down with you and see if we’d be a good match!