Search engine optimization (SEO) is the lifeblood of any online small business. If your site isn’t receiving a steady flow of clickthroughs from Google search results, then you’re simply facing an uphill battle to find fresh leads that are relevant to your business.
Nearly half of all in-house marketers at companies indicated in a recent survey that they depend on organic search for 25% or more of their business prospects. You shouldn’t depend on Google as your only funnel for finding prospects (nor any single channel, for that matter), but you should for sure do your best to make sure your website can be found search engines under keywords that are relevant to what you do.
Once you’ve wrapped your head around the basics of SEO’s main principles, there’s any number of things that can still keep your site from being indexed properly, and when it comes to more general keywords, the competition may be too stiff for you to rank especially highly anyway. But if you avoid the seven common mistakes listed below, you’ll be off to a great start.
1. Misunderstanding Meta Tags
Popular tools like Google Trends and Ubersuggest will help you discover what are the most popular searches in your niche, while the Google Keyword Planner can give you a sense of search volume and competition levels for these searches. The more specific your search terms are, the more likely it is that you’ll penetrate page one and the more targeted your traffic will be.
Once you’ve done some good keyword research and have generated a list of search terms that you want to optimize, you might be tempted to paste a short version of this list into your pages’ meta keyword fields.
While this is unlikely to hurt your Google rankings, it is known to not help you either. Search engines used to index websites according to this data, but those days are in the distant past. You’re far better off spending your time optimizing your titles, descriptions, URLs and – of course – the content itself.
2. Keyword Stuffing
To rank on relevant Google searches, you need to make sure your keywords appear all over your site. But make sure to do this within reason, as you don’t want to get penalized for overdoing the keyword instances, a practice known in the SEO industry as “stuffing.”
To make sure Google’s algorithms don’t hate on you for trying to manipulate them, place keywords on a limited basis. Use them only where they belong organically, and don’t repeat them too many times on each page. If your meta data and page content reads like it’s been written for people and not for robots, then you’ll be in good shape.
No more than two or three keywords should appear in any given meta description or meta title. Getting creative with the use of synonyms for your keywords can help, but your content’s quality and readability should trump any of your inclinations to incorporate keywords every few words.
3. Bad Linking
There are three types of links that are relevant to your site’s SEO: links on others’ sites pointing to you (known as “backlinks” or “inbound links”), links on your own site pointing to others’ (known as “outbound links” or “linking out”) and links on your site pointing to elsewhere within your site (known as “internal links”). All three need to be handled with care.
A few years ago, it was possible to jimmy search results by paying third-party sites to link to you, but now Google is far more careful with inbound links. Today, if your inbound links come from domains that are considered to be untrustworthy or irrelevant, then your rankings will suffer.
With internal and outbound links, the same principles apply – keep them relevant and limited!
4. Overlooking Directories
Some website and business directories are considered “black hat,” and if you appear there, your search engine rankings will likely go down. But there are many good ones. Increase your visibility and your inbound link “SEO juice” by submitting your site to these.
Highly reputed sites like Yelp and your local telecommunications provider’s Yellow Pages directory are great for this. To appear when people search and browse on Google Maps, and to enable geo-targeted searches on Google.com, create a listing for your small business on Google Local, formerly known as Google Places.
(The Wix App Market’s awesome Site Booster app will do this all automatically on your behalf – for a small price.)
5. Publishing Only for Initial Launch
Don’t think that once your site goes up, you can take it easy. Sure, you want to put a lot of energy into your site’s primary content pages and optimizing those, but don’t stop there.
Google strongly favors “dynamic” sites with growing troves of relevant content, so keep perfecting and publishing.
6. Skipping Social
Don’t be a wallflower. Make yourself findable on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Plus and Pinterest. This is more of a “reputation management” tactic than an SEO one, but it also works. If your profile descriptions on these channels are well-crafted, then they’ll effectively act as supplementary entrances into your sales funnel.
When you link from your social network profiles to your site, you won’t get any extra “link juice” (since these links are set by the social sites’ engineers to be what’s called “no follow”), but these links will be indexed nonetheless and therefore will appear in search results. Just another way to get found, which is your main goal with SEO anyway.
7. Resting on Your Laurels
Once you start ranking nicely and the search engine referrals start coming in, you can go ahead and forget everything you learned you ought to be doing for SEO, right? Wrong!
The world of SEO is always changing, and there are always aspects to it that you can learn more about. Here on the Wix Blog, we try to keep you looped in on the SEO tactics that we think are most relevant to our audience. In addition, there are many more amazing blogs out there that can help you maintain your SEO knowledge and momentum. And Google Webmaster Tools features loads of learning resources.