Why Do Some Small Businesses Don’t Invest in SEO?
Tired of settling for pages 3, 4, 5, or higher in Google’s search rankings?
Too many business owners don’t vie for top-shelf rankings because they’re intimidated by the competition. And let’s face it — small business owners can’t match the budgets and metrics of the Walmarts, Targets and Best Buys of the world. No matter which field you’re in, you probably have at least one insurmountable competitor that simply exists on a different playing field.
But here’s the thing…
According to DMR Stats, every month, Google registers more than 100 billion search queries and over 50% of those searches come from smartphones with people likely looking for local goods and services.
Many of these folks aren’t looking for big-box retailers; they’re looking for whatever is closest. And according to Google’s own research, half of all people who search for goods and services on their smartphones end up visiting stores on the same day. That’s an insanely good return on investment that’s on the table for any business.
Local SEO is one of the hottest trends in marketing because it evens the playing field between large and small businesses. It’s also just one of many examples of how your business could benefit from a good SEO strategy.
That said, the first step toward success is clearing up the reasons that keep people sidelined.
I’m going to address the top four reasons I hear small business owners give for not investing in SEO. And, I’m going to tell you why they’re no reason to be afraid of investing…
Reason #1: “I’m too late to the game.”
The first reason for not taking the plunge into SEO is simple – small business owners are reluctant to spend money against competitors who’ve been in the SEO game for years. They can’t imagine how they could ever overcome their competitors and capture worthwhile search rankings. Why even bother?
But, as I said above, local SEO is the great equalizer. If you change your investment strategy and focus locally, it can lead to great success!
Invest in strengthening your position in hyper-local searches by fleshing out your website and registering with online review sites. Generate content that is relevant to your city, your district, your neighborhood or your street.
It’s never too late to begin competing for local SEO rankings.
Reason #2: “SEO services cost too much.”
As is the case with most in-demand service providers, quality SEO professionals don’t work on the cheap.
Investing in SEO services can be extremely daunting for small business owners because they’re not guaranteed to get tangible results. They see hiring an SEO firm as more like hiring an attorney than hiring a roofing company. When you hire a roofer, you know you’ll get a sturdy roof that doesn’t leak in return. When hiring an attorney, there’s no guarantee of winning in the courtroom.
That said, SEO professionals don’t improve search rankings with magic wands and pixie dust. If you choose a quality SEO company, they’ll apply sound strategies that will help you see results.
SEO companies will build out your website and make sure it performs optimally for your target audience. They’ll create high-quality content for your various online channels. They’ll make sure you’re registered in all the local search directories, and they’ll research all the ways you might attract new customers online. And, as a result, you’re likely to see a rise in your Google search rankings.
If you absolutely can’t afford to hire an SEO professional, then there’s plenty you can do on your own to capitalize on local search traffic. Or you can hire someone for some short-term work. It’s better to do something to improve your SEO strategy than nothing at all.
Reason #3: “I won’t be able to keep up with all the changes.”
It’s definitely true that keeping up with the latest SEO trends requires a lot of work. However, the SEO game doesn’t really change as much as it evolves – in fact, some of the core building blocks of a good SEO strategy haven’t changed in years.
There’s an old adage among SEO marketers that “content is king.”
A good website that’s packed with relevant, valuable content – which could take the form of products, images, videos, blog posts and more – is absolutely essential for earning the best-possible page rankings. So is having a sensible site map structure with pages that have unique and logical themes.
You must also make efforts to engage others online and encourage people to link to your site. And, of course, making sure your site functions properly in all kinds of browsers – which now also includes mobile browsers – is extremely important.
An ongoing commitment to improving your SEO strategy doesn’t mean chasing your tail to an endless flurry of user data. Think more along the lines of gradual shifts over longer periods of time.
Reason #4: “I don’t even know where to begin.”
You want to strengthen your website’s SEO, but you don’t even know where to start. This is common. There’s no magic bullet that will beat out your competitors, and most SEO campaigns take time to deliver their desired results.
Like running a marathon, the best first step is the one right in front of you.
Focus on your website. Make sure it works on desktop and mobile devices and with all kinds of browsers.
Then, work on your content. Each page of your website should be uniquely themed with both focused and long-tailed keywords.
Next, register your website with Google My Business and all the major online review sites such as Yelp. Publish a blog on your website and update it regularly.
From there, you can broaden your efforts for even greater results, or you can hand the reins over to an SEO professional. Either way, enhancing the quality of your business website is the best place to start.
Spammy SEO Mistakes to Avoid
Many businesses are so eager to get ranked in Google that they over-do it. They use aggressive SEO techniques that ultimately backfire, pushing their website further and further down the rankings…
It reminds me of the guy who is trying so hard to impress a girl that he ends up doing the complete opposite – she runs away. When you over-do it with Google, she’ll push you away as well!
So, in today’s article, I’m going to walk you through 4 “over-optimization” mistakes to avoid to ensure you don’t get pushed away by Google.
1. Stuffing Keywords into Page Titles
Google looks at the title of every page, and it helps to tell Google what your page is about. Your titles have a major impact on how your pages will rank in Google.
In case you’re not familiar, your title is part of the code of each page. It’s actually not visible on the webpage itself, but if you open up a browser, in the upper left-hand corner of that browser, you’ll see the title of the page.
(For a primer on how to find meta tags, read this article: How to find title tags and meta descriptions)
Because of the weight Google puts on titles, a lot of people try to force their keywords repetitively in the title. I see this mistake very often when I’m reviewing websites.
Back in the day, this type of keyword stuffing could improve your search engine rankings. But these days, that tactic does not work as well. Instead, it can be counter-productive.
It’s important to include your keyword in the title, but if you repeat your keywords a lot or include lots of different variations unnaturally, that can actually hurt your search engine rankings because Google will see that as manipulative.
And here’s another way that stuffing your titles with keywords can backfire…
The title is actually what shows up in the search results – it’s the blue underlined link in Google’s search results. And if you’ve just put a lot of keywords as the title, then when somebody does search, and your website shows up, then that’s going to look pretty spammy.
I know, personally, I’m not going to click on that link if it doesn’t look like a legitimate website.
2. Forcing Keywords into Your Webpage Copy
The second over-optimization tactic I see all the time is stuffing keywords into the actual webpage copy.
Before, I was talking about stuffing keywords into the title. From a website visitor’s standpoint, you could sort of fly under the radar stuffing keywords into your title tag, because most people actually don’t notice that when they’re on your website.
But putting keywords directly into the body of the webpage is obviously much more noticeable to your website visitors.
If you force keywords into your copy, your website visitors will read unnatural sentences and random keywords stuffed into the content. That looks really spammy, and it can be counter-productive for your ultimate marketing goals.
After all, what’s the goal of SEO anyway?
It’s not just rankings. And it’s not just traffic either. The ultimate goal of SEO should be to generate leads and sales. And if your website content is spammy, that could really hurt your website conversions.
Plus, if you force keywords into your website copy, Google will see that as unnatural and spammy as well. And that can hurt your search engine rankings. So it’s just not a good idea.
3. Creating Near-Duplicate Pages Purely For SEO
Imagine you’re a dentist, and you wanted to rank for the keyword phrase “New York City dentist.” You might create a page on your website focused around that keyword phrase, right? Maybe you’d optimize your homepage for that phrase.
But then, you might decide you’d also like to rank for a similar phrase like “Manhattan dentist.” And so, maybe you’d create a page for that keyword phrase too.
And so on, and so on.
Creating those near-duplicate pages used to work OK years ago…
But not today.
Google has gotten smarter at figuring out that a lot of different keywords are synonyms with the same search intent. And the Hummingbird update improved Google’s abilities even more.
You don’t need to have two different pages for New York City dentist and Manhattan dentist because Google understands that’s the same search, so they’ll display the same results for that.
Instead of creating near-duplicate pages for different synonyms, you should group your keywords into topics, and then create the best page you can for each topic.
4. Over-Optimized Anchor Text
When it comes to SEO, you need to build up your website’s authority.
And a major factor in your website’s authority is the quantity and quality of links from other websites that are linking to your website. You can basically think of a link from another website as a vote in your favor.
Every link to your website has what’s called anchor text, which is the clickable text. This anchor text helps Google understand what a particular page is about.
Again, imagine you’re a dentist based in Manhattan, and you want to get your website ranking at the top of Google for “New York City dentist.”
Wouldn’t it be great if lots of websites linked to your website with the anchor text New York City dentist? That would help you reach the top of Google for that phrase.
And so, that’s how a lot of companies have approach SEO for years. They would go out and build tons of links with identical or very similar anchor text.
When we’re conducting an SEO audit, we’ll take a look at a website’s link profile, and see how many links they have and where they’re coming from, and the anchor text of those links.
Often, we find that websites have very highly-concentrated anchor text, with almost all the incoming links containing the same keyword phrases. Well, this is extremely unlikely to happen naturally!
Google knows that, and increasingly, this type of linking has become a big red flag to Google. When Google sees this, they know you are trying to manipulate the search results. As a result, taking this approach with your SEO can do more harm than good over the long-term.
Google’s Penguin updates and “unnatural link” penalties are focused on devaluing (or penalizing) these unnatural linking schemes. So you should avoid building links to your website with overly-concentrated anchor text.
If you’re in business for the long-term (which I hope you are!), then it makes sense to take a long-term approach to SEO. By avoiding these 4 mistakes, you’ll stay on Google’s good side and protect your rankings for the long-term.
False SEO Myths
The Internet is littered with misinformation and terrible terrible advice about investing your money, cooking, raising children, losing weight, playing sports, and of course, digital marketing.
In my experience, some of the worst advice you can find online is related to the topic of search engine optimization (SEO).
Unless you’ve been very careful in your own research, you likely believe in a few of the SEO myths outlined below, which can severely stunt your digital marketing efforts.
Have you been lead to believe any of these myths?
Myth #1: The Goal of SEO Is To Rank #1 for “your keyword”
This is the #1 myth about SEO. In fact, most people I talk to believe the goal of SEO is to rank for “your keyword.” Simply replace “your keyword” with the most relevant search phrase for your business. For example, “dentist,” “chiropractor,” and “attorney” might come to mind if you run one of those businesses.
Wait a minute, how could ranking #1 for your keyword not be the goal of SEO?
Well, first of all, rankings alone don’t help your business. The goal of SEO is to drive qualified traffic to your website and then convert the traffic into leads and sales.
With that in mind, consider the difference between someone searching for “attorney” versus someone searching for “workers compensation attorney in nyc.” Clearly, the person searching the longer phrase has more intent to hire a worker’s comp attorney located in New York City.
So what have we learned about this myth?
First, the goal of SEO is to drive traffic and conversions. Second, the keywords you think are most important may not be as valuable to your business as other longer-phrase keywords (aka long-tail keywords). The key is to consider the search intent, not just the relevance, of the keyword.
Myth #2: SEO Is All About Editing HTML Meta Tags
Again, there are a couple of problems with this myth.
First, this grossly over-simplifies SEO. If you believe this to be true, then you likely also believe your SEO is “done” because your web developer “took care of it” using some keywords in the webpage meta tags.
Unfortunately, SEO is not quite that simple and the days of stuffing keywords on your webpages in order to rank high have been over for a long time now. Search engines are more sophisticated now and they look at more than just the meta tags on your webpages. They look at many webpage factors like your title, headers, usability, internal linking structure, site speed, and the length and quality of the content.
Second, this myth ignores all of the SEO factors that are outside of your own website (aka off-page SEO). For example, one of the most important SEO factors is the quantity and quality of links from other websites. Sure, you need to focus on your own website, but you can’t ignore all the off-page SEO factors if you want to succeed with SEO.
Myth #3: You Can Set It and Forget It
Sorry Ron Popeil, with SEO you cannot “set it and forget it!” But SEO sure would be a whole lot easier if you could!
This myth is similar to myth #2 above. If you believe SEO is just a matter of editing your own website, then you would logically also think that SEO is something that only needs to be done once. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works.
Editing your webpages so they are relevant for your target keywords is only half the battle. The other half is building up what’s called your website’s domain authority.
Think of domain authority like your own personal reputation. If you have a strong reputation, then people tend to listen to you and trust you. If you have a bad reputation, then people steer clear of you.
That same behavior plays out on the Internet.
Websites with strong reputations for publishing high-quality, accurate information that people want to read are given preference in Google versus other websites. One indicator of a strong reputation is the quantity and quality of the websites linking to your website. When lots of other websites with high domain authority link to your website, it is a signal to Google that your website should also be trusted.
Now that you’re familiar with domain authority and the role links play in SEO, it should be obvious that you can’t just “set it and forget it.” You need a long-term strategy for attracting links from other reputable websites.
Myth #4: SEO Is All About Tricking Google
In my experience, many businesses think that they need to trick Google in order to rank their website high in the search results.
While it’s true that some businesses do in fact trick Google using spammy SEO tactics, that’s not a sustainable long term strategy. Eventually, Google figures out how to weed out the businesses using spammy tactics, so it’s not worth the risk.
To understand why this is a myth, you must put yourself in Google’s shoes.
Google’s goal is to rank the best webpages for any given search. What is the best webpage? That depends on the keyword searched! If the searcher is looking for a nearby dentist, then Google’s goal is to rank the best local dentist websites. If the searcher is looking for advice to overcome a running injury, then Google’s goal is to rank the best, up-to-date, accurate information about that topic.
With that in mind, then SEO is not about tricking Google; SEO is about partnering with Google to provide and help the search engine find the information it needs. That’s how you need to approach SEO if you want to have long term success.
Myth #5: Google Ads Give An SEO Boost
The 5th myth I hear frequently is that advertising in Google gives your website an SEO boost.
I’m sorry to say that’s simply not true. It doesn’t matter how much you spend with Google Ads, it will not directly help your website rankings in the organic, non-paid, results.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t advertise in Google. In fact, I recommend most businesses test Google Ads because it’s one of the best marketing tactics available to small businesses.
However, advertising is separate from search engine optimization and you should not expect to suddenly start ranking high in Google just because you’re using Google Ads.
While we’re on the topic of other marketing channels impacting SEO, I’ll give one more bonus myth…
Myth #6: Social Media Has No Impact on SEO
Over the years, there’s been a debate in the digital marketing community about whether or not Google uses social media signals in their algorithm.
My stance is simple – it doesn’t matter! It doesn’t matter if search engines factor in social media signals when ranking websites.
What matters is whether or not social media marketing has a positive impact on your SEO. The answer to that question is yes. By using social media marketing, you will naturally improve your search engine rankings. To learn more, read my article about the 3 ways social media can boost your SEO.