Six common SEO and website mistakes small business owners make

Frustrated by poor results from your website? Perhaps you’ve made one or more of the common website mistakes we’ve identified in this article...

Your website can be an invaluable tool for finding new customers, making sales, taking payments and more. In some cases, you can use your own site to host applications that will help you handle customer relationship management, email marketing, accounting and a host of other functions.

It’s a pity, therefore, that many small business owners neglect their websites, resulting in poor returns on their digital investment. Many small businesses have sites with outdated or incomplete information, contact forms that return error messages, and templates that display strangely on mobile browsers and tablets.

Let’s look at some of the most common website mistakes made by small businesses and how to fix them.

Not targeting specific, relevant keywords

For most small businesses, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) does not have to be a complicated affair. SEO for small businesses, unless they’re in a highly competitive online niche, requires just a basic grasp of how search engines work. Be methodical in the way you add content to your site and you’re very likely to see positive results within a few months.

Search engines work by crawling websites and discerning what they’re about. When a user enters a keyword, the search engine tries to match the most relevant websites to a particular query. The search engine will also make judgements about the quality of the sites it crawls. It does this by assessing the on-page content, which should be original, competently written and comprehensive. Search engines also analyse how the rest of the web sees your site. Do lots of other websites link to your pages? If so, are you getting links from authoritative, reputable sites?

Websites that are deemed both relevant to a given search and high-quality will appear higher in results.

Why does this matter? The answer is simply because the vast majority of users click on one of the first 2-3 results they see. Few users scroll beyond these top results and even fewer continue onto page 2. If you want people to come to your site, you’ll need to persuade search engines that you mean business. SEO is the art and science of doing just that.

To ensure people can find you online, ensure that the text on your website:

  • focuses on your products and services (after all, new customers will search for the service they need, not for your name or brand unless you’re already well known)
  • mentions where you’re based and the areas you serve (for example, using keywords like “emergency plumber” and “Croydon” or “nail artist in Dorchester” will help search engines determine what you do and where you do it.)
  • focuses on specifics. Targeting a generic keyword like “coffee shop” alone will never see you outperform the big names on the high street. But “artisan coffee” combined with your location just might.
  • is clearly structured, so that each page has a clear focus. Ideally, divide your text into subheadings that explain what the passage that follows is about. Doing this will help search engines make sense of the information and ensure that users can find the information they need.

You may wish to delve deeper into SEO, learning how to conduct keyword research for example, but for now we’ll stick to the basics.

Not including enough contact or business information

Make sure the business information on your website is up-to-date and comprehensive. Unless there are extremely powerful reasons for not doing so, it’s generally considered a good idea to make your price information freely available. These days, consumers are quick to move onto alternatives if they can’t get what they need instantly.

Make your contact information as complete as possible, so that your potential customer can choose their favourite means of communication. If it’s hard for you to answer the phone because of the nature of your work, consider using a virtual PA service so someone can take messages on your behalf. Voicemail can be useful of course, but a lot of people prefer not to use it and will just hang up and try another phone number.

In your website text, let your visitors know what you’d like them to do and how it will benefit them. Do this with regular Calls To Action (CTAs). These can be phrases like “Call today for a free no-obligation quote” or “Order before 1st January for a 10% discount.”

Optimising your website for desktop only

Not so long ago, all website use was from desktops and laptops. These days, the majority of website traffic is from tablets and mobile browsers, although this does vary between industries. Responsive website design involves making your pages display correctly across all browsers. If your website was designed more than a few years ago, there’s a reasonable chance it is not responsive. It’s worth checking your site on your phone every so often. Any mistakes could mean your customer can’t send you a message, order a product or even see your contact details. Remember that most people won’t get in touch to tell you if there’s a problem with your service. They’ll simply go elsewhere.

Services like 1&1 My Website and Squarespace offer simple ‘drag and drop’ page-building apps with responsive templates. Responsive themes are also widely available for content management systems like WordPress and Joomla. These systems afford you more customisation but require a slightly higher degree of tech-savviness to build and maintain.

Poor navigation

The organisation of your website needs to be logical and immediately clear to a first-time user. If your experience on a website is particularly positive, try to determine what you liked about it. Similarly, next time you find a website awkward, take some time to work out why, so you can avoid those mistakes. Ensure that the menu items on your site correspond closely to the content they point to, and that each page has a specific purpose.

Common mistakes include bundling too much information one page. Don’t, for example, put your company’s history, services, contact details and direction information onto one page, calling it something like “About us”. Users looking for a description of your services could easily get lost this way.

This kind of muddled navigation leaves users having to click every menu item and scroll through lengthy passages of text to find what they need. Most people, understandably, simply won’t make the effort.

Try to lead your customers into a funnel. This means directing them from introductory or general content (useful blog articles would be an example) towards product or service-related pages that could lead to a sale. Try to avoid doing the opposite, i.e. leading users away from your “Get a quote” or “Subscribe now!” page towards less sales-oriented parts of your site.

Leaving pages to stagnate and not creating new content

While it can be tempting for busy small business owners to forget about their website as soon as it’s online, in fact an out-of-date site could be worse than having none at all. You risk giving the impression that you’re no longer trading if your site hasn’t been updated for a few years, particularly if at one stage you regularly posted news or blog articles.

As long as the information on your site is accurate, not making regular changes isn’t a huge problem. However, make sure that your content management system is set to hide all publication dates if you don’t return to it often. If you have no time to update your blog or news pages, it’s probably best to remove them.

Not promoting your website

Finally, your website should help to promote you, but you also need to promote your website to get maximum value from it. You can do this through onsite and offsite means. Onsite methods could involve:

  • joining local online directories
  • starting an affiliate scheme
  • pay-per-click advertising, using Google Adwords for example
  • being active on social media
  • posting expert content and letting relevant bloggers and website owners know about it.

The main offsite means of promoting your website involves putting your address on all your publicity materials (including your vehicle’s signage), press releases and stationery.

By following these tips you can avoid some of the biggest website mistakes made by small business owners.

Running a business can be difficult, which is why we’ve compiled these tips and advice articles  with plenty of pointers for entrepreneurs.  

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