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Common SEO mistakes made by small businesses: 6 more sins

Still struggling with search visibility? Gobsmacked that Google isn’t showing you higher? Don’t despair.

We’ve already looked at six SEO sins that could be ruining your rankings. Today, we dive back in with another six. Don’t say we’re not good to you!

So, strap yourself in and prepare yourself for some truths, harsh or otherwise. Take notes and ensure that you’re not at fault for...

1.Having “thin” content

Be particularly aware of this issue if you have a lot of services or an eCommerce website. “Thin” content is where a website has a lot of pages targeting various products or services, but each of those pages has hardly any text.

This is a huge problem as Google’s Panda Algorithm was released specifically to lower the rank of “low quality” and “thin” websites in 2011.

Panda and Penguin Algorithms

If you want your webpages to trump those of your competition, then you better be ready to do some writing… or find someone else who is!

Suggestion: try to put a minimum of 350 words on each web page, or at least 75 words on eCommerce product pages; put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes and explain why they need your services - think who, what, when, how and where as well

2. Stuffing keywords into your pages

Resist the urge to jam keywords into your site with the intention of deceiving search engines. Back in the bad old days, cheeky cheaters would cram popular phrases like "Britney Spears" or "millenium" into their meta keywords tags to artificially inflate traffic. Please note: Google is smarter than search engines in 1997.

In fact, Google is actually cleverer than most of us. Whether people are cramming search terms into their site in an particularly spammy fashion…

Keyword Stuffing Type A...or throwing references into their content in an unnatural manner…

Keyword Stuffing Type B assured that Google will detect this unnatural content as “ keyword stuffing” and penalise the site accordingly.

The safest way to include keywords in your content is to signpost your page in a few relevant areas and then write natural content about your services which explain why customers should choose you.

Suggestions: only include keyword terms on your pages in a way that seems normal; use a keyword density checker to ensure that you don’t have any keywords that are more than about 3-5% of your body content

3. Not tending to broken links

Broken links on your website are little indicators that you aren’t keeping house. It’s kind of the virtual equivalent of unclean toilets in a restaurant. Except that as well as disgruntled customers, there are also invisible robots that turn up periodically to review your restaurant.

Google’s crawlers are those invisible robots. In terms of website quality, they will assume that your site is either poorly maintained or out of service entirely. Neither of these factors are good for your ranking.

So, regularly make sure that all links on your site (to your own pages or other websites) lead to the destinations they are supposed to. If you find an error, edit the link to either be correct again or drop it entirely (if, for example, it was linking to a third party page that no longer exists).

Suggestions: learn how to check your Search Console account, and set reminders to review your data periodically; use this time to check for broken links using the Crawl Errors area - click on any links and look at the “Linked from” tab to catch issues

4. Using generic anchor text for linking

What is “generic anchor text?” we hear you cry? Well, links to other pages in your website text need to be “anchored” to a piece of text. If you use vague words like “ Click here to learn more…”, then there is no indication of the destination.

Try to be as specific as possible, using keywords or keyword variants if possible. A better alternative would be “Learn more about our social media marketing service...”. That sends strong relevancy signals to search engines, crawlers and human users alike.

Suggestion: make sure all text links on your site are anchored to keywords or similar terms

5. Losing focus on your website users

It can be dangerously easy to lose sight of your customers when you spend a lot of time trying to make them find your website. All too many companies will focus on tweaking pages to optimise for SEO or adding extra pages to accommodate popular search terms (see “thin content” for details).

But one of the best SEO strategies is to never, ever lose sight of the fact that you want a website that makes a good user experience. Search engine algorithms change, but they will never penalise a site that is well written with unique and naturally engaging content.

Suggestions: get a friend or relative who has nothing to do with your company to take a look around your website; ask them how easy it is to use the site and if they understood what you do and how they could contact you

6. Steering clear of Analytics

Owning and optimising a website is all well and good, but there’s no point in being unable to see the results. Without a basic understanding of Analytics, you could be taking your efforts in the wrong direction or trying to fix something that is already working.

Audience overviewLooking at figures and generating regular reports is a good start, but over time you’ll need to spot what keywords and pages are working for you so you can focus your efforts. It’s the simplest way to learn how to make the most out of your website, which you no doubt spend plenty of hard-earned cash on.

Suggestions: set up your Analytics at first opportunity - use our Analytics guide for help; look at Google’s video guides and Analytics help pages for more information

That’s all folks!

So, that’s your insight into another six issues that you would do well to avoid. We hope you’ve found it useful! Stop by next week when we’ll be looking at the basics that you should consider when setting up your business online.

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