Three of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money, Business/Entrepreneurship and Technology. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical component of business these days as it impacts how easily your business can be found on the internet. As such it’s important to have a concrete strategy for your website’s SEO. The following contributed post is entitled, SEOh-No: Mistakes That Could See Your Business Lose Ground To Competitors.
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Starting your own business is the ultimate form of self-expression and self-assertion in a consumer driven capitalist economy. Think of it! An opportunity to untether yourself from a rat race that seems to sap all of your time and energy yet affords you just a few crumbs from the corporate table as remuneration. If you feel underappreciated, undervalued understimulated and quite simply underwhelmed by your day job, you’re not alone. This Gallup Poll a couple of years ago revealed that as many as 85% of Americans hated their jobs. When you’ve worked hard to gain the education, skills and experience that make you such a valuable commodity to any business, it can be enormously frustration when that business only utilizes a fraction of your potential.
If you’ve chosen to eschew the 9 to 5 and start your own business, you are one of the few who got off the starting block. The rest are still trying to overcome their fear and trepidation. They cling to their job because it offers them the illusion of security. Of course, that’s not to say that the path of the entrepreneur is risk free. Far from it. New startups have the sword of Damocles hanging over their heads from day one. They know that they have a 50% chance of going under within 5 years. But they also know that they can succeed or fail on their own terms.
SEO and the competitive edge
Competition is understandably intimidating to nascent entrepreneurs. Nonetheless, competition should be embraced and relished. Competition provides a framework for operational excellence. It allows you to be the best that you can be. It lights a fire under you to be better and try harder than your nearest competitor. Competitor analysis allows you to take a detailed look at your competitor’s operations and identify opportunities to do better. It also allows you to see what they’re doing well and how you can up your game to match them in those areas and bring greater value to your clientele.
Yet, the sad truth is that it doesn’t matter how much better you are than your nearest competitor if the target market you share have no idea who you are. Operational quality is certainly not an area in which businesses should cut corners, but it needs to be supplemented with savvy digital marketing which positions you ahead of your competitors in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). The process of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a rich and multifaceted discipline and needs to be applied to every aspect of your online presence. SEO is arguably the key to success in business, whether that business takes place in the online realm or in a physical space. The more you do to bolster your SEO, the greater your potential competitive edge.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misconceptions surrounding SEO which can lead well-meaning businesses to make poor decisions. And too many of these decisions could see you lose ground to your competitors.
Here we’ll take a look at common SEO and digital marketing mistakes which could damage your visibility and the online reputation of your brand…
You don’t know your needs
When it comes to your SEO and all other aspects of your digital marketing, small business owners are faced with a fundamental choice. Do they build their own in-house team to handle all of their marketing and SEO or do they use an external agency? As you’ll see if you check out this article, one option is not inherently better than the other. However, it behoves you to know your needs before you choose one or the other.
Do you need quick access to the best digital marketing talent or can you afford to wait? Do you have the budget to assemble your own team or would it work out cheaper to go through an agency? Do you know what to look for when recruiting your own team? Is there an agency out there that would fit in for the unique culture with which you want your brand to be associated? Or can you only get this by building your own team from scratch?
This is an important decision which should not be made arbitrarily. It could see you lose your edge to competitors or bury you in overhead costs without due consideration.
You’re doing content marketing… But your focus is all wrong
Many entrepreneurs are aware of the inherent value in content marketing. They know that it can be a great way of both building their brand and climbing up the rankings in SERPs. It can showcase your skills, knowledge and expertise and build value in your brand. Search engine crawlers love big websites which are regularly updated and filled with high quality content. However, to assume that more content = success in SEO can be a gross oversimplification.
Many a well-meaning entrepreneur has unwittingly sacrificed quality for quantity to the detriment of their SEO and their business’ image.
Don’t fall into the trap of writing for algorithms rather than actual readers. Yes, keywords are important but they are by no means the only metric by which your pages are judged by search engines. Crawlers value measures of quality engagement like hit counts, time on page, scroll depth and navigation to other internal links within your site. And this only happens when you create content that users actually want to click on.
Always approach content creation (whether you outsource it or do it yourself) with a customer-first perspective. Create content that is of value to them. If it helps them to overcome a problem they regularly encounter or makes their lives easier they are much more likely to engage with it, leave a comment or share it on social platforms. And those are all big ticks for your SEO.
In a world of text, don’t neglect your images
The quality and uniqueness of your text is vitally important for SEO but that doesn’t mean that you should neglect your images. Images are another useful way to drive traffic towards your pages. However, if you neglect to add alt-text to your image it will be invisible to Google and therefore won’t show up on any image search pages.
Don’t underestimate just how much traffic images can drive to your website.
You’re not ready for Mobile-First
We now live in an era where the majority of users will access your website and its constituent pages through a mobile advice rather than a desktop computer. And if you have yet to make your website responsive (optimized for mobile consumption) this could cause your online presence to be overlooked by Google. As of July 1st 2019, the search engine giant will use Mobile First Indexing. This means that competitors with more responsive websites could gain a leading edge over you if you let them.
If you aren’t sure how mobile-friendly your website is, these checks can give you a pretty reliable overview;
• Does it change shape when you resize your browser window?
• Does the source code contain the word “responsive” or “@media”?
• What does Google say? Using Chrome’s developer tools can help you to identify whether or not your site is mobile-ready.
Your web design is slowing your site down
In the mobile age, your target audience has less time and attention to spare you than ever before. They’ll be accessing your site from a mobile device and consuming your content on the go in small, bite-sized chunks. Speed is of the essence and if you can’t offer them a website that is readily accessible and responds promptly to commands on a mobile device, they won’t stick around to wait for it.
Page load times has always been a factor in bounce rates, but today’s consumers are less forgiving than ever. In fact, a page load time of just 5 seconds can increase your bounce rate by almost 40%. Since search engines value time on page and scroll depth, a slow website could prove a real impediment for your SEO.
Fortunately, a few changes at the back and the front end can help to make your page faster and less sluggish to navigate on a mobile device;
• Optimize your code. Minify scripts and get rid of unnecessary characters.
• Optimize your images. Make sure they’re not too big or unwieldy. Use an efficient format like PNG for graphics and keep them at 16 colors or less. It’s also a good idea to use CSS sprites rather than PNG graphics for icons, buttons etc.
• Make sure that your server isn’t bottlenecking your time to first byte.
• Reduce redirects and use a link reclamation service to ensure that your links are healthy and working.
There’s a lack of housekeeping
Finally, simple poor housekeeping can result in issues which are anathema to SEO. Broken links are the most obvious which spring to mind. These imply to search engines that the website is poorly maintained and they will penalize you accordingly. Duplicate content is also a no-no and could land your business with a serious black eye if you are caught plagiarizing content. Keep your content up-to-date and ensure that your links are working and free of redirects.
And don’t be antisocial! Sharing your content on social channels whenever you’ve updated it or posted something new and fresh is a great way to drive traffic.
Avoid these mistakes and you can ensure that your SEO is on top form and that you remain one step ahead of your competo=itors.