Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
As a small-business owner, optimizing your website and content for search engines can be invaluable in driving traffic to your business. However, some businesses skip over the most important SEO guidelines that are crucial to improve their visibility.
SEO serves as a critical tool that ensures your business remains competitive and captures the right audience. When done correctly, it can be the key to help business owners diversify their marketing strategy and gain success.
Below are the top three common SEO mistakes small to medium-sized businesses make — and how they can overcome them to ensure they build visibility and attract new leads.
1. Expecting results to be driven overnight
The first thing business owners should understand is that SEO requires patience, and success does not happen overnight. Sometimes, SMB owners refrain from applying a solid SEO strategy because of the time it takes to see results.
When a webpage is newly published, Google algorithms take time to validate the relevance of the new content. In fact, Google uses 200-plus ranking factors to measure the quality of your content. The content you create needs to build a reputation to allow for SEO to pull in customers organically. This can take up to a few months before you start to see significant results. More specifically, according to a study by Ahrefs, the average age of the top ten ranking pages is over two years. For the top position, the average age is almost three years.
As a small-business owner, you should also take the time to monitor your SEO campaign for the weeks after publishing your content. Tools like Google Analytics offer an easy way to track your web-page performance and help you understand the source of traffic. This can also help with determining whether specific content is not worthwhile in the future.
Related: The Best Free SEO Tools to Increase Your Rankings
2. Neglecting to do tailored research on keywords
Keywords are powerful, especially when it comes to SEO. When pulling together keywords, it’s important that you’re researching and asking yourself this question: Does the intent behind this keyword meet my audience’s needs? Keyword-rich content will help yield the highest search results.
Nearly all customers find new businesses with a Google search including keywords that match their needs. For example, if a customer is looking to buy the best touchscreen laptops, he or she would most likely type “best touchscreen laptops” into Google’s search bar. Try to put yourself in your audience’s mind and apply the keywords that define your ideas and topics.
Another important tactic is to ditch the one keyword, one page practice. Google’s machine-learning (AI) system, RankBrain, will focus on grouping together similar keywords and key phrases to show almost identical search results. If you find two or more articles on the same topic on your website, the best practice is to combine them into one in-depth piece of content. This will help avoid keyword cannibalization and allow you to target more keyword variations.
Related: How Can AI Improve SEO?
3. Not including backlinks in your content
According to MonsterInsights, backlinks are the second most important Google ranking factor — if not the most important following quality content.
Backlinks are a nonnegotiable element when constructing web content. The inclusion of external resources is part of the formula that boosts your website’s search-engine rank and popularity organically. Most small-business owners will ignore this foundational step within the SEO process because of the time and research it takes.
However, including few high-quality backlinks versus 100 low-quality backlinks is what really moves the needle. When incorporating off-site resources, make sure that they’re credible. Google’s quality guidelines penalize unnatural links and prohibit links that don’t provide helpful content to users. Some of the best sources of backlinks are via older pages that are regularly updated and focus on news within your industry.
Understanding the factors that affect your SEO results can be challenging and time consuming. However, when you prepare with the right approach, SEO will drive your customer acquisition and growth.
Related: How to Build SEO Backlinks: A Beginner’s Guide