Today's small business owners realize the value good search engine optimization (SEO) can bring to your online brand. But if you don't make an informed decision when it comes to choosing an SEO firm, you may be destined to fail before you ever get started. So how can you make sure that your business is able to enjoy all of the benefits of SEO without falling victim to the pitfalls?
To learn more, I talked with Garrett Nann and Heather Gunn, co-founders of POP Advertising Partners, a certified partner of Likeable Local's, who specializes in SEO. POP Advertising Partners has achieved top rankings for clients in multiple competitive industries including coveted positions in legal, medical, and home services. Let's take a closer look at some of the top reasons why SEO campaigns don't work, and learn more about how your business can avoid running into these issues, according to Garrett and Heather:
Reason #1: You aren't giving it enough time. These days, everyone wants everything as quickly as possible-and search engine optimization is no exception. Ideally, we'd like to see results within days or weeks of hiring an SEO firm. But unfortunately, that isn't how search engine optimization works. Optimizing your site for the search engines can be a time-consuming process, and if you get impatient or pull the plug too early, you may be wasting your money.
How to avoid it: Understand that getting SEO results takes time. Find an SEO agency with a proven track record of results and a communication style that works well for you. The reality is that much of what your SEO firm will do for you may take weeks, months or even longer to show a payoff. And during those months where you haven't seen results but have been assured that they are forthcoming, it will be much easier paying your invoice knowing that you're working with a company you can ultimately trust. An SEO agency that understands your business environment and your competition, and that effectively communicates with you, will help you feel less frustrated or nervous during those times that you're waiting for the search engines to catch up with your optimizations.
Reason #2: Your goals aren't realistic. To achieve optimization success in the search engine results, it's important that you have an understanding of what is realistic and what is not. And while it may be nice if your independent clothing store could get a number one ranking for the phrase "women's dress", without a ton of time and money it isn't going to happen. The companies that currently rank for phrases like that have spent years and years-not to mention thousands upon thousands of dollars-to "own" their spot and catching up to them is likely to be a losing battle.
How to avoid it: Set sensible goals! If you're like most small businesses, your goal is to drive more online traffic, generate leads and capture sales. Keep these goals in mind, and find an SEO agency that can help tailor your SEO activities toward meeting those goals. The right SEO agency will work with you to develop a roadmap that will outline the strategies, tactics and keywords that will have the biggest impact on your bottom line. Don't get caught up in whether you're ranking at the top for a particular keyword-focus, instead on if your SEO activities are helping meet your larger business goals.
Reason #3 You're being cheap. Remember the old saying "You get what you pay for?" Well, it applies in the world of SEO as well. And while you certainly don't want to pay more than you need to, it's important that price is not the main factor on which you base a decision about which SEO firm to work with. Search engine optimization, when done right, is a time-consuming process that will need to take place over weeks, months and years. Don't be penny wise and pound foolish by choosing an SEO firm just because it's the cheapest.
How to avoid it.. Focus on finding an SEO firm that is a good fit for your business first, then consider price. And avoid SEO firms whose pricing or claims are too good to be true. Anyone who promises to get you to the top of Google in a month, or who offers you a 1-time optimization package for a mere $100 may actually end up doing your online brand more harm than good. Find other areas in your business where you can cut corners without jeopardizing your brand's online health.
Reason #4: You're ignoring social media. Small business owners have mixed emotions when it comes to social media-some wholeheartedly embrace it and others look at it as a waste of time and money. But if you fall into the group that is likely to eschew social media, you may be missing out on opportunities to connect and engage with your target audience. According to Google, social media platforms don't have a direct impact on search engine ranking, but they do crawl those platforms just like they do for brand websites. Additionally, active and well optimized company social media accounts can and will show in search engines.
How to avoid it. Gain an understanding of if your target audience uses social media, and if so, which sites they use. Then invest in developing a presence on the platform or platforms where you're most likely to find your target audience. Focus your efforts on providing meaningful engagement on a smaller number of social media channels rather than wearing yourself thin across every available social channel. Also make sure your social profiles are fully filled out an accurate so you can drive traffic to your sites.
Reason #5: Your SEO agency is using yesterday's strategies. Things like keyword stuffing, directory listings and even guest article posts not only don't pack the SEO punch that they used to-doing them today may actually harm your search ranking results. That means if you're working with an SEO firm that isn't keeping up with the latest search engine changes; you may be spending money actively bringing down your online brand.
How to avoid it. So if you're not an SEO expert, how do you know which search strategies are valid and which aren't? You don't. That's why it's so important to work only with reputable search engine firms with a proven track record of recent successes. Choose an SEO firm that does a good job of communicating the types of things they will do that will help boost your rankings, and that is willing to let you talk to client references about their experiences. Avoid firms that are unclear when describing their offerings, or that aren't willing to share references with you.
Reason #6: Your website needs a tune up. Putting together a website can be an overwhelming and time-consuming process, and when the new site is live, it's tempting to mark it off of our lists and go on to the next thing. But if it's been weeks, months or even longer since you looked at your site with SEO in mind, it's time to take a second look. The optimizations you or your team put in place when the site was originally launched may not be appropriate for what the search engines are currently looking for.
How to avoid it. It's important that you understand that while off-site SEO activities like link building are important, your on-site optimization is just as crucial. Make sure that you are focusing some of your SEO efforts inward, looking for opportunities to improve your site's level of optimization. Work with an SEO firm that includes ongoing on-site efforts in its optimization roadmap, and follow their recommendations.
These are all important things to think about when you take on SEO for your small business. Now it's your turn: How do you manage SEO for your business or clients? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below.