Common small business SEO mistakes – and how to avoid them [according to 10 Experts]

Learn some of the most common small business SEO mistakes to avoid, from some of Australia's top SEO experts.

SEO for small businesses is challenging – this is not new information.

There’s so many different elements to building and executing an SEO campaign, it sometimes feels like it’s impossible to be across them all – and that’s coming from someone who does it full-time (yes, me).

So when you’re a small business with almost no marketing budget and a million things to do every single daySEO can become a complete afterthought and fall to the bottom of the priority list.

But, for many small businesses, that’s exactly where their SEO problems start.

They either

  • Hire someone cheap (and crap) who takes their money and delivers no results, or
  • Try to do it themselves.

Neither of these options work out well very often.

The result?

Massive SEO mistakes that could have easily been avoided.

We reached out to a number of small business SEO experts to get their top tips on how to avoid catastrophic SEO fails.

Have a read for yourself and let us know what you think in the comments below!

Laura English - Copywriter at Sonder

Laura English – Sonder

The biggest mistake I see small businesses make when they’re trying to rank for suburbs or locations is making the same suburb page 40 times and just changing that one suburb name.

They’ve essentially created 40 pages of duplicate content, because changing a word that’s mentioned 10-20 times in a 1000 word piece of copy isn’t enough to negate the duplicate content.

Alexander Porter- Head Of Copy at Search It Local

Alexander Porter – SearchItLocal

Mistake #1

When most people think of SEO they think of great content, people clicking and sharing, and optimised pages designed to pop up the moment someone searches.

And that’s leaving so much on the table!

With 75% of SEO influenced by off-page ranking factors, too many small business owners get caught up with what they can do ON their site, and miss out on the benefits of OFF site SEO.

Put simply, building links will be more valuable to your rankings than obsessing over your keyword usage.

By building links you’ll be creating a steady stream of traffic and providing your website with the help it needs to rank.

Getting your on-page SEO right can then complement this traffic, but not generate it.

Mistake #2

Forgetting to add CTAs.

Rankings are fantastic.

But without revenue, where is the value?

Too many sm all business owners funnel their focus (not to mention resources) into SEO campaigns. And rightfully so, SEO leads convert at an average of 750% higher than traditional outbound leads.

But without adding conversion optimisation, rankings can be wasted.

Make sure you are clear with what you want people to do. Your call-to-actions should be contextually linked to your content.

If you ranked for an article about weight loss, ensure your CTAs reinforce the benefit of weight loss to give your new traffic a reason to take the next step.

Remember, rankings are nothing without revenue, so make sure your CTAs are moving people through the purchasing funnel.

Mistake #3

Letting their content get stale

Small business owners are busy people. If you look up the definition of ‘busy’ in the dictionary there is a small photo of a time-poor business owner next to it.

So it stands to reason that upgrading old content isn’t at the top of the to-do list…but it should be!

Content upgrading is one of the quickest ways to improve rankings and drive traffic.

The goal is to find an old blog that is ranking somewhere between spot #11 and #50.

Then upgrade it with relevant stats, info and opinions. What can you add to make your content more appealing in 2020? This could be new videos, new sources or new case studies.

Unlike traditional SEO, content upgrading has the ability to improve rankings much faster.

You can also target new keywords to come at the SERPs from a new angle.

Too many business owners start creating thin, weak content and expect to rank. Instead, focus some time on existing content and strengthen its existing power.

Adam Hempenstall - CEO at Better Proposals

Adam Hempenstall – Better Proposals

Mistake #1

Not having a mobile version of your website. This is one of the easiest ways to get hit with a search penalty and it’s also a cause of poor user experience.

Mistake #2

Trusting SEOs and agencies that “guarantee position #1” for your preferred keyword. No one in SEO can guarantee you results, and whoever does this is not a professional.

Mistake #3

Neglecting your website load speed. It directly affects user experience and that in turn affects SEO. In other words, if your visitors come from Google and they bounce immediately after coming to your website, it’s a sign that something is wrong. As a consequence, your rankings will drop.

Brogan Renshaw - Director at Firewire Digital

Brogan Renshaw – Firewire Digital

The biggest fail I see small businesses committing is not utilising their Google My Business profile for local SEO.

Google My Business is a free and easy-to-use tool for businesses and organisations to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps.

Google My Business is one of the top local ranking factors for both local pack and organic results. This is hardly surprising when 46% of all Google searches are local. Yet amazingly 56% of local retailers haven’t even claimed their Google My Business listing.

All too often small businesses either never claim their Google My Business or they set and forget. If you do this you are missing out!

Your Google My Business profile displays information that you submit, including business details, contact details, services you offer and opening times. Yet there are also features that you don’t control such as Q&As and Google Reviews.

Once you have created your Google My Business profile, don’t set and forget it. You must make sure to keep it up to date and as accurate as possible. Correct and fresh information is much more likely to provide a positive experience for your potential customers improving your local SEO.

Oliver Andrews - OA Design Services

Oliver Andrews – OA Design Services

Mistake #1

Adding hundreds of spammy citations. You do not need that many citations, just the main large ones for your local area. I’ve ranks clients without any citations at all!

Mistake #2

Keyword stuffing. Google and your customers want good content. Stuffing keywords at the bottom of the page will not help you. The bottom line is content is king and it always will be. Google wants its users to see the best content and not a page full of keywords.

Mistake #3

Page speed. This is normally such an easy thing to fix and its so important, yet so many sites still have bad page speeds.

Robyn Kyberd – Optimise + Grow Online

The 3 Biggest SEO Fails I regularly see small businesses make are:

Mistake #1

Trying to optimise for generic, high competition keywords that dont apply to the customer intent that they’re looking for.

For example: Let’s say they sell black cocktail dresses, and trying to optimise for “black dress” which is vague and high competition. This search term could be linked to searches for “what is a black dress”, “what black dress to wear to cocktail function”, “black maternity dress” – all of which may not apply to the particular product they are selling. Even if they did rank for this term, the traffic would likely not convert very well as the product/website doesnt match what they were searching for.

A more targeted keyword string would be “strapless black cocktail dress with side slit” because we know with more certainty that anyone searching for that is definitely looking for the product on offer.

Mistake #2

Adding an SEO plugin on their website but not understanding how it works or how to use it.

For example: Using Yoast SEO plugin on their WordPress website and adding too many focus keywords, the same focus keyword for multiple pages, or assuming a “green light” means the SEO is excellent.

Mistake #3

Forgetting about Local search.

Even if you run an online/virtual business, or serve the global community, there is benefit to adding location keywords to your website or ecommerce store, web page meta titles and descriptionsm as well as utilising local and industry directories and Google Business map listings.

Many people search with location keywords to buy local first.

David Pagotto - SIXGUN

David Pagotto – SIXGUN

The three biggest SEO mistakes we constantly see from small businesses are:

Mistake #1

The lack of a keyword strategy and the use of those keywords within content, page titles and other elements.

Mistake #2

Low quality and often duplicate content.

Mistake #3

No focus or understanding of link building and its impact on ranking performance.

Chris Easter The Man Registry

Chris Easter – The Man Registry

The three biggest SEO mistakes we constantly see from small businesses are:

Mistake #1

Falling into “black hat” techniques like buying and selling links to/from your site.

Mistake #2

Creating, posting and sharing low quality content.

Mistake #3

Not paying enough attention to mobile UX and site speed.

Christina Brodzky - Media Sesh

Christina Brodzky – Media Sesh

The biggest SEO mistake I see small businesses make is not digging deeper into analytics data.

It’s not enough to only look at Google Analytics and see that organic traffic went up or down; it’s also important for small businesses to think about *why* it went up/down and *what we do we next* because it went up/down.

Most recently, I had a client whose organic traffic decreased by 11% MoM.

But why? It’s not enough to stop there.

After digging deeper, we discovered that it correlated to a recent algorithm update and that in order for them to regain previously high ranking keyword positions, they would have to re-create their landing page to better match user intent.

My recommendation to small business owners is to dig deep to uncover strong correlations so they could make impactful next step business decisions.

Nat Alleblas SEO Sleuth

Nat Alleblas – SEO Sleuth

One of the most common SEO fails that small businesses make is focusing too much on keyword rankings for the wrong types of keywords.

Everyone wants to rank on page 1, but if the keyword is irrelevant or doesn’t have the potential to bring the right types of traffic (ie. traffic that converts) then the keyword is useless.


Do any of these small business SEO mistakes sound familiar?

Now that you’ve heard what the experts have to say – what do you think?

Are you guilty of making any of the above mistakes with your website?

Here’s some key takeaways that I learned from these experts:

  • Website content is super important – not just for search engines but more importantly for humans (your potential customers!). If you want your website to generate traffic and leads, you should invest in quality content to resonate with your users.
  • Website speed – make sure your website is quick to load, so that users don’t get bored and leave. The quickest way to improve your website speed is with good quality hosting.
  • Google My Business – it’s a free tool to list your business. From Google. Use it! Here’s our guide: Google My Business: THE Guide for Small Business Owners
Joe Edgley - Director at Amplified Marketing

Joe Edgley

I’m the director and strategist at Amplified Marketing and I love helping Allied Health Practices grow with effective digital marketing.

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