“I’m just not getting much in the way of sales or even inquiries from my website.” It’s a common problem and one that I hear about all the time. If this strikes a chord with you – you’re not alone. Most small business websites are losing money. Although there are a variety of things that contribute to this situation – the common denominator among most sites in this situation is that they simply aren’t getting enough traffic. When a site isn’t getting enough traffic, usually it is because the website isn’t using SEO properly. Let’s take a look at the top three SEO mistakes that US businesses make and how to avoid them.
What is SEO
SEO is an acronym that stands for Search Engine Optimization. Search engines use computer programs called “crawlers”, “robots”, or “spiders” to read your website and figure out what it is about. Search engine optimization is the process of making your website easy for search engines to read and understand. A good SEO solution ensures that your website is setup properly for the search engines and that the strategy behind your website and the way it is updated and promoted is in harmony with what the search engines are looking for.
The search engines simply want to provide the most relevant results for a search. The challenge is to make sure that your website is putting its best foot forward when it comes to the search engines. Let’s take a look at the top three most common SEO mistakes that US businesses make.
Search Engines Can’t Read Your Website
“Houston, we have a problem.” If the search engines can’t read your website – your site is dead in the water because it can’t possibly show up in the search results when people are looking for you. There are a couple of reasons that this is such a common issue.
The first is that most sites are now being built on software platforms like WordPress, where it is very easy to block search engines from reading your site with the click of a button. For example WordPress has a setting under Settings > Reading > Search Engine Visibility that allows you to block the search engines from accessing your website. This feature is commonly used when a site is under construction in a staging area. However, this setting should be changed when the website is launched, but often it isn’t.
Another common reason that search engines can’t read a website is because of a misconfiguration in an important little file called the “robots.txt” file that search engines look for first when they come to a website. When a search engine comes to a website, it looks to the robots file for instructions on which parts of the website are off-limits. If this file is misconfigured, then the search engine may be excluded from looking at large parts of the website, or sometimes even the entire site.
The Right Keywords Are Missing
You’ve heard the expression that a picture is worth a thousand words. Although that may be true when dealing with people – it isn’t when dealing with search engines. A while back I was reviewing a website with the business owner to determine why the site wasn’t getting enough traffic. One of the biggest problems turned out to be that the keywords were simply missing from the website. The site looked nice but relied on pictures to describe their services. The result was that although people looking at the site may quickly understand the services that the company provided, the search engines didn’t. The pictures had generic file names like “image2.jpg” instead of “keyword.jpg,” no alt tag (this can be used to describe what the picture is about), and no caption under the photo. Three missed opportunities for using keywords in a way that is helpful for SEO.
Using keywords properly isn’t about hiding keywords on the page – that can get your site penalized in a hurry. Using keywords properly is about making sure that you are using the words that people will search for in the paragraphs of text on your website, as well as in page headings, etc.
Bad Title and Descriptions on Your Web Pages
The page title is one of the most important things that a search engine looks at when it is analyzing a page on your website. In other words, your title is very valuable from an SEO perspective. A bad title is one that is missing any keywords. For example a page title of “Services” instead of “SEO Services”. The second title is much better than the first because it at least has a keyword in it. Another common mistake that is often made with page titles is that they are vague. The bottom line is that page titles are super important for SEO, and if you’re not using keywords in your page titles, you should be.
Page descriptions are the snippets of text that the search engines use when they show your page in the search results. Do a google search for the different pages on your website and notice the description that shows up for the page on Google. Does this description make someone want to click the link and come to your page? If not, then this can be fixed by updating either that place on your web page or the meta description for the page.
Avoiding the 3 Most Common Search Engine Optimization Mistakes
SEO is a powerful way of driving a lot of traffic to your website. After all, your site can’t do you any good if it is a secret. When your site is setup properly to be compatible with Google and the other search engines, you’re able to show up high in the search engines when people are looking for what you do or provide. Now that you know what to look for – take a look at your site and see if your site has any of these SEO mistakes. Are any of these SEO mistakes keeping you from getting more traffic and more results from your website?