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small business owner fixing common seo mistakes

Common SEO Mistakes Small Businesses Make (And How to Fix Them)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the foundation of any digital marketing strategy. Over time, good SEO leads to increased visibility, website traffic, and customers - all completely free (well sort of). On the other hand, bad SEO is at best a waste of time while at worst could be actively hurting your online visibility.

Small businesses often face unique SEO challenges with tight budgets and a lack of in-house expertise. Let's break down the most common SEO mistakes I see small businesses make and give you some actionable advice to get started.


Mistake #1: Not Doing Keyword Research

Keywords are the absolute, number one most important thing in any SEO strategy. These are the words and phrases that you want to show up for in search engines - presumably the ones potential customers are typing in. Without it you don't know what people are actually searching for, how many people are searching for it, and what words they use to search.

Neglecting keyword research is like throwing darts with a blindfold – you might hit something, but it's unlikely to be the bullseye.

How to fix it:

  • Keyword Research Tools: Free and paid tools (like Google Keyword Planner, SEMRush, Ahrefs) aid in finding relevant keywords that have good search volume but aren't overly competitive.
  • Put Yourself in the Customer's Shoes: What are they really looking for? Don't just use product names; think about the problems they're trying to solve or the benefit they are looking for.
  • Long-Tail Keywords: These longer, more specific phrases are less competitive and can be more targeted to your specific business offerings. (Example: instead of "shoe store" you might try "Orange County #1 Shoe Store")

Mistake #2: Bad Title Tags & Meta Descriptions

Title tags and meta descriptions are like the billboards of the internet. They're your first impression on the search engine results page (SERP). If they're poorly written or unappealing, potential customers are likely to scroll right past. Additionally, title tags are also one major key for how search engine robots determine how to categorize your page.

How to fix it:

  • Clear and Concise: Accurately describe your page's content in a way that's easy for a potential customer to understand.
  • Include Your Target Keyword: Place the most important keyword naturally near the beginning of both your title tag and meta description.
  • Call to Action: Encourage clicks in your meta description by giving the user a compelling reason to visit your site (e.g., "Discover our top picks…" or "Learn how to...").
  • Recommended Length: Title tags should stay around 50-60 characters, and meta descriptions at 150-160 characters - anything longer and search engines will usually alter or just cut it off.

Mistake #3: Poor Mobile Optimization

Mobile phones have become the primary tool for browsing the internet. If your website isn't optimized for smaller screens with fast loading times, you're not going to succeed with SEO - even if your business or demographic is primarily using desktops. That's because Google and other search engines predominantly use the mobile version of a site's content for indexing and ranking

How to fix it:

  • Responsive Design: Your website needs to automatically adapt and scale to fit the user's screen size, whether it's a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.
  • Speed Matters: Optimize images, minimize large files, and consider how your design impacts load time. Slow websites lead to high bounce rates. 
  • Google's Mobile-Friendly Test: Check if your website passes Google's Mobile-Friendly Test tool:

Mistake #4: Ignoring Image Optimization

Images aren't just visually appealing; they're also an SEO opportunity. Properly optimized images can bring in search traffic and contribute to a better overall user experience on the page. Poorly optimized images will reduce your website load speed and hurt the overall user experience - especially on mobile.

As mentioned above, this is extremely important because Google and other search engines predominantly use the mobile version of a site's content for indexing and ranking

How to fix it:

  • Descriptive File Names: Instead of "IMG_2342.jpg," use keywords like "mens-brown-leather-boots.jpg".
  • ALT Text: This invisible-to-the-user text describes the image for screen readers and helps search engines understand the image content. Be specific!
  • Compress Images: Maintain image quality but reduce file size to improve website load speed.
  • Utilize Modern Image Formats: Consider using WebP format images when possible. WebP offers superior compression compared to JPEG or PNG, leading to faster loading times.

Mistake #5: No Blog or Content Creation

A blog or resource center on your website is more than just a place to share company news. It's a powerful SEO tool that demonstrates your expertise, helps you rank for a wider variety of keywords, and provides value to your audience that keeps them returning to your site. It doesn't matter what industry you are in or what you business does, having a blog is one of the easiest most cost-effective ways to improve your SEO.

How to fix it:

  • Plan a Content Strategy: Don't just write random posts. Brainstorm themes relevant to your business and customer pain points. What questions are your customers asking - start by answering those and go from there.
  • Consistency Matters: Even one well-written, optimized blog post per month is better than nothing. Choose a frequency you can maintain and prioritize quality over quantity.
Other Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid

Beyond these main points, here are a few additional pitfalls to steer clear of:

  • Neglecting Local SEO: If your business targets a specific area, optimize for those locations. Claim your Google My Business profile, get listed in local directories, and encourage customer reviews from the area.
  • Ignoring Technical SEO: Broken links, crawl errors, poor site structure…these behind-the-scenes problems can hurt your ranking. Tools like Google Search Console can alert you to issues.
  • Spammy Link Building Tactics: Buying backlinks or participating in manipulative link schemes will do more harm than good - I promise Google is far smarter than whatever scheme you think you have come up with. Focus on earning high-quality links naturally.
  • Forgetting About User Experience (UX): SEO and UX go hand-in-hand. A website that's difficult to navigate or understand won't satisfy customers or search engines. Simple and easy is better than advanced but confusing.

It's Not Just About the Numbers

While everyone wants to land the number one spot in search results for very broad general terms, remember that SEO is about more than just rankings. It's about:

  • Being Found By The Right People: Those actually interested in what your business offers.
  • Creating a User-Friendly Experience: Make it easy to find information, contact you, or make a purchase.
  • Building Trust and Authority: Quality content and a well-maintained website help solidify your reputation.

For small businesses especially, there is definitely a downside to having too many leads if they are not targeted or your ideal customer.


Final Thoughts

SEO isn't a one-time activity. It's an ongoing process that requires continuous monitoring and adjustments. But don't let that get you overwhelmed - with consistent work and avoiding some of these common mistakes you'll be miles ahead of many competitors in your space.

If you need some help or want to learn more about some of the topics above, schedule a free 1 on 1 digital marketing consultation or reach out to me through

Want more on everything SEO? Check out these free resources.