Affordable Small Business SEO: 5 Common SEO Errors and How to Fix Them

Don't put the cart before the horse.

You can't do SEO (optimize your web site for search engines) until you've researched keywords. You can't research keywords without a clear view of your target market, your prospect types, and how your offerings fill their needs.

Affordable Small Business SEO

Affordable small business SEO not only uses the same old business and marketing basics, but also leverages the depth of accessible metrics for creating increased online traffic and better web site ROI.

When small business people ask me how their web site could be improved by SEO, I give them some version of the following list of questions. When you know the answers to these questions, you're much less likely to waste money on SEO efforts, and more likely to succeed online. You might even pull off some of this stuff yourself- and that'll save you big in consultant fees!

To find the right keywords to target with SEO and/or PPC, consider the following?

Goals: How much monthly traffic and sales do you get now? Where would you like these numbers to be? What are your most wanted responses- what do you want your ideal prospects to do on your site? (e.g. buy something, sign up for your ezine, etc.)

Market Segmentation: Who's your ideal customer or target market? If there is more than one group, characterize each.

Keywords that work: How do people find your site? What search phrases show up in your web logs?

PPC Metrics: Do you already use pay per click (PPC) advertising? What are your conversion rates? Are your bids profiting, or at least breaking even?

Getting more traffic is pointless if your site isn't an efficient sales machine.

Profit Margin: What is your online profit margin for each offering?

Conversion Rate: What percentage of your offline prospects make the purchase? (to gauge expected conversion rate for your services and find disparity in online results)

Customer Loyalty: How many people are on your ezine list? How often do you email them? What do you send them?

5 Common Critical Website Errors and How to Fix Them

About 75% of the web sites I've seen make all of these mistakes. As a result, their rankings and traffic suffer, and they lose potential sales revenues.

No Sitemap. No matter how well your pages are designed and no matter how nice the graphics are, every site need a good 'sitemap' page for search engines to index it more easily. This is a simple page of links- no frills except perhaps a bulleted outline structure. Even better, you can use the new Google sitemap xml template, and upload it to Google to increase the chances they'll index your whole site.

Insufficient Search Engine and Directory Submission. In the ideal cyberworld, you wouldn't have to submit your site anywhere- it would just get indexed and put where your prospects could find you. The reality is we still have to meet these services halfway. There are only a half dozen super-big sources of traffic (e.g. Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc.), but you have a better chance of showing up in them if you've submitted your site to the 100-200 minor directories and search engines. Also, there are niche directories that will help you rank on your best keywords and attract more prospects directly. Submit your site to these places with a free tool like WebCEO.

Mysterious Website Owners. Your visitors want to know, "who are the people behind this website? Can I trust them?" Unless you have a particularly snobby target market, put your picture and brief bio on the very first page of your site (if not every page). Let them know who you are. This might be taboo in offline marketing (not really- look at Ben & Jerry, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, etc.), but online, genuine personality is a competitive advantage. It fosters trust, creates credibility and emotional bonds, and bridges the cold gap of cyberspace. You can do it appropriately for most target markets. The real question is: are you ready for the prime time?

Confusing Site Structure. Does your site confuse people? Do you know where they want to go, what they're really looking for? Where do you want them to go? Good site structure both guides your various prospect types to the places you want them to go and satisfies their needs. Get some of your target market to sit in front of you and use your website- watch what they do- it'll surprise you. And put a search engine on your website that gives you reports on what people search for- you'll get clues about what else to put online.

Ezine Neglect. The ezine signup form isn't prominent on some sites ? make it obvious and 'sell' your visitors on signing up. Tantalize them into ezine subscription with a free bonus. Why? Not everyone will become your customer the first time they reach your site. They may like your offerings but not trust you enough yet or be ready to buy. They may have questions. Once you have them on your list, you can sell them on you and your stuff (by helping them with tips) every week or two until they buy.

Not only do they need a free bonus to stimulate them to sign up, they also need to know what kind of thing you'll be sending them, that you'll keep their email address private, and that they can unsubscribe anytime. And I'd suggest using double opt-in to avoid spam- that means they sign up (you don't add them), and they confirm via email before they ever get an email from you.

Since 1999, San Diego SEO Consultant Brian B. Carter, MS, has reached more than 2 million readers online. His most popular site ranks in the top 1% of all major websites. Brian's second book, "$1000 Keywords: How I Made as Much as $1,200.64 a Day Online With My Secret Keyword Analysis Techniques" will be available in July, 2005.

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