Biggest SEO Mistakes by Small Businesses: 46 Experts Tell All

For small business owners, SEO and search engine marketing presents an amazing and cost-effective opportunity to drive traffic, leads and sales online. But given that most small business owners aren’t search marketing experts, they can make some critical mistakes when it comes to small business SEO. (If you think you might need help with your SEO, consider subscribing to our free daily newsletter or using our free SEO site grader tool.)

To help SMBs avoid making costly and time-wasting errors, we’ve reached out to 46 of the best Internet marketing minds on the planet and asked them each a single question: “What’s the biggest mistake small businesses make when it comes to SEO or online marketing, and what can SMBs do to avoid making that mistake?”

We’ve collected and compiled their expert advice into one comprehensive and helpful resource guide for small business SEO. (By the way, when we originally published this article, our company was named DIYSEO; we have now re-launched as UpCity.)

Update: Oli Gardner created a Twitter list with all 46 small business SEO experts. You can follow the list here: SMB SEO Experts.

Small Business SEO: The Biggest Mistake SMBs Make with SEO
Meet our panel of small business SEO and Internet marketing experts:


Rand Fishkin

Rand Fishkin is CEO and Co-Founder of SEOmoz. He co-authored the Art of SEO and was named on the 40 Under 40 List and 30 Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs Under 30. He writes for the SEOmoz blog,  which is read by tens of thousands of search professionals each day.

The biggest mistake I see from otherwise smart, talented marketers at small businesses is…

To study the sites and pages who rank atop the search results and simply copy or imitate their strategy. This has two major logical flaws:

First, it presumes that those sites are following the best practices for the long term, rather than potentially taking manipulative actions that work in the short term but will be discounted in the future. Sadly, there are a lot of short term tactics (manipulative links, thin content, outright spam/black hat, etc.) that can temporarily earn top rankings. Google + Bing are always working to combat these, but it’s a long, frustrating process and it can be very dangerous for marketers who think, “I’ll just do what they’re doing, only more of it!” and then are punished rather than rewarded.

Second, if you merely copy a competitor, you’re not innovating or creating a unique value proposition/advantage. If marketers built resources and citation-worthy content, crafted compelling designs + user experiences and leveraged the principles of inbound marketing, they’d often be in a far better position than a simple “copy/paste” strategic model.

Here’s to hoping that over time, those of us in the industry can start to change some minds and shift the behaviors of marketers. It’s not just more successful for them, but better for all of us on the web – and for the search engines, too! Everyone, the world over, can benefit from more remarkable content and authentic, useful marketing.


Adam Audette

Adam Audette is president of AudetteMedia, a search marketing boutique in Bend, Oregon. Adam is also lead SEO strategist at Zappos.com, who he’s worked with since 2001. You can read his blog at AudetteMedia and follow him on Twitter at @audette.

The biggest mistake a small business can make with SEO is two-part:

1) Not to invest in it
2) To invest in the wrong areas

1) SEO is a proven channel for small biz and a super effective, low cost way to build visibility and leads, revenue, foot traffic, whatever. Local has become synonymous with SEO for small businesses. For a location-based business, that’s the place to start.

2) SMBs shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking investing in SEO is buying links, or some pre-packaged set of low-quality “services.” Take the time to ask around and do online research, and look for companies and people that are known and respected in the space. There is an oversupply of low-quality services in SEO. It’s an unfortunate reality of our industry. The best places to look are local search opportunities such as Google Places. The site GetListed.org is a free service that can help SMBs manage their local listings from a single dashboard. Highly recommended.


Oli Gardner

Oli Gardner is a Co-Founder of Unbounce.com – The D.I.Y. Landing Page Platform that makes it painless for marketers and advertisers to create, publish and A/B test promotion-specific landing pages for marketing campaigns. He writes about conversion centered design, landing pages and social media marketing theory.

The biggest mistake that most new SMBs make with Web marketing is…

Waiting.

You don’t need a product or service in order to start marketing, just the idea of what you’re going to create. Your marketing efforts should start on day one.

Avoid old-school thinking

There are companies that still put up a worthless “coming soon” landing page, just to “have a presence” – picture a nineties-esque “under construction” page. This isn’t a presence, it’s a waste.

So what should you be doing to market your business before it’s available to the public?

The new path to market

Starting on day one you need to be committed to building momentum and awareness of your brand and the value it offers to your future customers. You can do this via three primary mechanisms:

  1. Early access lead gen. Instead of the goalless “coming soon” page mentioned earlier, create a simple email capture form to gather interested prospects that you can market to pre- and post-launch. To entice them in, offer beta invites or give away an eBook/whitepaper on a subject relevant to your audience. Spending a few days to create a piece of valuable content will reap great rewards in what could be months of lead acquisition.
  2. Establishing a position of thought leadership by freely giving away your knowledge and expertise on a corporate blog. Content is a big key to early stage marketing. The more you write, the more you have to share. It’s critical to focus on writing about the problems your future customers are faced with. Don’t try to sell to people in your content; instead, strive to become a valued resource. This will build trust for when the time comes to launch your product/service. Ask yourself this question: Who would you trust your money with—an established authority or some new company that appeared overnight? It’s an easy answer, right?

Another key benefit of creating content from day one is that it alerts Google and starts the process of building search equity. Great content creates inbound links, helping to build your page rank and gain higher organic search placement.

  • Start building a social following. Twitter is the obvious choice here and as you grow a following you will be able to spread the word about your blog content more freely. Remember to add social sharing devices (Tweet button, etc.) to your blog to help get the word out.

Warning – don’t do too much at once

Focus on a few channels and do them really well; don’t try to do every kind of marketing at once. As an example, paid search (PPC) and affiliate programs require constant attention and nurturing and can be a massive time suck best left to a later date.

Getting Started

For a very detailed introduction to marketing your business, take a look at The Noob Guide to Online Marketing – which includes a guided 6-month course of action.


Michael Gray

Michael Gray became involved in web development and website management in 1998. He is owner and President of Atlas Web Service, a NY-based Internet Consulting Firm, and runs the popular Graywolf SEO Blog. Michael has been a speaker at SMXSearch Engine Strategies and PubCon.

The biggest mistake small businesses make is…

Ignoring their website. They put up a 10-20 page brochure site and ignore it and expect it to generate revenue.

Like every part of your business, if you ignore it, it’s not going to help you and will never get you any sales or leads. Small businesses need to add content, interact with consumers via social media channels, build links and otherwise get involved in marketing their businesses online.


Richard Baxter

Richard Baxter is the founder of SEOgadget.co.uk, an SEO Agency in London that specializes in large site architecture, keyword research, technical SEO, social media technology consulting and link building in competitive industries.

For me, the largest mistakes I see small or medium size businesses make in SEO is…

Not hiring an SEO! I know how obvious that sounds, but hear me out. I’m talking about the poor guys who sign up for cheap “SEO” services – small companies feel they have SEO covered but discover later down the line that their $99 per month package did absolutely nothing for their long term good.

The thing is, a good SEO consultant can give a small business nearly everything they need in a few days. Think about training, or buying in a small project to develop a marketing plan that the internal staff can execute – provided there’s resource and the clients are able to follow instructions and work to a plan, this approach can work really well. I sincerely believe in the value of inbound marketing for SEO (blogging, speaking at conferences, webinars, guest authoring for outreach and links), and these are all things that a good SEO can teach in a few days. There’s more value in a small investment in staff training then a super-cheap SEO package that no one learns a thing from.

So, I really feel that even if a small company can’t make an ongoing commitment to an agency service, getting in-house training from a credible SEO consultant can make a huge difference to the long term success of small to medium business SEO.


Marty Weintraub

Marty Weintraub is president of aimClear, an Internet-focused Advertising Agency with offices in Duluth, Minnesota. An avid search marketing blogger, he’s written extensively for SearchEngineWatch, SearchEngineLand, SEORoundTable and others. His popular aimClear Blog is an AdAge Power 150 blog.

The biggest mistake I see SMBs make is…

 

To become so preoccupied with the machinery of SEO, that they forget that the best SEO is a product that doesn’t suck.  For instance, we once worked with a client whose reaction to organic damage from a terrible review was to request we teach him how to access the web via spoofed IP proxies, in order to create a series of “good” reviews that “looked” authentic, or were at least not traceable.  The appropriate answer had nothing to do with SEO, SERPs, or reviews.  He should have spent his time fixing his customer service procedures so customers did not fall between the cracks and get mad.

The era of playing beat the algorithm is over, and the focus should be on important content targeted to salient demographic segments who would be interested in it. The biggest mistakes small businesses make when it comes to SEO is to have the machinery of optimizing of content be the primary focus.  Instead, SMBs should focus on serving their customers and potential customers by offering true content that matters, and then optimizing from there. SEO is not a strategy, nor is Google. SEO is a channel tactic, designed to increase visibility of content that matters to users.


David Harry

David Harry is a SEO and self-proclaimed “IR geek” who heads up Reliable SEO and contributes to the Fire Horse Trail blog. David is also the ‘top geek’ at the SEO Training Dojo, one of the top training environments for search engine optimization on the web today.

The biggest mistake small businesses make when it comes to SEO is…

 

Onsite. Or more specifically, technology choices. When you’re working with smaller budgets it becomes paramount to nail the on-site to lessen the load on the link building requirements. You would be amazed how many times we end up advising them to scrap the antiquated CMS and get something more SEO-friendly. It may not seem like much, but it is surely one of the more overlooked and common problems we see out there. From bad architecture to the more common canonicalization issues, it is amazing how often the onsite elements are overlooked.

And if I may, I’d add that the second place issue, by a hair, is being realistic. Too many times I’ve gotten the, “We have $150 a month to spend.” If you can’t afford more than $25-30/week on advertising (SEO is marketing after all) then you might want to reconsider your business plan, if ya know what I mean.


Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, a full-service Internet marketing agency. He started practicing SEO in 1997 and writes for his Internet marketing blog, Conversation Marketing. He also co-published the Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies.

SMBs always make the mistake of…

Going into Internet marketing thinking that the low barrier to starting a business on the Internet equals a low barrier to keeping that business running. That’s not the case. All we hear about are the rare ‘overnight’ success stories. What we don’t hear about is the 95% of online businesses that fail because they have no long term budget or even a loose plan for marketing.

Fixing that mistake is pretty easy. Instead of launching and then calling someone to ask for Internet marketing services, call them early on. Get a bid. Take it seriously. Use that bid to plan your next year’s investment in online marketing. If you can’t cover that cost, then you’re in for a very, very rough ride because no one’s going to know about you.


Patrick Altoft

Patrick Altoft is Director of Search at Branded3, a Leeds-based full service digital agency specializing in search engine optimization and social media marketing, as well as building and designing websites and applications. Patrick also runs the UK’s largest Internet marketing blog, Blogstorm.

The biggest mistake that small businesses make is…

To hire the wrong company to manage their SEO.

There are thousands of very low quality SEO companies that will produce worthless reports and basically rip off their small business customers every month, and too many people fall into the trap of using an agency when it’s better to either use a freelancer or learn SEO themselves. As a rule we recommend that people ring a few SEO experts first and get some free advice as well as taking steps to educate themselves. An educated client is always going to get better value for money.


Julie Joyce

Julie Joyce is the owner and Director of Operations at Link Fish Media, Inc., a link building company in Greensboro, NC. Link Fish Media specializes in creating link building campaigns for clients in ultra-competitive niches all over the world. Julie is a founding member of SEO Chicks and writes for many other industry sites.

The biggest mistake small business owners can make is…

Remember that saying “the solution to pollution is dilution?” Some big brands seem to get away with having lots of crap links simply due to the masses of other links that they have. When you have a big profile full of 250k links, having 1000 bad ones isn’t usually a huge deal. However, when you’re a small business and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can easily go and find some cheap link building service that will net you 1000 spammy links for $200. When your total number of backlinks is 1500, that’s really, really bad news.

As far as what they can do to get away from this, I’d say to build links to your brand and URL and forget about trying to quickly rank for very specific primary terms, as if you do that poorly, you’re going nowhere. Many small businesses have very, very few URL and brand links because they think they won’t be searched for on that brand so it’s not a priority for them, but to have a natural link profile, you do need those links. Grab your brand’s social media profiles and use them. Do the Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare thing especially, and look at how other small businesses in your niche use these. It’s almost a cliche at this point, but write some great content that naturally encourages people to link to you, and promote it. Provide great customer service consistently so that you’ll get some nice online reviews. Whatever you do, please don’t let anyone tell you that getting tons of cheap and heavily keywordized links is a good idea. It’s not.


Andrew Shotland

Andrew Shotland is the proprietor of Local SEO Guide, a company offering local SEO services. Andrew is the editor of the popular Local SEO Guide blog, the local SEO and local search marketing blog that provides tips, trends, how-tos and strategies for small businesses and marketers in local search.

The biggest mistake a SMB can make with SEO and/or online marketing is…

Treating it differently than any other marketing program they run.

Do they take the time to understand the medium so they can make better informed decisions about how to invest? If they are working with an agency, do they take the same amount of time they took to vet that agency as they did to vet the agency that is doing TV or radio spots for them? Have they taken into account the investment required to test different strategies? Have they tested their website to make sure it converts well when a potential customer lands on it? Have they budgeted for an ongoing campaign including content creation and linkbuilding? and on and on and on.

Often when I speak with SMBs they sound like they are treating SEO or SEM as some stupid thing that they have been told they have to do, instead of as a legitimate, high ROI marketing channel.


Dan Olson

Dan Olson is the CEO for UpCity, a provider of SEO software for small businesses. Dan leads the strategic direction and manages all day-to-day activities at UpCity. Dan is a former Vice President at Performics, the largest search marketing company in the United States that was acquired by DoubleClick, Google and eventually Publicis Groupe.

The biggest mistake small businesses make with SEO is…

Is going it alone.

Small business owners are busy enough trying to make their businesses work, grow and turn a profit, and doing SEO right takes a fundamental understanding of how to optimize a website and get it ranking well in the search engine results.

To accomplish good SEO, sites need to:

  • Conduct personalized keyword targeting (really important to target keywords that get good traffic while not being overly competitive)
  • Create a number of backlinks to establish authority (the more sites that link to you the more relevant  you are in the eyes of search engines)
  • Write original, quality content (the better your content, the more links and social media mentions you’ll acquire: both are important ranking signals)
  • Build a strong brand presence online for users and search engines (high quality, optimized websites earn better rankings)

A great SEO consultant can be really helpful in outlining and executing a strategy. What we’re relentlessly focused on with UpCity’s search engine optimization software is taking a lot of the best practices that consultants employ and making it accessible for small business owners for only $49 per month. This is in stark contrast to the thousands a month quality SEO consultants can charge. This way, even small businesses (on a small budget) can expect big results doing great SEO.


Tom Demers

Tom Demers is co-founder of Measured SEM, a search marketing agency specializing in SEO audit services, content marketing and link building services. You can follow him on Twitter: @TomDemers. Currently, Tom is an inbound marketing consultant for UpCity, who specialize in providing SEO solutions with search engine promotion software.

The biggest mistake is see with small business SEO is…

Not being data-driven in their approach to SEO. I see way too many small businesses either ignoring SEO, or doing it as a “check the box” type of activity (SEO is important, so let me go do SEO).

I think SMBs would be better served to treat SEO like any of their other channels in terms of evaluating how effective it is. This is difficult because SEO typically has a long “bake in” period and it’s tricky to evaluate the overall value of the channel because it has greater long term, passive value than things like PPC or direct response, but it’s important to work to calculate what your input is, and what your output is and what it needs to be to make it a profitable channel. This means:

  • Determining how much budget you can allocate to evaluating SEO. There will be a number you’re “comfortable losing” that you can spend to start to get SEO activities going to see if you’re getting any initial returns. It’s the same as starting a PPC campaign when you’ve never done it, doing a banner or display buy with a site you haven’t used, or even buying billboards or print advertising: you’ll want to spend an amount you can afford to outlay, and then evaluate what you’re getting back.
  • Identifying all of the resources you’re using for SEO – SEO isn’t “free” or easy. What are you paying for software, to consultants, for the content you’re creating, in dev costs to update your site, etc.?
  • Putting things like goal tracking in place and monitoring KPIs like rankings, organic traffic, and conversions from SEO so you can evaluate performance.
  • Giving a lot of lead time (probably at least 6 months) to see results, and taking into account not only the immediate returns from SEO (traffic that month) but also passive returns (you’ve created a stream of traffic that will require minimal time and effort to maintain, and future efforts can go to layering on new sources of traffic by increasing position on your target keywords or identifying new keywords to target).

After working through this process lots of businesses will find that they’re getting a lot more from SEO than they think (and realize that it performs a lot more efficiently than some of their other marketing activities) but equally importantly: some will realize they’re not! Those businesses can either rethink their approach to SEO, or in some cases can identify that this just isn’t as profitable of an activity as something else they could push their time and money against. Small businesses are busy and resource constrained—which is why they don’t do this type of analysis to begin with—but being that busy means that tracking ROI and evaluating successful channels is even more critical.


Joost de Valk

Joost de Valk is an expert in the field of SEO, Online marketing and Web development, helping both big brands such as eBay as well as SMBs with their online strategy. He blogs at yoast.com, where he also provides the WordPress community with lots of free plugins to help them in their optimization.

I think the worst mistake small businesses make is…

To spend a lot of money (relatively speaking) on their website and even on SEM and SEO, but not on their site’s copy. I’m not a good copy writer myself, but the impact good copy can make on your business and on your rankings is often misunderstood.

When I made that investment myself on yoast.com, the results were immediate: higher rankings and, more importantly, I doubled conversions.


Lisa Barone

Lisa Barone is is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of the SEO consulting company Outspoken Media. You can get chatty with her on Twitter at @LisaBarone.

The biggest mistake small businesses make with Internet marketing is…

Not taking the time to claim, complete or optimize their online listings. So much of small business marketing rests on nailing this very basic step. You know that Google Places, Bing, Yellow Pages, Localeze, Yelp, City Search, FourSquare, etc, are all showing information about your brand and you know the search engines are using this information to look for cues that you are relevant to a particular neighborhood – so why are you not doing everything in your power to control it and to give yourself an edge?

Small business owners need to claim every listing they can get their hands on – Google, Bing, Yelp, third-party providers, everywhere. After you’ve taken control of the listing, spend the time to fill it out completely. Use your correct business name, your correct address, select the correct category, and fill out every field being smart about keyword opportunities. It’s one of those really small things that’s worth its weight in gold.

Google, especially, is looking for consistency in order to rank you for local queries. If Yelp lists you at 123 Main Street and Bing has you at 123 Main Street, Building 4, those are not the same. Get it accurate; get it consistent.

[Oh, and stop using Facebook (or God forbid, Twitter) as your Web site. Register your domain and own it. You can’t control what happens to these social media sites. Don’t take a gamble with your business. Own, don’t rent, your Web presence.]


Wiep Knol

Wiep Knol is a link marketer from the Netherlands. He blogs about link building regularly and is the co-founder of Linkbuilding.nl, a Dutch link building agency that offers international and local link building services.

The biggest mistake SMBs can make is…

Choosing the easiest and cheapest option when it comes to SEO.

Automated link software and low quality content targeted at all the variations of relevant keywords you can think of may sound like a good and cheap solution, but in the long run they’re more likely to cause trouble than to return positive effects. You try to provide the best products and/or services as possible, so why not do the same with your website?

A small budget doesn’t have to be a limitation; it should bring out your creativity (or the creativity of your SEO service provider).


Paul May

Paul May is CEO and Co-Founder of BuzzStream, a provider of link building management software, and has spent most of the last fifteen years either starting or working on early stage startups. Buzzstream also offers a variety of free link building tools for small businesses, SEOs and Internet marketers. You can follow and connect with Paul on Twitter @PaulMay.

The biggest mistake that I see small businesses make is…

They view SEO as something that they couldn’t possibly understand. They view it as some kind of deep-geek, technical, black magic voodoo that could only be understood by programmers. In reality, if they viewed SEO as just an extension of good marketing, they’d make better decisions and they’d rank better.

Two big problems happen when people view SEO this way. The first is that they’re more likely to outsource their SEO without putting any real thought into their needs or the qualifications of the consultant. If they’re lucky, they get someone with good intentions. But that person still may not understand their market or their customer, and so they won’t necessarily do things that will be effective (and the business owner doesn’t know enough to recognize this). In the worst case, they end up hiring someone who’s just looking to make a buck and doesn’t care how things impact the business over the long run.

On top of this, because the business owner only thinks of SEO as a technical undertaking, they don’t focus on the things that will really impact their performance in the SERPs – developing good content and building quality links to it. Site architecture and technical on-page factors are important, but nothing correlates with SERP performance as well as inbound links. Even some small business owners who recognize the importance of link building shy away from it often because, again, they view it as black magic. Good link building for most small businesses is really just good relationship building. The best thing to do is find the right community, engage and build relationships. These relationships will become invaluable when you start promoting content. If you’re not sure how to find these people, the good news is that their are plenty of free tools for link building and content promotion that will help you.

My suggestion to small businesses is this: Before you hire any consultants, before you build a site, before you do ANYTHING SEO-related, spend a lot of time thinking through the big picture and think of SEO from the point of view of a marketer. Specifically, build buyer personas (e.g., profile of customer, typical day, information consumption patterns, etc.) and their use cases (i.e., their current workflow, the problems with the way they do it today, what they really want, etc.). Get this right and everything else will follow – you’ll target the right keywords, you’ll develop the right content strategy and you’ll build the right links.


Jim Boykin

Jim Boykin is CEO of We Build Pages (an Internet Marketing Company). Jim is also a regular speaker at Search Engine Strategies Conferences and Webmaster World Pubcons. His company has also built Free Award Winning Internet Marketing Tools (and we’ve built several that we don’t give away as well).

The biggest mistake SMBs make with SEO is…

Probably underestimating the power of getting links from other sites. Without links, you won’t rank in the search engines. It doesn’t matter how great your product is, or your content; without links, you’re dead to the search engines. What can you do to fix that mistake? Get Links. The more sites you get to link to you the better. The more trusted those sites are, the better. If they link to you using phrases you’re targeting, even better, but you need lots of other sites to link to you in order to get found in Google/Yahoo/Bing.


Ruud Hein

Ruud Hein does SEO at Search Engine People, Toronto and is the man behind the scenes of Canada’s largest SEO blog. Putting family and coffee first he can be found here at Twitter.

The worst small businesses SEO mistake is…

Not doing anything.

Assuming that some links are not worth it (so-called devaluation disorder), or that you’re not advanced enough to get “it” or can’t afford to hire someone, can trap people in the equivalent of analysis paralysis. Meanwhile in SEO more than anywhere else, every step you don’t take … counts.

This is still a golden time for search engine marketing; gold rush time, even. And the beauty is that as a business owner you’re uniquely equipped to play the game. You understand marketing concepts and selling—and in essence, search engine optimization is marketing, is selling. Apply what you know in those areas to what you’ve read about SEO—and start doing it. Now. If you’re really not sure at all, hire someone, hire a company, to do it or help you do it.

To fix your biggest mistake—inaction through fear & uncertainty—use a plumbing approach to SEO. Plumbing is a real job, a real specialty. Different materials, new materials, knowledge of the market, keeping up with new techniques. But to learn how to change the rubber seal on a leaky tap, you don’t have to go there; this is something you can do.

In SEO there are things that are both achievable and attainable for you, today. Like plumbing, it’s not rocket science and the first basics of the craft are freely shared across the web. Read it, do it. think, test, track. Repeat. By the time you want it to be more cost/time efficient or start to notice the job might be at a level higher than “change the rubber seal”, go shop for an SEO company.


Kate Morris

Kate Morris is a Lead SEO Consultant at Distilled in Seattle. She blogs regularly for SEOmoz and Distilled and can be found speaking at numerous conferences including upcoming SMX Toronto and PubCon.

The biggest SEO mistake SMBs make is…

Thinking that online marketing is some kind of rocket science, or trusting people that tell them it is. For small businesses, the best things to do can be done by you alone.

Claim your business in the search engine local areas and network. Your friends make the best links. Be a good business and people will talk about you on social media. Talk back, communicate. Be aware of what is being said about you and strive to be the best. That will get you further than any link building scheme or 10k site build.


Danny Dover

Danny Dover is the Senior SEO Manager at AT&T and is working to make local search marketing easier and more effective through his work at YellowPages.com. He is the author of the best selling book, Search Engine Optimization Secrets, and is absolutely obsessed with his goals list which he documents on his personal blog Bucket Lister.

The biggest problem I see small businesses encounter with online marketing is…

Treating it like the more traditional marketing channels that they are familiar with. This is an easy trap to fall into because it comes from relying on what their previous marketing experience has taught them.

The web is interesting because it is not a tangible means for sending messages. Whereas in traditional mail, there is an enormous implied difference in the message medium between direct mail from a furniture store and a hand written letter that was overnighted from a significant other, the same does not exist online.

On the web, the message medium is diluted (all e-mails are essentially equal before they are read in your inbox) and the important differentiator is the content of the message and the person sending it. This means that the value of authenticity is heightened.

I see many small business start writing blogs or participate in social media while acting as if they are writing traditional advertising. This unintentional facade is easily detectable by Internet users and stifles the potential for a message to spread naturally.

The solution to this is to be more authentic with your online communication (notice I used the word ‘communication’, not the word ‘marketing’ which implies a one-way message) and to interact on the same level as your audience. You can see this working successfully with major celebrities talking to their fans on Twitter and with big corporations that are joining Facebook to interact where their customers interact. You can also see this with the informal tone of Jeff Bezos announcing new products on Amazon’s homepage and with companies like Mint and Whole Foods with their genuinely funny and useful blog posts.

Online, the message is less about the medium and more about the message. You can use this to your advantage by communicating the way you learned to communicate in high school rather than the way you learned to market in college.


Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty is an SEO consultant and well-known figure in the SEO community. Ann is an editor and contributor at Search Engine Journal, and her expertise in blogging and SEO tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project, MyBlogGuest.

The biggest mistakes I see small businesses make when it come to SEO is…

Expecting fast results. This always comes to shifted priorities, bad decisions and bad service choices. The first thing to do here is to understand what SEO really is and why to invest money in it. SEO is not about cheating search engines into thinking your site is good: it’s about making it really good. It’s not about achieving some quick rankings.

SEO is about securing a (more or less) stable position and clear search brand profile. High-profile SEO is a fair game. And this always requires much time, effort and money.


Gab Goldenberg

Gab Goldenberg offers professional SEO services and conversion rate optimization through his site SEO ROI, where he also contributes SEO tips and advice on his SEO Blog. You can follow and connect with Gab on Twitter @GabGoldenberg.

The biggest mistake made with small business SEO is…

Seeing marketing as a chore to get out of the way as quickly as possible, and seeing it as a one-off program. While that was partly the case when they just had to buy yellow pages ads, its no longer true today. My best friend in Montreal works with his dad at a bankruptcy trustee company. He’s described several of their salespeople’s pitches to me, and they’re often under-trained and over-promising. Not a good combination… but probably one that’s sufficient for SMBs that just want to check the “Marketing” box on their to-do list.

To fix that mistake, take the time to read at least SEOmoz’s Beginners’ Guide to SEO and perhaps some other introductory guides on other topics like direct response, Web analytics etc. Learn enough to understand the jargon, to understand measurement so that you can hold people accountable for results, and to spend your money such that you get a positive ROI … not just a checked box on your to-do list.


Jon Henshaw

Jon Henshaw is a co-founder of Raven Internet Marketing Tools. His first Internet marketing love is SEO, but he cheats on it often with social media. He also leads a dual-life on Twitter, tweeting about Raven with @RavenJon, but ranting, drunk tweeting, and being generally unruly with @henshaw.

One of the biggest mistakes small businesses can make when it comes to optimizing their website for search engines is…

Poorly implemented content. This can come in the form of an all Flash-based website, or a site with copy that doesn’t include keyword phrases that are used by their target audience to find their products and services.

Here’s how to prevent the keyword mistake:

  1. Small businesses need to identify what their products and services are, and then translate them into a list of one to three-word identifiable phrases.
  2. They should then analyze those phrases with a tool like Google AdWords Keyword Tool. The Keyword Tool will highlight popular phrases—and show related keyword phrases that they might have missed when they made their list.
  3. They should then distill their list into the key phrases that best represent their company’s offerings and are consistent with what their target audience would use in searches.
  4. Finally, the keyword list should be translated into the website structure. That includes navigation, sections and pages, and the URL naming convention. Individual pages should include one or more keyword phrases in the page title, headings, and the body copy.

It’s crucial to optimize site content before you start any Internet marketing campaign. Optimized content should always come before efforts like link building or pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Otherwise, regardless of your marketing efforts, search engines may find the content of your site irrelevant to the keywords you need to rank for, and AdWords may lower your quality score.


 

Ken Lyons

Ken Lyons is co-founder of Measured SEM, an inbound marketing agency that offers SEO packages, as well as blog consulting and guest post services. Ken has been an Internet marketer for seven years, building his career as a Boston SEO. You can follow him on Twitter @BostonSEO.

The biggest small business online marketing mistake is…

Not having Web analytics in place so you can track:

1) Your website’s SEO performance
2) Return on your online marketing investment

I can’t tell you how many times I start working with a small business owner who’s been “doing SEO” only to learn they have no site tracking in place. Sure, they track rankings on a handful of keywords, but that’s a very small part of the SEO success picture. And those may or may not be the “right” keywords (hint: the right keywords bring more sales). And given that there are powerful, free solutions out there, there is no excuse not to be tracking your SEO efforts and ROI metrics with analytics.

The beauty of Internet marketing is that everything you do is measurable. And by measuring everything, you discover:

  • If, in fact, you’re generating more traffic from your SEO efforts
  • Where the traffic is coming from: search engines, other websites, direct traffic
  • Which keywords trigger the most leads and conversions (organic goal tracking), so you can focus on ranking them higher
  • New keyword opportunities you never thought of targeting, to help grow your SEO strategy and your revenue
  • Precisely where users drop out in your conversion process (creating funnels), so you can plug that leaky bucket
  • Whether or not you’re inline with your target cost-per-sale/cost-per-acquisition
  • Invaluable, proprietary data about what does and what doesn’t generate revenue for your particular website in your particular niche (which is really the ultimate objective)

Put simply, the data you collect from Web analytics tells you whether or not your small business SEO is working. And by “working,” I mean earning you more money.


Mike Blumenthal

Mike Blumenthal is widely considered an expert in the local search space. He runs the popular blog on Blumenthals.com, which offers small business owners a wealth of information on Google Maps and local SEO best practices.

What’s the worst mistake small businesses make with online marketing and SEO?

The answer is not a single answer as it depends on where in the process of online marketing a particular SMB falls and what industry and marketing area they are in. Some already understand that the marketing paradigm is rapidly moving online for many industries while others are just getting to that point.

If I had to identify the single biggest mistake it would be that many think that SEO and online marketing is a one time action. Build it and done.

Online marketing is a process not a product and there are no short cuts or silver bullets. All too often I find that SMBs are unwilling to learn, understand and do the necessary analysis so as to be able to pick a program that works for them. Probably the best thing that SMBs could do would be to get educated about online marketing so that they could tailor their direction to provide the best return.


Donna Fontenot (DazzlinDonna)

Donna Fontenot, aka DazzlinDonna, is an Internet Entrepreneur and SEO who uses SEO and affiliate marketing to create successful online businesses. Her goal as an ebusiness coach is to help others make a living online from the comfort of their homes (and in their pajamas).  Her motto is “You’ll never shine if you don’t glow.”

I think the biggest mistake small businesses make with online marketing is…

Placing blind faith in what they are told by their chosen “SEO or online marketing guru”. Many SMBs have limited or no experience in anything tech-related, so they are all too happy to simply let their “web guy” do whatever he chooses, and they assume everything he says is true.

When faced with online marketing advice:

I’d ask SMBs to simply use their own logic, intuition and business savvy when evaluating the internet marketing advice given by his guru.

  • Does the tactic your guru wants to use “smell funny”?
  • Would you be willing to use a similar tactic when face-to-face with a potential customer?
  • Does it sound like an aggressive sales pitch that you wouldn’t want your brand to be associated with?
  • Does it seem “too good to be true”?

If the advice your guru gives makes you uneasy, get a second opinion and do some research on your own. It’s better to spend a little extra time now, than to regret a hasty decision later.

When given SEO advice:

Because SEO can often involve technical details, business logic and intuition may not always be enough to evaluate the guru’s advice in a “does it smell funny?” test. For that reason, I recommend every business owner learn the basics of SEO, so he can at least have a fundamental awareness of what the guru is saying, and can potentially spot the BS when he hears it. A good place to start is Google’s own SEO Starter Guide.

The guide is only 32 pages long, and it uses illustrations and definitions to guide the novice through the technical details. While the business owner may not completely understand all the technical references made, he’ll end up having a much better understanding of the general “DOs and DON’Ts” than he did previously.

If the guide still doesn’t address the particular technical advice he’s been given, he should once again look for a second opinion, using careful research to find trusted and respected professionals in the SEO field.

To sum this up, if a small business owner doesn’t understand “all that web stuff”, he should use common sense, business savvy, and a little research to ensure his chosen “guru” isn’t just pulling the wool over his eyes. Blind faith in the guru can not only result in a waste of money, but it can also do immense damage to the brand reputation and the search engines’ trust of his domain.


Dixon Jones

Dixon Jones is the managing director of theUK Internet marketing consultancy Receptional, which heads up the marketing of MajesticSEO, the world’s largest open anchor text link map of the web. He has spoken at Internet marketing conferences including Pubcon, SMX, SES and International Search Summit.

I think the biggest mistake small businesses make with SEO is…

To think that SEO and online “tricks” (including link building) are anything other than just good – logical marketing. All your efforts should follow all the rules of marketing and branding that you would apply to offline principals.

Let’s say you deliver flyers through mailboxes. Surely there would be a level of quality that you would not associate yourself with – be it the look and feel or just bad grammar. Well it’s the same with link building! I see a heavy correlation between natural links and web traffic, WHETHER OR NOT those links help organic search. I have good example of sites which will never (through design) generate much traffic from Google, but their link profile maps onto their traffic profile extremely closely.

The easiest way to fix this is for a small business owner to ask himself “would this change / link / mention / press release be worth doing even if Google did not exist?” If the answer is no, then do something that WILL benefit your site (and your brand) in harmony with Google’s central quest of delivering the best results for the user.


Hugo Guzman

Hugo Guzman is a professional online marketer with nearly a decade of experience on everything from startups to Fortune 100 corporations. He’s worked as both an in-house marketer for companies like CBS Broadcasting and on the agency side too.

The biggest mistake that small businesses make when it comes to SEO is…

Not properly calculating its long-term value. This results in SEO efforts that are poorly funded (or not funded at all) as well as campaigns that are abandoned prematurely (e.g. before they bear fruit).

The fix is easy; perform a simple calculation to figure out exactly what an SEO conversion is worth in terms of cold hard cash: http://www.hugoguzman.com/2011/03/2-questions-your-seo-provider-should-be-asking-you/


Todd Mintz

Todd Mintz is currently a Senior Account Manager for PPC Associates.  He has over 10 years experience in search marketing.  He is an editor at Sphinn and writes regularly for Search Engine JournalSearch Engine People and the SEMpdx Blog,  where he is a founding member of SEMpdx.

A big mistake small businesses make when is comes to SEO is…

Not maximizing your local search visibility.

If your business is “Brick and Mortar” and primarily attracts a local audience, how it performs in Google’s Local SERPS is arguably the most important aspect of your Search Marketing campaign.  With that in mind, here are some easy steps you can take to maximize your local search visibility:

  1. Claim your Local Business Page with Google.
  2. Pimp it out with as many different types of information as you can add to it (photos, videos, website link) and make sure you add your business to each and every relevant category on the Places Page.  Study your local competitors & their place pages that rank well…try to mimic some of the things that they are doing.
  3. Encourage people to review your business on Google, Yelp, CitySearch & every possible relevant review site.  Note that it is perfectly natural not to get only 5 star reviews…and if someone reviews you negatively, don’t get defensive. Look at the negative review as an opportunity for positive dialogue.
  4. Make sure your contact information, including phone number, is on every page of your website in readable HTML text.
  5. Try to make sure your business is “cited” in each and every relevant business directory (including the largest business information aggregators).  See http://getlisted.org/resources/where-to-get-citations.aspx
  6. As your build links to your website, try to get some that have “local relevance.”

Also, let me reference David Mihm’s Local Search Ranking Factors as an advanced guide for helping people achieve better local search results.


Tadeusz Szewczyk (Tad Chef)

Tad Chef is a popular German SEO and business blogger and writes for the popular SEO 2.0 Blog.

The single biggest mistake many small businesses make with SEO is…

To assume that it’s something they can do after they’ve launched or relaunched their site. Actually, it has to be other way around. SEO has to be started even before the actual website is up. You can’t set up your business site in a vacuum.

This is what SEO actually does: it identifies your target market, competition and competitiveness and, based on that, it locates the niche you can actually compete in. How can you start a business without knowing what the people want, what the actual demand is and whether the market is already saturated?

Also building a business website without SEO in mind is like building a new store without planning to have any shop windows, without streets or roads leading to it and without finding out whether there is need for your product/service in the first place.

Now imagine you have set up a store and it doesn’t work. Nobody finds it. Even if they do there is no way to go there and even if you arrive there with your off-road vehicle there is no door to enter or even window to look inside. Now you have to fix that afterward, but probably it is too far away from the next city or highway, it has no room for windows and doors. So you have to spend much money to either fix it or find a new better place and building.

SEO makes sure that you you have all the infrastructure online. It creates a site architecture that allows people in and it makes your site findable in the first place so that traffic from the information highways can reach your site.


Kim Krause Berg

Kimberly Krause Berg began working in web site design in 1995. Her SEO/Usability consulting business began when Cre8pc was launched in 1996. She founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. Today she is the Search Marketing/UX Manager for LiBeck Integrated Marketing.

The worst mistake small businesses make with search engine marketing is…

There’s a list of mistakes, from not having any idea what online marketing is to not grasping the costs involved because marketing is a long-term investment. The biggest mistake is not gathering all the requirements they need at the beginning. This should be in addition to their business plan.

A Requirements Document details every area from business goals to what kinds of marketing will be budgeted for. In between are areas for serious discussion such as who the company hopes to benefit from their products or services, web site usability/accessibility/accessibility design, organic site SEO, online marketing and competitive analysis. Who will maintain their site? How is their brand marketed? What type of host do they need? What are the design specs and will they include video, Flash, AJAX, JavaScript, images?

A small business has to take more responsibility for educating themselves enough to ask the right questions so they’re not ripped off by bad marketing companies. Include Education in a Business Requirements Document. In that section, write down “get references”, “get quotes” and “join associations” that support your type of business. These can be local or global.

Online marketing encompasses everything from SEO to persuasive web design to mobile device design to social media marketing. Small businesses need to make a plan or hire a company that will guide them into making the best choices for their long term success.


Terry Van Horne

Terry Van Horne is the founder of SeoPros and a 15-year veteran of Web development, currently working out of his consulting and development firm International Website Builders. Terry’s interests are primarily the socialization of search and analysis of social Web traffic and applications like Twitter.

The biggest mistake small businesses and SMBs can make with SEO and Web marketing is…

To hire the wrong vendor.

The best advice I can give to a small business in that regard is to say if the prospective search engine marketing vendor is more interested in selling services than hearing about your business, they likely aren’t the SEO vendor who will put the interests of your small business first.


Ross Hudgens

Ross Hudgens is the SEO Manager at Full Beaker, Inc. in Bellevue, WA. Ross’ expertise lies in implementing SEO programs for new companies, having done so in-house, at an agency, and at his current employer, a hybrid of both. He is best known for his SEO blog, Authentic Marketing.

The biggest mistake small businesses make with SEO is…

With link building.

Given generally small sites and less information needed, many small businesses can figure out on-page optimization pretty easily. However, as it comes to link building, most simply don’t have the time or expertise to do it effectively, and frequently resort to spammy links to rank their websites. While many of these will do the job, they aren’t sustainable.

There is really no easy solution to this. Small businesses can either invest a lot of time learning link building to do it right, which might not be a good use of their time, or spend more money with an outside consultant, which might be beyond their scope in terms of cost. It would probably be best for them to give the aim of online marketing to one team member who is most sophisticated; by learning everything at a thin level, the cumulative benefit will help them do each job better across the board.


Jennifer Van Iderstyne

Jennifer Van Iderstyne is the Online Marketing Director for Search Slingshot, an Internet marketing company located near Albany, New York. She specializes in SEO consulting, reporting, and the art of link building.

The biggest mistake SMBs or anyone can make in regards to SEO is…

Going into it with the wrong mentality and not enough information.

SEO can be a huge investment of resources, which can be intimidating for any small business, so they often decide to do a “little” SEO or to “try” a few inexpensive methods of increasing visibility. But what happens is they spend money on strategies that are “cheap” but carry little impact. And when they don’t see the kinds of results they want, they are discouraged about the whole process.

One of the most important parts of SEO is determining priorities and creating a plan of action that is executed over a long period of time. Of course, there are some changes that can have a significant effect without a great deal of expense or effort. But at some point, on-page work will reach its maximum velocity and results will plateau. From then on, it’s a matter of evaluating, testing and honing keyword targeting and user engagement strategies.

At the same time though, off-site work becomes essential. But being as link building and network building are slow processes that may take a long time to come to fruition, they are sometimes avoided or rushed in an attempt to circumvent the tedium. Businesses of all sizes need to realize that true SEO goes beyond surface level changes and requires on-going analytics and attention to attracting links. SEO is a form of marketing that demands as much creativity, innovation and commitment as any other, perhaps even more.

Sometimes businesses fail to see that important point. That SEO is a long term process that is full of several incremental steps that build upon each other. If you try to look for quick fixes you often miss out on the important actions that will, over time, yield results. SMBs can correct this mistake by learning to see SEO as a marathon rather than a sprint. And bracing themselves for what will be: not just a period of change for a website, but rather the adoption of an entirely new online lifestyle.


Rich Brooks

Rich Brooks is founder and president of Flyte New Media, a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Portland, Maine. His company blog focuses on Web marketing topics such as search engine optimization, blogs, social media, email marketing, and building Websites that sell.

 

While it may be a bit much to say there’s one mistake that’s the biggest for small businesses…

I would say that a huge one is focusing all your attention on SEO and none on conversion. I don’t care how much search traffic you generate. If your website is a sieve, you’ll never make a dime.

You need to change your website into a lead generation machine. You need to change the focus of your copy from your business to your customer. You need to talk about their problems and needs, not your products and solutions. You need to get them to take an action at your site, whether it’s a free download, an email newsletter, or a contact form.

When your visitor sees that you understand them they’ll be more likely to reach out to you for help and advice.


Elisa Gabbert

Elisa Gabbert is the senior marketing copywriter at WordStream, where she manages their Internet marketing blog. WordStream provides PPC management software and services and a Keyword Research Suite. Elisa also writes poetry, book reviews, and perfume criticism.

The biggest mistake SMBs make with SEO is…

Not defining clear goals—and ways to verify those goals against a benchmark—before you start making changes.

This is really the only way to know what is and isn’t working. It’s easy to get invested in a project, like an SEO audit or a site redesign, and forget the big picture. So whether you’re doing SEO in-house or outsourcing it, make sure there’s a clear outline in place for tracking progress (in terms of traffic, conversions, links and other engagement), as well as a way to roll back changes if you actually hurt your results. You should also incorporate testing as much as possible, rather than going on gut feelings.


Gerald Weber

Gerald Weber is a blogger, social media enthusiast and founder of the Houston SEO firm, Search Engine Marketing Group.

The biggest Web marketing mistakes SMBs make are…

I could easily write a full post on Internet marketing mistakes but to narrow it down to a single biggest mistake I would have to say, after getting a website up, doing nothing else.

The “field of dreams” approach doesn’t work with websites. You can have the best looking or most professional website in the world but you must take proactive action to ensure that people who have interest and money (qualified prospects) come into contact with your products or services.

Taking action could mean many things. It could mean taking the time to learn SEO, pay-per-click or social media strategy if you are a DIY type of person. It could also mean enlisting the help of a professional to do the job for you, but the point is some action needs to be taken.

The chances of your website bringing in new business just because it’s there are slim to none.

Also not having a clearly defined call to action/offer above the fold.


Derek Edmond

Derek Edmond is a Managing Partner and directs search engine marketing and social media strategies for KoMarketing Associates, a B2B internet marketing agency. With over 7 years experience, Derek has worked with organizations ranging from the Fortune 500 to venture-backed startups to small business enterprises.

The biggest SEO mistakes SMBs make are…

1) not getting SEO input before and during site development (only getting it afterwards)
2) not digging deep enough into keyword research

Site Development – invest in competent SEO partners that have experience in web design/development and can help guide the business through the site development process. I almost look at our team as strategic consultants in this effort because we come at it from an unbiased and completely different perspective. It is so much easier and cost effective to take care of SEO “best practices” in site architecture when building a site as opposed to after the site is in place.

Keyword Research – the bottom line is it is challenging to compete for highly competitive terms. Dig deeper into keyword research to find more complex keyword opportunities to target for SEO that have less competition. Look through analytics data, PPC search query reports, and exhaust keyword research tools to find small bits of traffic opportunities. If it makes sense, look into local opportunities that might not send a lot of overall traffic, but the traffic sent is highly targeted.


Jim Rudnick

Jim Rudnick is CEO for KKT Interactive. He has more than 12 years of SEO experience and more than 23 years of Web experience. Jim has worked for the NY Yankees, PEP Boys, GE, The Disney Company, Mercedes, SAAB, Reuters and Quaker State Oil. Jim blogs about Canadian SEO at Canuck SEO.

The biggest small businesses online marketing mistake is…

That once they actually have gotten a website up and running, that they then think that the marketing job is done!

“If you build it….they will come” becomes their mantra… sigh… something that I’ve heard for decades as SMB owners just don’t “get it!” And for us that’s the single biggest task that we face – the realization that SMBs actually think that this is true – and that we then need to educate and show via empirical data that nope, they’re wrong! And for too many of them they either don’t listen, can’t comprehend or maybe just don’t care that once a website is built then that’s the time to then get started on their online marketing campaign…

Sad really, that online marketing has this biggest initial obstacle, the education of SMBs so that they actually begin to understand that a website needs traffic, needs calls-to-action, needs analytics and metrics too, to be able to get that revenue stream both started….and then to get it to grow!

So we teach, we speak publically, we belong to Chambers and business groups and service clubs and network groups and every single online social media site we can….and the message from us is a constant.

To build an online website revenue stream is a daily task that needs constant attention and passion—something that yes, an SMB can do themselves or outsource, but never ever ignore.


Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO industry veteran with over 12 years of experience.  Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of the Boston SEO services firm, Brick Marketing.  Nick also writes daily in his SEO blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishes a weekly SEO newsletter.

The biggest Web marketing mistake small businesses make is…

Relying only on SEO for total business success.

I see companies that think that if they can just rank a certain position that that will solve all of their marketing, sales and business issues.  Well, that is certainly not the case!  No amount of on-site optimization, link building, content marketing, etc. can help a small business if the products and/or services are not solid and there is not a clear strategy in place.

Also, along the same lines, never put your all of your marketing eggs in one basket!  Diversify building your brand, reputation, marketing and overall long term sales growth…SEO should not be the only great source of visitors to your website.


Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson started StayOnSearch in 2008 as a way to share his industry knowledge that he has learned as an Internet Marketer for five years. Recently Mark has started Search Creatively, a full service Internet Marketing company, based in Raleigh North Carolina.

The biggest mistake small businesses make with SEO is…

Not having realistic expectations upfront. Too many local business owners are worried only about the short term and don’t worry about long-term growth and credibility. They want to find quick ways to get customers. Unfortunately SEO in particular, doesn’t work like that. They need to understand that their are other businesses doing the exact same things you are doing and most of the time, for a lot longer. If you want quick customers, you are going to need a budget and look at doing Paid Search.

The second part is, just like anything in life, the more you put into something the more you will get out of it. Same rules apply with Internet Marketing. A small business owner should be a part of the marketing strategy, not just pay an agency a monthly fee and thats it. The best results I see are when the clients are participating and helping towards their goals. Things like writing content, speaking at events, networking, and participating in forums/social media sites, all help your IM efforts.

I think too many business owners look at Internet Marketing as a solution for all of their problems. IM is definitely a cost effective solution for reaching your target audience, but you need to have realistic expectations upfront and understand that it still takes hard work and time.


Matthew Diehl

Matthew Diehl is a Senior SEO Strategist at Charles River Interactive, a Boston search engine marketing agency. He is responsible for the organic search strategies for companies of all sizes including companies on Inc Magazine’s list of the 500 Fastest Growing Companies in America.

The biggest mistake I see small businesses make with online marketing is…

Taking the “guns blazing” approach to online marketing. This approach to online marketing isn’t really a strategy as it is more a viewpoint a business owner has. It is easy to spot the “guns blazing” business owner: they are the ones that want it all (website redesign, SEO, paid search, display, social, email, blogging, etc.) and they wanted it done yesterday.

Almost always, these are the small businesses that will have the least success in their online marketing campaign. Why? Because they will get everything they wanted then quickly realize it is way too much for them to handle all at once and end up giving up.

So, how do small business owners keep their online marketing from going down in a blazing glory?

It starts with changing their perspective on the time it takes to be successful at online marketing. It does not take days, weeks or even months to build a truly successful online marketing program but rather it can take years. A businesses’ online presence, just like Rome, will not be built overnight and once the owner comes to terms with that they are going to be able to set themselves up for success.

Also, business owners should build an online marketing strategy that slowly expands their initiatives over time. At the very shortest this should be a plan for the next 12 months. This plan will progressively introduce new areas of online marketing to their overall program in an effort to build a holistic online marketing strategy one step at a time. Not only will this progressive approach to their online marketing make it easier to manage, it also allows for an evaluation period of each initiative to see if it is where your customers are and is an initiative that delivers results.

This progressive, building block approach to online marketing isn’t something just made up by consultants to force business owners hands into longer contracts, it is a strategy that has proven time and time again to be effective at building a strong online presence while simultaneously finding what will work at driving a businesses’ success online.


David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is the chief SEO, chief marketing strategist and writer for The Happy Guy Marketing.  In his previous life, he was one of Canada’s most visible consumer advocates, often conducting 600 media interviews a year. David runs the Canadian news social bookmarking site Zoomit Canada.

The biggest mistake I see over and over again with small business SEO is…

Treating SEO like “science” rather than like “sport.”

By this I mean, they want to purchase a specific, quantifiable result. The details vary from one business to another, but some typical expectations are…

  • How many links will I get per month for that? (It’s not just quantity. It’s not just quality. And the best links cannot be predicted.)
  • How many months do I have to pay for #1 ranking? (We can only guess, Google won’t tell us.)
  • How many links do I need for #1 ranking? (The game doesn’t stop when the client reaches #1)
  • What program do you do? (You can’t automate SEO – or else everybody would use the same “program”, and nobody would have the edge up.)

Some of these questions are not necessarily bad, but the thought process behind them goes totally against the grain of what works best with SEO and online marketing in general.

My dream client (which I have right now) wanted me to come up with a program, he understood we had to be flexible, he put the money down, and he responds like lightening when we see an opportunity. He understands that we are out on the ice, that at any moment the puck can come our way and we have to be in play. He understands that not everything we do will score a goal, but that to get to the goal you have to take a lot of checks and give a lot of checks, take a lot of passes and give a lot of passes. SEO and online marketing are a lot like hockey. Watch a game or two and learn.


Jay Ehret

Jay Ehret is Chief Steward of The Marketing Spot, a marketing education and resource center for entrepreneurs and small business owners. Jay is a small business marketing consultant, coach, speaker, blog author, branding architect, a customer experience designer, a conversation starter, and an advertising strategist.

The biggest mistake many small businesses make with SEO is…

To take it to one extreme or the other. You either give it too much credit and become obsessed with SEO causing you to get too deep, or you pooh-pooh it and pay it no attention at all. The fix is to give SEO the appropriate amount of credit in your marketing mix. It falls somewhere in the middle. There are things you must do first, such as branding, experience mapping and sales copy. There are things that come after SEO, such as the sales funnel, lead generation and conversion.

I’ve seen companies get deeper into SEO than they need to get. For most small businesses, the basics of SEO are all that you need. I know that some SEO firms have a very deep and complex SEO process. In most cases it’s too deep for a small business. Do the basics first, and maximize your conversions. When you feel like you’ve mastered the basics and you still have time and money, dive deeper into SEO for that marginal website traffic that may or may not mean more business.

At the same time, don’t ignore SEO. It can make a huge difference in your business. One of my clients invested no time in SEO. We made a few simple changes to his website and Google Place page and he quickly rose to the top of the local search results for his business category. His inbound call volume increased substantially, and so did his business.

The bottom line: Apportion a time and monetary value to SEO as part of your overall marketing plan. Put SEO in perspective with the rest of your marketing activities.


Becky McCray

Becky McCray writes Small Biz Survival about small business issues. She co-founded Tourism Currents to teach tourism pros how to reach more visitors using new tools. Her latest project is How to Draw the Line Between Free and Paid, to help freelancers get paid for more of the work they already do.

The biggest small businesses Internet marketing mistake is…

Not taking time to learn the basics of being found online. It affects every single thing you put online about your business.

Keywords are never what you think: they are what your customers think when they search for your solution, even when they haven’t heard of you yet. It’s your job to use those words and phrases as you create useful content to help your customers. It doesn’t matter whether it’s text, audio, video, slides, documents or just status updates, you have to know what your customers want to know. Then give them that, using words they will understand and would use themselves.

Categories: Featured, SMB Marketing Tips

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  • Tammy Kling

    Don’t know how I ended up finding these great interviews! Great list! Have learned alot.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Glad it helped. Thanks for reading.

  • http://jdfseo.com/ Jamie

    Thanks for the list! I’ve done some research on some of these folks and I have noticed some have personal blogs that have great information. All experts need to perform their own case studies while taking into consideration others’ work. I am always happy to stumble upon more reading material because it really pays to be informed when it comes to SEO.

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  • http://www.nextwebtech.com/ Internet Marketing

    like this one, and yes i have solve 1 problem after checking this article, so thanks a lot to give a us very core knowledge of seo. again very hearty thanks.

    Thanks,
    Next Webtech Team

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  • http://www.passoker365.co.uk Passoker

    Thanks for this comprehensive list – I’ll be sure not to make any more SEO mistakes moving forward :)

  • http://konsultanseojakarta.com/ Konsultan SEO Jakarta

    I notice that it would be nice to see Google major update and create new business ideas with SEO. SEO will be easy way to start online business ranked on top 10 even top 1.

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  • http://NotFoundLink! Barbie Woodcox

    Practicing once exercises concerning all the time underside is definitely extremely sensible in addition to remarks huge medication into the prompt and in addition coming.

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    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405404655 Nita

      Solid Nick. Everyone right now is guest pintosg like crazy and quality has started to be a serious issue among them. I believe that proper balance should be taken when allowing for guest pintosg, and you did point out the pros and cons very well. Thumbs upDiTesco recently posted..

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  • http://skyscraperseopackage Seo in guk wiki

    Such as several facets of existence, there isn’t any regulations involved with learning to be a search engine marketing professional. A single only will need to have skills and a few level of interest in the particular …skyscraper seo

  • http://www.rankhigh.ca Seo Toronto

    I agree with Rand Fishkin I will say this don’t be evil just be real. That’s what google bot wants.

  • http://www.brianrotsztein.com Brian

    It’s nice to see that the comments by the consultants above reflect the article I wrote in 2007 on this exact topic.

    My article is here: http://www.purposive.com/10-mistakes-businesses-make-when-hiring-an-seo-company/

    Nice!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003405402360 Lisiane

      With saciol media coming to the picture, just ranking high in the page doesn’t matter any more.

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  • http://seomilitia.com Mike

    Great write-up…as an SEO who specializes in small business internet marketing, I love when some of the best SEOs in the business focus on it. Most of the time they are discussing scalable link building tactics for over 10,000 links, and 20 keywords…but in my experience, small business SEO can be just as lucrative.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/xiaodong.zheng Roy

    I am directed to this from another site. I visited Rand and Nick’s sites quite often and they shall be on the list. Although a good list but it might be better if some of the keyword rich anchors could be removed, which only decreases the credibility of the post.

  • http://www.mycompanymarketing.com ny seo services

    I really love all the great stuff you provide. Thanks again and keep it coming

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  • http://www.imoney.ws Adam

    Wow, Great article, Thanks. Lots of great answers.

  • http://www.goodgood.com.au Peter Dancewicz

    Well pieced together. All of these SEO’s say a valid point all should be considered when applying an SEO Strategy. One important thing to take on board also is that not all SEO executions are the same, each client needs to be handled individually for their needs.

    Well done.

  • http://www.highergroundcreative.co.uk Phil

    very interesting read…Thanks for that.
    For me one of the most important things when it comes to SEO is managing client’s expectations, which I do by firstly putting together a thorough SEO campaign plan and not making any promises I know that I can’t keep (e.g. promising the client I’ll get them on the first SERPs for a certain keyword in X amount of time).
    I also feel that I always have to ‘teach’ the client a little about SEO, which tends to give them more confidence to invest in it. Client’s, specially SMEs, won’t always go out of their way to learn about it and can therefore have unrealistic expectations and/or know nothing about what a campaign entails or what SEO is really about and how much effort it can sometimes require.
    Once they understand it, my job gets a lot easier and client’s are generally happier with their investment!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Rudnick/615701716 Jim Rudnick

    thanks for the inclusion here DIY SEO and Ken too!

    blogged here – http://www.canuckseo.com/index.php/2011/04/diy-seo-a-round-up-of-experts-eh/ – about these great tips ‘n tactics to glean what you need to update your own thinking on all things SEO!

    :-)

    Jim

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  • http://www.thediamondstore.com Chase R.

    Definitely one to bookmark! I was hired by an independent jewelry store to manage their ecommerce store (coming soon) and this article was extremely helpful. I opened about 20 tabs while reading so I wouldn’t forget to go back to all the great links.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Hey, Chase.

      So glad you found the article helpful.

      Good luck with your new client!

  • http://justlinkbuilding.com/ iDCx

    Pow – that took me the best part of an hour to read – great post!

    I would say the biggest mistake i see – is expectations – thus the clients expectations must be aligned so as not to disappoint, i once took a client from an agency who was charging this small business 100 quid a month, for that he had delivered one KW – i sold the client by saying he wasn’t doing enough, but then looking back – for 100 quid – the guy was doing more than enough for him…

    So best post goes to dixon jones – i also appriciated Pat Altof and Joost hit the nail on the head – a great read DIY SEO! worth the re tweet indeed!

    Cheers,

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Thanks for taking an entire hour to read this post.

      Setting expectations for small business SEO can be a major challenge, and its something that needs to be done early on.

      Thanks for stopping by and thanks for the Tweet!

  • http://www.infosolutionsgoa.com Joseph | Seo Services Goa

    In my opinion, small businesses are highly reluctant to invest in SEO. Many of them have sites that are structurally bad and have to have their structures rectified before any seo is done. Secondly they tend to attempt to merely duplicate the current top ranking sites without looking at the other aspects or attempting to better them.

  • http://unbounce.com Oli Gardner

    Thanks for inviting me to participate Ken – it’s a phenomenal list of people on here. So to make it easier for everyone to stay in touch, I put together a Twitter list containing everyone on the list:

    http://twitter.com/#!/oligardner/smb-seo

    Hope to connect with you all soon.

    Cheers
    Oli

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Hi, Oli.

      Thanks for putting together that Twitter list. Great idea!

      We’ve updated the post to include the new list.

      Cheers!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jim-Rudnick/615701716 Jim Rudnick

      @Oli….thanks lad for the Twitter group…I’ll follow ‘em all soon…

      :-)

      Jim

  • http://www.mousekick.com Creative Designer

    Great list you have here, their words can be a lot of help especially for beginners who would like to venture in the same business. They could get great advice from them and from you.

  • http://www.brandignity.com Maciej Fita

    It is funny because as you go through this blog post you start to put the image next to some of the other blog comments spread through the SEO space.

  • http://www.easystreetrealty-indy.com Chris Kukelhan

    This is the who’s-who of SEO! If your new to SEO, you need to follow each one of these experts on twitter. I have have picked up some great tips from many of these people. Thanks to all of you for sharing your thoughts.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      So true, Chris.

      It’s a pretty esteemed list.

  • http://alanbleiweiss.com Alan Bleiweiss

    Definitely a must-share article and must-read for SMB site owners! Simply brilliant consolidation of guidance tips and insights on small business SEO. Thanks for taking the time to put this one together.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Hi, Alan.

      Thanks for the kind words. You’re right. The tips and quality of insight here is unmatched. We really can’t thank everyone involved enough for helping put together such a useful SEO resource for SMBs.

  • http://www.actwebconsulting.com Amy C. Teeple

    I second Donna’s comment. I have bookmarked this post, Tweeted it, and shared it on my Facebook page. You got a great group of industry experts who all offered valuable insights. Thanks.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Wow. That’s a lotta sharing!

      Thanks so much, Amy.

      We really appreciate the support.

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  • http://polidigital.org Josh

    Not understanding that they customers are looking online first. Online to offline business grows larger and lager everyday.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Great point, Josh!

  • http://nicknorris.net Nick Norris

    Amazing insights from some of the most amazing SEO marketing minds in our industry.

    I noticed that everyone followed a similar trend in their responses: be patient, be realistic, and be authentic. I give this advice to all of my clients, and once the expectation is set, they’re more willing to sign for the long haul.

    Great article!

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Wow.

      Thanks for the kudos, Nick.

      So glad you liked the article.

  • http://www.dazzlindonna.com/blog/ Donna Fontenot

    This is one of those articles that is valuable enough to bookmark, so that it can be shared over and over again. Great advice from everyone, and I’ll keep it handy to show clients in the future. Thanks for asking me to participate.

    • http://www.diyseo.com DIYSEO Team

      Hey, Donna.

      You’re very welcome and thanks so much for helping us put together such a valuable resource for small business SEO.

  • http://www.seo-butze.de SEO-Butze

    Great Article! Thank you! Will there be any summary?

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