Common SEO Mistakes Your Business Should Avoid

The Hartford

From keyword stuffing to paying for ads, there’s a lot of misguided information regarding how to leverage search engine optimization (SEO) for your business website and if you’re not careful, following the wrong advice can result in a loss of potential customers. So, how do you ensure that your business page comes up as one of the top results during a Google search? In this episode, Jon Aidukonis and Gene Marks, along with Sara Noel, Founder of Between the Lines Copywriting, discuss which SEO strategies will help you generate the most clients for your small business.

Executive Summary

0:40—Today’s Topic: Which SEO Strategies Will Help Me Generate More Traffic for My Small Business’s Website?

1:17—SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of enhancing your website content so that it appears as one of the first answers on a search engine’s results page.

2:58—Avoid “keyword stuffing” your content since this method will actually do more harm than good. Instead, use specific descriptors to brand yourself and use them throughout your content.

4:43—Google’s algorithms will rank websites with authentic sounding copy higher than those with overly promotional content.

6:41—One way to generate effective SEO descriptors is to think about what your client base is searching for and which SEO terms they would be using to find your business. You should also consider what differentiates you from all the other businesses in your field and then, add those keywords to your content as well.

8:12—Including your location in your keywords will help you target local clients who are searching for your business; this is especially important if you own a brick-and-mortar storefront.

10:13—Backlinking, which is when another business provides a link to your website, is another way to improve SEO ranking. You can encourage other businesses and associations to backlink you, either through direct collaboration, guest blogging, or simply asking to be included in any relevant listings and directories that they publish.

13:20—In order to compete against larger, well-established companies, small business owners should start by thinking about what questions their ideal customers would be asking about their brand or services. By incorporating these answers into their content, they could potentially outrank other well-known brands in a Google search.

15:32—If you have specific content that generates a lot of traffic, make sure that you’ve included several call-to-action features that will enable them to explore the rest of your site.

15:54—Because Google tailors all their answers to the location of the person performing the search, you need to include location specific SEO keywords into your website’s content.

17:29—Ubersuggest.com is a free SEO resource developed by Neil Patel that will not only help you find the keywords that are right for your business, but it will also give you a domain authority score and help you optimize your overall website content.

19:03—A good website copywriter will not only create conversion content for your business page, but they will also make sure that what they’ve written is fully SEO optimized.

20:59—You can expect to invest about $4,000 for a copywriter to optimize your website.

23:05—The worst mistakes that a business owner can make with their website are as follows: hiring a designer who can’t match their brand aesthetic or success level and altering the content that their copywriter has created.

25:01—Other common website mistakes that business owners make include impersonal content, big blocks of texts, boring headlines, and problematic word count.

27:15—Because Google is the most widely used search engine, you should be consulting with Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see how you can improve your webpage.

28:42—Organic marketing will always be a better long term strategy than paid ads because you’ll lose any ad-generated traffic once you stop paying for this service.

31:25—However, it is worth noting that paid ads can be useful if you’re launching a limited-time campaign or promotion.

33:12—If your business website already has existing content that you like, you can always consult a copywriter to perform a website audit to find out what works and what needs improvement.

Links

Transcript

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Jon: Good morning, everybody. And welcome back to another episode of Small Biz Ahead, the small business podcast presented by The Hartford. This is Jon Aidukonis. I hope you are having a wonderful day wherever you are. I am joined as always by my co-host Gene Marks. Gene, how you doing today?

Gene: Hey Jon, I’m doing good. Yeah, this is good. We left our videos on while we’re having this conversation. Should be doing a little bit more of this. I like seeing your smiley face when we talk.

Jon: It’s that virtual empathy. Everyone today we are joined by a special guest. Her name is Sara Noel. She owns Between the Lines Copywriting and she is a marketing strategist. And she’s here today to talk to us a little bit about SEO, which is kind of one of those universal mysteries that I feel that is never fully understood. Sara, we are excited to have you and to dive in to learn a little bit how SEO works and how we can think about it for those locally owned and operated businesses out there.

Sara: Thanks for having me.

Jon: Yeah. Thanks so much for joining us. At a high level, SEO stands for search engine optimization. What does that mean to the layperson?

Sara: Okay. Like you said before, everyone’s confused about what SEO is because it’s a tech term. I think by looking at it under this tech umbrella is why everyone is so, ah, what the heck is that? How do I do that? I don’t understand it at all. Search engine optimization is exactly what it sounds like. You’re optimizing your content for search engines, specifically for Google, probably because when was the last time you heard somebody, “I’m going to go look that up on Bing.” Nobody uses anything else. I’m sorry if you’re listening to this and you’re obsessed with Yahoo or something but for the sake of my answers, we’re going to be talking about Google. If you have a website, that’s primarily what my expertise in, as a website copywriter that’s what I focus on and that’s where I’m able to give the most knowledge is website specific SEO. All you’re doing when you’re optimizing your website for a search engine, it’s just increasing your chances of showing up on that page one of Google.

Jon: Awesome. Now, when I think about SEO and I think about conversations I’ve had kind of casually or with others in the trade, one piece of common advice that I cringe at when I hear is, “Yeah, you just need more keywords.” And I think there is this notion that if you can load up your page with keywords and if you can hide your font in the same color, is there ways you can kind of cheat the system and show up? And I don’t think what many people realize is the millions of ingredients that go into an SEO ranking and how that changes not even day by day but hour by hour. As we’re kind of thinking about how to optimize that content are there a couple high level themes or buckets? Or how do you approach kind of looking at a site and say, “How do I make this content more valuable to Google and hopefully show up in front of the people I’m trying to capture?”

Sara: Well, first of all, I would never advise to do what you just said. Absolutely not. If anyone’s listening to this and thinking, yeah, let me go stuff a bunch of keywords and change the font to something translucent, do not ever do that. That’s going to hurt your chances of showing up anywhere on Google. They’re about to blacklist you from Google for doing that. It’s called keyword stuffing. And I would say that’s the biggest SEO myth or tactic that people think is a good idea that’s a horrible idea. Don’t ever do that.

I would start by making sure that my clients have not done that and advise them against it. But in terms of something that I can give as sort of a high level, this will improve your SEO, does have to do with keywords, just not stuffing them in random places. If you’re a service based business owner, I would recommend thinking about how you can use the keyword that has that service in it. For example, I’m a copywriter. I’m never ranking for number one of copywriter ever. That’s not going to happen. There are businesses that are way bigger than me. I’m sure a university’s copywriting program would rank for that word.

And when I say rank for a word, I just mean using that as my keyword. When somebody Googles copywriter, the people that rank number one are the people that show up first in that search. You’re not going to find me if you just Google copywriter. But if you Google creative launch copywriter, you are going to see me. If you Google website copywriter, you’re going to see me. If you Google launch copywriter, you’re going to see me because that’s a way that I have sort of made that keyword my own so the search volume for that, the amount of people that are searching for that are less but those are the people that are searching for me.

Thinking of your keywords as giving them a descriptor is something that can help you and then just using those words throughout your content. On your homepage headline or on your services or product page headline, you’ll definitely want to include keywords but I would say the number one SEO tip that I have is to remember that Google is basically human at this point. It’s 2022. The algorithm is so advanced, that’s why we are all talking about how none of us actually can really understand what they’re up to.

Google can index your content, so search through your content and read it almost like a human would. Writing for humans first is not only going to help you as a business owner because people are going to view you as authentic. They’re going to love your personality. They’re going to feel like they got to know you instead of knowing a business. You know what I mean? Your website is more of a conversation than it is a billboard. Google is going to like that same vibe too. They want you to write like a human so they can keep humans on your site so then they can view your site as credible and then recommend it to their searchers.

Jon: I think that’s interesting because I think that many people are trying to kind of get into Google’s good graces but I don’t think what people always kind of complete in the mental transaction is that Google’s a customer service platform. They’re happy when the people you using the search engine are happy. If you want to be one of those pages, I think you have to think about to your point, not just the keywords and how do I show up for the things I want to show up for? But does it pay off in my site? I think overall site health and value is important and Gene and I have had a lot of conversations with folks on kind of how to get started in content marketing and why that might be important, especially for a service based business. Can you help us understand how you maybe start to think to frame that for clients?

I’m a marketing consultant and I want to find people in my area but I’m thinking at the out what I call myself. Advertising specialist, branding expert, those things. But to your point, there’s a lot of things and organizations and people who are much bigger than me. How do I start to understand how to make those keywords my own? Or better yet even the reality of what people are looking for versus the reality of what I want to call myself or be known for? Are there tools or ways to kind of start to get inside the customer’s mind there?

Sara: Yeah, for sure. I think there’s two things that you can do. The first is focusing on what your ideal client or customer wants to hear as opposed to what you want to say. There’s a lot of times where on our websites we’re preaching, I’m this, I’m that, I’m this, I’m that but you’re ideal client isn’t there yet. They don’t have that stage of awareness yet. They don’t know what that industry jargony term even means. We need to take a step back and think, what are our actual ideal clients and customers talking about? What did they say? What would they call us? Would they call me a marketing strategist? Or would they call me someone to write my website? You know what I mean? Or would they think about, I need a website copywriter? Or do they know, how do I write my about page? You know what I mean? I think that’s where content marketing comes into play. If you think about what’s your people that you’re hoping will land on your website are searching for, it might not be your title. That’s option one.

Option number two is thinking about what your differentiator is. If I use my example of copywriter, I’m never coming up for copywriter but I am coming up for creative launch copywriter because somebody that knows that they need a sales page for their next online course launch would probably search for launch copywriter. And maybe they don’t want someone techy and boring, maybe they want someone creative. They added those descriptors to help find the more specific result that they want and then I come up for that because I’m that person. But if someone were to search copywriter for tech industry, I’m not coming up, I don’t know anything about the tech industry.

I think that using descriptors that your ideal clients would actually use is a good way for that. Also adding your location. If you look up copywriter Worcester, Massachusetts, there I am because that’s where I live. That’s where the local clients are going to be. Local SEO is really important if you’re a business, that’s not virtual. If you’re a photographer or if you’re obviously a brick and mortar store, you’re going to want to include location in those keywords but keywords should be everywhere throughout your whole site so you have the option to use all of those different things. I could put my location in my descriptor. I could call myself a website copywriter on my homepage and a launch copywriter on my services page and a creative copywriter on my contact page and I’m going to come up for all of those things. You don’t have to just pick one. Thinking about all your differentiators and adding that is a good place to start.

Jon: Awesome. And I also think about backlinking as it relates to SEO and domain authority. For folks who don’t know what those terms mean, backlinking is typically when someone else is putting a link to your page on theirs and domain authority is essentially how credible the internet deities think that your site. We’ve talked again historically on this program a lot about kind of the importance of community in a small business. And I think, especially to your point about being able to show up locally or being known as a business who’s local, especially if you’re a brick and mortar or if your customers are kind of in a geographic area, I don’t think enough can be said for can you build a site structure that’s almost spoke style?

If you’re a restaurant because I can’t get through one episode without a restaurant analogy and maybe you’re launching a catering company, maybe you talk and you show images of where you’ve catered at a well known local landmark. And maybe you’re then trying to get that caterer to link back to the photographer who did the shots of the food and the wedding there or maybe they are kind of paying back the favor and saying, “Hey, this was an event brought to you by these other four brands.” I think the more you can kind of partner with other people to kind of rise all ships is a tactic I know I’ve used in the past that has been helpful. You’re the expert, do you think that’s true? Or am I giving back advice here?

Sara: No, no, no. You’re not giving bad advice. I was just going to add to it. A couple more ways you can get some backlinks is if we’re talking local businesses, are you on your local businesses directories? Are you a member of your local chamber of commerce? As soon as I joined my local chamber, I got a million more backlinks because they list new members on their homepage. They have added me to their directory. Now they have blog posts. They have sections where they talk about marketing experts. Joining your local chamber of commerce, not only for the backlinks, you’ll probably get lots of other benefits from doing that.

But thinking about directories, let’s say you are a caterer and maybe there’s an article that Best of Massachusetts has posted about best 10 caterers in Central Mass or something, is your name on that list? Can you email them and ask them to put your name on that list? Things like that. There’s a lot of ways you can get backlinks. Also blogging. I don’t know how much you’ve talked about blogging on this podcast. I am a fan of that everyone should be blogging mentality. If you have a blog or you like to write and somebody else has a blog, guest blogging on somebody’s site is a good strategy as well. There’s a lot of ways you can get backlinks.

Jon: No, I think that’s a great foundation for folks. I get intrigued by how little actions can kind of help everything else you’re doing. To your comment about joining the associations, really advocating for yourself. You can do great work but if nobody knows you’re doing the work, it’s not really going to help you. I think it’s just a reminder to have a little bit of faith in the product you’re putting out there and be willing and able to talk about it because that’s the only way people are going to be able to find out. Gene, tapping you in here. You are definitely in that service space, your world is a bit more global. Wondering kind of how you think about this and what questions you may have for Sara.

Gene: Oh, I have lots of questions for you, Sara.

Gene: I run a company outside of Philadelphia. We have about 10 people. We sell CRM software. My website is marksgroup.net. And let me tell you what my biggest problem is. And I’m just kind of curious to hear your thoughts. Real life. We sell and implement some big brand names like salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics and Zoho and a few others. If you go in and you search for Salesforce or you search for Dynamics or you search for Zoho or Pipedrive or HubSpot because those are the other ones that we implement, my company comes up on page number 840,000 of a Google search. You know what I mean? And the reason why is because these are the big brands, man, they are buying space on there. They are funneling tons of money.

You search for Zoho and you got to get through basically three pages of Google listings before you even start seeing anybody not related to Zoho Corporation. Do you know what I mean? How does a business get around that? There are a lot of small businesses there that sell products. You’re a copywriter and we’ll talk about that in a minute. But there’s some people that are in the distribution business or they’re in the I sell GE refrigerators or I’m a car dealership or I’m a restaurateur. When people search for you, the big brands take up all the space. Do you know what I mean? How does a small business get around that?

Sara: It depends on the type of small business that you have. If we’re a car dealership, for example, I’m going to Google, Kia Telluride near me. You can’t get a Telluride anywhere right now. Which that’s a whole other story. You’ll put near me and that automatically gives you the location based stuff. But if you don’t have the luxury of being able to do that, if I Google Kia Telluride right now, Wagner Kia in Shrewsbury’s going to come up or maybe for you, the Hartford one is going to come up. But if you’re somebody who is more of a global audience, like you said, is your ideal client actually just Googling Salesforce? Are they just Googling HubSpot? You know what I mean? I think that your better opportunity would be from answering their questions.

Google loves when people ask questions and they love to optimize content that answers that question. What’s a frequently asked question that they have about the service that you’re providing? Are they Googling what is the CRM? Are they Googling how to implement my CRM? Are they Googling what’s the difference between Salesforce and HubSpot and whatever? You know what I mean? I think getting into the questions that they have about it is your biggest way in because Salesforce and HubSpot and Zoho and all of them, aren’t talking about each other, you know what I mean? If you’re talking about all of them or five best CRMs to use or which CRM is best for my company? Things like that, answering the questions is going to be your in.

Gene: I love that. And so a couple comments on that. Comment number one is we have a pretty active blog on our site and we write about different things about the products that we sell. We get about 20,000 visitors to our site a month. And when you hear that, you’re like, whoa, that’s a lot for a small business. Well, before you get too excited, there’s one article that we wrote two years ago about Microsoft Teams and integrating it with Office and it gets 99% of the hits. And it’s crazy. And I’m trying hard. You’re absolutely right. If you write on something that is really pertinent to the searchers, solving a problem, that works and I’m really glad that you said that because that’s worked for me. And by the way, when people are hitting that site, I’m doing everything to get their attention, like hey, do you have any other questions? Or would you like to download a white paper or chat, whatever.

Sara: That blog post that gets 99% of your traffic, you better have calls to action like no other in that blog post.

Gene: You are exactly right. Pop-ups coming on, things on the sidebar. Okay, they visited my site, how do I grab them? You know what I mean?

Sara: Related posts throughout the content of that post.

Gene: That’s number one. The other thing that you said that I think is really important for our listeners is this, I’m not a retailer, I’m not a restaurateur. We sell CRMs. One of the CRMs we sell is Zoho, which I think a lot of our listeners would be familiar with. They’re a small business CRM. As you were talking, Sara, because you said something really interesting to me. I Googled Zoho near me. The first name that appeared was my freaking company on the map, the first name. And I never thought it. I never really thought about that but Google seems to be so much more localized than it ever was before. Is that a fair statement to make?

Sara: Yes, definitely. Obviously if you Google near me, you’re going to get stuff that’s near you. But even anything you’re Googling, you’re going to get results that are a little bit more tailored to your location. I used to live in Canada for a year. I would Google something and my page one of Google would be different than my mom Googling it in Massachusetts. It just is so tailored to every single thing about you, Google she’s in your brain, they know it’s up. Google is smarter than we think.

Gene: Yeah. It’s really important to know that. And I think it’s important for our listeners to know that, that localization is really, really important. Google seems to be really into that. Now, I just Googled Dynamics near me because we sell Microsoft Dynamics, nothing. I got General Dynamics and Dynamics Pharmacy. Obviously it’s not a foolproof thing but I think from this conversation you’ve really motivated me to work on more location settings on my keywords on my website as well as more keywords for the products and hopefully that will filter up.

Sara: For sure.

Gene: That would be really good.

Sara: I have a tip for you before we move on. Go on Ubersuggest. Have you been on Ubersuggest?

Gene: Yep. Talk to me about it.

Sara: Okay. Go on ubersuggest.com. It’s Neil Patel’s resource for SEO. It’s free to everyone for three searches each day. Or I believe the lifetime membership is $280 forever. You don’t ever have to pay again. And that is going to be the most helpful resource for anyone listening in terms of SEO, finding the keywords that work for you, thinking about search volume, they’ll even suggest how to optimize your site. They’ll tell you everything that’s wrong with your site. They give you a domain authority score. Everything you ever wanted to know about your site and SEO you’re finding it on Ubersuggest.

Gene: First of all, thank you. It’s Ubersuggest, Uber, it has nothing to do with the car.

Sara: Yeah. It has nothing to do with the car but spelled like the car, Ubersuggest.

Gene: Right, spelled like the car, ubersuggest.com and it redirects me to Neil Patel’s site, which actually raises another question I was also going to ask you. Neil Patel, I’ve known him for years. I’ve interviewed him a few times. He is a social media giant. You’re listening to this and you really want some high level social media advice and consulting and strategy, Neil is fantastic for this. But what about you, Sara?

Sara: Am I smarter than Neil Patel?

Gene: Nobody’s smarter than Neil Patel.

Sara: No, not even Google.

Gene: Let’s get that across. No offense. But your company is called Between the Lines Copywriting.

Sara: Yes it is.

Gene: That’s not Neil Patel. That almost says to me, you would work with a marketing strategist, a digital strategist and work together to put together the right type of copy for a site. Tell me more about what you do and how you help your clients.

Sara: I am a website copywriter primarily but I also offer sales pages and email marketing and content writing and everything like that. The way that I structure it is I have two sort of bigger client projects, one being a website, one being brand messaging in a website, I guess there’s three and then a third being sales page, which is typically for something like an online course launch or some sort of educational service that someone’s providing. A sales page is basically one long website that tells you everything you to know to feel confident in investing. It’s usually a large price tag attached to the sales page. But like I said, websites are my thing. That’s how I got into SEO because you cannot be a website copywriter and not have at least a little bit of knowledge about SEO or your copy is going to be irrelevant because people will search for it and they will never find it.

I was finding that a lot of people in my industry are conversion copywriters. Writing copy that sells, obviously you’re getting people to click those call to action buttons. But to me that felt obvious. Of course I’m a conversion copywriter. Why else would you be a copywriter? To drive conversions, that’s the point. I wanted to add an extra layer to that to be able to offer my clients, hey, not only am I getting you conversions, this is also optimized for SEO. Every time that I write a website, I take their keywords into consideration. I make sure the word count is as long as that Google deems it should be, which is 300 words a page. I never put big blocks of texts on a site. All the things. I optimize their site for SEO in addition to writing their website copy. That’s my day to day.

Gene: Okay. If I were to hire you. Now, I have a couple websites but let’s say again, we’ll take my core website from my company. And so it’s existing. We’re not creating it from scratch. Number one, what would you do with an existing website like mine? I know you haven’t looked at it, just generally, what would you do with an existing website client? And we don’t have to get particular but just for our listeners, what does a service like this cost?

Sara: If you’re building a website from scratch, I’m ignoring your current website for a second. If you’re building a website for scratch, my services start at $4,000. That’s a pretty normal investment. You definitely can find it for less. You absolutely will find it for more, depending on how robust your website is. If you’re just home, about services, blog, contact, $4,000 flat is what you’re getting over here Between the Lines Copywriting. If you’re adding a sales page, that’s adding some more. If you’re adding a resources page or portfolio page or additional services pages, then we’re getting into a little bit more, obviously, as we keep adding the pages.

Gene: And I’ve got to interrupt you right there, just to make sure that I assure when people are listening to this, that they understand you’re making an investment in an asset for your company that is going to be not only driving potential prospects, customers to your business but also helping you create your brand and build value in your company. And this is an investment that it pays off over years. I just don’t want people to get like, oh my God, $4,000.

Sara: I can speak to that a little bit. Sounds like a lot. You’re hearing, oh my God, $4,000. That’s a lot of money. Especially if you’re a small business owner. You’re using that website copy, like Gene said, for years and years to come, typically three to four years is the shelf life of some good website copy. I often have my clients use their website copy for other things, Instagram captions, blog post ideas, email marketing. I’m giving you the copy, you can use whatever you want. It’s on your site but you can continue to use it elsewhere. And I primarily work with service based business owners so think brand designers, wedding planners, photographers, anybody who has a service that they’re providing someone else, they charge us. Let’s use photographers for an example. One wedding photographer hires me for $4,000. They book one wedding, they just charge them $10,000. They’re going to book tons of weddings. They’re going to book hundreds of weddings using this website copy. You make your investment back in one client, one person fills out your contact form, you just made your investment back instantly. The return on investment is insane.

Gene: Right. Again, for people that are thinking of hiring somebody like yourself because you’re not the only game in town. Tell me how you have been misused the most.

Sara: Ooh, how I’ve been misused the most. Is definitely this one hurts my soul. When if somebody hires me, they will pay the $4,000 write the big check for website copy and they’ll do one of two things, either A, hire a website designer that does not fit the aesthetic of their brand or does not fit the success level of their brand. They’re like I wrote the best website copy. They’re great. It’s going to convert and no one will be able to read this website and not fill out their contact form or not hire them and then the website design is horrible, horrible, ugly, bad, confusing, user experience is just bad. That’s the number one mistake I see is wasting your own money by not doing your research and hiring a really great brand designer for sure. Or like adding your own stuff to it.

I feel like that’s something that happens sometimes is people put it on their site. I had somebody recently who I was very, very excited about launching this client project. It was an ideal client of mine. It was a spin studio and I was so excited to show the project off. I loved the copy and I go on her site, it’s finally done. The designer sends it to me and she has added about a 1,000 words to her about page that just read like a LinkedIn profile. And I want to shed a tear because I’m never showing anybody this website because I’m not letting them think that I wrote that. I think that’s the number one, those two.

Gene: That’s great. That is great. And only just because I’m sensitive to time and I’ve got so many more questions for you but you had mentioned this you were speaking with Jon about some of the things that you’d be doing but I just want to revisit just to make sure that we’re clear. If you’re viewing an existing site like mine, what do you mostly find that business owners like me are just not doing that you immediately can swoop in and be like, all right, we got to fix this. Is there a few things?

Sara: Yes. For sure. I think the number one thing I said this before I want to revisit it is that, I think I said this before that your website is not a billboard, it’s a conversation. I think that the number one thing that I noticed, like I said, is that LinkedIn profile about page, you are not speaking to them like a human. People want to invest from and work with humans. They don’t want businesses. They don’t want stuffy content. I understand if you’re a business and you’re trying to look professional, I think there can still be personality added to that. Even if it’s not me, obviously. If you go on my website, you’re going to see as much personality as could be on a site because it’s just me and I’m just one person providing a service. If you’re a business, I understand that you can’t do that.

But I think that you still need to add a little bit of spice to the site. I think that’s the number one mistake I see is that it’s so boring and looks like everyone else’s that you need to add a little element of differentiation and then big blocks of text is something that I see a lot. Big paragraphs that nobody’s reading, headlines that aren’t really attention grabbing or keyword focused. And then word count. I think that people, their pages have a lot of information but they don’t realize that it’s not enough and on some pages, then on other pages they don’t have anything good to say. It’s contact me. And you’re like, okay Google hates that page.

Gene: Got it. Final question has to do with just Google overall. It’s a two part question. First of all, Sara, is Google the only game in town? Is that it’s just it’s Google, Google, Google. Does anybody search anywhere else? Do you ever make, I know these are a bunch of questions but it’s all the same theme. Do you ever suggest to clients that like maybe Google isn’t where you need to be? The second part of that question is, has to do with ads. You’re all about great copywriting and SEO but that’s all organic. The question, people place ads, on Google, and that’s what Google wants. They want you to spend money with them to get noticed online. Are we wasting our time with SEO? Number one is of course, just tell me about Google being the only game in town. And number two is, give me your thoughts on Google Ads.

Sara: Okay, I have a lot.

Gene: And then you’ll be released to the world.

Sara: I will be succinct. I could talk about both of those things all day. Number one, I was already talking smack about being in Yahoo and everybody else before so we already know my thoughts about that. The word search is literally synonymous with Google. When was the last time you heard someone, “Oh, let me Bing that real quick?” You say, “I’ll Google it.” Everybody says, “Oh, let me Google that.” Even if they don’t even mean Google, even if they don’t have Google set as their go to search engine on their phone or on their computer, you still say, “I’m going to Google that.” Google is the only one that matters. I don’t want the universe to hear me and then be upset with me about that. But it doesn’t really matter though that Google is the only one that matters when it comes to SEO.

You’re not doing anything Google specific when you’re adding keywords, you’re going to show up on other search engines too. It’s just that nobody cares. Nobody’s looking at them. When you’re optimizing your website for SEO, you are thinking of Google when you’re doing that. But Google is just a term for search engine. It’s synonymous with search and synonymous with search engine. You’re not saying in somewhere in your back end of your site, “Hey at Google,” you know what I mean? You’re just putting keywords and it’s going to work for everyone. The only Google specific thing you should be doing is using Google Analytics and Google Search Console to see where your traffic is coming from, which pages are performing the best, which on your site, you would see that one blog post from two years ago be number one in terms of page visits. That’s really helpful information to see which pages on your site need help. If your services page is the number 17 on most visited, you’re doing something wrong as a service based business. That should be number three. That’s my speech on Google.

Now in terms of organic versus paid. Organic is the way to go over paid. The reason why I say that is two things. The first, as soon as you stop paying, the benefit goes away. Immediately you stop paying for the ad, no more traffic comes to you. You’re just throwing money at the problem, throwing money at the problem. It’s like a bandaid. You’ll get in front of people sure, but when’s the last time you trusted an ad? Do you like ads? Nobody likes ads. When you go on Google and you search something, you’re going to skip past, it says ad and then the thing. You’re going to skip past till you can see the real page one because you know, oh they paid for that. They didn’t earn that spot. That’s not authentic. Organic marketing is way more authentic and way more beneficial because like you said, that one blog post two years in the making, that’s organic marketing for you, that makes up a ton of your traffic but ads, second you stop that campaign you’re done.

Jon: Yeah. And I think, I have a little perspective on that too because I think it is a bit about a mix in what you’re trying to do. I think an SEO strategy is number one because that’s going to make sure that your site is healthy. And then when I think about how Google keeps changing their page, it’s no longer just here’s three promoted links and here’s all your organic links. It’s here’s your three links that you paid for and here’s the questions that people are asking and here’s things that are similar to searches like yours. And now here’s the organic listings.

Sara: Yes, exactly.

Jon: Everything Sara’s talking about, especially thinking about out it as a conversation, are you answering a question? That’s going to bring you up because you might actually be answering a question that Google is saying people are asking. If you’re in the local listing on kind of that right rail, they keep redesigning so I think it is important to think that way. But I also think in terms of paid, it also serves a different kind of need. If I’m someone who’s selling something that someone is searching for in the moment and not to learn more, not to get to know who’s out there but I need this thing. They might be more inclined to look at an ad because it’s top of mind, I’ve heard of that brand before. Okay, I can get this from them.

Sara: Yeah, the heard of the brand before is key for sure. Because you probably won’t trust just a random ad. You have to see that Instagram ad 10 million times before you finally buy that thing or whatever it is.

Jon: Correct. And especially if you’re with someone who’s maybe interpreting an ad as an opportunity to learn more, I kind of feel you’re wasting your money as a brand. Because you’re trying to convert them and they’re like, I just want to know who you are. There is that kind of balance on am I selling the thing now? If it was like, hey, for 24 hours only, I’m a local retail shop and I’m trying to blast through all of my t-shirts because I’m getting room for the next season. Perfect thing for a search ad because 50% off buy now. You can clearly understand what you’re getting. Versus I want a trusted advisor or brand in this space and what do they say and who should I work with and what do they do? That’s probably where you’re probably outside of the ad box.

Sara: Exactly. Ads I would say to that point are for a campaign. For example, I’m launching an online course next month, I will likely do ads for that online course just while the card is open, the seven days, I will do ads. For my services I would never do an ad because you’d be like, why can’t you get clients on your own? You know what I mean? Retweet to what he said.

Gene: Jon, any final questions? That was great.

Jon: No, I think this was great. I think what was interesting that might be worth a follow up conversation at some point is kind of that once you’ve gotten people in, are they having the experience you want? Sara, to your point, kind of where you’ve been misused, did you the destroy the copy? And then there’s no user experience. And then the cycle is, then that tells Google that people want to bounce and they don’t want to be there and they’re going to deprioritize the work you just did. I think there is that understanding on there’s a whole bunch of different elements when it comes into how you show up online, that probably require a specific level of expertise but they don’t work in a silo.

You can have the best copy in the world, if you have a poor site structure, that’s not going to help. You can have the best jazzy site in the world but if it doesn’t actually give you the information you need, people are going to leave. You can have both of those things but if there’s no call to action, then how are they going to actually be able to follow up and convert, whether that means just even reaching out to you or buying something. I just encourage everyone to understand it’s not about one thing, it’s about kind of the totality of things that you do and making sure that you’re doing them.

Sara: The whole picture.

Jon: Yeah. And getting the people who can help you to do those in the right way or investing the skills yourself.

Gene: Makes sense. It makes sense. Boy Sara, I have so many more questions for you. I could talk about SEO all day.

Sara: You could book a strategy call with me, Gene.

Gene: Yeah. I’ll probably be reaching out to you separately as well because I’d love you to take a look at my site.

Sara: Sure. I do have a website copy audits. I never answered your question about that. When you asked what you would do with an existing site. If you didn’t want to refresh your copy, sometimes people have a site and they just hate all the copy on it and I’ll just start from scratch. But if you like some of your site, I do what’s called the website copy audit. And I will look over the entire thing with you. I’ll tell you what needs to change. I’ll give you some copy suggestions of what I would do if I were you. It’s like a full day thing and intensive where we look over your website.

Gene: You just said something, I was just going to ask you and you said something really important. You said it’s a full day thing. If you’re going to do that, you need me involved as well.

Sara: I probably need 90 minutes of your time.

Gene: Okay, well 90 minutes. That’s fair enough. Because it’s not like you can just appear and suddenly be an expert on CRM or for any business that you’re working with.

Sara: Yeah. Because I need to know what your ideal clients need to know and why you’re different from your competition and all these things. But I send a questionnaire to all of my clients before. The quick process is, I reach out, I send a proposal, they accept, contract, deposit, the whole thing, questionnaire, kickoff call, draft it, review it together, finalize it then they send it off to their designer.

Gene: That’s awesome. That is awesome. Sara Noel is the owner of Between the Lines Copywriting, that’s betweenthelinescopy.com. You can also find her on Instagram @btlcopy. Right, Sara?

Sara: Yep.

Gene: I think I got that address right.

Sara: Yes it is.

Gene: Thank you so much for your great information. We may revisit this topic in the future and Jon, just so you bringing up a user experience that gives me some ideas of people we should also be talking to that dovetail into what Sara does. It’s a great topic and I know all of us are interested in making the most use of our website. Sara again, thank you so much for joining us.

Sara: Thanks for having me.

Gene: You have been listening to The Hartford Small Biz Ahead podcast. Hopefully you have enjoyed this conversation. If you need advice, tips or any type of information to help you run your business, please visit us at sba.thehartford.com. My name is Gene Marks. I am here with my co-host Jon Aidukonis. Jon, thank you again so much for we’re having a great conversation with all of our great guests. I’m enjoying this and hopefully you are too.

Jon: Yeah, it’s been a great one. Everybody have a wonderful day wherever you are and we’ll catch you on the next one.

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6 Responses to "Common SEO Mistakes Your Business Should Avoid"
    • Bing Service | May 10, 2022 at 10:06 am

      There is definitely a great deal to learn about this topic. I like all of the points you made.

      • Small Biz Ahead | May 10, 2022 at 10:44 am

        Thank you! We appreciate the comment and are happy to hear you liked the article.

    • Pradeep Singh | April 30, 2022 at 12:39 pm

      Good information.

      • Small Biz Ahead | May 2, 2022 at 8:49 am

        Thank you for commenting. We’re glad you liked it!

    • Marta H. | April 18, 2022 at 1:49 pm

      Gene made some fantastic points in this segment. I’m curious what insights y’all have about brick and mortar business strategies. Currently trying out some planogram features, and it seems to be working well. SEO has been great for online organization, though.

      • Gene Marks | April 20, 2022 at 8:35 am

        Thanks for the good words.

        Actually, Google is very localized for small businesses. So make sure you have a Google business listing setup and then create tags and content on your site with very localized keywords using your city, town, state, etc. Get on Google Maps. Consider digital marketing platforms like https://www.taradel.com/ for mail/email/digital ads that’s very localized. Hope this helps.

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