By Craig Buckler

The 7 Deadly Sins of SEO for Business Owners

By Craig Buckler

This isn’t a typical “SEO mistakes” article. I won’t exude the virtues of readable URLs and unique page titles — good web developers know those techniques. This advice is aimed at people running a business. You may not have strong IT or marketing skills, but you’re probably aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimization. Hopefully, this will help you avoid the mistakes made by others…

1. Mismanagement: Considering SEO at the End of Your Project

People love the creative part of building websites. Choosing colors, designing graphics, approving layouts and making videos is fun. By comparison, keyword research and writing good content is a little tedious. It’s often handed down to someone on work experience or whoever complains the least.

Don’t fall into that trap. Identify your customers before embarking on any web project. You should understand who they are, what motivates them, and the language they use in search queries. Ideally, your website content should be researched and written before your designer launches Photoshop.

2. Outsourcing: Pushing SEO to a Third-Party

A good web agency will include SEO in their development plan. Be wary if it’s not considered or they recommend handing the SEO effort to another company. I’m sure there are some great SEO consultancies — it’s just a shame I’ve never worked with one.

Seek advice by all means, but don’t assume another person can solve all your SEO problems.

3. Technophobia: Equating SEO with Witchcraft

Despite what many “experts” say, most SEO techniques are bleeding obvious. Some of it can be laborious or take time, but it’s rarely difficult.

Anyone who tells you their sophisticated technology is a secret or highly complex is a liar or doesn’t understand SEO. Politely decline their services.

4. Laziness: Divorcing Yourself from the SEO Process

Ask yourself this simple question: “Who knows more about my business?” Is it you, your web developer, or the pushy SEO salesperson who called 10 minutes ago?

You should be actively involved in the SEO process. If you’re not, there’s only one person to blame if your site isn’t gaining the traffic you hoped for.


5. Ineffectiveness: Neglecting your Business Model

This is one of the worst problems caused by outsourced SEO. An “expert” will recommend an SEO technique without considering what it means for your business.

For example, they’ll tell you that blogs are a great way to engage with customers and create interest in your services. That’s absolutely true. But what if you’re a sole trader manufacturing table legs for a few big clients? Do you have time to write an article every week? Do you have the inclination? Can you think of many interesting table-leg-related topics?

6. Ineptitude: Hoping Meta-Tags will Solve Content Blunders

If you’re selling Blue WidgetsTM, it’s really a good idea to mention it.

Of course, you’re absolutely free to write about your corporation’s environmental ethics, leadership interfaces, organizational diversity and accountability strategies. But will anyone looking for Blue Widgets find your site?

And, no, meta tags are not a magical answer. Search engines apply considerably more weight to readable content than invisible text.

7. Cheating: Attempting to Trick the Search Engines

It won’t work. If there were a sneaky trick which could guarantee a #1 position, everyone would do it. You won’t beat Google and Bing at their own game.

In 1998-BG (Before Google), some tricks were possible and websites would stuff pages with repeated keywords. Today, that practice will get you banned. Search engines look for good quality content which matches a search phrase. It’s even better if that content is regularly updated and lots of other sites link to it. In a nutshell, that’s SEO.

Bonus Sin — Naivety: Falling for SEO Scams

How would you react to the following sales pitch: “hey, I can make you the most popular person in town — it’ll only cost you $300 per month”? Yet many people fall for the charms of someone pertaining to be from Google who’s selling the #1 position in search engine results. Please don’t be so gullible.

Do you know of worse SEO sins?

  • Leonard Challis

    Some decent points here. It just so happened that we had a meeting this morning about, among other things “who does the SEO?”

    The problem we face is that we have many skilled people — designers, developers, product managers, an MD who takes a very keen interest in all areas — but despite us all having a decent general knowledge of SEO principles and techniques picked up from conferences and reading blogs and posts like this one, none of us could be considered an expert. Far from it really. We discussed that getting somebody external to do it would possibly be a good thing for us. We did discuss coming up with a plan first, making sure we know where we’re at, what we DO know and what we don’t to know from any such expert, so we’re not paying out a lot of money for what is essentially stuff we can find out on the web or at one of these conferences, but a few of your points have me thinking, which way should we go?

    We do all our development and design in-house, and we seem to finally be getting the message over that having a dedicated SEO person is probably the ideal situation, but in the mean-time, would you say continue with our limited knowledge, outsource to an SEO agency, or what?

    • With regard to the technicalities of SEO, I’d recommend doing as much in-house as possible. Any reasonably proficient web developer should be doing it already – or at least understand the basics. A half-decent SEO book will be useful.

      As for Search Engine Marketing, do you have sales people? Utilize their talents first. How do they find leads? What terms do your clients use? What sites do they frequently visit?

      Finally, remember to measure your results. Google Analytics is all most people need.

      As for hiring an SEO agency, I’d never say never, but I’d be amazed if you found one which paid for itself in increased revenue. Many employ pushy sales staff and have few technical experts. Even large, (supposedly) reputable organizations are indulging in SEO snake-oil sales.

      If an SEO company is genuinely proficient, they’ll be willing to receive a commission based on improved sales results. Put that to them and see how fast they run.

      • Anonymous

        My SEO company would most likely run too, but not for the implied reason. We can improve traffic, and as you know, really well researched SEO should result in increased targeted traffic. However, for a lot of reasons, we have no control over our clients sales process. There are too many variables, from bad salespeople, to poor products and services, to websites with no call to action, for us to stake our income on sales. On the other hand, we would be happy to base our income on increased traffic, though most clients prefer a monthly fee for budgeting purposes.

  • Stephen
  • Anonymous

    Using flash is not a SEO sin its a complete suicide!

  • I just paîd $22.85 for an îPad 2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Canon EOS Rebel Camera that we got for $38.78 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $625 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, CentHub.cöm

  • Yes you are right most of the people care about other factors of site then SEO, I personaly found my self considering more on design then SEO, Thats not good

Get the latest in Entrepreneur, once a week, for free.