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The 3 Biggest Small Business SEO Challenges & How to Overcome Them


Oh, that coveted "page one, position one" ranking in Google... What small businesses would do to get there...

Being Google's #1 can be business changing - if you rank #1 for the right keywords. Making it to page one or two is a great consolation prize. Within the first two pages, you'll still substantially increase your visibility and reach with prospective buyers.

Small businesses fail to achieve high rankings due to a number of variables and challenges, including the three listed below. Let's take a look at these common small business SEO challenges, and how to overcome them.

1 - "What keywords should I focus on?"

At first blush, selecting your keywords seems pretty straightforward. You think of the products or services that your business provides and use those as keywords, right? 

Not exactly.

This is where small business SEO goes sideways. Starting with poor keyword selection means the rest of your SEO efforts will struggle, and ultimately lead to failure. (Something something strong buildings on weak foundations...)

Here's an example of poor keyword selection and how to correct it.

Let's say you're a metal fabricator focused on tubular steel manufacturing (hey guys). From evaluating your key services, you decide that your top five keywords should be:

  1. Tube bending
  2. Sheet metal
  3. Tube production
  4. Sheet metal
  5. Laser cutting

These keywords would produce a tremendous amount of traffic if (IF) you could rank on page one. BUT... Would you rather get tons of people who are NOT looking for a metal fabricator, or a few engineers who ARE looking for a metal fabricator and almost guaranteed to buy? (← Light bulb moment?)

A keyword like "sheet metal" sounds like a rankings gold mine, until you consider all the sundry reasons someone might search for sheet metal. Like:

  • researching a DIY home decor project
  • considering roofing options for their factory
  • a sculptor looking for materials
  • someone wanting a single piece of sheet metal
  • looking for raw, unfinished sheets

Obviously, this keyword is too vague. It will drive a lot of low quality traffic to your site. As we all know, traffic does not equal new business opportunities. So, what keywords would work better?

  • sheet metal fabricator
  • sheet metal manufacturing

With research into competition and the industry, these keywords can be refined further. 

Time for Interactive Learning!

What if we examine a service business like a workers compensation insurance provider? In fact, try this for yourself. Go to Google with this mindset: you need a new workers compensation insurance provider. What do you immediately search for? "Insurance"? (Probably not, but let's run with it. For science.):


How many worker's compensation options show up here? None. What if we change the query to the more specific "workers compensation insurance provider"?


WHOA! Look at all those awesome results! These results are much more relevant to our actual needs (and, as it turns out, more in line with how people search). 

The Key Takeaway: 

Broad keywords will drive more traffic, but less quality traffic. More specific keywords won't give you traffic numbers, but they'll give you more leads and sales opportunities.

2 - "I don't have the capacity to manage an optimized SEO strategy."

Small business teams are inherently spread thin. Each team member takes on more responsibilities than their job role calls for, for the good of the business.

If you don't have the resources to monitor your SEO consistently, you're losing out on a lot of the benefits. Why? Because...

SEO is not a set it and forget it tactic.

One more time!

⇒SEO is not a set it and forget it tactic.⇐

I hope my message is loud and clear. If you're serious about generating leads and growing your business, SEO is not something you can do in January and forget about until December .

SEO optimization must be done on a monthly basis at minimum. Effective SEO needs an associated content marketing strategy, so you should really be working on SEO/content weekly to see results in a reasonable amount of time.

This is why small businesses who DIY their SEO fail. They simply don't have the time to do it effectively (not to mention the lack of expertise). This means they don't consistently:

  • produce SEO-focused content
  • measure their performance over time
  • identify low-hanging fruit for quick wins
  • keep up to date with SEO best practices
  • evaluate the competition's activity online

We like seeing our clients get found online and generate great leads. That's why it's very frustrating to see a business take this route. Poor results are inevitable. It's a waste of the business's time - which ultimately means it's a waste of money.

The Key Takeaway

SEO requires regular attention and effort to be successful. Small businesses will see better results if they hire someone (in-house or outsourced) with experience. That way, you'll always have eyes on your metrics.

3 - "If I do SEO, my business will grow in no time!"

Most small businesses think of SEO success like this: 


The thought goes like this: "If I can rank #1 for [insert keyword], I'll start taking vacations on my own yacht!"

Not so fast, Jordan Belfort.

SEO success is awesome, but it's only one component of an effective online growth strategy.

Don't get me wrong. Growing your traffic from 300 visitors/month to 1,000 is a big success! The problem is, your goal isn't more traffic. Your goal is more business.

You might be wondering, doesn't more traffic mean more business? The short answer is NO. We touched on this above. To explain the difference, here's a scenario:

Let's say before doing SEO, your website generated 300 visitors per month. 0.5% of those visitors became leads by contacting you or submitting your RFQ form.

This means you would generate 1.5 leads per month, or 18 leads/year through your website.

Not all of those leads will be qualified sales leads. Some will want something outside of your capabilities. Some will want lower-than-minimum quantities, massive parts that don't fit in your production line, etc.

Let's say 60% will be qualified, or about 12 qualified leads/year. Of those 12 leads/year, your sales team is able to close 40% of them into new sales. That means you get about 4.8 new sales/per year from your website.

Now, let's say you increase your traffic to 1,000 visitors per month and maintain your 0.5% lead conversion rate, 60% qualified lead rate and 40% close rate. Now you're looking at:

•  60 website leads/year
•  36 qualified leads/year
•  14.4 new sales/year

That sounds great, right? Not so much when you consider the average lead conversion rate from Inbound Marketing is 3-5% of traffic.

If we take your SEO-improved traffic of 1,000 visitors per month and use a low-average lead generation rate of 3%, here's how the numbers come out:

•  360 website leads/year
•  216 qualified leads/year
•  86.4 new sales/year

As you can see, just increasing traffic will not produce the results of a full inbound strategy. More traffic is only a small part of the equation.

The numbers I used for straight SEO are fairly optimistic as well. It's more common to see small businesses with lead conversion rates in the 0.02%-0.25% range. This means 99%+ of your website traffic is taking no action.

The Key Takeaway

Savvy businesses know that traffic is only part of the growth equation. You have to use SEO as one leg of a larger inbound marketing strategy that also focuses on increasing your website's conversion rate

Rules for smashing small business SEO challenges:

  1. Broad keywords = more traffic, less engagement. Specific keywords = less traffic, more engagement.
  2. SEO requires attentiveness. If you can't give your SEO the attention it deserves, please provide a caretaker.
  3. SEO is only one part of an effective online strategy.

Want to know how your SEO stacks up? Take a gander with the checklist below.

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