So small businesses have a website that simply says their name and is done with it. They will use phrases like "Contact us for more information", "Please call this number to make an appointment" or "Check our Instagram for our latest workout".

If this is you, you're don't realise the effect that this is having on your business.

Why Small Businesses Fail at SEO

The small businesses I most regularly interact with are gyms, motorcycle shops and hair salons. My girlfriend also interacts with eyelash extension specialists.

Whenever I need a haircut or to find a gym in a new city, I open up Google Maps and see whatever's nearest me.

I type in "hairdresser" or "gym" and see what I can find. Hopefully I can find a website with services, prices and hours.

But it's never that easy.

Either the gym no longer exists, doesn't show up on my map, or I get an irrelevant gym like a Yoga studio. I usually either don't find a hairdresser at all, or get a Facebook page that's only half-filled out and doesn't tell me something important, like when they're open (or if they're still in business).

Why does this happen? Because coaches, hairdressers and other professionals, are wonderful at their jobs but terrible at SEO. It's not their fault; most business owners are simply never taught the basics of building an online presence.

How SEO can transform your business

Building a solid online presence is simple if you follow a few simple rules.

SEO, in one sentence, is as follows:

"A search engine-optimised website is a fast-loading, well-presented and easy-to-read website, rich in content relevant to your business and interesting to your customers — a website that keeps people coming back, staying on it and sharing it, and that makes other well-regarded businesses refer and link to it."

In other words, search engines shows searchers websites that are most likely to please them.

To figure out what will please searchers, they watch everything. They look not just at what people type in, but where their mouse goes, what they click on and even how users all over the web interact with your website.

The search engine asks itself:

  • When searching, do searchers get intrigued by your website, enough to click in and read? Or do they skip over it and click on something else?
  • After they click in to your website, do they stay there, reading and clicking around?
  • Do other publishers consider you enough of an authority to refer to you by name — or better, to link to you?

All of these are "signals" that tell search engines: "This website is relevant for this search term. Put it higher to the top."

The higher it is to the top, the more likely it is someone will click in and make a booking.

The problem: Most business owners don't get the basics of how search engines work

After browsing hundreds of websites for small businesses in many cities, I can say that most websites fail at SEO.

It's not voodoo or magic. We're talking the absolute basics. It's simple things like bad design, poor content or not being mobile responsive. These things put off readers, and put off people who would otherwise be likely to link to you.

In the real world, these things are the equivalent of having fresh paint on the outside, easy to read signage, prices on a board and a front desk where they can take your credit card. You have those, don't you? If you do, then you need to have the same equivalent online.

Why you're not ranking on search engines: Seven Common Reasons

Luckily, fixing your website is not difficult. Most of it can be done with about a day of investment. It's also something I can help with. If you want to book a consultation, then set up a time and we can talk.

1. Your website just looks bad.

You have a bad-looking website that puts people off because of poor design. It's slow, looks bad on mobile, and has lousy layout.

People will show up to a bad website and wrinkle their nose. The only reasons they'll push through is if it has up-to-date information, and they can get the bare minimum done on it (like, browse your catalogue). More on up-to-date content below.

What a bad website that doesn't even have up-to-date content does is get users to leave immediately. This tells Google, who tracks everything: "Yo, people HATE this site. They click in and spend 10 seconds before leaving". Google will observe this, and downrank you in search.

Most small businesses should immediately ditch their website and replace it with a vanilla design from Squarespace or Wix. Yes, it costs $10-20 a month. But it will give the same results as hundreds or thousands of dollars in developer costs, be effortless to maintain and be really pleasant for your customers to visit.

The total investment of time will be a few hours, and will totally change the way your business looks. Think of it as a shopfront renovation that takes a few hours. Wouldn't you pay that?

2. Your website is slow

People want your website to load in about two seconds. Or less.

So many websites take so much longer... up to 30 seconds for one with a huge catalogue of items.

Unless customers are desperate to buy from you, there's no way they'll wait that long.

Making a fast website isn't hard, but it's not something people set out to do from the early days. So old websites (probably like yours — and like mine in the past) have problems like

  • No mobile optimisation. So people on their phones have to navigate the tiny font and a hard layout.
  • Huge photos that aren't optimised for fast download. A 1MB file instead of a 100KB file is typical.
  • Cumbersome ads. You should only be advertising yourself!
  • A slow web server (I know, it was cheap... but cheap doesn't have to be slow)
  • Lots of legacy plug-ins in the website that you don't need and that are slowing down your server
  • No global "Content Delivery Network", so your website is even slower from some parts of the world (where you customers still might be)

All of this is fixable, but takes a bit of investment. You can either migrate to Squarespace like I mentioned above, or have someone overhaul your website - a few days work.

3. You don't have content that people Google

No words to search for = no search visibility.

Your website needs to have words that people search for on Google.

If someone is looking for "hair salons in Boston", you need to have the words "hair salon" and "Boston" somewhere in your website. Ideally you'd have words like "hair colour" or "balayage" or other specific services you offer.

The words have to be in searchable text, not images (Google isn't so good at reading words in images).

If you don't have these, nobody is going to find it through search.

Even better than putting it in your front page is to have the text in a blog on your website. Have a weekly post of 500-1000 words talking about some thing relevant to your business. If you're a gym owner, write about stretching ("mobility") or diet or technique. If you're a hair salon, write about how your hair services are great, or give a background to one of your stylists — anything. As long as it's about your business – in other words, if what you're writing about answers a user's question and that's something you can help with – it's good!

When creating content that people search for, make sure the articles are around 500-1200 words. You can do just one a week (or two, once you have a bunch up there). This is different to "up to date content", below, which can be much more often, but much more brief.

4. Your site has no authority

Authority is hard to build, bust basically it's aseries of signals sent to Google that say "this person knows about the sesearch terms".

You can build authority in a number of ways. The most reliable way is to write great content, publish it, and wait until it's discovered (and it will be).

One traditional, but unreliable, way for you rank higher is for "authoritative" sources to link to you. The best ones out there are places like major newspapers (think the New York Times or BBC or similar), but you probably won't get them — or you wouldn't be reading this list.

5. You have little or no up-to-date content

You need to update your website constantly with new information, and tell users "you can find up to date information on our website".

Why? Because it sends multiple signals to Google.

  1. It tells Google "These guys take their website seriously." and
  2. It tells Google "People want to come back to your website." (because they do, for the updated information)

Google tracks EVERYTHING.

Google Analytics (which you probably have installed) will monitor that people come back every day, or sometimes several times a day. When it notices this, it'll remember "hey, people come back to this website a lot" and be more likely to show it to people searching for the same content.

Now, this is different to making content people search for. This content can be very brief, and you don't have to worry about keywords. It's just like raising your hand every day and saying "hey, I exist!"

Some examples of information you can put up easily:

  • For hairdressers: Photos of the finished haircuts of your clients. Don't just put them on Instagram, throw them on your blog!
  • For motorcycle shops: New models that have just come in. Photos of people with their new bikes.
  • For gyms: Recipes. Workouts of the day.

You can make these brief, but do it often.

6. You don't capture new leads

If people come to your website more than once, they're interested in what you have to publish.

They want to be told when they should come back to your website, which is usually as soon as you've updated anything.

  • If you run a gym, it's as soon as you've published new workouts, pricing or classes.
  • If you run a motorcycle shop, it's as soon as you have new stock.

You need to capture emails or phone numbers so you can tell people when to re-visit your website.

Then set up a system that emails them all every time you publish a new post. They'll even end up forwarding it to other people, and just like that, you'll get more and more subscribers and views.

7. You don't have an instant booking system

The website has no integration with calendars, payment platforms, or even any pricing information.

If I customers can't get any closer to making a booking on your website, why do you even have a website?

If you're a hairdresser, people need to be able to reserve you. Hopefully even pay.

If you're a motorcycle shop, people should be able to book a test ride or an inspection. Even if they can come in any time — it is nice to know someone is interested in a specific model. (And you can capture their information for later.)

So many websites just say "call us" or "drop in" for questions. Yes, you might be much better in person, but you're leaving money on the table.

How to fix these things?

Find a great business's website. Copy it, and just tweak the content slightly.

You can also contact me. I'd love to help.