In working with small businesses, I’ve seen a variety of sites underperforming in the search results (SEO), losing out on a whole chunk of free traffic. 

Sometimes the business owner realizes that they are under-performing and others don’t even realize what they’re missing out on. Let’s go through the common reasons I see sites underperforming in SEO. 

Your Keyword Strategy is Off

One of the most common shortcomings of these sites is a lack of a defined keyword strategy. Sites without a defined keyword strategy are shooting in the dark trying to drive organic traffic.

Example: Athletic Footwear

Let’s say you’re running a site that sells running shoes and all of the content on your site is centered around “athletic footwear” because you thought it sounded good. The meta titles on your key pages use the term “athletic footwear” and the product descriptions are focused on “athletic footwear.” 

A quick glance in the keyword research shows that “athletic footwear” gets about 2K searches per month. Sounds great. 

Well, “running shoes” gets about 200K searches per month (10X). This may seem like a silly example, but I see versions of this all the time. 

Keyword Strategy Tips

Business owners will haphazardly decide on keywords or not even think about it at all, and then wonder why they aren’t reaping in the high-volume, high-value searches. 

As a business owner, it’s important to spend some time looking at keyword data, developing a strategy, and using that to drive your site content. 

See what people are searching for related to your offering, understanding what the competition is doing, and see where you can focus your efforts to get the best outcome. 

Your Site is Too New

Sometimes, your site not ranking is just not your fault. It takes time for a site to rank. It takes time for a site to even be recognized and then build up authority on the internet. 

There are lots of different time frames thrown around on the internet, and I’d say you generally shouldn’t expect to see significant rankings in the first 3-6 months of your site being live.

The Stats

According to an Ahrefs study, only 22% of the pages that ranked in the top 10 of search results were created within 1 year, and the average age of the position 1 ranking was 3 years. 

Just because most of the results are dominated by older pages, it doesn’t mean you can’t be one of the outliers. 

It’s important to temper expectations though so you aren’t discouraged by your SEO efforts. 

Indexing Note

One other note is that you can submit a page to be indexed by Google or your entire sitemap using Google Search Console. Doing this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will rank, but it makes sure that Google knows you exist. 

You Don’t Have Quality Backlinks

If you’ve done any research in SEO, you’ve probably heard about backlinks. Backlinks are simply links from other sites to your site. 

They are digital referrals or stamps of approval for your site. 

Example: Barber Shops

Think about it in the real world.

There are two barber shops near you, Barbershop A and Barbershop B, and all of your friends recommend you go to Barbershop A. 

Which one are you going to go to? 

Backlinks are signals on the internet that let the search engines (Google) know that other people are recommending your content. If lots of bloggers are talking about your new food product, that’s a good signal to Google that your food product is good. 

The Stats

According to a Backlinko study, the position 1 result has, on average, 3.8x the number of backlinks as results 2-10. 

Getting backlinks is one of the most important parts of SEO and also the most challenging. 

It often requires creating amazing content and reaching out to people in your niche to link to it.

The most natural way to do this is to create content that is so valuable, people feel compelled to link to it naturally. 

Bad Backlink Warning 

Do not opt for shady backlink tactics like paying for backlinks or using PBNs (private blog networks). Google is too smart for these tactics and they won’t pay off. Try to earn quality backlinks, slow, and steady.

Ely Kattan is the founder of Clickd, a digital marketing consultancy focused on helping small businesses grow. If you’re an entrepreneur looking to level up your digital marketing, then reach out at Clickd

SEO ranking stock photo by Light And Dark Studio/Shutterstock