Every­one makes mis­takes.

But as a small busi­ness, mis­takes can be cost­ly. You need to hit the ground run­ning and see your efforts pay off fast.

So when you decide to start opti­miz­ing your web­site for search, there are some com­mon mis­takes you want to avoid.

How can you make sure you skip over the rook­ie mis­takes and start using SEO to your advan­tage?

Here are five common pitfalls to avoid.

1. Writing for search engines instead of people

SEO, or search engine opti­miza­tion, is all about set­ting up your web­site to rank well in online search­es.

You start by find­ing rel­e­vant key­words that your poten­tial cus­tomers are search­ing for online and then using these key­words on your web­site, so your web­site builds rel­e­vance and author­i­ty.

Once you have a list of key­words, you want to include these key­words in mul­ti­ple places through­out your web­site includ­ing page URLs, page head­ings and sub­head­ings, body con­tent, image names, etc.

But when you first start opti­miz­ing your pages for key­words, it’s easy to go over­board and use key­words so much that you turn peo­ple off.

Always take the time to read your web pages or blog posts out loud. Do you sound like a bro­ken record repeat­ing the same phrase over and over again?

Ide­al­ly, you’ll want to use a key­word a few times — but only if it fits in nat­u­ral­ly. Do a quick qual­i­ty check to make sure your writ­ing is help­ful for cus­tomers first, and search engines sec­ond.

2. Focusing on traffic alone

Increas­ing your web­site traf­fic is one of the biggest ben­e­fits of SEO. After all, organ­ic search accounts for 64 per­cent of all web­site traf­fic.

But that doesn’t mean traf­fic should be the only goal of your SEO efforts — SEO is also a pow­er­ful way to dri­ve con­ver­sions.

Dig into your ana­lyt­ics to see which pages are the high­est con­vert­ing pages. Then, see if you can make any improve­ments to get more eyes on these high-con­vert­ing pages.

3. Forgetting to optimize images

Hope­ful­ly, you’re already using images on your web­site to draw vis­i­tors in.

What you may be over­look­ing is the alt-text of the image. Search engines, like Google, use the alt-text to process images.

For exam­ple, in the image below of our email tem­plates, Google won’t be able to look at an image and deter­mine the sub­ject. But it can read the “alter­na­tive text,” or alt-text.

Use your alt-text to pro­vide a help­ful descrip­tion and even include a key­word if rel­e­vant.

4. Ignoring social SEO

Most of your search opti­miza­tion efforts will prob­a­bly be tweaks to your small business’s web­site.

But if you’re active on social media chan­nels, these sites can help boost your rank­ings as well. Always fill out the “About” sec­tions of your social media pages — and include links back to your busi­ness web­site.

If you’ve recent­ly opti­mized a page on your web­site, share it across your social media chan­nels to dri­ve new traf­fic and add social share but­tons to your blog posts to make it eas­i­er for oth­ers to share con­tent on your behalf.

You can also set your busi­ness up on local list­ing sites like Google My Busi­ness and Yelp to bet­ter reach a local audi­ence.

5. Expecting instant results

This might be the eas­i­est mis­take to make of all. Once you’ve put in the work to opti­mize your site and boost rank­ings for spe­cif­ic pages, you’re ready to grab that top spot in Google search­es and see the traf­fic flood in, right?

In real­i­ty, search engine opti­miza­tion is a long game and rank­ing promi­nent­ly requires that you reg­u­lar­ly pub­lish qual­i­ty con­tent that demon­strates your indus­try exper­tise and helps read­ers.

For the Con­stant Con­tact Blog, it has tak­en us years to secure the high­ly desired top spot for espe­cial­ly com­pet­i­tive key­words.

But stick with it. Because once you’re able to show up for an online audi­ence that’s active­ly seek­ing you out, you’ll reach an audi­ence that’s already engaged and inter­est­ed in your busi­ness.