Research has shown time and again that a high percentage of new businesses close after 1-2 years. It’s easy to attribute this to the common culprits such as poor business planning and poor fund management. However, with many startups and small businesses not knowing how to fully optimize their businesses online, no doubt this is also one of the biggest factors affecting the low success rate of new businesses.

In an analysis by CBInsights on 101 startups, 14% of them reported failing because of poor marketing. It’s not far-fetched to imagine that in a world where 78% of marketers use it as the primary marketing tool, SEO (or lack thereof) is a contributor to local business failure. In this post we’ll look at seven SEO challenges holding back local businesses.

1. Poor understanding of local SEO

By now many small business owners are familiar with the term local SEO. They know it’s important for their business but beyond that, nothing much.

A study published by Weebly in 2017 demonstrates this. According to the report, while 98% of the respondents said it was important to appear on Google, almost half (approximately 45%) weren’t sure what SEO means.

Without an understanding of SEO, a business owner cannot hope to successfully oversee the implementation of a sound strategy.

A more recent survey conducted by HigherVisibility — a marketing agency based in Memphis, Tennessee — reports that up to 20% of small businesses don’t have a business website yet. Fifty-four percent of the respondents said they didn’t have a budget for SEO. Of course they didn’t! They don’t know what SEO is.

As a business owner, no matter how busy your week is, set aside some time to educate yourself. Some of the world’s renowned business leaders attribute their success in part to a solid reading culture. That includes knowing what your marketing team is up to with that SEO.

2. Insufficient budget

The study above suggests that over half of small business owners don’t have a budget for SEO. This is the first dangerous effect of not understanding what it encompasses. You ignore it completely and focus your attention on more familiar marketing methods. And it’s so dangerous because you don’t realize what you’re missing.

Granted, some business owners just don’t have enough to spare. It’s not uncommon to hear a small business owner saying they didn’t have enough money so they settled for subpar services. They do it all the time.

With SEO, you can’t go half the journey. There’s no difference between that one who has no SEO budget at all and you who employs half-ass techniques. You both compete for second place against the guy who has it together.

3. Poor SEO strategy

Lack of SEO knowledge leads small business owners to make very basic mistakes. The HigherVisibility study above shows many of them are clearly misguided. For instance, 21% don’t understand the connection between content creation and SEO, 38% don’t see anything wrong with keyword stuffing and 12% would totally publish content they copied on another website, word by word.

Unfortunate for many, they are deceived by promises of quick wins and shortcuts. They end up wasting precious time and, in many cases, money on the wrong techniques that treat local SEO as magic.

To succeed with SEO, you need a sound SEO strategy. With it, you not only have a roadmap but can also have guided expectations since you know exactly how you invest and make money.

4. Hiring the wrong SEO company

It starts with a phone call from a sweet-talking guy asking if you want to be number one on Google. Since you know there’s something good about appearing on Google, you jump at the opportunity. To reach the top of the search results, he says, you will need to build lots of backlinks. But not to worry because that’s what he does. He gets you the backlinks and after a few months you notice a surge in business revenue.

At this point, if the SEO company suggests you invest in more backlinks, there’s no decision to be made. You continue your streak for a few more months. Then one day, as if by conspiracy, you’re taken off the top position to page 5 of the search results.

What happened? There was an algorithm update and you were found out. Only a professional firm will tell you that your previous SEO dug you into the hole.

The SEO company you hire to do the work for you can have a dramatic impact on your ROI. Keep yourself informed on the best practices and learn how to hire the right person.

5. Poor visibility on the local scene

Local SEO is about being found by local customers. Taking specific steps to establish visibility among the local businesses is paramount to a successful strategy.

The first thing to do is to have your business website listed on the various local business listings such as Google My Business and Bing Places. Local directories such as Yellow Pages and various online platforms like Yelp for reviews are also great places to establish visibility.

You also need to update your citations. Referred to as the NAP, citations are online references to your business name, address and phone number. They are an important indicator to search engines of your credibility as a local business.

6. Lack of patience

Duplicating content, buying low-quality links or publishing thin content are signs of an impatient digital marketer. A successful SEO strategy requires patience to fully implement and even more to start enjoying the benefits.

Don’t give up so soon that you don’t nurture your strategy to fruition or be tempted to employ unscrupulous means as these will only earn you a penalty many have failed to recover from.

7. Tough competition

Not everyone is doing it wrong. Over the past few years, many small businesses have come to embrace local SEO, invest in it and patiently wait for results. If you’re just realizing now how important SEO is, remember there’s someone nearby who has been quietly building a web presence over the years.

Competition is a common cause of business failure. However, the beauty of local SEO is that small businesses are able to compete head-to-head with more established, better-funded companies.

There are tools out there that allow you to analyze the SEO activities of any website. You can use them to see what some of your most successful competitors are doing and how it’s working out for them. Then you can do it better.

Final word

To succeed in local SEO, you have to understand it. You might not have the time to oversee the daily operations of the team in charge with SEO but you should be able to remain the reference person as to what direction the strategy should take.

With this knowledge, you can avoid some common problems such as underestimating the local SEO budget, skimping on the strategy and hiring the wrong people.