Over the last five years, I’ve completed hundreds of “marketing audits” for small businesses. The audits cover various areas depending on the business, but I often recommend how to use digital marketing tactics to grow.

Of all the audits and business types I’ve reviewed, there are three common areas where most SMBs are missing opportunities. The good news is that they are all basics, and with the proper focus, they can increase your competitiveness quickly to impact your bottom line.

The top three growth opportunities for your SMB are SEO, optimizing Ads, and improving the performance of your website.


Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a hairball topic because so much confusion exists on what it is, how to do it, and what’s essential. Many service providers offer SEO services with multiple pricing tiers and options for any budget. To do that, they chop up the discipline into sub-components and offer it as a complete service. SMBs think they are getting “SEO” when they only get one thing, like link building.

Tip: Check your contract to understand what you’re getting with “SEO.”

So why is SEO important?

Sales leads or transactions from organic search results carry no variable cost to your revenue. The more leads you can generate or ecommerce transactions you can generate from organic results, the less your cost of revenue will be.

Now listen, you may pay a person to do your SEO, but that cost is fixed. You don’t pay for clicks from an organic search result. And you want and need free clicks to be competitive over the long term. Make sense?

Your opportunities to grow organic search traffic are in three areas:

  1. Your sitemap
  2. Updated content
  3. Details

The most overlooked opportunity in my audits is that websites aren’t optimized as a whole. By this, I mean each web page in your sitemap should have a purpose and focus on a topic (or keyword if you’re old school). The mechanics of the page should support the focus. The pages as a whole support the greater sitemap.

Often I see declining traffic and a deteriorating footprint in my audits. And the prime reason is that content isn’t being updated regularly. Blog posts are light on context. Interior web pages are stale. Keep your site up to date, and you’ll find Google visits early and often.

Lastly, with SEO, I always tell SMB leaders, “dot your Is and cross your Ts.” Your architecture needs to be crawlable. Meta data needs to be written for each page. Images need to be tagged. Use schema liberally. Do the heavy lifting on every page.

Every healthy business I’ve worked in or with in my career had a solid foundation of organic search traffic to its website. It makes you agile in uncertain times and more competitive when the market is hot.


Like SEO, there are three common areas to improve your advertising effort:

  1. Targeting
  2. The right metric
  3. Mixing things up

I did an audit for a medical practice in Boston a few years ago, which involved a technical review of their website. The next day while reading college football news in a mobile app in Huntsville, Alabama, the medical practice targeted me with a Google ad. I chuckled as I sent a follow-up email, “one last thing – it’s awesome your agency is using remarketing, but you might want to tell them that people in Alabama won’t visit your practice in Boston for treatment.”

And here’s the number 1 area for improvement: targeting. I’m surprised at the number of advertising people who aren’t dialing in targeting today. Whom are you targeting with ads, why, what’s the offer, and where are they located?

If you have leads not showing up for appointments, check your geographic targeting first (if selling locally). Are leads showing but not converting? Match the lost opportunity with “in-market” targeting. These are the two items I see off-kilter the most.

On advertising metrics, I wish I had a dollar for every time an SMB lead asked me a question about Cost per Click. “How low can you get my cost per click,” for instance.

This is the wrong metric for you as a leader. The right metric is Cost per Lead or Cost per Conversion. It’s pretty easy to calculate: the total cost of advertising / total leads from advertising. For example, if you spent $1000 to generate ten sales leads, your cost per lead is $100.

If we’re exclusively focused on optimizing for max traffic at the lowest click cost, we miss opportunities, right? In other words, if an $80 click converted into a qualified sales lead 100% of the time, we would pay that. Or even if a $40 click converted into a lead 50% of the time, a $20 click converts 20% of the time. They are all $100 or less!

Sure, your advertising person will lose sleep on Cost per Click and let them. But you need qualified sales leads and transactions to drive your revenue. Hold your ads person accountable to that metric and focus on optimizing for a lower cost per lead.

Tip: Don’t know what your benchmark Cost per Lead is? Wordstream publishes benchmarks. Use those as a start, or ask your trade association. 

A final and third common issue with ads is “set it and forget it,” or what I think of as mixing it up. If you’ve ever managed ads or heard from your agency, “the campaign is still learning,” you know what I mean.

With today’s AI and advanced features, it’s easy to let Facebook or Google figure things out for you. But I’m a firm believer that Google optimizes for Google. If you know your marks and your ads person knows their stuff, there’s no reason why a playbook can’t be leveraged without using automation, particularly to accelerate results.

Challenge your ads people to roll up their sleeves and get into the mechanics to drive your Cost per Lead down through regular optimization. Don’t settle for “set it and forget it.”

Website Performance

Guess what? Your customers or potential customers cast votes every day. They vote by engaging with you on your website or leaving your website without engaging. They “buy now,” “learn more,” “subscribe,” or “see ya later.” Each interaction can be measured.

So make it easy for them to vote, and focus on what matters most. Your website has that job to do. It must convert visitors into leads or transactions. Everything else is secondary.

The most common SMB website issues are:

  1. Missing or soft Call-to-Action
  2. Low-Performance

I’m surprised in 2022 how many websites miss a primary call to action. That’s the “buy now” button on your website. Your CTA may not be “buy now,” but it’s the phrase your target audience will understand as the “Get Started” button. Put it in the upper right-hand corner. Place it in the hero container. Ask for it again before the footer on every page.

Remember, we’re on the “information super highway.” If I’m on a road trip, driving down an Interstate, and hungry, a restaurant billboard has less than seven seconds to communicate how they help me and what success looks like, with directions on how to get there.

Picture golden glistening McDonald’s french fries “one mile ahead.”

Your website (home page or landing page) has microseconds to do this. So what matters?

  1. Speed. Your page load time on mobile needs to be as close to two seconds as it can be, below two seconds on a desktop.
  2. Engagement. Your CMS needs to load text, images, and buttons that a human can engage with ASAP.
  3. Design Part I – less is more. Don’t make the user think about what to do, who you are, and where to do it. Streamline your design so that a kid can understand what to do.
  4. Design Part II – remove all competition around your primary CTA. I know you’re proud of your Insta, but if you place its icon next to your CTA, a potential sale could be navel-gazing golden retriever pictures instead of talking to your sales team.


So, how do you know if all this stuff works and doesn’t? Here are a few tips and tools:

  • Google Analytics is free. The biggest issue I see in my audits is that there are no goals or too many goals configured in Analytics to help optimize marketing activity. Keep it simple and track only the goals that matter. For me, it’s my money button. Ditto for advertising (i.e., Google Ads conversions).
  • Google Seach Console has to be the most overlooked free tool for an SMB. Not only will Google alert you of errors like missing pages on your website, but it will show you the exact search queries where your web pages appear in search results, the impressions, and the CTR of your search results. You can marry this data to Analytics.
  • Google Page Speed Insights provides a roadmap for improving your website performance = improve reach in search results + website conversion rate. I highly recommend this anytime you’re doing an update or remake of your website.
  • Call tracking is a must because of your website’s mobile traffic. You want to use phone numbers in ads, on your GMB and other listings, on your website, and in direct marketing – as many places as you’re using to acquire customers. You’ll get great data on the calls you can marry to your sales process to understand what channels drive revenue.

Wrap Up

There you have it, the most common issues I see in marketing audits transformed into opportunities for you as an SMB.

I know we can write about SEO forever. I’ll let my SEO friends chime in as I’m curious about what they see or don’t see on websites. From my perspective, your first marketing hire should know something about SEO or be capable of earning a cert in a tool like semrush or Moz. As the entire customer journey flows back and forth through search engines, you should always work on SEO.

Advertising, or optimizing your promotion, never ends either. Create a promotional calendar to help with ad copy and offers. Google and Facebook are good at picking winning creative, and I recommend you use those tools. But always be looking to do more with less in your ad channels.

And with your website, I’m not concerned if you use a DIY platform, WordPress, or a vendor’s proprietary CMS as much as I am about performance, usability, and agility to optimize content for search and storytelling. Most vendors providing websites will cut corners, and you’ll get what you pay for. If you think of your website as an extension of your sales, I suggest you invest what you would on a full-time salesperson towards your website to ensure it’s supporting your growth.

I appreciate you taking the time to read the latest post. I look forward to your comments and feedback and as always, let me know if I can be a resource.