You worked hard to create and write a website that you’re proud to share. The images look great. The copy pops. Your brand is reflected well.
Now, like any good business owner, you "Google it" using some relevant keywords for your new site. Page 1…you don’t see it. Page 2…nothing. Page 3…NOTHING! Maybe your site got sucked into an internet black hole, never to escape.
So you scream: “Why doesn't my website show up on Google?!” Here are some common issues:
Google hasn’t indexed your site yet
You don’t have any inbound links
Your keywords are highly competitive
Your content sucks
Your site isn’t optimized
These are some of the many reasons Google may be ranking your site so low. I’ll tackle these reasons and offer some simple steps you can take to make sure your pages show up in a more relevant way. You want people to find you and connect with your business (and you’d like to stop screaming).
Google Hasn’t Indexed Your Site Yet
Google indexes pages automatically, but this can take some time. Google suggests some tactics to speed this along, but there are no hard/fast rules on how long indexing may take. Submit your site for indexing using Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools).
You can also add your website to Google My Business. Make sure the information you enter on Google My Business is accurate and completed fully. Build this step into any launch preparations you have in the future so you can avoid playing catch-up.
You Don’t Have Any Inbound Links
If your site is brand new and not a redesign, you need to increase the number of inbound links to your site. Inbound links — or links from another site to yours — are huge; they show Google that you are relevant and an authority on a certain subject.
This is tricky though; you don’t want to resort to spamming to try to get someone to link to your site, which could lead to being penalized or removed from Google altogether. The best way to do this is by making the content on your site relevant (information your users want to read) and promoting your blog posts. Be patient; this takes time. With some effort — and implementing tips to earn more quality backlinks — you’ll be rewarded from an SEO standpoint.
Your Keywords are Highly Competitive
Let’s say your company specializes in manufacturing outdoor apparel. Your keywords should be specific, but you also need to be aware of how competitive the market is for the keywords you use on your site. How will you compete with powerhouses like North Face or Eddie Bauer if you use a general keyword term like “outdoor apparel”? You simply can’t.
According to Moz, popular search terms typically only account for 30% of total searches. The remaining 70% use long-tail keywords: "cold-weather down jacket," for instance. Focus on long-tail keywords that you can more easily compete with while still capturing 70% of searches.
Take a look at your competitors and review what keywords rank highly for them by using an online tool. SEMrush is very useful and offers many insights … and it’s free. If you’re using the HubSpot platform, you can review ranking and potential keywords under the Reports > Keywords section of the HubSpot admin panel. From here, you can view your keywords, your current rank, and the difficulty level associated with the keyword based on a 0–100 scale. There are many tools you can use; just find one that works for you and keep testing, changing, and adapting along the way.
Your Content Sucks
It had to be said (sorry, not sorry). Google is moving further away from keywords and meta data and shifting its focus to whether content is relevant to users. You should be writing your content based on your target buyer personas and how you can help them.
Don’t focus on the pitch; focus on how you can create sticky website content that users keep coming back to, so they eventually become customers as you lead them through their buyer’s journey. Also do this by writing relevant blog posts and providing resources to solve the problems they experience in that buyer’s journey. Then, do it on a regular basis. Google wants to see that your site is constantly churning out new, high-quality content. This, in turn, provides more inbound links and traffic that helps your SEO and, ultimately, your business.
Your Site Isn’t Optimized
There are a lot of different moving pieces when you’re talking site optimization for Google. I’m going to hit on the main points.
Monitor Bounce Rate—A bounce is a single-page session on your site. If users are entering your site and immediately leaving, it’s a strong sign that something isn’t working for them and they leave as a result. This could be because of irrelevant content, or you don’t have pages optimized for mobile, which frustrates users into leaving.
Look at each channel and determine if there are any metric patterns that make sense. Is the bounce rate better or worse on certain pages? Why? Dig in and find out what is working and how you can improve your bounce rate.
Title Tag—A title tag is an HTML element that specifies the title of each one of your pages. This tag is displayed on the search engine result page (SERP) and needs to be an accurate description of the content on your pages. The optimal format according to Moz is “Primary keyword – Secondary keyword | Brand.” The length should be under 60 characters so it displays properly on the SERP. Avoid repeating and stuffing multiple keywords into title tags. Search engines can see this behavior and penalize you for it. Make sure you give every page a unique title based on its content.
Finally, because today’s Google algorithms put more emphasis on optimizing pages for the user, not just for search engine crawlers, you should address both on-page and off-page SEO.
Image Alt Text—Google’s web crawlers can’t view images, so it’s important for SEO (and for anyone with a visual impairment using a screen reader) to have alt text added to your images. Be brief (Moz recommends under 125 characters) but accurate in your description. Get creative if similar images are placed on one page. Don’t keyword stuff your alt text, but be descriptive.
In the above examples, for instance, instead of typing “winter jacket” use “navy blue cold-weather goose down winter jacket” or something similar. The other benefit to having accurate alt text is that you can gain traffic for anyone searching Google Images for these long tail keywords.
Linking—Link building should be natural. You don’t want to have spam links coming into or out of your site. You want to make sure you’re linking to authoritative sites that provide high-quality, relevant content to your users. Along with outside links, make sure your internal links are up to snuff. Check for dead links and make sure that your site architecture flows and doesn’t isolate specific pages. View your external links by using Moz’s Open Site Explorer tool. For internal links, use SEMrush’s site audit tool or Screaming Frog.
Some of the reasons pages could be isolated include links in forms; crawlers will not fill out forms to reach additional pages. Other reasons include links in Flash (just don’t), Java, or some other development plug-in, and pages that are specifically blocked using a robots.txt file. Finally, it could also be a result of pages with a large amount of links. Crawlers will only check so many links on a given page (150 or less).
These are only a few ways to improve SEO. Make sure you continue to read and learn along the way. Google is constantly changing how they determine ranking numbers.
Google continues to shift to a more human, mind-centered approach. Think about how you would search for your product or service. Put yourself in your users’ shoes. By taking the proper steps and making sure your page is optimized and populated with relevant, quality content, you will eventually, over time, build greater SEO authority and increase the traffic and page ranking for your site.
Does SEO still have your head spinning? Review our SEO Survival Guide for an in-depth dive into this complex, and incredibly important, aspect of inbound marketing.
Posted by Justin Harrison Justin Harrison is a Creative Director at Weidert Group. His wide-ranging experience in graphic and web design helps clients establish and leverage effective inbound marketing tools across several digital platforms.