Google is almost synonymous with the internet these days. It could be said that if you’re not on Google, you may as well not be on the internet at all.
Marketers spend hours and hours putting their best foot forward when it comes to optimising their websites for search engine results – and for good reason. Since the Google algorithm has continually improved, most users won’t go past the first page of results for their search query – usually because the search engine does such a good job in providing relevant results within the first few positions.
This means that marketers are faced with a challenge; not only to be visible on Google but to rank as highly as they can.
However, despite our best intentions, Google doesn’t always provide your site with the ranking you wish for. But don’t despair – the answer to your problem may be simpler than you think! This guide will provide you with a checklist to give you the best possible chances of being on that all-important first page of Google. This is usually something we review as part of a Digital Marketing Audit.
First things first, look at the technical side of your site. It could be that your website is not performing at its best due to a slight technical oversight that may be quick to solve but is not visible at the front end.
First on the list: indexing.
In order for any webpage on the internet to be found on Google, it needs to be indexed. This means it needs to be crawled by Google bots. If that hasn’t happened, it could be for a few reasons.
If your website is brand new, it could be that Google hasn’t indexed your website yet and so can’t show it in results page. The quickest way to find out if your site has been indexed is to type ‘site:yoursite.co.uk’ into your Browser’s search bar. Google will then show you all the pages on your site which have been indexed. If you’re looking to see if a particular page has been indexed you can use ‘site:yoursite.co.uk/your-page’ to check singular pages.
If your new site hasn’t been indexed, don’t worry – Google will usually do this automatically within a couple of weeks. But if your site hasn’t been indexed after this time, it’s best practice to check you have provided Google Search Console with a site map of your website. This tells Google exactly what you want to be indexed. It will also show you if you have any errors on your page which will affect Google ranking.
Still not being indexed? Check your robots.txt file in Google Search Console to see if your file is blocking your page or allowing it to be crawled.
Your Website Isn’t Mobile Friendly!
It is no secret that mobiles are now dominating search traffic. This shift has meant that Google regards sites that are mobile-friendly more highly than those that aren’t. In its own market research Google found that:
- 67% of the UK's internet users rely on their smartphone as much as, or more than, a desktop or tablet.
And not only this but:
- 65% of the UK’s consumers said they would switch from a poorly designed mobile site to a better alternative.
This highlights the absolute importance of your site’s mobile accessibility – you simply can’t do without it.
Websites being built now should come built with total responsiveness so that when your site is scaled down to fill the screen of a mobile or tablet, everything remains looking and working as it should. However, if you have an older website with low responsiveness, this needs to be fixed before you can see much improvement in search results.
If you had a web designer create your website, ask them if they can improve this for you. Or perhaps it’s time for a complete new and shiny website built with responsiveness in mind. Not only will this place you in better stead with Google, but it will also improve your overall user experience by keeping your customers happy!
No/Few Meta Tags
Don’t underestimate the importance of your site’s meta tags. Not only do they help Google to get a more thorough understanding of your site or page (which is extremely important if you want to rank for relevant searches), they also help the user understand your site or page, which will result in a higher clickthrough rate. And a higher click-through rate results in Google seeing you as a more reliable and authoritative source which results in better rankings.
It is best practice to include meta descriptions, meta titles, and alt tags for your images for all of your pages. Most Content Management Systems should provide you with an easy way to change your meta tags, so be sure to do this due diligence to get the best results out of your site.
If you’ve gone through the above and found no obvious reason why Google isn’t ranking your site, the problem could be due to the way your content is optimised and how Google views that content. Let’s look at this in greater detail…
Poor Use of Keywords
Any good content strategy should include a keyword strategy. Ensure that each page is dedicated to a topic or subtopic, which is then supported by relevant keywords from your keyword research. Google is an extremely sophisticated search engine. It is able to interpret synonyms and variations of your target keywords so best practice here is to create content for your users first, search engine second.
If you write copy full of unnatural keyword placement, not only will your user not enjoy their experience, but Google is clever enough to spot keyword stuffing and will even penalise you for this. Therefore, it is important to create relevant, interesting, long-form content servicing your users first and foremost. A good keyword strategy is unnoticeable to your users.
You also need to consider your choice of keywords – you want high search volume keywords that aren’t too competitive or broad. Make your keywords relevant to your business and your site to improve clickthrough rate and to lower your bounce rate.
Poor Content or Content Strategy
A strong content strategy is so important for your ranking in search engines. When creating content, think about the following elements:
- Topic: is it related to your business? Will your target audience find it interesting?
- Tone: keep your company’s tone of voice consistent throughout your site
- Length: long-form content is best, anything with fewer than 800 words should be extended
- Audience: understand who this content is made for – perhaps it is for your whole target audience, or perhaps it is for a segment or a specific persona.
Take some time to think about your buyer personas and what information they would react well to. Google wants to serve people with reliable, knowledgeable and engaging websites, so to get your site in front of the right people at the right time, you need to be clear on who you are creating content for.
Google will also take into consideration bounce rates and time on page. In fact, a recent study shows that increasing your user’s time on page by three seconds enables you to move up a whole position in Google’s results page.
Another simple explanation (but trickier to overcome) is your target market. If you are entering into a crowded market, then getting to the top of Google will be more difficult. It’s important that you do your homework. Take a look at your competition, see who is ranking on those top positions. Is yours a busy marketplace? If so, what sets you apart from the rest of these sellers? Go back to old-school marketing techniques and really work on your brand and your USP. The more consistent and cohesive your brand and messaging, the easier it will be to find your brand’s voice and set yourself apart from the rest.
Another good option here is to focus your target market; try ranking for localised traffic rather than international. If you sell furniture internationally, you’ll be competing with the likes of Argos and Ikea, whereas if you focus on your local area, you are sure to be competing with fewer similar companies. Once you have a strong local audience, your reach will naturally grow as Google (and your users) sees you as more authoritative and trustworthy.
No/Few (Quality) Backlinks
Google values trustworthiness highly; good quality backlinks are a quick way for Google to understand how other sites recognise your content. If other websites are referencing and linking your site, this shows that other people have found it to be of value – showing that your site is a source of knowledge that can be trusted. Creating great content is the best natural way in which to entice backlinking, however you can also undertake a backlinking strategy. Before you do this though, it is worth bearing in mind a few high quality backlinks will have more of a positive impact than a load of poor-quality backlinks.
It’s important to remember that getting into those top positions in search engine results pages doesn’t just happen overnight. It is the result of continuous and carefully considered marketing efforts. Periodically going through your site and checking all the above points are in good working order is, again, crucial to your visibility and overall success of your SEO efforts.
While this list covers many of the common problems as to why your site may not be ranking in Google, it is by no means exhaustive. If you’re still struggling to understand why your site isn’t listed, maybe it’s time to talk to us!