Why Your Site Isn’t Ranking in Search Results
This has to be the most common question we’re asked. You build a website, but it’s just not getting traffic. Perhaps you know the value of being on the first page of Google, but you just can’t seem to get there. If this is your situation, you may want to start by reading our post about Understanding Search Engines and SEO to get a better understanding of how Google ranks its search results.
The Google search results aren’t random. There is a complex algorithm that runs to decide which search results to show. Understanding how search engines work and what SEO is will help you to understand how you can climb the rankings. Google is doing its best to show you the most relevant websites, but this doesn’t necessarily mean your relevant website will show.
The Harsh Truth
Many people don’t realize that it’s often impossible to reach the first page of Google without some form of marketing. Even if your site is the most relevant site for the search term, you may not necessarily show up in the first few pages. For any search term with a decent amount of search volume, the top sites on Google have all undergone some optimization. This may seem like a huge blanket statement, but it generally holds true.
It’s unrealistic to expect your site to show on page one without an SEO campaign. Top listings on Google have one thing in common: strong optimization campaigns.
If you want to bring your site to the first page of Google and really gain traffic from search engines, you’re going to need to do some work. You can’t just build a site and hope it pops. Search terms that have higher volume are likely to have higher competition. Regardless of how beautiful or user-friendly your site is, chances are you’ll need some optimization services. There are things you can do to help your SEO yourself, and you may need professional help. There’s a reason that the SEO industry is worth over $65 billion. It’s necessary, it brings results, and it’s a service most people cannot do themselves. This is the harsh truth.
How Do I Get to Page One?
True white-hat search engine optimization takes time and directed effort. You can read hundreds of articles or posts about “quick SEO” or “rank on page one with this simple trick,” but the truth is good and sustainable SEO takes time. We recently wrote a piece on helping your SEO yourself which outlines a few things you can do to make an impact on your rankings.
In order for search engines to put your site on page one of their listings, you’re going to have to be seen as a relevant and useful site in their eyes. Whether you’re trying to market a yoga studio or sell your jewelry online, you need to show the search engine that you’re a valuable site to their visitors. To do this, you will need to understand what they’re looking for and how to make your site look good in the eyes of the search engine. Remember that the search engines are getting smarter, and want sites that users like. Don’t over-optimize; keep user friendliness #1.
Check out our Affordable SEO Packages for Small Business for an efficient way to get your SEO up and rocking!
Common SEO Mistakes
Whether or not you’ve implemented an SEO campaign, you may have made a few mistakes with your website. When people come to us and ask us to take a look at their websites, we find a few problems that occur quite frequently. Take a look at common problems below, and remember you’re always welcome to email us via the contact form at the bottom for free advice or walkthroughs!
This is a pretty basic problem we run into. A sitemap is exactly what you would think from its name: a map of your site. There are many free tools to make sitemaps, and Wordpress has many great plugins. Yoast SEO makes a perfect sitemap with their free plugin. If you don’t have a sitemap, the search engine won’t know about all of the pages on your site. You want search engines to index all of your relevant pages, and a sitemap helps make this happen. Once you have a sitemap, we suggest submitting it to Google and Bing Webmaster Tools. (see the post on Helping Your Own SEO to learn more about this process.
Slow Loading Speed
Google has recently indicated that site speed has some ranking weight in their algorithm. Although it’s not a huge factor in how search engines rank websites, it is indeed a factor. Perhaps even more importantly, people hate slow websites! If your site loads slowly, users will head back to Google and look at another site. The biggest problems we see with site speed are huge images, tons of external files being called, and outdated practices. You can run your site through a tool like Pingdom to see how fast your site loads. As far as fixing this, it may take a professional to jump in and clean everything up. If your site loads really slowly, this is a must-fix.
Site Not Mobile-Friendly
These days a mobile-friendly site isn’t just a recommendation for SEO, it’s an absolute necessity. Google now uses a mobile-first index, which means it’s looking at your mobile site before your computer website. Even when ranking search results for somebody searching from a computer, it’s looking at your mobile site first. A mobile-friendly website is thus critical for any business serious about ranking on page one. As with the previous problem, if your site isn’t mobile-friendly, you’ll also have users leaving your page. Over half of searches are done on mobile devices. If you don’t have a mobile-friendly site, you’re not only losing rankings, you’re losing potential customers. If you have a website but haven’t made it mobile-friendly, you can use the contact form at the bottom to inquire about creating a mobile-friendly version.
Poor Keyword Density
Keyword density, simply put, is the amount of key terms you have in your content. In the olden days of SEO, you could flood your content with a ton of keywords and it would help your rankings significantly. For example, if you’re a yoga studio in Seattle, you may have a sentence that reads, “We are a yoga studio in Seattle that caters to those interested in learning to practice yoga in the Seattle area.” These unnatural and overstuffed sentences will now hurt your SEO significantly. We see keyword stuffing quite a bit like this, and it also will make your content not user-friendly.
The other side of the coin is under-optimized content. If you’re a yoga studio in Seattle and don’t include the words yoga or Seattle anywhere in your page, you’re not likely to rank. Search engines need to know exactly what you are and what you offer, so let them know! SEO Book has a free keyword tool, the new MozBar has a great on-page keyword tool, and you can give your content a read to see if it is natural and reads with ease.
Poor Backlink Quality/Quantity
This is a more complex fix and perhaps may be seen as the crux of SEO. Backlinks are perhaps the strongest ranking factor, and one of the hardest and most finicky aspects of optimizing your website. When a search engine crawls other websites on the Internet, they may find a link to your site. Every time they find a link to your site, it has the potential to give you a little rankings boost. The “link juice” is dependent upon the quality of the link. The quality of the link is dictated by a few things: its relevance, the authority of the site its on, and the anchor text.
We see quite often sites that simply don’t have very many backlinks. Without backlinks, you’re unlikely to rank. You need to build some high-quality links to your site from reputable and related websites. On the other hand, we have quite a few clients come to us with a ton of low-quality backlinks. If you have too many links from low-quality, spammy, and/or unrelated websites, your site will actually be hurt by the links. We have to do a link cleanup with quite a few of our clients in order to help them rank.
Site architecture is again important for both SEO and user-friendliness. This is because search engines want to rank sites that are easy to use and people like. Site architecture is the way your URLs appear. For example, this blog post is www.MindfulMktg.com/why. This is better architecture than the post being located at a URL like www.MindfulMktg.com/post12345. Bad site architecture with confusing URLs will hurt your SEO and make it harder for people to navigate your page. In Wordpress you can change this easily in your “permalinks” settings. In many other CMS’s and on custom websites, you can simply choose the URL of each page.
There seems to be some belief that with content quantity beats quality. People publish a lot of content and blog posts, but none of it is actually useful or well-written. Although poor content may not directly HURT your SEO, you’re missing out on the opportunity to help your SEO. When you write good content, it will get shared across social media and different pages. Good content has the potential to help your rankings and traffic skyrocket. In addition, you need to regularly update your content. Search engines tend to prefer sites that have been updated more recently.
Improper Meta Tags
Yes, the glory days of meta tags are over. A meta tag is a tag on your site that tells a search engine some information about the page. Because meta tags are no longer huge ranking factors, they’re often neglected. However, appropriate meta descriptions will help your CTR (click through rate) on search engines. A meta description is that little bit of information you see below a listing on Google. One place we see neglected quite a bit is the image ALT tags. Search engines cannot “see” images quite yet. An ALT tag tells the search engine what the image is about. If you don’t use ALT tags or have improper tags in place, you’re missing a super important and easy way you can help your SEO efforts.
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