It’s one of the most common questions that businesses ask about their website. “Why isn’t my website on the first page of Google?”
Wow, do I wish there was a simple answer to that question. It would make my job a lot easier.
The honest truth is that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a lot like making a good soup. You need to start with a collection of quality ingredients and then you have to let it simmer.
There’s no magic SEO pill!
One big myth that I’d like to debunk right from the start is that search engine optimization is only a one-time service.
There are thousands of services out there on the web that “guarantee” to get a page ranked #1 on Google’s organic search results. If anyone ever guarantees to get your website ranked, turn and run the other way.
I will ALMOST guarantee it’s either scam or you’ll end up with “Black Hat SEO” methods that will ultimately get a site blacklisted with Google.
The only way to guarantee a site will get a top position is to pay enough for an ad through Google AdWords pay-per-click.
If you want a site that will consistently rank with Google over time, it’s going to take time and an ongoing investment in your web presence.
Google’s ever changing search algorithm is designed with the searcher in mind, not your business. That makes it even harder to make sure your site is consistently ranked.
That doesn’t make Google the “bad guy”, it just means they are doing their best to deliver quality.
Before we move on to my top five reasons your website isn’t ranking in the organic search, you need to understand what shows up on a Google search results page. This 2 minute video explains the different areas of the Google results page and what they mean for a site:
Now that you understand the difference between a Google ad, Google places, and an organic search result, lets look at my top five reasons your site probably isn’t showing up on the first page of the organic Google search results:
1) The technology that powers your website
can create SEO problems for you
I am not going to bore you with overly technical terms like XML Sitemap or image alt tags, instead I will say that there are some essential components that go into designing and coding a site that will set the groundwork for how Google ranks a site.
While these coding elements are best done when during the initial build of a site, it’s never too late to add them.
These coding steps include making sure the keywords and keyword phrases associated with a specific business are integrated into the site page titles, page descriptions, and page content.
Optimizing a site on a code level helps Google understand what’s on a site, which helps Google send an ideal customer to the site.
If you’re not a tech geek, this step is best left to an SEO professional. Back to our soup analogy…
Too much salt can ruin an entire pot of soup. In the same way, stuffing the code with keywords and keyphrases in an unnatural way will actually have an negative effect on optimization.
If the code isn’t handled with care, Google will spew a site out like mouthful of overly salty soup!
2) You’re not generating new, relevant,
and engaging content for your target audience
High quality code and good content go hand in hand when it comes to ranking a site on Google. Many sites experience declining organic traffic because:
- Content isn’t being constantly added to the site or because
- The content isn’t what searchers are looking for
I can’t stress enough how important it is to have an on-going content strategy for your site.
If it come to choosing between you and your competitor, Google will often go with a the site that has most recently been updated. It means the business is still around, active, and interested in providing quality content to customers.
Here are some tips when it comes to generating content:
- Start a blog with news and updates about your business
- Write to attract your ideal customer not to trick Google
- Try to write a minimum of 300 words
- Answer the questions your customer ask most often
- Write articles about the geographic area of your business (city/state/country)
- Write articles about topics that include the keywords and keyword phrases related to your business (check your Google analytics report to see what keywords deliver the most traffic to your site)
- Include engaging headlines that make searchers want to know more
3) The wrong types of links
are pointing back to your website
Incoming links, also known as backlinks, are a big part of the method Google uses to determines how a website will rank. Google looks not only at how many links are pointing to a website, but also at the quality of the websites those links are coming from.
A general rule of thumb is that the best backlinks are links from legitimate sites that weren’t paid for.
The best way to build quality backlinks is to publish great content that gives users a reason to backlink.
Here are some ways to piss Google off when it comes to backlinks:
- You paid for the link (this doesn’t include ads you run on legitimate sites)
- A site links to yours a large number of times or in a suspicious way
- You allow a spam site to send you a backlink
Google offers tools to identify bad links and disavow them from your site. This topic is way to nuanced to address here. If you want to read more, check out this great backlink post from MOZ.
4) Using Black Hat SEO to try and
beat Google at their game? Big mistake…
even if you didn’t realize it was Black Hat
Many well-meaning business owners and marketing directors have engaged SEO service providers promising to deliver first page results.
Unfortunately many of these service providers use Black Hat SEO techniques. Black Hat techniques are basically trickery used to fool Google.
It’s not worth it! Google will find out and penalize the offending website.
One of the most famous cases of this was when department store, JC Penny’s, landed on Google’s blacklist a few years back. It was an important lesson to everyone in the SEO industry…
Don’t ever try to put one over on Google because Google is watching!
SEO guru Dave Collins offered some great advice in a recent webinar. He said”
Don’t use any SEO strategy
that you couldn’t personally explain
and defend to a Google exec.
5) Too much competition:
The SEO equivalent of trying to make it
to the top 24 of American Idol
This is one area of organic Search Engine Optimization that is completely out of your control. You can’t control how many competitors your business has. Unless you’re a politician.
I like to compare this idea to the popular reality show American Idol.
In it’s 14th season, the show has made it appear as though nearly every American wants to be a singer. The music industry is an extremely competitive field, so the contestants who make it to the final round are the best of the best on the show.
The same thing is true for your business, if there are 100 other business offering the same product or service in your geographic area who are vying for space in Google’s organic, it’s going to be really challenging to make it to the top organic result in google.
Now, if they were to do a reality show featuring traditional traditional Dutch clog dancers in the US, and you’re a clog dancer… Your chances of making it into the final 10 just got a lot better.
The best piece of advice I can give to businesses in a highly-competitive field is to find a niche, pay attention to items 1-4, and give your site time to grow.
Google rankings don’t happen overnight, especially in competitive fields.
If your competitor has been focused on SEO for several years, and you just launched your site, it’s going to take some time to catch up. Just like soup, a well-optimized website will become more appealing to Google as it simmers over time.
Let’s summarize what we’ve discussed
There’s no magic pill when it comes to optimizing your website to make the top organic search results on google. It takes consistent time and effort to:
- Ensure your site is properly set-up and coded
- Build quality content
- Generate quality links and disavow bad links
- Avoid Black Hat SEO techniques
- Stand out among the competition
All this talk of soup has made me hungry, so I figured I’d share one of my current favorite soup recipes. If you’re into soup, try out this Creamy Zucchini and Asparagus Soup from Canapes & Chocolate, it’s amazing!
Google website rankings always brings up a lot of questions. Leave a comment and let us know what your questions are.