There are lots of reasons why a website ranks the way it does, but not getting to #1 means you are missing out on a whopping 33% of the clicks available for that search term. Being ranked #1, #2, or #3, means you get to participate in the lion’s share of clicks, and the higher your website rankings, the more relevant traffic you’ll attract to your website. Being anywhere but on page one for search results, puts you in the desert where business websites die of thirst for search traffic. But, no matter the fact you have a brand new website that looks shiny and all, you cannot find your site in the search results, even though the web developer said they used all the best SEO practices for the coding.
What is going on?
The common reasons I see for why a website is not ranking well are:
Your Website is Not Indexed
When a search engine, such as Google, analyzes and ranks web pages which it is going to then display to whoever searches on it, it has already ‘seen’ the website and captured a snapshot of it in its data storage, and we call this the Index. If you are not in the data store aka Index, then you do not get to compete for a ranking spot.
One of the first things I look at when I am conducting a website audit is whether your site’s code and setup encourage being Indexed (you may hear webmasters talk of being ‘crawled’). Sometimes code is included which tells search engines not to look at your website or include it in the Index, and this is a common developer technique to stop a search engine from Indexing the site while it is being built (you don’t want people looking at a partially constructed site thinking this is the best you can be).
Sadly, this ‘no-index” or “nofollow” code is frequently left in there by mistake, leaving website owners scratching their heads as to why they cannot get the website to rank. A quick check is to try googling your website address in the search box itself (not the browser navigation), e.g. “www.mywebsite.com” – your home page should show up in 1st position, and if not, there is a problem.
“Content is King” is a popular SEO refrain, and you must have good content on your website, both for search engines, and more importantly, real people. Search engines will look at your content to determine what the site is about, and especially what keywords you are relevant for.
If you are selling children’s clothing on Market Street in Frederick, then your content should reflect this, or you will find it very difficult to rank for “children’s clothing Frederick MD” as a search term. Your content needs to include keywords that will help you gain higher ranking for search terms, and this is where you need to perform keyword research to identify popular search terms which are commonly used. (Your SEO should be able to do this for you, and they should have access to keyword tools to identify the search terms, the traffic potential, and how difficult it will be to compete for the ranking spots).
Once you have keywords, you incorporate them into your content, but don’t just think of words; you also should include content that delivers value using other media, such as images and graphics, audio, and video. All of these can be optimized on your target keywords, and having multimedia does help your human users and will help you gain higher ranking in search engines too.
Video in particular is a relatively quick way to yourself ranked highly, but you cannot take just one approach, and always remember that ultimately, you need content created for people, not search engines.
Inbound Links or Backlinks
This is a big one: when a website links to your website, then generally this is taken as a vote of confidence that you are a relevant, quality website. The more backlinks you have from other, different websites, the more trust and authority you create for yourself.
I frequently find that backlinks are either non-existent or low in number, because there is no formal SEO strategy in place, or lots of backlinks, but of the wrong type (which can be very damaging).
I am not going into technical issues here, this is for business people and marketing-types trying to come to grips with the problem, not qualify as a technical expert!
The bottom line is that if you have few backlinks, or backlinks of the wrong type, you are going nowhere fast (except down!)
Cut & Paste Content
Originality is crucial for ranking in search engines – if you are simply cutting and pasting content from somewhere else, either someone else’s website, or another site you own, then this is duplicate content.
Duplicate content will not rank!
Your website content must be original, and you should check to make sure it is – you can use a free tool such as Copyscape to help you check on this for yourself.
Now here I make a distinction between the regular competition you face in the ‘real’ world, and online competition for rankings in search engines. Your biggest competitor may be the company down the street, but for ranking in Google, the competition may be someone on the other side of the world.
What counts here is who are you competing against to get ranked for your keyword terms.
Personal injury law firms tend to be a very competitive arena, as do car dealers, so if you are new or just recently started a push for SEO rankings, you may find you are making very slow progress. Your progress is slow not because you are doing something wrong, you’re just not doing enough to make a dent in the competitive advantage those above you have created with their SEO – you need to do more.
Conversely, you can have very little competition for rankings, and with relatively little effort, you can find yourself rocketing to the top if you get your SEO right. Remember, SEO is played out in a dynamic environment where Google makes continuous changes to how it ranks web pages, and your competition is not standing still either, plus how your target market behaves will also have an impact too.
Budget & Know How
You need to know what you are doing.
It is not enough to blog, use original content, or create backlinks (of the right type) – there is a lot more to SEO, and it is easy to do more harm than good.
A commercial website should not be entrusted to amateurs, no matter how gifted.
That throws you into the hands of the professional SEO, either in-house or an external firm such as ours.
Either way, this also means budget.
Too little budget means not enough work is going to get done to get you moving up the rankings. You must also be prepared to commit to SEO as a discipline and process which will continue for some time, and certainly I recommend you should test it over 6 months as a minimum and then assess the results. If you are not in this in a serious fashion, and for the long haul, then save your money and get out of trying to gain high rankings in search engines (but lose the tried and proven opportunity for great results we all know are there).
I recently had a conversation with a company marketing shelters (such as the shelter you stand under if you are waiting for a bus or a cab at the airport). They could not understand why they did not rank for shelter-related keywords, so I took a look and had a consult. They had had an SEO firm in to do some work, but after 6 months there was little to show for it, so I asked, how much were you spending because my concern was, I couldn’t see any progress on SEO factors I would normally expect to see.
My surprise quickly turned to understanding when the marketing lady advised me that the monthly budget was $200….
You can hire a company in India or the Philippines for that, but I wouldn’t recommend it.
Poor Website Rankings Takeaways
- Check your site is indexed in Google – if it isn’t, you will never rank for anything;
- Put relevant content on your website, backed by the best keyword research you can find;
- Backlinking is important, but it must be of the right type, quality, and quantity – never hire an amateur to do this, or you’ll be paying my children’s college fees to unblock the mess!
- No duplicate or copied content – your website must use unique content;
- Competitors are not standing still and they are running SEO too – you have to do enough SEO to overcome and rank past them; and
- Budget – SEO is not the cheapest nor the most expensive, but you will get what you pay for.
If you would like to discuss your own situation, or you are looking to engage an SEO, PPC company, or digital marketing agency, then call me, Karl Hindle, on (240) 415-6191 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org