So, you’ve just launched a fancy new website; which means you should start getting business from new customers who find you on Google, right?
Fast forward to three months later, and you’re not getting any new customers in. Googling your industry name doesn’t bring up your site in the first slot, or the second slot, or even on the first page. What could be wrong?
You haven’t done any SEO work
Google’s job as a search engine is to provide the best, most relevant results for the people that use it. Every time you search for a word or phrase, the pages you see listed first are (in theory) the most useful pages for you out of the thousands of millions of pages that exist on the web.
SEO (short for search engine optimisation) is basically the process of bringing more ‘search traffic’ into your site by convincing Google that you’re a great search result for its users. It’s a combination of learning how search engines rank results, working out which keywords and topics are the most valuable and applicable to you, and constantly developing and revising your site to give it the best chances of ranking highly.
One of the key elements of SEO is regularly publishing interesting, engaging and unique content; this helps Google learn about your site and decide which kinds of search terms it should rank for. It also keeps your site ‘fresh’, and will hopefully earn your site links from other sites – both of which help to improve your website’s ranking standings .
You also need to ensure all the technical elements of your site meet Google’s expectations. Technical SEO activities include working to minimise loading times, placing appropriate meta tags and keeping your sitemap up to date. (We’ll talk more about sitemaps a little later.)
You’ve only done SEO once
Maybe SEO is nothing new to you. You already did it three months ago when the site launched. Why isn’t it working?
SEO isn’t something you set up once and then leave to work its magic. It’s an ongoing process of reviewing your own performance, keeping up to date with search term trends, building your website’s authority and improving your content offering.
Those who get to the top spots in search results get there through months or even years of consistent, strategic search optimisation work. It’s a challenge, but if you put the work in, you can achieve top rankings too.
Your site hasn’t been indexed yet
But what if you’ve even Googled your brand name and you still don’t appear on the first page? There can’t be any other sites which are more relevant for this query than your own, can there?
Try searching for ‘site:’ followed by your domain address (for example, ‘site:spectrumwebsolutions.ca’). If that brings up no results, your site may not have been indexed yet.
Before Google can rank websites, it needs to know they exist – and the quickest way to let them know your site exists is to submit your sitemap to their Webmaster Tools platform. Your web developer will be able to lend a hand with this, but if you fancy doing it yourself, we’ve put together this handy guide to help you.
You should also make sure your ‘robots.txt’ is set up correctly. This little file tells search engines what they can and can’t index, so if you have it set up wrong, you might be blocking your site from Google completely. The ‘noindex’ tag has a similar effect – if it’s been left in your <head> tag, your site won’t appear in searches at all.
You’ve chosen the wrong SEO team
You’ve probably seen agencies which guarantee to get your site to number one on Google straight away. They might claim they have secret knowledge on Google’s algorithm, or even that they’re affiliated with Google themselves and can pull some strings to get you to the top. You might have even hired one to do your SEO for you.
If you have… I have some bad news for you.
Sadly, nobody can guarantee search rankings. Google are the only ones with access to their search data and algorithm, and they don’t share it with anyone.
Often, these sorts of companies use ‘blackhat SEO’ techniques – breaking Google’s guidelines and exploiting the way their search engine works without any interest for internet users. For example, they might post hundreds of spammy links to your site across the web
Blackhat SEO may have the desired effect in the short term – but Google is always on the lookout for cheaters, and eventually your search rankings will take a massive hit.
You might need the help of a good SEO firm to undo the damage, but the good news is, Google doesn’t hold a grudge. Once your site is back on track, you’re free to start rebuilding your search rankings – using more ethical means, of course.