Google can either be your best friend, or your worst enemy. Since Google dominates around 60-70% of the search traffic, it can bring nearly endless amounts of traffic to your site, or cut you off completely without any explanation. In my previous SEO position, I have had countless clients come to me and ask, “Why is my website not showing up in Google?”
The answer to that question is not always straight forward, but having a strong understanding of Google’s search algorithm, and its intentions can almost always answer the question.
First, we must understand Google’s intentions. Just like any other business, Google is here to provide a great experience to its customers. That means that it’s trying to please those doing the searching, not those providing content (website owners). This means that by nature, Google tends to value its customers more than website owners.
Because of this, website owners need to be extra cautious to ensure they are playing by Google’s rules. Their “rules” are known as their Webmaster guidelines, and more specifically, it’s quality guidelines. One misstep, and Google will slap your site with a penalty. If your site is found to break the quality guidelines, Google will penalize it, which will result in dramatically reduced rankings. You may not think this would be such a big deal, but I’ve literally seen Google penalties close multiple businesses.
Google’s search algorithm has many ways of determining the quality of a site. One thing that it looks at is which sites are linking to your site. If websites with high authority and credibility are linking to your site, Google assumes that your site must be of similar quality. In the past, it was all about quantity over quality (think mass directory submissions, social bookmarking, blog commenting etc), but these days Google has really moved towards quality over quantity when it comes to incoming links. Another thing it looks at is the content of your site. It looks at the actual body of your site (articles, or any visible text) and analyzes its keyword density, word count, readability, and more. Going beyond that, Google also looks at the HTML coding to sniff out things like meta data, meta tags, and more
Because Google is trying to provide excellent content for it’s searchers, its using more and more data to try and evaluate a site’s quality. These days, things like bounce rate, and the rate at which users immediately bounce from your site back to the serps are important ranking factors. Think about it, if Google is displaying a website in it’s search result that has a bounce-back rate of 99% (meaning that 99% of the people clicking on that link from Google’s SERPs immediately left the site and returned to Google) then that site is clearly not what it’s users are looking for. Because of this, Google will begin pushing that page down in the ranks, or remove it all together.
Besides the ranking factors we’ve discussed, Google is using hundreds of ranking factors to determine how a website shows up in the search engine. Its utilizing more and more data to make sure that its searchers are being delivered to high quality and helpful websites.
With all that said, the best, and most sustainable SEO approach is to provide a very high quality site that your visitors enjoy. When visitors enjoy a site, and are engaged, a few things will happen;
- You’ll have a lower bounce rate, and bounce back rate, which can increase rankings
- You’re users will spend more time on your site- can lead to more profits, and again, higher rankings
- They’ll share your site on social networks- research has shown that social signals like Google +1’s, Likes, Tweets, etc help contribute to a websites rankings.
- They will link back to your site to help create authority
- They may comment on your website, which “updates” your webpage, and adds new content to your site
- And more…!
One of the reasons we here at In2itive Search stress the importance of blogging so much is that it satisfies many of Google’s desires from a site.
- Makes sure your site is consistently updated- Google tends to favor sites that are active versus those inactive.
- Provides content- Google loves content. It helps tell Google what your website is about, and also increases the page count of your website
- It adds value to your site, and blog posts can be used as reference pieces for current or potential customers
Here are some of the most common issues of why a website is not showing in Google;
- Site is too new, and has not built up enough authority
- Website does not have enough content to be taken seriously
- Website may be in violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines or Quality Guidelines
- Robots.txt could be blocking some or all of your site from the Google bot.
- Website has not been indexed by Google, or has been de-indexed due to breaking the webmaster guidelines
If you haven’t already, install Google Webmaster Tools. This tool will give you direct messages from Google if you have violated any guidelines or have any other issues that is affecting the visibility of your site.
Overall, if you are able to understand how Google chooses which sites to show in its search results, and if you have a strong understanding of the needs of your visitors, you will have a sucessful website as well as a better chance of receiving more traffic from Google.