If you have a website, you’ve asked the question. Inside the walls of an SEO agency, we hear it all the time. Believe me - I wish the answer to the question was as easy as asking said question. Unfortunately, it isn’t. It’s complex. It’s deep. I know that people want to be at the top. At home. At their job. In life. Most importantly, in the search results. I know you don’t care that it is a complex situation. You just want it. And so you cry out from the top of your lungs:
“Why am I not Ranking #1!!!???”
If you only knew. But more importantly, you may be asking the wrong question in the first place.
Wait. Does Ranking Well Even Matter?
Well, of course it does, but not in the way that you may think. Many people focus their attention on ranking for 3 broad keywords they think are most valuable to their campaign. The logic is flawed. For starters, we know that people search in hundreds and thousands of different ways for the same thing. It is the nature of search. It is narrow minded to assume that ranking well for such a small number of keywords will be the driving force behind your campaign. The real value comes from the consistency of your Page 1 visibility for as many search queries as possible. In other words, you should focus more on how many keywords your site is visible on Page 1 for instead of the rankings for individual keywords.
With that in mind…Why Aren’t I Visible on Page 1 for Anything?
I don’t want to make any assumptions. But I can state confidently that it is most likely some combination of the following factors:
Google is Having Trouble Crawling Your Site
First and foremost, if you are ever going to rank well, than Google’s search engine spiders need to access and crawl your site with ease. Efficient crawling is what allows the search engine to acknowledge your site exists. It also determines how the engine understands what your site is about, and can give an engine the confidence in your content needed to return one of your pages at the top of the search results for the keyphrase in mind.
Here are a few specific things that may be holding your site’s performance back, technically speaking:
- The site architecture is weak.
- Improper use of robots.txt.
- Improper use of sitemap.xml.
- Improper use of 301 redirects.
Your Content Isn’t Valuable Enough to People Searching Online
In times past, you could create content without being entirely cognizant of actual humans and rank well in the search results. Times have changed. Google is smarter and their ranking algorithm has matured. If you haven’t developed content specifically for people reading it, and with the intent of providing those people with the valuable information they were originally looking for, Google isn’t going to reward you with high ranking positions. For anything.
It is important to remember that Google’s primary objective is to return the best results for humans, not something crafted for the sole purpose of ranking well in the search results. Knowing that, there may be other problems with your site’s content, namely:
- Pages with no valuable content.
- Pages lacking valuable content.
- External duplicate content.
- Internal duplicate content.
Your Backlink Profile is Less than Impressive
Online, when a webmaster links from his or her site to yours, that counts as a “vote” in the eyes of a search engine. How strong a vote depends on the quality of the voter’s site (and the quality of the sites voting for the voter’s site, and so on). The more quality links you have pointing to your website, the more likely it is that your site will perform well in the search results. But for individual search queries? Again, there are many factors involved, but it is important (yes, even now, after all of the recent algorithm changes) that some of the links pointing to a page have keyword rich anchor text related to the content of that page.
The following are common issues related to backlink profiles that may be negatively affecting your site’s performance:
- You have no backlinks.
- You have weak backlinks.
- You have no anchor text backlinks.
- The backlinks you have are from spammy sites that Google isn’t fond of.
Your Competitors are Bigger, Badder, and Have More Money to Spend
We can safely assume that there are other companies competing for the same real estate online with more money to spend on their search engine marketing campaigns than you. Overall, their presence may be too strong to compete with, unless your company and the strength of your website grow significantly.
This is a reality that many have to face, and the earlier it is acknowledged, the less painful it will be over time. When matching up with larger, search engine savvy competitors, here is what you may be up against:
- Bigger brand.
- Bigger budgets.
- Better content.
- More links.
- Better links.
So, to recap. There are many factors that will influence your site’s visibility in the search results. For optimal performance, these pieces must be in alignment. Once they are, the focus should not be on individual keywords, rather, how many keywords your site is actually visible for, and how long you can maintain that visibility. Understanding how much time and money should be invested in the process will depend on how many technical, content, and backlink related pieces are missing, and of course, what competitors your site is stacked up against.