10 Reasons why you're not dominating Google's search results

We have written several blog posts over the years about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which are how to's about what to do to get to the top of the search results.

In laymen’s terms, it means when people search for what you do, your site appears in the first few results.

But we get a lot of people who want to know why their site isn't in that elusive top ten.

So here we go:

1. You didn't say it was important when the site was built.

Without going into technicalities, if SEO wasn't baked into your site from day one you are going to struggle because you'll be without:

  • Search friendly site structure – including individual, target phrase specific pages

  • Keyword rich internal linking

  • Trust building elements (about us, privacy policy, terms pages)

  • Unique Meta tags for each page

  • Content rich sections like a blog, resources etc

The degree to which you have to build the site with SEO in mind will depend on your industry. If you are in a competitive industry (say, one of the trades) and you've got a lot of competitors, particularly if they are known brands - you will need to be pretty dedicated to beat them.

In most cases, SEO can't be an after-thought as it's hard to retro-fit a site.

And don't expect full SEO services to be included with a small budget site build – even if they say it is. If SEO is part of the mix, you'll know it because you'll have to do a lot of content development work.

2. Your content is old, and it sucks

Search rankings are a competition. Google will display the sites they think are a better choice – irrelevant of the realities of how good those businesses are.

And one thing that will surely sink your chances is if you have a site with only a few pages or lots of pages that consist of nothing but images or single lines of text.

It is possible to rank with a one page site – but not in a competitive industry. You need regular, quality content to be added regularly to the site to get back-links if you want to appear in those first 10 results.

And the content has to be better than short 250 character paragraphs with lots of filler images. Don't believe those people that say “No one reads content”. It's true they won't read your endless fluff about why you do what you do or your latest team outing, but they will if they are in the target audience and it's good content that is well written, relevant to them and makes their day better/easier in some way. Don't confuse sales copy with search optimised content.

In addition, your content needs to be optimised with headings, title tags, keyword rich urls. There is a view that having links out from your content to high authority sites (eg as references or quotations) is a way to show your content is well researched and trustworthy.

This content is the basis for sharing (which is one way to get back-links) – if people like what you have to say they will share it. It raises your profile which can attract more back links. It can also feed your social media sites.

For this you'll need a content strategy.  If you need ideas, here are some of our articles on content.

3. You aren't willing to pay for invest in it.

SEO costs – it is a time consuming, specialist activity. If you think you can get this for a hundred bucks a month, think again.

The cheapest local SEO package will start at around $700 a month for a small/micro business (there may be a start up cost as well). And that may not include any improvements you need to do to your site beyond writing a few meta tags and some content.

Most SEO packages for a business with more than one or two staff are around $1500 a month – every month.

Content creation and marketing it a big part of SEO (see next point) and decent writers cost.

So either you have to pay someone qualified – or learn to do it yourself. And if you want to do it yourself you will have to devote quite a bit of time to do it, reviewing your strategies against changes to the algorithm etc.

4. Your site is an island

Backlinks are essential. See the Backlink Beginners Guide for everything you need to get started with link building.

Building back links take time – do it too fast and Google will see it as unnatural. Get them from the wrong place and they'll count for nothing.

Links need to come from a range of websites hosted in different places – a thousand backlinks from a site hosted on the same server as yours will count for very little.

5. Your site isn't mobile friendly

Google caused quite a lot of panic about this one, but what they really said was if your site isn't mobile friendly, it won't rank well ON MOBILE DEVICES. But then, if 50% of your visitors are using mobile devices, this is a problem.

We've seen high ranking sites that aren't mobile friendly but as this is more likely to become a priority in the future, and from a customers perspective you should be planning to make the move soon.

6. Your site is hosted cheaply offshore

Host your site close to your audience – it's a ranking signal.

Not only that, but lot of cheap off-shore hosting services are prone to hacking and poor performance. So don't be a cheapskate.

7. Your site is mess technically

See point 1. Google looks at how quickly your site loads – and this means your code has to be efficient, your images optimised and other elements are configured correctly so pages are fast.

If you're site is a cheapie done by an offshore cut-price developer or your neighbours son who's studying graphic design at university, you'll most likely be without:

  • Keyword rich, search friendly URLs
  • Efficient code
  • Canonical URLs
  • Optimised images

We've even seen sites that have blocked Google's crawler or told it not to index the site (ooops).

Caveat: If you use Google's speed testing app, it will tell you a bunch of technical stuff about optimising your site. Some of these suggestions, such as providing access to certain folders to their crawlers we simply will not do. Why? Because they are a security risk. Google doesn't really care about this and thinks everything should be open. Not quite we say.

8. You are targeting too many or the wrong keywords

Some of the cheaper SEO packages will only target 1 or 2 keywords. Which could be fine – some industries hang on a few main phrases.

But if you want to fish for opportunities a bit wider and rank for a range of keywords you'll need to target a range of short and long-tail keyword phrases (like questions).

Pick your keywords carefully – you want to target those that a) people do actually use and b) those that are more likely to turn into legitimate business.

We've had SEO companies point out that we don't rank for “Website design” or similar phrases – that’s because we don't want to. It would take a LOT of effort to compete with the big companies that had been around for a lot longer than we have and we'd be hard pressed to justify this investment. And if we did we'd get inundated with tyre kicking price shoppers (we get plenty of those already).

You need to think about why you want to be on the first page of Google and who you want to appear for.

9. Your domain name doesn't contain any keywords

Google's algorithm was updated a few years ago to de-prioritise exact name domains (EMDs), especially if other ranking factors scored poorly. But our evidence says having your main keyword in your domain name does help.

Not only is the domain a ranking factor in itself, but it means any links back to the site will have a keyword in the anchor text (another ranking factor). There's a reason most SEO companies have domain names that include “SEO”.

But try and make it a sensible and logical extension of your business name.

10 Your site is new

Brand new sites haven't a hope in competing with a well optimised competitor. Domain age, and naturally occurring back-link profiles are a factor of time. So you'll need to give it a bit of time.

Those sites that defy logic

Occasionally we come across sites or single pages on a bigger site that on inspection shouldn't really rank as high as they do.

Little content. Few backlinks. No keywords in the domain name.

In these cases we suspect it's because it is either part of or associated with a very well known brand (like, a bank). But these are the exception.

We provide site-oriented SEO services as part of our website management services. If your industry is competitive, you will require additional services such as content creators, a PR agency and/or social media specialists.


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