Reasons Why Your Website Isn’t Ranking on Google

As the co-founder and digital lead at 5 Twelve, I have daily conversations with businesses struggling to establish an online presence without relying solely on paid advertising. These businesses have often invested thousands in building a website, experimenting with social media, and even hiring digital marketing agencies, but to no avail. The common refrain I hear is, “I can’t find myself on Google!”

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The core issue I often identify is a disconnect between the businesses’ focus and the fundamental requirements for effective online visibility. Spending $30,000 on a visually appealing website and social media marketing is futile if no one can actually find you or understand how you can help them. At the end of the day, the true measure of success is the phone ringing, the calendar getting booked, and the online sales – the tangible results that drive a business forward.

To help these businesses redirect their focus and achieve better online visibility, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide covering the key areas they should address from both an SEO and digital marketing perspective.

1. Ensuring Your Website is Indexed by Google
The first step in improving online visibility is to verify that your website is properly indexed by Google. To do this, simply search for “” on Google. If your website doesn’t show up, it’s likely not indexed.

There are several potential reasons why a website may not be indexed:

– Robots.txt Disallowance: The website’s robots.txt file may be instructing search engine crawlers not to index the site or specific pages.
– Noindex Tags: Pages may have been tagged with a ‘noindex’ directive in the meta tags or HTTP headers, explicitly telling search engines not to index them.
– Crawl Errors: Issues like server errors (500), not found errors (404), or access denied errors (403) can prevent Googlebot from accessing and indexing the site.
– Slow Loading Speed: Extremely slow-loading pages may be skipped by Google’s crawlers, leading to non-indexing.
– Penalties and Sanctions: The website may have been penalized by Google for violating search engine guidelines, such as through the use of black-hat SEO techniques.
– Poor Quality or Duplicate Content: Websites with substantial duplicate or low-quality content may be deemed unworthy of indexing.
– New Website: Newly launched websites may not be indexed immediately, as it takes time for Google to discover and process them.
– Blocked by .htaccess: Incorrect configuration of the .htaccess file can inadvertently block search engines from accessing the site.
– Domain Issues: Problems related to domain registration, such as a lapsed registration or the site being flagged for spam, can affect indexing.
– Temporary Site Downtime: If the site was down when Googlebot tried to crawl it, the pages might not be indexed.

To get your site indexed, log into Google Search Console and submit each webpage and your sitemap to be indexed. If there are any issues, they will be flagged in the platform for you or your developer to fix before submitting again.

2. Addressing the Challenges of a New Website
When launching a new website or business, it’s common for friends, family, or even staff to search for the website and report back that they can’t find it. This is because Google needs to discover your new site before it can be indexed and ranked.

The process typically begins when Google’s algorithms identify links to your site from other indexed pages or when your site is directly submitted to Google via Search Console. Without external links or direct submission, your new site may remain under the radar for some time.

Once discovered, Google’s robot crawlers read and assess your website’s content, structure, and technical setup. This initial assessment is crucial, as it determines the relevance and quality of your site.

After crawling, Google attempts to index your site’s pages, which involves analyzing and storing the pages in its database. This stage is influenced by the quality of the content, the site’s adherence to SEO best practices, and the overall user experience. High-quality, unique content is more likely to be indexed quickly.

As Google finds, crawls, and indexes your web pages, it begins to understand who you are, where you’re located, and what you do. If this information is not clear, your website may not show up for relevant terms, and your webpages may be marked as ‘Discovered, not indexed’.

To expedite this process and identify any issues, submit each page and your sitemap through Google Search Console.

3. Addressing Website Shortcomings
Even the most visually appealing websites can suffer from technical and SEO-related issues that hinder their performance. Here are some common problems I often encounter:

a. Bad Content Management System (CMS)
The choice of CMS is fundamental to a website’s performance and its potential to rank on search engines. An ineffective CMS can impede your ability to publish, manage, and optimize content for SEO, affecting everything from site speed to mobile responsiveness.

Avoid using ‘free’ or ‘easy’ web builders, such as those bundled with website and email hosting services. These often have significant limitations. Even a custom-built website from a developer may have similar constraints, and you’ll be at the mercy of the developer for any changes.

Consider migrating to a more SEO-friendly platform, such as WordPress, which offers a high degree of flexibility, user-friendliness, and SEO-friendliness.

b. Poor Speed and Load Time
Website speed is a critical factor in user satisfaction and SEO rankings. Slow load times can lead to increased bounce rates, decreased engagement, and lower search rankings, as Google prioritizes fast-loading sites.

Common causes of poor load time include:
– Unoptimized or excessive images/video
– Excessive use of JavaScript and CSS
– Poor website hosting
– Heavy use of plugins or widgets

c. Lack of Structure
A well-structured website is crucial for both user navigation and SEO performance. A logical hierarchy and clear navigation paths enable search engines to understand and index your content effectively, while also providing a better user experience. A lack of structure can confuse visitors and search engines, leading to poor indexing and user engagement.

Ensure you have:
– A logical, hierarchical content organization
– Intuitive and consistent site navigation
– Descriptive, keyword-rich URLs
– Effective use of header tags (H1, H2, H3, etc.)

d. Bad User Experience (UX)
User experience (UX) encompasses all aspects of a visitor’s interaction with your website. A negative UX can deter visitors from staying on or returning to your site, directly affecting your bounce rate, time on site, and ultimately, your SEO rankings. Google’s algorithms increasingly prioritize sites that provide a positive user experience.

Optimize for mobile, minimize intrusive ads or pop-ups, and ensure clear and distinct call-to-actions on each page.

4. Mastering the Fundamentals of SEO
In the pursuit of cutting-edge SEO strategies, it’s easy to overlook the fundamental principles that form the bedrock of successful search engine optimization. At its core, SEO isn’t just about appeasing algorithms—it’s about reaching and communicating effectively with your target audience.

a. Implementing Basic SEO Practices
The foundation of effective SEO lies in mastering the basics. A solid grasp of fundamental SEO practices ensures your website communicates efficiently with search engines and aligns with user expectations.

Some essential SEO practices include:
– Proper use of headings and tag structure (H1, H2, H3, etc.)
– Optimized title tags and meta descriptions
– Incorporating keywords naturally into content
– Using high-quality, original images with descriptive file names and alt attributes
– Placing clear, compelling calls-to-action (CTAs) on each main page

b. Addressing Your Target Audience Through Content
Effective content creation should focus on addressing the needs and questions of your target audience, not just self-promotion. Shift the narrative from company-centric to user-centric, providing solutions to your audience’s challenges and answering their frequently asked questions.

Ensure your content:
– Focuses on user benefits rather than just features
– Uses relatable, jargon-free language
– Educates and empowers your audience

5. Improving Content Quality and Relevance
Content quality and relevance directly influence your website’s ability to engage users and perform well in search engine rankings. When content fails to meet the needs of your audience or lacks relevance to your niche, it diminishes user experience and your site’s SEO potential.

Common content quality issues include:
– Minimalist websites with insufficient information
– Heavily AI-generated content that lacks the human touch
– Content that fails to address core customer questions

6. Establishing Trust and Authority
Trust and authority are crucial for attracting and retaining users, as well as improving your website’s SEO. Google’s emphasis on E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) underscores the importance of establishing your site as a credible source of information.

While not a direct Google ranking factor, domain authority (DA) is a useful metric to gauge a website’s likelihood to rank in search engine results. Being listed on other high-authority websites can provide valuable backlinks, boosting your own DA and SEO efforts.

Listings on reputable websites and online directories increase your online footprint, making your business more visible to search engines and potential customers.

7. Navigating Competitive Markets and Niche Challenges
When your niche is highly competitive, standing out requires a combination of consistency, innovation, and strategic SEO. Regularly updating your website with fresh, high-quality content is key, as is staying abreast of industry trends, algorithm updates, and competitor strategies.

Conduct thorough competitor analysis to understand their strengths and weaknesses, and look for gaps in their content or areas they’ve overlooked. By offering something unique or of higher quality, you can carve out your own space even in crowded markets.

On the other hand, if the market for your products or services is limited, focus on educating potential customers about the value and benefits of your offerings. Use your platform to generate interest and demand through high-quality, informative content.

Be prepared to pivot your strategies based on performance data and market feedback, as the digital landscape is ever-changing.

Navigating the complexities of digital visibility is a common challenge for many businesses. By addressing the key areas outlined in this guide, you can bolster your online visibility and drive tangible results for your business. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the specific challenges and strategies may vary depending on your industry, market, and unique business needs.