Making Sure Your Website Show Up in Google
Even a simple website takes a fair amount time and effort to bring to life. There are decisions to be made regarding how it’s built, where it’s hosted, what it looks like, who creates it, and more. Once it’s finally finished, and it’s launched for all of the world to see, you’ll likely be experiencing a surge of joy, pride, and relief.
However, those positive emotions can quickly turn negative if you discover that no one is actually going to your website.
Now, the definition of healthy website traffic can be relative depending on what your site is for. For smaller, niche businesses, a few hundred views a month might be normal. For larger and/or more established organizations, however, you could expect to see thousands, if not tens of thousands of viewers. While you can do your best to share your website across different social media platforms and other outlets, if you really want to get traffic, you need to be appearing in search engines.
Specifically, you need to show up in Google.
Google accounts for 92% of all search engine traffic. In other words, it’s the only search engine you really need to concern yourself with. If your web traffic is tragically low, and you’re not seeing any changes from month to month, most likely you are lacking in the area of search engine optimization or “SEO”. The good news is this is a fixable problem.
However, it’s going to take some time, effort, and general understanding of how SEO works. Today, we’re going to take a look at what search engine optimization is and how you can help your website be SEO-friendly. Whether you’re a small business, a non-profit, a church, or an individual who is simply trying to share their knowledge, it is critical that your website is optimized for search engines, at least to some degree.
Otherwise, you’re simply casting words into the bottom-less void that is the internet.
Understanding Search Engine Optimization
SEO is a term that’s thrown around a lot these days. Depending on who you ask, you might get surprisingly different descriptions of how it’s done. In the broadest terms, SEO is the process of improving your website’s visibility in the eyes of search engines. This, in turn, results in more traffic to your website.
Search engines like Google use automated programs called “bots” or “crawlers” to find websites, navigate through the contents they contain, and bring this information back to the search engine’s databases.
This is called indexing.
Search engines have complex algorithms that analyze the collected data to determine what it’s about and whether it’s quality/original content. From there, it places the different pages of a particular website into relevant search results. At least, that’s what happens if everything goes according to plan.
Sometimes, the crawlers fail to find or decipher content on your website. Even worse, sometimes they never discover your website in the first place. In order to be accessible to search engines, your website must be “search engine friendly”.
What Does it Mean to be Search Engine Friendly?
A search engine friendly website is one that is designed with search engine crawling in mind. From the way the pages connect to how the content is displayed on those pages to the very URLs the website generates, a search engine friendly site allows search engines to move through its pages and understand what’s there.
One simple way to illustrate this is with your site’s URLs. Let’s say your website has a page about how to weave baskets underwater. A search engine friendly site would have a URL like mysite.com/underwater-basket-weaving.
A non-friendly site would have a URL like mysite.com/p-123.ajax.
Search engines can easily identify what the page is about on the first example. On the second example, that page could be about anything, and it may fail to be properly indexed.
The content on the page is even more important.
If a page’s contents are vague and short, search engines might not be able to understand what the page is about, or they’ll decide it has little to offer. If you have content that’s displayed in pictures rather than actual text, that can cause issues too. Search engines are smart, but they still can’t really “read” pictures.
Search engine friendly websites do have a feature that can help with this.
Alt tags are words that you can attach to images. That way, search engines can know what the picture represents. Still, these don’t serve as a replacement for actual page content. They’re supplemental. The same is true for things like meta tags, meta titles, page descriptions, and more. A search engine friendly website should offer opportunities to add all of this information. In fact, it will likely create much of it for you.
Still, as great as a search engine friendly website is, it’s not going to do all of the work for you and automatically place you in top search results. For that, you’ll need to do some optimization.
The Difference Between Search Engine Friendly & Search Engine Optimized
Even with a search engine friendly website, you might find that you’re not showing up in relevant searches. Why? Because a search friendly site is just step one in the journey of search engine optimization.
SEO is a big picture, on-going process that never truly stops. It typically starts with developing a strategy for keywords, phrases, and general search demographic.
From there, you begin to create pages geared towards specific keywords, write up industry-relevant blog posts, fill in all of your meta data, and continue monitoring analytics in an effort to boost your search engine rankings.
While SEO can yield great results, it can also be a time-consuming and occasionally frustrating process. Search engines never tell you exactly how to appear in relevant search results. To make things more challenging, search engines constantly change and update their algorithms. Something that might have worked for SEO a year or two ago could suddenly become useless.
Or worse, it could actually hurt your search results.
Don’t get discouraged though. There are a number of actions you can take that have been proven to have a positive impact on SEO. It starts with having a search engine friendly website. From there, make sure you have a number of pages with original, quality content. Don’t worry having too much content on your website.
In the eyes of Google, there’s really no such thing as too much content.
Your website should have information for who you are, what you provide, who you provide it for, and what makes you unique. These pages should be more than a paragraph or two. In fact, important pages should be at least 900 words long.
Once you have all of your content in place, and your website is live, you can further improve your SEO by continuing to create content on your website. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is with a blog.
Though blogging might seem like a complex and time-consuming action that’s beyond your skillset, it’s not as impossible as many think. Start by thinking about types of questions your audience is asking. From there, create a post that’s at least 400 words that answers a particular question.
Before you know it, you’ll be blogging with ease.
Once again, a search engine friendly website should have blog functionality built into it, making it very simple to start adding posts and improving your site’s SEO.
Helping Your Website Get Indexed
Search engine optimization is not something that happens overnight. Appearing in relevant search engines can take a while, especially if you’re a brand-new website. There are nearly a billion websites out there. That’s a lot of info (and cat videos) to compete with. It’s up to search engines like Google to manage, sort, and index this information.
Because of the massive amount of data that needs to be processed, it takes time for Google to recognize that a new website has entered the world wide web, even if it’s search engine friendly. Like we said before, Google needs to crawl your website, bring the data back to its systems so that it can analyze and understand who you are and what you do.
All of this requires time and patience.
You can help speed up this process by manually submitting your sitemap to Google. There are a few different ways to do this depending on where your website was built. The most universal way is to login into Google’s Search Console which you can find here. Once you’ve logged in, click the tab on the left-hand side that says “Sitemaps” (you should find it under the Index section).
From there, you can add a URL for your website’s sitemap. The exact location of this can vary depending on how your website was built. For WordPress websites, the default sitemap is at yourwebsite.com/sitemap.xml. However, that can change if you’re using certain SEO plugins. If you’re not sure where to find your sitemap, we recommend asking your web developer or hosting provider.
Reasons Why Your Website Might Not Be Appearing in Search Engines
Assuming you’ve taken the appropriate steps, and your website is search engine friendly, there should come a point where you’re seeing yourself appear in some searches. Even if you’re not aggressively implementing SEO strategies. You should be able to check your Analytics and see traffic under the “organic” area (organic traffic is a fancy term for search engine traffic).
If you’re not seeing any traffic, or you try to search for yourself in Google, and you’re not appearing, you may have a problem. There are a number of things that could potentially keep your website out of search engines.
Your Site Isn’t Crawlable
This one is a bit technical, but it’s also incredibly important. In order to know what’s on your website, a search engine has to crawl through it using bots. These are little programs that process words, code, and accessibility. Some websites can create obstacles for bots, preventing them from indexing your website.
This could be due to bad coding, broken functionality, outdated plugins, and more. It’s important to keep your website updated and built to modern standards. Platforms like WordPress and Squarespace are built with SEO in mind. Even then, there are ways that these sites can be uncrawlable. Certain extensions and plugins can cause issues.
In the case of WordPress, there is also a very important setting that must be unchecked. Under Settings > Reading, there is an option at the bottom called “Search engine visibility”. If this box is checked, your website might not show up in search engines at all.
Following the previous advice of manually submitting your sitemap to Google can help test and ensure that your site is crawlable.
There Isn’t Enough Content
Something you should know about search engine bots is that they only read HMTL code. So, if your website has a lot of text, great! The bots can process that all day. However, these bots can’t read pictures, video, flash animation, etc.
They realize that it’s there. They just don’t know what it is or what to do with it.
Your website may look full to you, but if you strip away the images, videos, and other fancy things, and there’s only a handful of sentences, it doesn’t give the crawlers much to work with. They’ll see your website as empty and largely unvaluable, which will hurt your overall rankings.
Like we said before, in the eyes of search engines, there’s really no such thing as too much content.
Your Content Isn’t Good (or Original)
Are you writing your content specifically for search engines? Are you trying to cram in as many keywords as possible, using unnatural phrases such as “We sell best cheap shoes Minneapolis MN?”
That could hurt you.
Any content placed on your website should sound natural. It should be written for humans first and search engines second. That’s the kind of content Google assigns value to.
It’s equally important that your website is unique and original. If you have the exact same information on multiple pages, that could hurt your rankings. The same is true for copying content from other websites. Don’t do it.
You’re Using Shady SEO Tactics
Search engines used to be pretty easy to manipulate by exploiting different shortcuts. This included actions like linking a bunch of keywords in footers, getting inbound links from untrustworthy websites, exchanging links between other websites, and hiding keywords in backgrounds.
All of these things are bad, outdated tactics that could result in your website being penalized. If you’re ever doing optimization that feels dishonest, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
I Don’t Even Show Up When I Search My Name
You may be surprised to discover how many people get to your website by first googling your name. This is because people who have never been to your website, even if they know who you are, don’t know your URL. Generally, this method works just fine. However, there are times when businesses and other organizations don’t even show up for their own name.
This can be a serious problem.
As with any other search engine problems, it could be due to the reasons listed above: your website might not be search engine friendly, it might have something blocking crawlers, there might not be enough content, etc.
On the other hand, the problem could be with the name itself.
It might have seemed really cool when you called your shoe company “Envision.” Or maybe you felt led to rebrand your church as “Pure Water”. These names might sound nice, but they don’t necessarily correlate with what they’re representing. They’re also words that are used in a lot of instances across countless websites.
The more vague your organization’s name is, the more challenging it can be to rank for it. This is especially true if there’s a larger brand that’s using the name.
What Can I Do About This?
Well….you could change your business name. Of course, you probably don’t want to do that. A better solution might be to add a subheading or secondary word to your title that describes what you do. Using the Envision example, you could run with “Envision Shoes” or have “Envision: The Footwear You’ve Always Dreamed Of” spread throughout your site.
The name is technically still Envision. For all intents and purposes, you can still call yourself Envision. But if someone is looking for your business, they should be able to Google “Envision shoes” and have you show up.
Alternatively, you could look into non-traditional spellings. There’s a reason why our name is Torrch with two R’s.
Whatever route you go, a little SEO work can go a long way in helping you out. Before you can do that, however, you’ll need a quality website in place.
A Search Engine-Friendly Website You Can Afford
At Torrch, we exist to help connect local communities. We do this through our Torrch platform, as well as our web design and development services. For smaller businesses, churches, and non-profits, we have Torrch Local. Torrch Local provides modern, customizable, SEO-friendly websites designed to meet your needs and budget.
Our Torrch Local websites are built on WordPress, the most popular platform on the internet. WordPress is built from the ground up to be crawlable, indexable, and all-around friendly for search engines. It also comes with built in blogging functionality that makes it easy to further optimize your website and show up in more searches.
Even if you don’t plan to blog, our websites can provide a great value for a low, monthly fee.
For more advanced needs, we also have Torrch Labs. Torrch Labs provides custom web development solutions, whether it’s building an advanced website or creating an app. To learn more about Torrch Labs, click here. If you’d like to get started with Torrch Local, fill out the form below.