Edinburgh Web Development

Why is my web site nowhere on Google?

by Iain Wilson

4 December 2006

Web design companies get it all the time. They design and build a site for a client, launch it on the web. Everyone is happy until the client starts to notice that the avalanche of new business they expected is not happening. They do a few searches on Google and find their site is at position #497, or worse still, they can't even find it.

They go straight to the phone and call up their web designer. "Why is my web site nowhere on Google?", they ask. "What have you done wrong?".

Usually the web designer hasn't done anything and neither has the client - and that's the problem. Well, the problem is that web design and search engine optimisation are two entirely different things, and a lot of web design companies only do web design. They'll tell you, "We're a design company, we don't do search engine stuff". What this means is that you'll probably get a site that looks good, but you will have to go elsewhere if you want to improve on the search engines.

Other companies, like Blot Design, provide 'search-engine friendly' web design and search engine consultancy that can improve your site's ranking. Just as importantly is that you can do a lot of the search engine work yourself - especially the most important part.

Search engine friendly

What does search engine friendly mean? Well, at the very least it means

  • the site is coded in a way that search engines can easily read and spider through the pages and site
  • Titles, headings and meta information tags are properly included
  • The pages uses web standards and accessibility design wherever possible

For some sites, especially if they are in a very uncompetitive area, 'search engine friendly' can be enough, but it is really just a start. Real search engine success needs real work.

Search engine services

If you have the time to understand and learn search engine techniques, there are a lot of things you can do yourself, but it takes time. If you can't do it yourself, then you will need to engage the services of a search engine specialist. These are the kind of services they can provide.

  • Keyword research. You say you are nowhere on Google, but what do you think your potential customers are keying in as their search phrases? They may be using phrases you didn't think of. Keyword research investigates actual historical searches to find potential phrases you could use on your site.
  • Page optimisation. If you know the phrases surfers are going to use, your page(s) can be optimised for those phrases.
  • Incoming links. Your site absolutely must have links to it from other sites to figure well on Google. This is singularly probably the most important factor for Google ranking. And not just any links, they should be in context with the content on your site.
  • Good textual content. Search engines devour text so make sure you have enough and that you update parts of it regularly.

Are you doing all of the above? If not, your chances of coming out well in the rankings are slim. Try it. Go to Google and key in the phrase you want your site to be found for. When the results come up, near the top right of the screen you should a results summary that says something like :

Results 1 - 10 of about 2,090,000 for your search phrase

In this example, over two million pages have been found for the search phrase. Ask yourself this, "What have I done to my site to make it top of all these pages?". If the answer is 'nothing', then your site will probably be 'nowhere'. Remember, your competitors may be spending hours and possibly thousands of pounds doing the things mentioned above.

Other factors for new sites

One last point for new sites. Google has something that search engine professionals have named the 'Sandbox'. Whether or not Google actually call it that is a moot point, but the general agreement is that they have a sort of probationary filter for new sites, which keeps the sites out of the results for competitive terms for a period. The reason for this is to stop spammers creating sites quickly for topically popular terms.

If your site is new and you have done everything right with links, good content, optimisation etc, you may still find that your due ranking is not happening. If that is the case, your site may be in the Sandbox. How long will you stay there? Normally around 3-4 months although there are examples of much longer periods.

Just keep doing the right things and your site will come out of the Sandbox eventually and your hard work will be rewarded.

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