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You’ve owned your own business for a short while now, and in your world, things have been going swimmingly. Word of mouth is traveling fast in your community and your fresh, modern business is packed. People love the atmosphere. Your employees are kickass.
But there seems to be trouble in paradise.
You’ve been hearing that people are having trouble finding your business online.
Truth be told, you haven’t really been putting a lot of effort into growing your online presence because you’ve been so focused on building your business from the ground up— literally.
You’re not exactly sure what search engine optimization (SEO) means or how to be optimizing your website to rank on the first page of Google. Heck, you might even be just starting to build an online presence.
Here’s a few reasons you might be falling off of page one of the Google search results, otherwise known as “no-man’s land” for SEOs:
1. You Haven’t Told Google You’re a Business
This seems like an obvious first step, but it’s easy to forget (or simply not know) how to alert Google that you’re up and running.
Start off by creating or claiming your listing on Google My Business (GMB). It’s a free service that puts you in control of the way the world’s largest search engine sees your business.
List your hours, your website, your address and upload photos. Google My Business works alongside of Google Maps, and when you place your location information in this platform, it’ll generate directions automatically for local searchers or people trying to find your business online.
Google My Business is a spot where you control your Google Reviews too. You’ll often see your business information displayed in a “box” on the right sidebar of a Google search. This box is a Google Knowledge Graph.
If you already see a graph there, you can claim it and gain control of the listing. Sometimes people try to give Google information for you to help other searchers, but you’ll want to steer the wheel on that shiny car to drive your search rankings up. If you already have a Google My Business listing, and it's just not ranking, read this article on optimizing your GMB to appear in search.
Another free service you should get familiar with is Google Search Console, previously called Google Webmaster Tools. It’s where you can be your own “webmaster” and check your page’s indexing status or optimize your website for search.
Basically, Search Console is a dashboard that can give you insights about what people are searching to find you and how Google is crawling your pages to better optimize.
Which leads into our next reason you’re not on the first page of Google...
2. Your Site is Poorly Optimized for Search Engines
Search engine optimization involves a lot of different factors, but one way a website could be poorly optimized for search is by loading very slowly.
An optimized website shouldn’t take more than 2 seconds to load.
This ensures searchers don’t hop back to the search engine results page (SERP) for an easier answer. This is where the term “bounce rate” comes into play, when searchers hit the back button because their answer takes too long to find (or you’re just not serving helpful information).
Is your website packed with large pictures that take forever to fully render? Here's some tips for optimizing your images for web. Does the video you linked to keep buffering? Make sure you chose the best video hosting platform.
A quick way to see some of your website problems is by running a free report with GTMetrix. This’ll give you an idea of how long it’s taking for your pages to load and why. Or, see what Google itself has to say by running your URL through its PageSpeed Insights tool.
SEO is complicated though.
Even with a terrific load time, you have to make sure that your content is meeting the expectations of both searchers and search engines. That means considering on-page ranking signals like your forward-facing content, meta descriptions, alt tags, how they weigh in on your relevancy on the SERPs and more. Mix in confusing buzzwords like pillar pages and topic clusters (um, what?) and you're confused as hell.
Don't get discouraged. You might not be on page one of the Google search results because your content needs some keyword lovin’. For example, you might have found this article by searching "first page Google." Similarly your webpages need the right search terms to rank. Here's some tips for finding the right keywords for your business.
3. You’re Searching Competitive Keyword Phrases
Chances are, your business isn’t the only one out there like it.
In a market saturated with competition, you’re grappling with others in your industry for similar keywords and phrases on the SERPs. If you’re a local business, you especially want to be aware of what people in your area are searching for.
The phrases and words you’re looking up to find yourself online might not be reflective of the content on your website, or at least— your site isn’t refined with search engines in mind.
Without hiring a specialized SEO strategist, there are some things you can do on your own to optimize your website.
If you have a Google AdWords account, there’s a tool called Keyword Planner. Enter up to three phrases you want to rank for to see other closely related searches, their volume, difficulty and competition.
Look at the bottom of the SERPs too for “Searches related to” for suggestions for what similar queries people are looking up too.
When it comes to actually weaving those keywords into your website content, check out our Guide to Proper Keyword Implementation for more insights.
Sometimes, your business needs a little push to get you going before organic traffic starts trickling in. Maybe you’re not rockin’ page one of Google because...
4. You’re Not Utilizing Paid Advertising
Let’s be honest, Google will take your money anyway it can. That’s why there are perks to paying for advertising on their platform.
The top three positions on every SERP are reserved exclusively for people dipping into their wallets for visibility. These are the pay-per click (PPC) listings with a little “Ad” sticker next to them to indicate they’re advertisements related to your search query.
If you’re a newer business, you haven’t had the time to build credibility on the SERPs to get served up naturally (or “organically”) for your relevancy and quality. If you can’t wait it out and play the SEO game, or even if you just want a little extra boost, paid advertising might be an option for you.
Everyone’s budget is different, but generally, simply spend what you can afford when first starting off. You’ll eventually get a feel for what is working and what isn’t, along with how you can adjust your budget accordingly.
Earlier in this article we mentioned Google’s Keyword Planner. Well, as an added benefit of advertising with Google, they offer users spending more than $10 a day more refined keyword metrics. Talk about added bonus!
This will be a fundamental tool in helping you optimize your website with the right keywords for better Google search rankings.
But there's more! Have you noticed that sometimes Google gives your answer right away, without even having to click on one of the blue hyperlinks? Maybe you searched "how long to cook salmon" and the search engine gave you a time and temperature ABOVE the links. This is called a featured snippet, which many SEOs call "position zero" because it's above all the organic results. If you can be served as a featured snippet, that's a game changer. Read more about about snippet ranking here.
5. You’re Not Active on Social Media
You’d be surprised how easily social platforms like Facebook and Twitter can rank on page one for you.
That’s because they have a little thing called high “domain authority (DA).” Some call this ranking algorithm metric things like domain score, trust score, etc., but it’s most commonly been popularized and tracked by SEO industry leader Moz.
Your domain authority is a score from 1-100. That’s right, your site is getting graded. Use it to see how relevant you are in your industry on the search results.
For example, the “big dogs” like Facebook and YouTube have nearly a 100 DA, meaning they have the highest likelihood to show up on the top of Google search because their site has earned lots of traffic and trust.
Sign up for a free Moz account and add the MozBar Chrome extension to see what rating your and your competitor’s sites have.
Anyway, back out of the rabbit hole of authority scoring.
All you need to know is that because platforms like Instagram and Facebook are SERP rockstars, your social page has a good chance of ranking.
Create a Facebook Business Manager account, get active on Google+ or line up some fun, informative tweets.
Your online social presence will benefit both you and your customers.
6. Your Reviews are Bad or Nonexistent
Reviews are a pretty big ranking signal, both in local search and organic results. What this means is that reviews could impact the way searchers view you online.
Sign up for a Yelp, get a TripAdvisor account and remind people to share what they feel about your on Facebook Reviews.
When people visit your business, encourage them to leave a Google+ rating or take it old school and have them write in a guest book and post pictures of the feedback online.
Now is also the perfect time to consider adding a “Testimonials” page to your website!
All these things tell searchers and search engines that you are a master in your industry and are trusted by real people to solve their problems. Have some negative reviews? They could be affecting your place on the SERPs. Read more about these three ways bad customer reviews can crush your rankings.
7. You Have No Authority from Backlinks
Remember when we talked about domain authority in reason number five? Something that feeds into your DA and subsequent page authority (PA) is the quantity and quality of your backlinks.
What’s a backlink? It’s someone mentioning you on their domain with a blue, underlined hyperlink pointing “back” to your site.
Think of it as someone else vouching for you, telling others you’ve got good stuff to offer and to check you out. Plus, when others link out to you, especially those in your industry, it tells search engines that you’re relevant to that topic.
After all, the site that linked found you important enough to refer others to your site, and people don’t link to spammy, useless sites. You know who doesn’t get quality backlinks? Shady businesses that offer sucky services that no one wants to promote.
As a healthy business, it’s important to be aware of and grow your backlink profile. It's certainly a Google ranking factor.
You can use various tools to see who is linking to you online like Ahrefs or SEMRush. Although both of these services have paid add-ons, their free version will reveal a capped number of backlink insights to expose some of your traffic sources. Also, read about our favorite 12 link building strategies. Spoiler alert: one of them is email marketing— but you have to know how to use it without seeming spammy.
You’ll get backlinks naturally for producing helpful, informative content, but knowing where you’re shining is half the battle. Leverage preexisting relationships and always be fostering new ones online for better Google search rankings.
8. You Don’t Even Know What a Citation Is
An online citation is a listing of your business that can be indexed by search engines and start organically ranking for you.
Think Yellow Pages or Four Square. These are places people go to to learn more about your business! Your listing could be simple and only include your name, phone number and address. But some platforms allow you to create an entire business profile, which you should utilize! Hint hint: TripAdvisor or Yelp.
It’s a royal pain in the ass trying to get listings on the top 50 local citation sites, so start small by picking 3 new ones to populate each month.
These citations will help you in the long-haul, building credibility on multiple platforms and showing users and search engines that you’re relevant all across the web.
Strap-Up & Start Optimizing
After reading all these ranking factors, your head might be spinning.
No biggie. Let us make it easy. Download your Beginners Guide to Local SEO Guide below to start cleaning up your online presence and rock Google page one, today.
Is this all just too much? We get it. All this SEO strategy is someone's full time job! Take a look at our Search Engine Optimization services page, and let us know if we can help.