“Help! My website doesn’t show up on Google”, is something a lot of first-timers in the world of Online Marketing & eCommerce say once their website is live. Sometimes it is due to a small error in the set-up but often it is a combination of several small issues. Here are the most common issues that can cause your website not to show up on Google.
As soon as you have launched your website, you're eager to see it rank well on Google and other search engines. However, sometimes a relatively minor issue is making it hard or impossible for Google to crawl the website. As soon as you have fixed these issues you can start focussing on improving Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) for your website. This article is packed with these tips as well, so we'll also be covering SEO for beginners.
More about that later. Let’s focus on the issues that can prevent – or make it harder for – Google from indexing your website. Oh and by the way, don't forget what was said before, it is usually a mix of the issues listed below.
The website is not live or behind a password
If your website hasn’t been published yet or needs a password to log in to see the content, it’ll be impossible for search engines to crawl your website. Finish creating your website first, publish it then wait and see how Google ranks your website.
Pro tip: It makes sense to use a password while you are creating your website but you don’t have to hide all the content. By using a Coming Soon plugin on your WordPress website you can hide the content you are working on but show your visitors a nice page that tells them something amazing is coming up.
You can use that Coming Soon Page to let people know:
- when your website & business will be live
- to sign up for your newsletter list (a great way to start creating that email marketing list early)
- to like your Facebook page or to follow you on Instagram, Twitter or other social channels.
Why waste a great opportunity to communicate and connect with future customers early? Even if your website isn’t live yet a custom-made Coming Soon Page in line with your brand can do magic for your small business that is just starting out.
Search Engines are not allowed
This is the easiest and most common mistake to make. There is a setting in WordPress called Search Engine Visibility option that almost everyone switches on when they start creating their website… But a lot of people also totally forget about that option when they launch their website.
It is an easy thing to forget but also super easy to fix. Go to Settings, the Reading to see the status of your Search Engine Visibility option. Deselect “discourage search engines from indexing this site” to allow Google and other search engines to crawl the website and index it.
Pro tip: if you use an SEO plugin like SEOpress or Yoast, it’ll warn you when you aren’t allowing search engines to crawl your website.
Messy or weird URL structure
The words used in your URL may not have a big impact on the ranking of your website on Google, but it looks just better and is easier for everyone when your website doesn’t have pages or blog posts with URLs that look like this: ?p=612. A URL that looks like your-domain/article/my-great-article-for-people is so much better.
Give each page or post a name that reflects its content and make sure that the URL uses that name as well. Oh and don’t create URLs like /new-page/.
It also makes it easier for everyone to see what the article or page is all about.
Too many demo pages live
An easy way to check on Google which pages have been crawled and indexed is by typing site:your-domain and pressing search. Make sure to replace your-domain with the domain name of your website.
Then it’ll show you all pages that are crawlable and have been indexed. See pages you don’t want on there, for example, dummy or demo pages? Either delete these pages in your CMS (WordPress backend or another system you are using) or – if you want these pages to be available at a later point – use an SEO plugin like SEOpress or Yoast to prevent search engines from crawling and indexing that specific page.
Rule of thumb when it comes to ranking your website and working on SEO:
- All pages should be crawlable and indexable, unless there is a really good reason not to have them show up, for example, a Thank You / Order Confirmation Page or a Member’s Only Page.
- If you don’t need a page or post because it is a demo page, just delete it. Make sure to add a redirect via your SEO plugin like SEOpress or Yoast when deleting a page, no matter how irrelevant that page may have been. You don’t want to create dead links aka 404s on your website.
Not enough content
When all the “technical” issues causing your website not to show up on Google have been taken care of, it is time to take the first steps in the world of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It is time to start reading this part of the article, SEO for beginners.
SEO is something that will take time. It isn’t something that isn’t a destination but a continuous journey. There are no quick fixes that will magically make your page appear on the first page of Google. Therefore don’t trust anyone that promises you they can make your page appear on top of search results in Google.
SEO is easy to begin with but can get harder and require more knowledge when you have taken the first steps. No worries, it is a fun thing to work on and there is heaps you can do to take the first steps in the world of SEO.
Oh and keep in mind that even though it is called Search Engine Optimisation, SEO is something you eventually do for humans, your (potential) customers. So keep your customer(s) in mind when working on improving SEO for your website.
Content is king: make yours count
The biggest issue small business websites or start-up eCommerce sites are dealing with is a lack of content. Almost everyone adds a few lines of text to explain a product or service, adds some nice photos or images and that’s it. A lot of business owners just assume customers know what a specific product or service does or how it works.
But content is king… Both Google and humans need more content to determine whether a specific website, product or service is the right one for them. Add more content, business owners. Explain more in text, answer questions and show what you are about.
This doesn’t mean that you have to add heaps of text high up on the page (above the fold). No worries. Make sure that the customer journey is easy and not cluttered. Often you’ll need to add SEO content lower on the page, often right before the footer of your website or sometimes just below the fold. It all depends on the setup of your website and the text you’ll need to add.
Product text vs SEO text
Of course, you will need to talk a bit about your product or service. Start treating website customers like people on a market or trade show. Imagine someone coming up to you and asking about your products or services. You explaining a specific product is all text that can go on a product page.
SEO text is often text that explains what is happening on a specific page, what the images are about and which customer questions get answered (more basic questions) and the customer issues that get fixed by using your product or service.
Go to any big eCommerce site, often international ones, and scroll down to the bottom of a page. Go past the useful product info and you’ll see more text. For example, have a look at this page on the Spotlight NZ website.
Scroll down to the bottom to see SEO text where they answer some questions that may seem so basic that it is silly to answer them. That’s all info for search engines to know what that page and child pages are all about. Remeber: people go to search engines like Google to ask questions or to find solutions to problems. By answering these commonly asked questions, the company is providing great content for people and search engines in their search for info.
What to write about?
Words like ‘keyword research’ are often mentioned when it comes to SEO. But no need to make things extra complicated when your SEO journey is just starting. You should write about all kinds of questions potential customers might ask you. Create text that explains your products or service. Talk to visitors on your website like you would talk to customers at a trade show or market.
An easy way to get inspiration for topics to write about or which question to answer is:
- Use a free tool like Ubersuggest by Neil Patel (an amazing and great SEO specialist, a real one. You can learn a lot from him.)
- Go to Google and start typing parts of the service you offer or the product you want to write about. Don’t hit enter just yet, just take a look at all the suggestions Google gives you. See the screenshot below for ‘car cleaning…”
- Then click enter and scroll down the Google page until you see “People Also Ask”. Perfect examples of questions people want to be answered when they go to Google so perfect inspiration for content to create for your website or eCommerce store.
Don’t overdo it
Once you get the hang of adding more content to your website based on popular keywords or questions, you might want to go on and on. Great that’s the spirit but don’t overdo it. SEO isn’t about stuffing as many keywords in your text as you can or stuffing a lot of the same keywords into your content. Any text you create should be easy to read for humans. It should add value and not be annoying to site visitors.
There are more search engines than just Google
This article has mentioned Google a few times, but did you know there are more search engines then just Google? And yes, more and more people use alternative search engines as they are fed up with Google.
Google is just a synonym for searching something in a search engine, so people often say “just Google it” even if they use a completely different search engine. The same goes for SEO, when we say Google we sometimes just mean ‘search engine’.
It won’t change how you create content or how to rank your website in a search engine, but it is good to keep in mind there are more search engines out there. Try one of the alternative ones for content inspiration and to see how your website ranks in these search engines,
Popular alternative search engines are:
- DuckDuckGo, is the best search engine when it comes to privacy and still provides great search results
- Qwant, another privacy-focused search engine
- Ecosia, the search engine that plants trees
Ranking your website: easier and better
You can do a lot when it comes to ranking your website in Google or other search engines. The issues mentioned above and the SEO tips will make your steps in the mysterious world of Google easier. It is just a start as there is so much more you can do to rank better.
Oh and by ranking your website, I don’t mean the results you see when you type in your brand name or business name. Ranking well means that your pages show up when potential customers use a combination of words or a question that is relevant to your business. Your business shows up when your potential customers have a problem and is looking for a solution.
There are a lot of people out there that make claims that are not realistic or things they cannot make happen. No one knows how Google’s algorithm works. We can only guesstimate based on experience and reading a lot. I don’t claim to be an SEO expert as there are so many people out there that know a lot more about this topic. There is just a lot you can do yourself before needing an expert. SEO is a journey, not a destination.
Questions? Feedback? Post it below as a comment and I’ll answer your questions or be happy to have a good discussion about this or other topics.