Client’s ask me “When I Googled _______ our site is was way back on page 4” or “How come our site isn’t #1 in Google?” As the awareness and importance of #1 rankings grows, these types of questions have been becoming more frequent. Here’s two core SEO principles and a little bit of insight into why a website might be ranking poorly:
1. Your site isn’t relevant to what’s getting searched
If you want to rank for “Blue Widgets,” the term “Blue Widgets” needs to be found on the website. This “relevancy” factor is the first element that Google looks for when determining where a website ranks on the results page. Google is essentially looking for a match between the term that gets typed into the search engine (keyword) and what’s on the website. If that keyword doesn’t exist on the site, you will not rank for that term. Google will favor a site that contains the queried keyword.
When I conduct an SEO audit, this is one of the first things I look for. Based on what our client wants to rank for, I compare the search terms to what’s currently on their website. If I can’t find any matches between the search terms and content of the website, this phase of the audit can pretty much stop.
But what if those search terms exist on the website? In order to be as relevant to the search term as possible, it’s important that the keyword resides in the right places on the website. There are several places on a website where Google looks for embedded search terms when determining the relevancy of a website. The content of the site is one of many locations but keywords also need to be found in heading tags, navigation, url and meta data. Having the search terms in these locations will send out the strongest signals to Google on what your site is trying to rank for.
2. Your site isn’t popular
Site popularity is the second “big” factor that influences search results. Just like in high school, the kid with the most friends is generally viewed as the most popular. The same exists in the web world. Instead of “friends” a search engine judges popularity by links. A site with a lot of links back to it from other websites (friends) is viewed as a popular site. This popularity signal means that Google will favor a website that has multiple sites referencing its content over a site that has no links back to it.
The quality and quantity of the sites linking to your content does make a difference but the main point here is that participating in the online world is a must to get good rankings. This factor of SEO can get tricky but be sure to look beyond social media to grow a website’s popularity.
How do you know a site isn’t popular? The first signal is poor rankings but a lot can get determined in the referral section of Google Analytics. This is the first place to start looking when a sites popularity is in question. Based on what’s discovered here a web analyst can provide some insight into the site’s performance.
Relevancy and popularity are the core concepts of search engine optimization. To rank, a website needs to be successful in both of these areas. A page that’s relevant to a search term and popular will produce positive results.
*I’m assuming that the site in question is in good standing and is being hosted by a legit hosting company. If any malicious activity has happened on the website or the server it’s an easy way to get flagged in Google. Most sites won’t have any issues like this but I just wanted to throw it out there because your rankings can be drastically influenced by any malicious activity. If any malicious activity has happened on a website I would begin resolving those issues first.