… and what you can do to make sure it does
How do I get my website to show up on Google search? It’s the age-old question – well, since the late 1990s, anyway. With a staggering 3.5 billion searches on Google every day, the importance of your website’s presence in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) shouldn’t be underestimated, so let’s take a look at what could be stopping your website from ranking on Google and what you can do to fix any problems.
For this article, I have split the issues into technical and authoritative. Most issues are easy to solve, needing just a few steps to rectify. I hope this article also gives you an introduction into how search engines work – although that’s another topic for another day, with much of it shrouded in algorithmic mystery!
Technical issues preventing your website from showing up in SERPs
Your website could be too new for Google
If you’ve just launched your website, it’s hard to resist Googling it (we can use ‘Google’ as a verb, right?) straight away to see how it looks on a search engine. But be patient – it can take a few weeks for your website to start showing up in the SERPs.
However, there are a few things you can do to gently nudge Google to take a look at your website and Get on Google. As Google states, “Google doesn’t require you to take any special steps to appear in search results, but you can help us find new or changed pages faster by letting us know when you make changes.”
Firstly, you should do a quick check to see if your site is being crawled. In the search bar, type: “site:yourwebsite.co.uk”, replacing yourwebsite.co.uk with your URL. Are there any results being displayed? Great, Google knows you’re there!
No results being shown? Let’s help Google find your pages through a handy tool called Google Search Console, your website’s new best friend.
Here’s how to get started on Google Search Console:
- Create an account on Google Search Console if you haven’t already, using a Gmail account
- Verify your website’s URL. The easiest way of doing this is linking to your Google Analytics account or by adding a line of code to your website’s header
- Over on your website, you’ll need to create a Sitemap. A tool like xml-sitemaps.com will do the work for you. Simply share your URL then download the xml sitemap that’s created
- Upload your sitemap to your server, then back on Google Search Console, click the “Sitemaps” link in the menu, type the URL of this in Sitemaps and submit. That’s it!
If you’re using a website builder like WordPress, you can download a plugin that’ll create your xml sitemap for you.
You’re accidentally blocking Google from indexing or crawling your site
Wondering why your site doesn’t seem to be found by Google, even if it’s not brand new? Make sure you check your site’s visibility settings, as it’s easy to accidentally block Google from indexing your website.
How to check if your web pages are blocking search engines from indexing your site:
- Look at the html code within the header of each web page
- If you see <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”/>, then that page is blocking Google
- Delete this line of code on pages you want Google to see and the problem will be solved.
How to check if WordPress is blocking search engines from indexing your site:
- Go to your WordPress Dashboard > Settings > Reading
- Scroll down to the bottom to see “Search Engine Visibility” and make sure that the box stating “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is not ticked.
Your website could also be accidentally blocking Google from crawling your content. While indexing involves telling the search engine whether or not it should show the page in the SERPs, crawling is the process where the search engine bots visit and analyse your pages.
In the case of crawling, your robots.txt file could be unintentionally stopping these bots from crawling your site, getting the information they need to help read your content effectively.
How to check if your robots.txt is blocking search engines from crawling your site:
- Open your robots.txt file in a text editor
- Navigate to the user-agents section
- If you see Disallow: /, then your robots.txt file is blocking the crawling process (although, if you have WordPress, you’ll want to keep the ones that refer to your wp-admin file)
- Completely remove the Disallow: / line and save.
Your website features the same content on more than one page
The term duplicate content is used to describe when more than one URL is leading to the same (or very similar) web pages. This is often accidental, in which case, I recommend you manually check through your website and remove duplicate pages if they’re not needed. Don’t forget to redirect the URL that’s no longer needed to the primary page.
Those search engines are super smart, but if you have duplicate content, they’re not always sure which version is the primary one – or the best one – to index. They’ll give it a go themselves, but it might not be the page you’d like.
If that’s the case, you’ll want to tell the search engines which one you’d like to be considered as the main one, which is known by Google and co. as the canonical version.
Here’s how to set a page as the canonical version:
- Choose the page you’d like to be indexed as the canonical version
- On the page(s) that you don’t choose to be indexed, add the following code in the <head> section of the page: <link rel=“canonical” href=“https://yourwebsite.co.uk/canonical-page/” />
- Replace https://yourwebsite.co.uk/canonical-page/ with the URL of the main page you chose in step 1.
For more information, you can read more about canonical tags from Ahrefs here.
Other technical issues to consider
- Make sure your website is designed with mobile in mind. Optimise your website for use on mobile phones. If it’s not, Google could penalise you by lowering your rankings, as accessibility is high on Google’s agenda when it comes to providing great website experiences for its billions of users. Moz has a helpful guide to mobile optimisation here.
- Check that you’ve not received a Google penalty. As explained by Google in more detail here, a manual action is when a human reviewer at Google has deemed that a website has violated their webmaster quality guidelines. This is extremely rare, but if you’re struggling to understand why Google’s not indexing your site, you can check for any Google penalties here.
Authoritative issues preventing your website from showing up in SERPs
Your content doesn’t match what you want to show up in Google for
Remember, the key to ranking highly in the SERPs is relevant, high quality content. That’s why it’s vital your content is optimised for the keywords you want to rank for and you’re not inadvertently ranking highly for something completely irrelevant.
Use a tool like Ahrefs, Moz or SEMrush to audit your website and see what you’re ranking for, then follow their instructions on how to rank better for the keywords you want to be shown for. You’ll want to make sure that your heading tags are being used effectively, as these are an important signal for Google when reading and assessing your content.
You don’t have enough backlinks to your website
I nearly wrote an article without mentioning them, but, love them or loathe them, backlinks are another important signal for Google and co. to determine whether your website should be a trusted source – and therefore placed higher up in the SERPs.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of how to acquire backlinks, and I’m definitely not advocating any dodgy methods of getting them (please don’t pay for them!), but it makes sense that Google will want to see them – even though they can be notoriously difficult to achieve. After all, if there are good quality websites linking to yours, then the search engines will think that your content is helpful, relevant and trustworthy.
Places to acquire backlinks:
- Guest posting on other blogs – is there anyone in your network that you can contribute some helpful content to?
- Add your links to social media – if you’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram, you can add your URL to your bio to send Google a more subtle signal
- Add your website to online directories – this is a more old-school method, but still popular in the SEO community. Just make sure you keep your details consistent across all the directories for maximum impact.
If you’re a local business with a physical presence, you should also create a Google My Business account that links to your website. Google My Business can be a helpful tool in improving your SEO strategy. Firstly, the account will help showcase your business when users make local searches for services. Secondly, you can use Google My Business posts to share an update with a link to your website. Yoast shares more detail on how Google My Business works here.
Want more help creating effective content for your website? Get in touch with me here.