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How to get your website to show in Google?

Happypath is a website development company in Melbourne. We build great websites for small businesses.

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As a small business owner you’ve probably gone to a fair bit of trouble to get your website designed, developed and up and running. Your web designer has probably promised you the earth. Visitors converting to customers while you sleep. New customers, increased sales, it’s going to be brilliant! Except now your new website is up and running and the customers aren’t flowing in. They’re nowhere to be seen because your site isn’t appearing in Google search results, or at least not anywhere where people are looking.

Google uses a complex and secretive algorithm to crawl and index websites, assigning them rankings for various search terms. This ultimately aims to provide the most relevant and useful results to any search queries. Recent algorithm changes have allegedly reduced the quality of search results, giving greater weight to user generated content on sites like Reddit over informational blogs. However changes are made often, so it’s worth bearing in mind the techniques used to rank higher today may not work tomorrow, but then they might work again the month after. Nobody knows for sure which is why SEO can be a pretty shady business.

If your new website isn’t showing up it’s possible that Google hasn’t got around to indexing it yet, this happens with new sites. It is also possible that you have other issues that are affecting your ranking. You need to work through a few different things to ascertain if there is a problem, and also to increase your ranking chances.

When your website is brand new

Launching your website is like opening your new business in a back street. Without foot traffic nobody is going to know about your services. You need signs on the main strip, listings in local business directories, and advertisements to let people know you exist. During the period before Google indexes your site this is where you are, all ready to go but hidden away from your potential customers, except maybe your mum, and a person you gave your business card to.

Initially you want to look at a two pronged approach. You need to try and get Google to index your site as quickly as possible, simultaneously running paid advertisements to make up for your initial lack of visibility.

How to enhance your visibility and get your website listed in Google quickly

To get an idea on where Google is at when indexing your site:

  • Submit your website to Google Search Console. This is a free tool that allows you to interact with Google directly. You need to set up a property for your website, this informs Google that you exist and are ready to be indexed please.
  • Using Search Console, submit a site map. A site map is a special XML file that lists all the pages on your website, directly telling Google about them so it can crawl and index them all.
  • Use Search Console to check for crawl errors. If there’s an issue with your site this is where you will find out. Then you, or more likely your developer can fix up the problem.
  • Ensure your website is fully crawlable. Search console will allow you to see if your robots.txt file is configured correctly and allows indexing. A robots.txt file gives Google instructions on what it can and cannot index. You might want to hide some pages deliberately but if you’ve made a mistake you could be telling Google to ignore all your pages. This happens more often than you would think.

Simultaneously you should look at using Google pay-per-click ads, and advertising on social media to generate traffic to your website. This makes up for the shortfall while your website is getting indexed.

You should also be starting to look at your inbound links strategy. Start again with social media and set up accounts in your business name all linking back to your website. This is referred to as the ‘Social Ring Fence’. You are surrounding your website with social accounts, directing traffic towards your website and increasing your visibility with search engines. These are all things you can be doing while you are waiting for Google to do its indexing thing.

Ultimately when you search for your business name you want your website to come up, followed by your Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Twitter (The social media network currently known as ‘X’)… etc. So anything clicked on will eventually drive traffic towards your website.

Google Business Listings

This is probably the best tool you have to communicate directly to Google unless you work for Google. This allows you to administer your appearance in Google search and maps. Especially if you are a specific brand, having your Profile show in search results is a big bonus. It allows your website to appear in local search results, on Google maps and in the ‘Map pack’ which is at the top of the results and concentrates on businesses local to the searcher.

You can add all your business information, contact numbers, opening hours etc. which is all very useful for your prospective customers. In addition you can receive Google reviews, answer users questions, add images and make small posts - a bit like Social media posts that appear in the Google search results. In conjunction with Search console this is your most direct line to Google.

Your website still isn’t showing up in Google?

After you have ensured that your Search Console results are all fine, your business profile is all set up correctly and Google has crawled your site and there is nothing technically preventing it showing, why isn’t it showing in results?

There are a few reasons, these are concerned with two signals that Google uses. Authority, and Relevance. If your website content quality is low you have less relevance

Google claims that content quality is important for its algorithm as content defines search relevance. If your website is about holidays on the Gold Coast then the expectation is that the content will have relevance to holidays on the Gold Coast. The more relevant content you have the bigger the signal to Google and it will understand that the site is about holidays on the Gold Coast. Google evaluates your website content to try and ascertain that it’s relevant, high quality, engaging and unique. If your content is lacking in these areas then you are going to struggle in relevancy.

An example is two local bakeries. One has a basic website with very little information on it, maybe the address, a paragraph of text and a picture of a donut. The other is a glorious explosion of baking related content. Detailed product descriptions, a blog with 100’s of posts on baking techniques, recipes and useful and interesting articles. Based on content alone the second bakery website will outperform the first. Google recognises that this content is one of the indicators of a website that satisfies its users requirements.

Bear in mind this is only one aspect you need to look at. Good quality content alone does not equal Google ranking. Just your search relevancy, and there are scenarios where the first bakery wins in ranking by having higher Authority (I would be suspicious and think there was some black hat SEO going on here).

How to increase your content quality and search relevance

  • Write content around your subject. The more content you have in and around your subject matter the better.
  • Write a blog, blogs send a signal that content is being regularly updated plus it gives you opportunities to target different subjects and key search phrases - more on that later. Blogs allow you to deviate a little more from your core subject focus without it seeming odd to readers. Should you use AI? This is disputed somewhat at the moment. AI content is probably fine for SEO purposes but it’s a pretty full on dullsville read. If your business proposition is more compelling than the AI content then you might gain a few sales, but if you can’t be bothered to create your own content why should a customer think much of your business or brand? It’s also a bit of a race to the bottom as bloggers use AI to cannibalise competitors’ blog posts and we end up with bland indistinguishable content. This might be a rambling blog post but for better or worse I actually wrote it, and I haven’t used words like ‘delve’, ‘landscape’, or ‘journey’ which these days is a relief.
  • Mix up your media. If you can add video, images, maps,and infographics. These all give a quality content boost over plain text, and they’re more interesting to real people.
  • Optimise for key words and phrases.There are lots of free and paid tools that can help you define good terms to include that will show your site in results. There is little point in the bakery going for search terms like ‘Best Bakery’ as there are a million high ranking sites that already show up for this. Use a long tail keyword approach to find search terms that are used but do not get much traffic. Maybe ‘Best bakery for artisan low gluten bread’ will get you a handful of searches a week. The answer by the way is: www.otwayartisanglutenfree.com.au who ranks number one in my local area. By targeting lots of long tail search terms in your blog content you can start to attract some search traffic. This is good short term but also beneficial long term. Google uses traffic signals to add to authority. If you get a lot of traffic and it stays engaged on your website then this is a good sign your content has value. Value content is supposedly served higher in search results.
  • Ensure your content is written at the correct reading level for your audience. Break your content up, make sure it is semantically correct with headings and easy to scan. This is just being helpful. Quality content is more likely to be linked to from other websites. Incoming links are what Google uses to inform your Authority which in conjunction with Relevance will determine your position in searches.

How to increase your website’s authority

When you first launch your website you most likely have no authority at all. The exception is if you have bought a previously existing domain, this could be bad or good news - more on this later.

Google uses backlinks to determine authority. Going back to the bakery example, the bakery that spends time on blog posts writes a piece of content that is so brilliant that Gordon Ramsey’s website adds a link to it. That is a pretty solid endorsement. The more reputable the source of the link is, the greater the positive influence on your website’s authority. How does Gordon Ramsey’s website get authority? Because he is a well known celebrity chef. He appears in online articles for newspapers and magazines, youtube videos, social posts etc. all of which transfer authority to his website. In contrast the other bakery gets a link from their cousin who owns a garage. This link comes from another low authority site, its content is not related to the bakery so if any authority is transferred it is very little. It’s still legitimate but not as valuable.

To actively try and build authority you can try a link building strategy. In SEO this is the most valuable but also the most difficult objective to achieve, especially if you don’t have a big budget.

There’s money to be made in transferring authority so not surprisingly people use it to make money. A website with high authority can happily charge large amounts in return for an article with a back link. A good SEO company might go this route which is why they are very expensive as they have to spend to get you the results you want..

A less reputable one is going to use its own network of ‘spammy sites’, known as Private Blog Networks to add backlinks. These are often set up using previously owned websites that have organically generated a good level of authority. These are bought, then filled with blog content including back links. These are either already owned by SEO companies, or they sell the right to submit posts. This strategy works, but it’s transient. At any time Google can demote the PBN and your paid links become worthless. The only SEO company that can guarantee you results is one that runs its own network of high authority private blogs.

So without paying you are going to be up against it, but it is possible to gain some links here and there to increase your authority in a way that Google prefers.

  • Enter local awards ceremonies, often these will list your website link as an entry even if you don’t win. In fact take part in anything where you might be able to get a link!
  • Add your details to local business directories. Some of these are spammy but many are not. Local councils might have directories, then there are sites such as Yelp. Often directories have free basic listings but you pay for more details.
  • Build relationships with other businesses or business groups, there may be opportunities for sponsorships, events or cross promotions.
  • Create quality content that people organically link to. This is probably the hardest thing to do but it is the most honourable. The problem here is that if you don’t already have authority then nobody is going to see your content. Social media has also taken a bite out of this as people are more likely to share your content in socials than linking from their website. Many people won’t even have a website where they can do this, and it is more effort to construct a blog post than just click share on your mobile.
  • Guest blogging, this is usually pay-to-play. Take care that these are reputable sites and not the PBNs.
  • Get your web address in social media posts to drive traffic.
  • Press releases might get picked up by local media if you have any local media left.
  • Placements in journalist articles. Services like Connectively (previously HARO) allow journalists to reach out for experts in particular fields. Once the article is published you may or may not receive a good authority link. This is also subscription based so it’s pay-to-play, although there is a basic free tier. AI is being used extensively to pitch and create the content so it’s not a level playing field unless you have this kind of setup. If you can make the effort you may get results but I never have had much luck.

Technical SEO

Google also evaluates the quality of your website in terms of code and performance, this contributes towards your ranking.

Things to check on your website:

  • Make sure your titles and meta descriptions are optimal, unique and compelling.
  • Your website headings and content needs to be semantically correct and follow the correct order.
  • Your website structure should be well organised with a clear hierarchy
  • Webpage addresses (URLs) should be relevant to the page, for example services/cat-worming rather than /service-1
  • Optimise for speed and stability. You don’t want things jumping all over the place as the page loads. This is where Google’s Core Web Vital scores come in (at happypath we are experts at technical SEO so give us a call).
  • Ensure your website looks and works on mobile, tablet and desktop devices. This is called responsive design and should be a given these days. I read recently about a developer who forgot to make his website responsive, but I think he was about 12.
  • Security is important, your site should have an SSL certificate and things called headers that restrict how the website can work so it is much more difficult to hack. Add structured data, or schema. This isn’t visible to the human eye but behind the scenes it tells Google all kinds of interesting things like your business and contact details. IF google has this it can use it.

How do I recover if my website has an SEO penalty?

If you attempt all of the above then you should be getting somewhere, albeit you might be getting somewhere quite slowly.

If you are not there are some other potential problems to face. Maybe your domain name has been owned before. Domains expire and become available to register regularly. Domains that already have high authority often end up in auctions and can fetch thousands of dollars. Domains that are not worth much and are no longer wanted just expire and become available.

It is possible that a pre-owned domain may have used dodgy methods to try and gain traffic and as a result has been penalised. It is also possible that you have engaged some SEO services and these have been identified by Google as manipulative and now your website has been penalised.

What happens when your website is penalised? It can drop lower in the search results or even not show at all which is the opposite of what you want.

To try and remove a penalty you need to know what the problem is in the first place. The first place to look is the Google Search Console, if a specific penalty has been applied to your website it will show here. General changes to the algorithm that affect all websites won’t. These will just raise, lower, or make no difference to your position. SEO professionals keep up to date with the changes so they can mitigate or take advantage of new ranking criteria.

If you have a penalty and you know you have lots of spammy links coming into your website then you can use the Search Console to ‘disavow’ the harmful links. Any indication that Google thinks you are deliberately keyword stuffing means that you need to look at rewriting some of your website content. Once you have fixed the problems you can submit a Reconsideration Request through the Search Console outlining the steps you have taken. Then it’s up to Google. You can do no more. Depending on the severity of the penalty and your current authority ranking it may be better to ditch the website and start again with a different address. Not ideal but people end up in years of pain trying to deal with the almighty Google.

By following these suggestions you should be able to get a new website to show in search results. Maintaining your search relevancy is a continuous process and you are always at the whim of Google who can change their algorithm and kill a large website overnight. With effort and persistence you should be able to get results but bear in mind your competitors are doing the same so keep at it.

Good luck!

The extra bit

What are the most important factors that influence my website's ranking on Google?

Google uses over 200 factors to rank websites, but some of the main ones include website content quality, keyword relevance, user experience (site speed, mobile responsiveness, usability), backlink quality and quantity, and technical SEO elements like title tags, meta descriptions, and header tags

How important are keywords in SEO?

Keywords help Google understand what your content is about. To use them effectively, do keyword research to find terms that are relevant to your content and have a good balance of search volume and competition. Incorporate these keywords naturally into your content, titles, and meta descriptions without overstuffing the

What role do backlinks play in improving my website's ranking?
How can I make my website load faster and be more mobile-friendly?

Website speed and mobile responsiveness are significant ranking factors. To improve speed, optimise image sizes, reduce server response time, and leverage browser caching. For mobile-friendliness, design your site using responsive design techniques that ensure it looks good and functions well on all devices. Alternatively you could just hire happypath as we will do all this for you

What are some common SEO mistakes?

Common SEO mistakes include duplicating content, having over complicated website navigation, ignoring meta tags and alt text, and not optimising for local search if you serve local markets. Avoid keyword stuffing

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