At webFEAT, we get this question all the time: “Why isn’t my business showing up on Google?” or “I used to rank on page 1, and now I’m nowhere to be found. Why did my rankings drop off?” Whether you’re a new or existing business, the first page for searches relevant to your business or specifically for your brand is of the utmost importance. If you’re a new business trying to generate exposure and you succeed, that will not matter if folks can’t find you online. Let’s say a person hears about your business or sees an ad and then goes online to search for your brand name. If your brand’s website and perhaps a business listing don’t appear, you will likely lose a prospective customer. If you provide a service and someone searches “(service) Cincinnati” or something more specific, and you don’t come up, the ones appearing (your competitors) will get the business. Your website’s appearance in Google and other search engines depends on various factors. For branded search, it’s not too difficult to get you indexed and appearing, but for specific, non-branded product/service searches that are more competitive, it takes some real SEO effort. In this post we’ll explain what to check, and how to improve your visibility for branded and non-branded search.
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To begin, we’ve noticed that some of the top search results on this topic come from website platforms like WordPress, Wix, and SquareSpace. Upon reviewing their information along with some of the other top results, we found that much of the information is vague and some even outdated. For example, we saw that many of the articles out there recommend aggressive keyword usage that would cause stuffiness and actually penalize you. We now focus on search phrases and intent.
For new business owners, Wix and SquareSpace are frequently used to build websites for free (or close to it.) WordPress is used by both new business owners, and also as a platform for website design companies like webFEAT Complete. The capabilities of WordPress far outweigh those of Wix and SquareSpace, but regardless, those website platforms cannot be relied on for accurate, detailed information on problems and solutions involving SEO.
The First Things to Check
If your site isn’t appearing, the first thing you need to do is make sure that your site is being indexed, and if it’s not, make sure that you’re not preventing search engines from crawling your website. You can do this by checking the following:
- In Google, search for your brand name. If you’re nowhere to be found, that’s a sign that your website isn’t indexed yet.
- In Google, search “site:(yourdomainname).com” to explore the pages of your website that Google has (or has not) indexed. If you don’t see any results, they haven’t indexed your website yet. If you are seeing results, Google is indexing your website, but you’re not ranking well.
- Visit “(yourdomainname).com/robots.txt”. If you’re seeing something like “Disallow: /” Your website is telling googlebot and other search engine bots not to crawl your website. You’ll need to remove that Disallow command from your robots.txt file.
- See if you have no index tags on your websites pages. You can do this by visiting your website, right clicking, and clicking “View Page Source”. Look for a meta tag that says “noindex”.
- Just looking at your website, does it have content on it (actual text) or is it all flash? If it’s all flash, that is definitely hurting your ability to appear in search
- Check Search Console (formerly known as Webmaster Tools) to see if Google has taken manual action on your website. This occurs when you or your SEO are engaging in black-hat practices (such as buying links) or serving very irrelevant information. You can also check your index status to see the number of pages Google has indexed for your submitted domain. If your website has not been submitted to search console, we’ll be discussing that below
- Deindexed—removed from Google’s index
- Penalized—rankings drop
- Sandboxed—sudden traffic drop-off
How to Improve Your Visibility/Exposure for Branded Search
After checking on the things that may be limiting your visibility in search, you can take action to begin appearing. You can start by removing the limitations discussed above (like updating the robots.txt file, removing noindex tags, etc.) From there, do the following to make sure search engines are aware of your website and are encouraged to index you quickly:
- Submit your domain to Google
- Submit your site to search console
- Go to Search Console
- Sign into Google or create an account
- Add a property (best practice is to submit all versions: http/https and www/non-www) and verify via one of the provided methods
Within search console, you can make specifications like how you’d like your URL to be displayed in search (with or without www,) if you’d like to only target one country (EX: USA) and more. They will give you these recommendations when the site is submitted, but I strongly encourage you to explore all of the tools and resources Search Console has to offer. One thing you definitely need to do is create and submit a sitemap here.
- Do the same in Bing’s Webmaster tools
- Create a Business listing
- Explore listings, directories and social media platforms to ensure you have profiles, they’re claimed, and updated with accurate information. EX’s: Yelp, Yellow Pages, Facebook, etc… (Tip: when you begin to appear in search results, if you do a branded search, you’ll likely find listings you didn’t even know your brand was on. You can explore the search results to find listings/directories to update and make accurate/consistent)
Taking these steps will get your website to appear for branded search, without a doubt. Complications can stem from other businesses with the same brand name, and if your brand name is a word you could see a definition featured snippet at the top of the results above your company.
Now onto the more difficult stuff that can help drive traffic to your website and make it an online salesman for your business.
Additional SEO Efforts to Improve Visibility/Exposure for Non-Branded and Branded Search
Before getting started with some basic SEO efforts, it’s important to know that it’s easy to make a mistake, and if you really want to see results, you should hire a professional. This information can help you rank for more search phrases and improve rankings, but it may not be sustainable if things aren’t updated and monitored on a regular basis. If you’d like to stop here and speak with our SEO team so we can take care of all of this and much more for you, contact us. We’d be happy to evaluate your website, develop a plan of action, and execute that plan to give your business the visibility it deserves online.
In my opinion, it’s best to start with the things you can do directly with Google. If you’ve followed the above tips, you now have all versions of your domain submitted and verified in search console. Go to your primary domain (EX: webFEAT Complete’s is https://www.webfeatcomplete.com) and explore Crawl Errors (Crawl Dropdown) and HTML Improvements (Search Appearance dropdown.) Here, Google will give recommendations on meta information that can be improved, and the broken links they’re seeing indexed in search. I recommend updating all meta titles and descriptions to be indicative of what is on the page, and also having a consistent meta title ending (your brand name.) This gives you the opportunity to draw users in and improve your Click Through Rate (CTR.) This can play a small role in improving rankings. As for the crawl errors, refer to our recent post about fixing crawl errors and monitoring them. Having no broken links in search indexes or on your website (internal or external links) will be helpful in ranking.
Target search phrases and user-intent, NOT just keywords. You can do this research by using a tool, exploring search results, conducting interviews with people in your target audience, and, in some cases, common sense if you’re familiar with the product/service and have searched for it before. For example, if I’m looking to buy a golf club, I would not want to search “golf clubs.” If I needed a new golf club, I’d probably search for something specific like “Taylor Made M2 Driver” or “Callaway Complete Iron Set”. Those searches help you improve for search phrases like “golf clubs” but it also hits a very specific item or set of items that someone is looking for, with intent. That intent indicates they’re more likely to make a purchase, and is what I would consider a qualified lead on your website. For this example, I could have a page for each of those products, make the title the name of the product or product set, ending with the company name, and then use an enticing meta description to draw users in.
To expand efforts, content would need to be built. If someone decides to click through and visit your page, they’re going to want to see an image, specifications on the clubs, cost, and other details. Make sure you’re providing all of that information, and maybe some information that the user didn’t even realize they wanted to know. That’s what’s going to help you rank well. Do not stuff search phrases/keywords onto page content or in meta information—that will not be helpful with today’s Google algorithm. An example of keyword stuffing relating back to the golf clubs example would be putting “golf clubs” in the meta information and on the page content as many times as you could, in a very unnatural way. As people begin to visit your page and find the information they’re looking for, Google will recognize you’re providing useful information to users, and that when your search result appears, it’s often clicked on. This also plays a small role in improving your rankings.
As you’re building that content, you may want to explore what your competitor’s content has to make sure you have all of that and then some. You really want to just study your competitors. Explore their strategies, weaknesses that you can exploit, and identify how they’re generating links to their website. Having inbound (from another website) links let’s Google know that your website is an authority. Plus, it can influence your rankings. This will all be helpful in overtaking them in the rankings.
Believe it or not, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
You’re On Your Way to Appearing in Search and Improving Rankings
If you follow these guidelines, or get an SEO team like webFEAT Complete, Google, Bing, and all of the other search engines of the world will have your business appearing/showing up for branded search, and perhaps eventually non-branded searches that will bring qualified leads to your website. From there, all you’ll have to do is close them, help them understand that your product or service is great, and you’ll be on your way to more revenue and an improved bottom line.