Listing the ways websites get on Google’s bad side
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
When you search on Google for your business, does it show up? Have you searched for the exact title to one of your web pages and you’re still seeing other websites instead?
Your website or certain web pages may not be recognized by Google, which could seriously harm your chances of potential customers finding you — and that’s money left on the table.
But before you panic, have you tried scrolling through multiple pages of search results? We are talking about scanning through around 100 results to see if your website is one of them.
Don’t search for anything too crazy, just start by looking for your business name.
Almost none of your potential clients will ever search past the first page but a deeper dive is a good first step for figuring out if Google has made any pages from your site searchable. Later you can worry about search engine optimization (SEO) to help land your website on the first page of search results.
If despite your best efforts you haven’t found a single page from your website, it’s time to face the facts – you’re not finding your site in search and neither are potential customers.
You can even double check your SEO performance by using Google Chrome extensions such as:
Next it’s time to take action and fix your rankings as soon as possible. A quality and search-friendly website acts as your full-time virtual salesperson. A website that doesn’t show up in Google really only serves internal purposes.
Google has around 246 million unique users in the United States, don’t you want some of that search heading your way?
Let’s try and nail down why Google isn’t showing users your website.
1. Your website is just a little too new
First and foremost, congratulations on your new website! Secondly, we’re sorry that it’s going to take a minute before you start getting any traffic online.
According to Google, new pages are not immediately searchable. The search engine needs time to crawl your website – this is known as the Google dance!
After that, then it will take a little more time for indexing (but we’ll talk about that later.)
To quickly start moving your website from rookie to rockstar, you’ll want to set up a Google Search Console account and submit a sitemap for your website.
Your sitemap shows Google how your pages, videos, images and other files are connected on your site. This tells Google what pieces of your website are important for search and how users can travel from page to page.
Setting up a sitemap is very important for when your site is new because Google usually finds websites by following links from other existing pages. But when you’re just starting out your link isn’t likely to show up in other places.
One of the easier ways to get a sitemap created is by using WordPress to build your website.
Emerge loves WordPress! Especially because the Content Management System (CMS) automatically creates the sitemap for you. If you’re using another CMS, you may have to manually build one or use a third-party tool to automatically create one.
Once you’re all mapped up, it’s time to submit to Google. You’ll need to use Google’s Sitemaps Report to do this. Make sure you only submit when your site is new or significant changes have been made.
2. Your web pages need to be indexed by Google
Before search engines, you might have only associated indexes with books or the library catalog.
Google’s indexing really isn’t much different. Long books will often provide readers with key terms and the related page numbers so they can easily find information without sifting through the whole book. But, just because a word or phrase wasn’t in the index doesn’t mean it wasn’t used in the book – the author just didn’t deem it important enough to include.
When it comes to web searches, Google is the author and you need to make sure your pages are important enough to include in their index.
Before you decide your page has been left out, there’s an easy way to check. Google offers a URL Inspection Tool which checks your indexing status and allows you to request indexing. You can even request indexing again if you’ve made major changes to your page.
It’s a good habit to request indexing every time you publish a new page.
You can help Google out some by also making sure your CMS isn’t discouraging crawling or indexing.
3. You’ve discouraged Google from indexing or crawling your website
There’s no pointing fingers here. Sometimes one clickable box is the only thing standing in the way of your website showing up in customer’s Google searches.
If you want your WordPress site to show up in searches you should double check that you haven’t enabled a privacy setting that discourages indexing. Here is how you can check that setting:
- Enter the backend of your WordPress website
- Select settings from the navigation on the left side of your screen
- Choose reading from the drop down menu
- Scroll to the search engine visibility section
- Ensure the box labeled “Discourage search engines from indexing this site” is NOT checked. See below what that should look like:
That’s an easy fix but some other changes aren’t quite as simple. Are you familiar with robots.txt files? They could be blocking search engines from crawling your page.
If you insert your website’s URL with /robots.txt at the end, it will give you a list of any pages that have been blocked from crawlers. Each blocked page will say “Disallow: /pagename/”.
You should double check to see if any of your pages are accidentally listed. Oftentimes this list includes things like your CMS login pages, documents or password protected sections of your website.
Fixing the robots.txt file isn’t any easy task, Google offers guidance on it but many business owners rely on SEO specialists or web designers to make these changes.
4. Google has penalized your website
One surefire way to tank in the ranks is to get penalized by Google for not following Webmaster Guidelines. If you want good search traffic your website needs to play by Google’s rules.
The search engine issues penalties for things such as:
- Sneaky redirects
- Hidden images
- Hidden text
- Keyword stuffing
- Automated content
- Bad data structure
- Content scraping
- Poor quality content
- Link scheming
Google penalizes websites for these actions in two different ways – manually or by the search algorithm.
Think of this in terms of receiving your penalty either from a real person or from a robot. The manual penalties are much more rare and are known for being more serious.
Google could deindex a page or your website for penalties.
Good news is that you can get it fixed. If you suspect you’ve been issued a manual penalty, check the security and manual actions section of your Google Search Console. There it will tell you if any manual actions have been taken against your website.
Once you’ve identified the manual penalty, you should fix the issue and send Google a reconsideration request. As long as you’ve resolved the problem your website should be indexable again in a month or less.
The algorithm is less forgiving and it can take much longer to remedy your rankings. If you’re worried your website has gotten on Google’s bad side it’s a good idea to bring in someone with an advanced understanding of SEO for help.
5. You need to remove duplicated content from your website
Google doesn’t appreciate duplicate content. Think back to school when there were punishments for plagiarism, Google kind of takes the same approach.
Every page of your website needs unique writing for it to be recognized by search engines. That means it can’t mimic one of your other pages or have stolen content from a different website.
It seems unfair that Google doesn’t let you copy even your own work but think back to school – would your teacher have accepted the same essay twice?
This rule complicates some common SEO strategies such as writing location landing pages. These are pages written for locations other than the one your website is initially optimized for.
For example, Emerge is located in Richmond so our web design page ranks for searchers in our region but we may also write a web design page for Google users in Virginia Beach to capture more traffic. These pages are about the same thing but have to be uniquely written for Google to recognize them.
Why do Google search rankings matter?
Now you know why your website isn’t searchable but there’s one more step left. Once your content has been added to a site map, crawled and indexed you want it to show up on the first page of people’s search results.
More than 70% of users click a link on the first page of their Google search. The second page of results only gets about 6% of clicks. This means if you want new customers you need to be one of the first 10 websites they see during their search.
This is where SEO comes in. Websites designed to work with search engines perform much better than websites that aren’t.
SEO-driven websites aren’t just beneficial for search engines, they are better for your human users too. Google rewards websites with quality content and so do your readers.
An easy-to-read and informative page not only excites users but it also has a better chance of ranking higher on Google.
How to climb the Google ranks with SEO maintenance
Are all these technical steps feeling a bit overwhelming when you just want to run your business and grow? We can help!
Whether you’re on Google’s second page or not showing up at all, our team of SEO experts is here to help.