If you are going to invest time in building a website, not to mention the cost of hosting your own domain, the least you would want in return is a positive response. The goal is to see increasing visitor numbers and regular responses, not a counter or graph that seems to show the numbers have reached a plateau. However, do not automatically assume there is something wrong with the content if the site is not ranking higher. Something related to the site infrastructure may be what is holding you back.
The Importance of Position
Your site’s search ranking page (SERP) is vital, especially for business and commercial websites. If your site does not appear on page 1 (the first page seen during a search), you need to go back to the drawing board. Why? A 2014 study showed that over 95% of clicks go to the sites on the first page of search results. Of these, over 50% go to the sites in the first three positions. If you are not seeing any traffic to your site, it could be because nobody can find you.
Visitors are unlikely to reach your site by typing the domain name in the URL bar. Rather, you need to lure them in by organic search. Think of what terms someone might type into a search bar to reach your site, whether it is a location, activity, or brand name. These are your keywords, and you need to make sure your site resonates to the sound of these words.
The Importance of Keywords
Most search engines, particularly Google, find your site by searching for keywords. Your job is to make it easy for search engines. Above all, you must be honest; gone are the days when you could pack your pages with random strings of keywords. You need a clear, authentic strategy.
Keywords need to appear in the tags, meta data, and content of your site. That means the domain name, page headers, subheads, and page titles. However tempting the idea for a witty or enigmatic headline, avoid anything that does not clearly illustrate the nature of your content. If blogging, you will also need to label your “alt text” and “meta data,” although this might be done for you automatically on some blogs. In short, you need to add the invisible index for each image or page, telling search engines what the subject is and so on.
Finally, the content itself needs to echo the keywords. Professional copywriters are able to seamlessly weave search engine optimization (SEO) keywords into online copy. The less-experienced writer must learn to build the content around the essential keywords while staying on topic.
The Importance of Links
Search engines also evaluate the usefulness and relevance of your site, and therefore its position in a search, by the number of quality sites that link to it. Reputable sites that link to your site serve as a kind of reference, vouching for your credentials. The key word here is reputable. Previously, owners could artificially boost the apparent reputation of their site by buying links or building a network of random links from kindred sites. Google’s Penguin algorithm put an end to the practice by weeding out — and potentially blacklisting — sites with irrelevant, unnatural links.
In theory, the quality of your site will attract quality links over a period of time. Having no links to your site at all, however, will stall your potential for rising up the search rankings. You need an integrated online strategy to build awareness. Post on other blogs or on other social media formats to advertise your website.
Images and Video
Sites that feature images and/or video perform considerably better than those that depend solely on text, given the dramatically reduced time people dedicate to online content. Ideally, you need to be posting content of at least 250 words each time; any less and the content, whether it is a blog entry, article, or list, will not be picked up by search engines.
If you do add pictures and video, make sure you add the relevant meta data to help search engines find it. This includes the “alt tags” description, as well as location data. Bear in mind that Google does not recognize text contained within graphics, so avoid using animated clips for headlines or subheads.
Increasingly, online content means mobile content; 2015 marked the point at which mobile devices overtook desktop as the preferred method for consuming content. Too many publishers design a site on the desktop and ignore the fact that only a small proportion of the intended audience will view the page as it is rendered on screen. Google took a stand on this issue too, by factoring in whether or not a site is optimized for mobile viewing. Now, sites that are not mobile friendly are subject to a lower ranking when people search from a mobile device.
Since almost two-thirds of online searches are from mobile devices, it is imperative that your site is optimized for tablets and phones. Unfortunately, the proliferation of these is so great that there is no standard size, but you can at least help your site load faster and look better by eliminating certain scripts, Flash, and large image files.
If you’re not sure if your website is mobile friendly, here’s a handy tool.
Timing is Everything
Of course, one reason you might not be seeing a sudden spike in your audience figures is that you simply are expecting too much too soon. Search engines use spiders to crawl web pages in search of new content, and in some cases it can take three to four weeks for your site to register.
Typically, after a month of regularly posting original content, you should see your site rank in page searches. From that point on, the tweaks outlined above should help you incrementally boost your rankings.