Why Is My Site Not Ranking in the Search Engines?

Reasons for Poor Search Engine Ranking and How to Make It Rank Better


Why Is My Site Not Ranking in the Search Engines?

by Christopher Heng, thesitewizard.com

From time to time, I get visitors to thesitewizard.com requesting that I take a look at their website. This time, I received a request to look at a site that had been indexed by Google, but not showing for any relevant search queries. A quick look at the visitor's site revealed the problem. Since many websites that I have reviewed in the past exhibited the same types of problems, I've collected some of the common reasons why a site may not be ranking in the search engines in a single article. This will hopefully help you when you design or update your own website.

Note that most (if not all) of these points have already been covered in my other articles on website promotion and web design. You should read them in order to get a better idea of getting your site into the search engines. Here are some important ones:

Common Reasons Why Your Site Is Not Showing Up in the Search Results

  1. Flash Splash Screens for a Home Page: Words Speak Louder Than (Animated) Action

    Your home page is an extremely important page on your site. It should tell people what your site is all about. Very often, when I'm asked to review a site, I find a site that has the following characteristics:

    • The home page has nothing but a Flash splash screen with some fancy animation.

    • If there are any words on the page at all that are not embedded in the Flash animation, it's "Enter Site".

    • The HTML title tag of the page says "Flash Intro Page".

    Ask yourself what the search engines will index in such a case. Chances are that your home page will probably only rank for "enter site" and "flash intro page" since those are the only words on the page many search engines can pick up. In fact, since there are so many sites with those words, you may not even rank for them (not that you'll want to).

    Title tags are vital: Google uses it heavily and it's a fundamental part of any search engine friendly web design.

    Text content that can be indexed is also vital. The search engine cannot know intuitively what your website is about if it doesn't have words to index. Embedding text inside Flash content and expecting search engines to be able to recognize them is a risky business — Google may be able to read some of the text, or it may not. The other search engines may not even be able to extract anything.

    Get rid of the Flash splash screen for your home page if you have one, and replace it with a normal web page. Not only will your site rank better, it will also look more professional. Restrict your use of Flash to things that really need Flash, like interactive online games and videos, and not pages that you want indexed.

  2. More Pictures Than Words: A Thousand Words are Worth More Than a Picture

    I'm sure you've heard the saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words". Maybe that's true for a human being. But to a search engine, using current technology, a picture is useless for determining what the site is about. The engine cannot see a picture and figure out what product you're selling. If you want the engine to know the details about your product, write words to that effect. You can find more information on how to tag your pictures in a way search engines can understand at http://www.thesitewizard.com/sitepromotion/search-engine-friendly.shtml

  3. A Web 2.0 Website Without Traditional Web Content and Navigation: New is Not Necessarily Better

    Related to the above points is a website that is heavily dependent on Web 2.0 technology like AJAX or even just simple JavaScript. If the content or the links on your site are generated using JavaScript, you may encounter the same problem another of thesitewizard.com's visitors experienced — the search engines' inability to find other pages on the site.

    The solution to this is to always have plain, traditional web content and navigation links somewhere on your page. You do not need to drop web 2.0 stuff to do this. Just think of some way to put normal text and normal links onto your page in a way that does not need a JavaScript interpreter to decode them. While you can also put up a traditional site map and create a file using the sitemap protocol to help the search engines, nothing beats normal text links on a page that works for both search engines and human visitors.

  4. Nobody is Linking to You

    As mentioned in my article on How to Create a Website, if your site is not linked to by any other site, some search engines, notably Google, may not even bother to visit your website to index it. Read that article for pointers on how to get started on getting your site noticed by others.

How to Check Your Website for Search Engine Friendliness

One way to check your website to see if it's search engine friendly is to configure your browser to not display any graphics, not to use plugins (like Flash) and not to run JavaScripts. If your site only shows a blank screen in such a case, that's what the search engine will see as well. If you only see a few meaningless words on the screen (like "Skip Intro"), then that's what the search engine will think your site is about as well. If you find you cannot visit any other pages on your website from the main page, the search engines will have the same problem as well.

(The way to disable graphics, Flash, and JavaScript varies from browser to browser. For example, in Firefox, you have to go to the "about:config" screen and search for the relevant settings. Alternatively, you can also accomplish the same thing using one or more of the add-ons that are available for that browser. Sorry to be so vague. Firefox changes its user interface from version to version, and I don't want to put information here that will require me to update this page every time a new major version comes out, which as you know, is practically every month.)

This is not a foolproof solution for checking your website though, since you will still be using a modern frames-capable browser, so sites with frames will still show up correctly, even though they won't necessarily be indexed properly by a real search engine. But it will probably suffice to give you an idea of how the search engine sees your site.

What Do You Want to Rank For?

A very important thing to bear in mind when designing your website is to ask yourself what your site is all about. What do you want to rank for? If you want to rank for "Widget X", the words "Widget X" must appear on your website in ordinary, visible text. This may seem obvious when I say it, but judging from what I see when I review some websites, it may not necessarily be apparent to some people. (Don't take this as an accusation or anything like that, it wasn't obvious to me either, when I first started.)

So here's the article in a nutshell: When someone searches for a particular term, and you want your site to be listed for those keywords, the terms must appear somewhere on your page, or the engine will not know your site talks about those things. And those words, to be most effective, must appear in normal text, not in a picture, not created by JavaScript, and not embedded in a Flash window on your page. You also need links pointing to your website.

Copyright © 2008-2014 by Christopher Heng. All rights reserved.
Get more free tips and articles like this, on web design, promotion, revenue and scripting, from http://www.thesitewizard.com/.

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