Q and A: Why are directories getting better rankings than my site?

Question

Dear Kalena…

If I type in my wife’s business name ‘Petals and Patches’ or ‘Petals & Patches’ into Google I would have expected it to come up first. Yet directories or other sites that link to my wife’s site come up. Questions 1. Should not my wife’s site come up 1st? 2. It it bad that she does not? 3. How would I get her site to appear first using SEO (if possible)?

Regards Tim

Hi Tim,

I believe that the resolution to your specific problem is actually very simple, so if you just can’t wait for a solution, skip to the end of this post, but in the interest of “educating” our readers I will 1st provide more general answers to your questions :

1. Should my site come up 1st?

It is not unusual for directories (particularly if they are large, authority directories) to achieve good (and sometimes better) rankings than the sites they link to. If you type in separate keywords without quotes the search engines treat these as separate keywords and will provide results that match one or more of them. If you use the specific business name in quotes (which you seem to have done), then your site is more likely to get higher rankings because it will significantly narrow down the search competition.

I would normally expect any site that has been properly optimised to achieve better rankings for their specific business name, than directories (or other sites) that link to it.  Whether they actually achieve  #1 rankings will depend on how well they have been optimised and what the competition is.

2. Is it bad that my site doesn’t achieve #1 rankings?

Most site owners strive to achieve #1 rankings, so I guess, yes, it could be seen as a bad thing not to be #1 – but I’d rather achieve lots of page 1 rankings than a few #1 rankings any day.  Ultimately rankings are unimportant – as long as you get the traffic (and sales/enquiries). However, at the moment not only are you achieving poor rankings, but very few of your pages are actually indexed in the search engines.  This is a VERY bad thing, and hints at a much bigger issue for your site.

3. How do I get my site to appear first using SEO?

This is clearly way too big a question to answer in this simple Q and A.  Also, remember Search Engine Optimization is not the only way to get traffic to a site (PPC, Social Media, eMail marketing, and even traditional offline marketing tactics should all be considered). However, your site has already (to a large extent) been reasonably well optimized.  It has good, keyword rich content, it has (mostly) good Page Titles and Tags, It has a reasonable number of external sites linking to it… On the surface I would expect your site to achieve much better rankings than it seems to.

And the Solution Is….

Further  investigation very quickly highlights that very few your pages are even appearing in the search results – in fact most of your pages are not currently being indexed at all, and at the moment there are only 8 of your pages (all from your blog) listed in the Google Index.  This is highly suspicious, and indicates an issue which is preventing your pages from being indexed.

There are a number of scenarios which may cause this type of situation – but in your case, the answer is actually very simple.  All pages on your site (except the blog) have a
<meta name=”robots” content=”NOINDEX” />
tag, which is in effect telling search engines NOT to index them at all.  These pages therefore are not even being considered by the search engines for inclusion in their search results.

By default, search engines will index most pages that they find, so to fix the problem, all you need do is simply remove the tag altogether (or you could change the tags to :
<meta name=”robots” content=”INDEX” />
if you prefer).  Once these tags have been fixed, and your site is re-crawled by search engine spiders, your pages will start to appear in the search results and I expect, start to achieve much better rankings within a very short time scale – possibly within days – but probably within weeks.

You have clearly spent a significant amount of effort creating and optimising the site, so it’s a great shame that this small thing was overlooked – but the good news is, that with a very simple fix, you should expect to see significant improvements in rankings, traffic (and hopefully sales) within a relatively short time.

Andy Henderson
WebConsulting (SEO Brisbane)

Congrats Search Engine College Graduates

We’ve had a record number of Search Engine College students graduate over the past month. On behalf of staff and tutors, I’d like to say well done!

All students named below have successfully completed a course at Search Engine College and attained official certification status (requiring a passing grade of 70 percent or higher.)

Search EngineOptimization 101

  • Hideki Hirabayashi
  • Shirley To
  • Dave Falloon
  • Paul S Fabry
  • Reinier Bergwerf
  • Rebekah Pettigrew
  • Mike Diamond
  • Haresh Gobin
  • John Hearns
  • Evelyn Sineneng-Smith
  • Sharda Dewal
  • Joan Sommerer
  • Sue Allen
  • Stefanie Swanepoel
  • Martha Reynolds
  • Bill McElyea
  • Yulia Briman
  • Charles Downey
  • Toni Jackson
  • Bawantha Perera
  • Marilyn Riley


Search Engine Optimization 201

  • Julie Gilbreath Otten
  • Christopher Dent
  • Reinier Bergwerf
  • Sarah Taylor-Salamaca
  • Neil Murtagh
  • Sharda Dewal
  • Rebekah Pettigrew
  • Joan Sommerer
  • Martha Reynolds
  • John Hearns
  • Yulia Briman
  • Sue Allen
  • Mike Diamond
  • Marilyn Riley
  • Bill McElyea
  • Hideki Hirabayashi


Pay Per Click Advertising 101

  • Sean Eyring
  • Yulia Briman
  • Mary Kaufman
  • Marilyn Riley
  • John Hearns


Pay Per Click Advertising 201

  • Yulia Briman
  • Marilyn Riley
  • John Hearns

Web Site Copywriting 101

  • Dana Zambon
  • Marilyn Riley

Web Site Usability 101

  • Kirt Manecke
  • Martha Reynolds

Link Building 101

  • Reinier Bergwerf

Article Marketing 101

  • Leozelle Gatoc
  • Yulia Briman

Copywriting for PPC 101

  • John Hearns

Certified Search Engine Optimizer

  • Reinier Bergwerf
  • Martha Reynolds

Certified Search Engine Marketer

  • Yulia Briman
  • Marilyn Riley
  • John Hearns

Congratulations all of you! Please contact your tutor if you haven’t yet received your hard copy certificate, Status Page or certification seal.

Also, don’t forget to join become a fan of our Facebook page and follow our Twitter profile @secollege for College announcements such as lesson updates, press releases and news.

Q and A: Is it really necessary to have 250 words of text on the home page?

QuestionDear Kalena

I am searching the web looking for an idea of how to redo my mortgage site.

I plan on optimizing many pages of content and am finding out that  local SEO companies that are placing high on search rankings barely have 150 or so words of body text– and that is on the home page. I thought the 250 words minimum was a “black and white” rule.  Is there some kind of exception to this? If there is, it sure will make my life easier.

Alistair

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Hi Alistair

Guess what? No rules in SEO are black and white.

200-250 words of text was actually just a rough guide that my friend (and SEO rockstar) Jill Whalen came up with over 10 years ago when she began optimizing web sites.

It’s just a lot easier to integrate keywords naturally into 2 or 3 paragraphs of text than it is to squeeze them into 1 paragraph of text. Why make it difficult for yourself? Give yourself more room to add keywords and feed search engines what they need to survive – text.

That said, if you believe you can naturally squeeze all the keywords you need into 150 words and still have your home page text sound logical and natural to read – then go for it!

——————-

Like to learn more about SEO? Download my free SEO lesson. No catch.

Q and A: How important is domain canonicalization to SEO?

QuestionHi Kalena

I use a company that “specializes” in mortgage sites and hosting. Since I am in the process of applying everything I am learning, I saw fit to have my site graded by one of the many online tools available.

The tool showed that my site is coming up for both the www and non www versions of my domain. When I enquired with my host about doing a 301 for my domain to one version, they said

“There is nothing we or you can reset on the Xsites as this is beyond anything we have control over. We do not support any of this nor have the capability for any one else to have it”.

How much is it going to hurt me in SEO if I don’t get this fixed like the site grader suggested?

Alex

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Hi Alex

What you’re referring to here is domain canonicalization.

Search engines can sometimes index both www and non www versions of your domain, creating duplicate content headaches for you and also link popularity dilution. Therefore, it’s best for SEO purposes if you can stick with one version of your domain and make sure all links point to that version. The www version is my recommendation because most sites will link to you using that version anyway.

Judging by the response you got from your hosts, it sounds like they’re not familiar with the issue of domain canonicalization, which is concerning. If your site host won’t allow you to use a 301 to create a conditional redirect to your preferred version, you probably need to get a new host!

Alternatively, you can use the Canonical Link Element. You can also specify your preferred URL version in Google Webmaster Tools.

My blog post Does the canonicalization of my URL impact my search engine rankings? might also be of interest.

Public Speaking: Achievement Unlocked

Today marks a milestone for me.

On behalf of the Canterbury Development Corporation, I presented a 3 hour SEO workshop to a group of small to medium business owners based in Christchurch. Nothing too unusual about that, I’ve run workshops before and have presented at conferences and seminars quite a few times over the years.

But what made today different was that it was the very first time I can remember NOT being nervous prior to the event.

Let me explain. I HATE public speaking. Ok, so most people hate it. But the idea of speaking in public makes me sweaty palms anxious and physically ill.  My legs wobble while I’m up on stage, I develop a deer-in-the-headlights stare and I tend to mumble or speak too fast in the hope that the whole ordeal will be over faster. Consequently, I’m not very good at it. Think Bridget Jones without the amusing vocabulary.

But I continue to accept speaking opportunities and MAKE myself go through it. Why? Because I don’t like things that scare me and I want to conquer the fear. I’ve had other people tell me that the more you speak in public, the better you get and the less it intimidates you, so I’ve followed their advice and keep saying YES to situations requiring me to address an audience.

Today, that persistence seems to have paid off. It’s true I was a little jittery yesterday as it dawned on me I would be speaking in front of an audience in a few hours, but that initial fear lasted about 20 minutes. I slept well last night and today, I woke up feeling great. A gym class in the morning got my adrenalin flowing and by the time 1pm rolled around I was feeling confident and, (for the very first time), actually excited about the idea of getting up in front of an audience. I kept waiting for the butterflies to announce themselves in my stomach but they never came!

I spoke more confidently than ever before, had fun with the attendees and enjoyed myself from start to finish. It helped that I had prepared really well, made my slides interesting and interactive, plus I had a very responsive audience. I’m sure all these things contributed, but after 10 years of public speaking terror,  today felt like a huge personal milestone and I’m very proud to have passed it.

Now, if I could just conquer my fear of clowns.