Q and A: Why Doesn’t Google Rank My Site Higher?

QuestionHi Kalena,

My website has been up and running since 2008.

I regularly add new content & update my blog & facebook pages and yet 5 years on, I am still only attracting 30-40 visits per day and it has remained at this level for 5 years.

I believe my website is user friendly, visually pleasing & provides useful information for the visitor looking for the product I offer, so why doesn’t google rank it higher? I only have 83 pages indexed out of 1,400 – please help!

Natalie

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Hi Natalie

Assuming the website you are referring to is the one associated with your email address, I can provide a few recommendations immediately:

1) I couldn’t find a XML sitemap in the expected location of http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/sitemap.xml. Now maybe you have one in a different location, but if not, you’ll want to create one as soon as possible.  An XML sitemap is a file that contains a full list of indexable pages on your web site. It is the preferred method of lettting search engines know about all pages on your site that you want indexed. More information about the protocol and format required is available at Sitemaps.org. You can upload your sitemap via your Google Webmaster Tools account. Haven’t got one of those either? Read on…

2) If your site doesn’t seem to be as visible as you’d like in Google or large chunks of it are not getting indexed, make sure you create a Google Webmaster Tools account and check it for any obvious issues. Google provides an exhaustive amount of insight and advice in Webmaster Tools in terms of technical issues, indexing issues, SEO issues and visitor activity related to your site. If there seems to be something wrong, that should be your first stop.

3) Check your site against these 10 Most Common SEO Mistakes to see if you’re guilty of any of them and address the issues quickly.

4) You claim your site has 1,400 pages, but most of those are product and category pages consisting of dynamically generated versions of the same URL, plus a huge number of pop-ups. The site only has a small number of static HTML pages and therefore only a small amount of content that is visible to search engines.

For example: http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html is your main curtain category and then you have 11 different sub-categories under that, such as:

a) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=browns

b) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=reds

c) http://www.[brandwitheld].co.uk/fabrics.html?cat=golds

However, the content for each sub-category is dynamically generated from a product database, based on the category parameter indicated after the *?*.  To a search engine, a), b) and c) are seen as the same, single, page, with everything following the *?* generally ignored or treated as duplicate content.

Even worse, those sub-categories then break down into individual styles, but the style information is presented as a javascript pop-up dialogs, which can cause their own issues.

I’d put money on your URL structure being the spanner in the works preventing most of your content from being indexed. No wonder you see so few pages ranking well! I would suggest learning more about how Google treats URL parameters and reworking your site content to create flat, indexable HTML pages for each product, category and style.

Natalie, without having access to your Webmaster Tools account, I can’t really give you more advice at this point. However, if you’d like to invest in a full web site audit, I can certainly take a much closer look. Just contact me to get started.

Hope this helps!

 

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Where to Find the Best SEO and SEM Training Videos on YouTube

SEO and SEM as seen on TVIn my recent search for relevant videos to accompany our training material at Search Engine College, I trawled through my Evernote bookmarks and stockpiled a number of helpful YouTube channels that hold huge collections of training videos on the subjects of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing).

As I was collating these, my first thought was “I wonder how many webmasters even know all these exist?”. My second thought was “That would make a great blog post!”. So here they are. You’re welcome.

Google Webmasters YouTube Channel

Bing Webmaster Tools YouTube Channel

Moz YouTube Channel

Google AdWords Channel

Bing Ads YouTube Channel

SiteProNews YouTube Channel

WebProNews YouTube Channel

Search Engine Land YouTube Channel

SES Conference and Expo YouTube Channel

Search Engine Watch YouTube Channel

Google Analytics YouTube Channel

Raven Tools YouTube Channel

Rusty Brick YouTube Channel

Search Engine Journal YouTube Channel

I’ve probably missed some important ones, but these are the ones I had saved to Evernote. If you want to add some of your favorites in the comments, I’ll be sure to add them to the list.

Post Script – I remembered last night that apart from their YouTube channel, SiteProNews publishes a large collection of marketing videos from across the web, collated into 40 different topic channels. Be sure to check it out.

 

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Google Hummingbird But Were Afraid to Ask

Google-HummingbirdBased on a few emails I’ve had this week and some comments left on Sarah’s last Fast Five in Search post, it’s apparent that some of you are still confused about Google Hummingbird and what it means for your site’s performance in Google.

I’ve gathered together some of the key points and added some of my own insights below to try and shed some light on the issue.

Google Hummingbird: A Summary

  • Hummingbird is an entirely new search algorithm, representing the most major change to the Google search engine since 2001.
  • Google has been using Hummingbird since late August, but only announced it in late September.
  • The new algorithm helps Google sort through “conversational search” faster and better understand the context of the conversation. Conversational search has natural language processing and semantic search built into it. For example you can now *speak your search* on Chrome and it will repeat it back to you before displaying contextual search results related to your query. You can then extend your search “conversation” by asking further questions in a way you can’t do with regular search, e.g. using shortcuts that reference your previous query. Often, information cards will be shown alongside search results.
  • Hummingbird focuses better on the meaning behind the words based on the context of the search query and the searcher. In particular, Google said that Hummingbird is paying more attention to each word in a query, ensuring that the whole query — the whole sentence or conversation or meaning — is taken into account, rather than particular words. Hummingbird is designed to apply the meaning technology to billions of pages from across the web, in addition to Knowledge Graph facts which should provide better, richer results.
  • Hummingbird now allows Google to be better at relationally linking search queries and Web documents which means that its Knowledge Graph has been considerably enriched.
  • Hummingbird focuses on user intent versus individual search terms.
  • Google will likely use Hummingbird to better process social signals and this could turn out to be a major SEO ranking factor in the near future.

Key Examples of Hummingbird at Work

  • A search for “acid reflux prescription” used to list a lot of drugs, which might not be necessarily be the best way to treat the disease. With Hummingbird, Google says results have information about treatment in general, including whether you even need drugs, such as a “treatment for acid reflux” article posted by the Mayo Clinic.
  • Another example: Today I searched for “What can I take to help me sleep?” on Google.com. I noticed that nearly half of the top 10 results were Q & A or *How To* style articles. I also noticed that suggested medicines treatments featured more prominently than they used to (see screen shot below):

hummingbird-search-screenshot2
Google Hummingbird: Key Takeaways

  • SEO is now less about keyword data and more about customer engagement.
  • As a result of Hummingbird, SEO strategy has become more about creating quality, engaging, shareable, linkable content within a logical context (i.e. using semantic markup and natural language). The aim is to become an information hub and trusted source. This can be achieved by answering searcher questions and creating content that emulates those information cards that Google supplies in response to conversational search.
  • Hummingbird and the increase of *Not Provided* (hidden keyword) data means you now have to measure the success of your web site via the entry pages and the number of pages receiving organic referrals i.e. It is now critically important that your website answers questions for end users. Content that answers specific questions will be critical for Hummingbird success. Websites can’t grow their entrance pages without introducing new content regularly.
  • It’s now less about the keyword and more about the intention behind it. Not having keywords provided in analytics makes it harder to discover customer intent, but we can get clues about that by monitoring visitor pathways on our sites and actively engaging with customers on social media and other channels.
  • Google’s saying there’s nothing new or different that SEOs or publishers need to worry about. Guidance remains the same, it says: have original, high-quality content. Signals that have been important in the past remain important; Hummingbird just allows Google to process them in new and better ways.
  • If you haven’t lost traffic in the past two months, you probably came through Hummingbird unscathed as it went live about 2 months ago.
  • There’s been no major outcry among webmasters that they’ve lost rankings. This seems to support Google saying this is very much a query-by-query effect, one that may improve particular searches — particularly complex ones — rather than something that can cause major traffic shifts.

BUT:

David Amerland, search engine expert and author of *Google Semantic Search* says Google’s move toward semantic search will benefit SEO practices:

“Google has increased its ability to deal with complex search queries which means that it also has got better at indexing entities in Web documents. From a strategy point of view this opens the horizon for companies and webmasters considerably. From a practical perspective, the need to identify the USP of each business and become authoritative within it is now a key criteria for continued SEO success. The comparison element that has been integrated suggests that semantic mark-up may begin to confer an advantage now when it comes to helping index information in products and services.”

He emphasizes the importance of content not being left in isolation, but instead shared across social networks via identified influencers:

“This is not something that can or will happen at the drop of a hat,” said Amerland, “It requires time and commitment to building a relationship with influencers and sharing with them content that is of real value to their network.” Quick SEO, according to Amerland, “Is now firmly in the past.”

Google Hummingbird: Changes You Should Make Immediately as a Result

So exciting improvements for searchers, but where does that leave you? Here are some recommended changes you can and should be making to your web sites as a result of Hummingbird:

1) Add Question Answer Pattern Content (e.g. like you find on a Q & A page or a Facebook comment thread )

2) Set up a Google+ page for your business if you haven’t already done so.

3) Implement Google Authorship on your site/blog and link it to your Google+ page.

4) Use Schema Mark Up for any rich technical data on your site, such as product specifications, dosage instructions and garment sizing.

5) Ramp up your social marketing activity to take advantage of Google’s new conversational search skills and make sure you cross-promote your social channels with your main web site content.

6) Implement Mobile SEO Tactics (e.g. increase load speed, reduce file sizes, increase mobile content)

7) Increase the Domain Authority of Your Site  (via more incoming links)

8) Add new content to your site REGULARLY. The addition of new content is now absolutely vital to online marketing efforts in a post-Hummingbird environment. If you can’t add fresh data to your web site on a regular basis, get ready to wave to your competitors as they go sailing past you towards the top of the SERPs.

Speed is of the essence. This information is only just filtering out into the SEO world. The sooner you can respond with Hummingbird-friendly content, the more traffic you’ll get before your competitors will even know what’s hit them.

Questions? Comments? Please add to this thread.

Key Sources for This Post:

http://searchengineland.com/google-hummingbird-172816

http://searchengineland.com/hummingbird-has-the-industry-flapping-its-wings-in-excitement-reactions-from-seo-experts-on-googles-new-algorithm-173030

http://searchenginewatch.com/article/2298881/What-Not-Provided-Google-Hummingbird-Mean-for-Small-Business-SEO

http://www.sitepronews.com/2013/10/18/googles-hummingbird-update-5-changes-need-implement/

http://searchengineland.com/what-everybody-missed-about-hummingbird1-176031

 

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Google Targets Article Marketing, Guest Blogging & Press Releases in Link Scheme Definition Update

article-marketing-newIf you don’t pay regular attention to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you might have overlooked it, but last month, Google made a significant change to their definition of link schemes.

The revised link scheme wording now cites the following as violating Google’s guidelines:

  •     Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
  •     Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
  •     Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Google also removed these examples from the link scheme guidelines:

  •     Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank.
  •     Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence.

The changes are important in SEO circles, because article marketing, guest blog posts, advertorials and press release syndication are often key components of holistic SEO campaigns. Note in particular that “links with optimized anchor text” are mentioned specifically for the first time. Until fairly recently, the use of anchor text was considered a standard component of effective article writing and any on-page optimization.

With these changes, article syndication and press release optimization – unless implemented extremely carefully – may end up having a negative SEO impact on the very web sites they were intended to help.

In the wake of the changes, we took our Search Engine College Article Marketing course offline temporarily to check lesson content against the new guidelines and re-write any sections that may have been ambiguous.

If your SEO strategy uses any of these initiatives, I suggest taking a very close look at the revised Google Webmaster Guidelines and ensuring your implementation adheres to the revised policy.

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Google Authorship: SEO Secret Sauce or Boring Ketchup?

What authorship looks like for this blog

Authorship in action

My geek friend Chris recently wrote a post about Google Authorship that suggested that the use of Google Authorship tags (e.g. rel=author) gave inconsistent results in the SERPs and was possibly not the SEO secret sauce that it’s all cracked up to be.

This surprised me, because I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews for Authorship, including claims that use of the rel=author tag can speed up the indexing and rankings of a brand new site.

In his experiments, Chris tried searching for a specific phrase using google.com and google.co.nz from an NZ IP and then both from a US IP. He was scanning the SERPs for instances of his own blog post containing the phrase, specifically noting when his rel=author tag would kick in to show his Google Profile next to his post. All searches produced different results, with his authorship profile pic only showing up sporadically, even when his blog post appeared in the top 3 results. This was in contrast to blog posts on his employer’s site, where Authorship hasn’t been implemented, rel=author tags are not used, but posts almost always show up in the SERPs featuring author profile pics.

Chris found that subtle changes to his search query (even the addition of a STOP word like *on*) had a profound impact on whether Authorship would kick in. Clearly, semantic indexing is at play when it comes to whether rel=author has an influence on SERPs. Which means that specific keyword order and word-stemming considerations should be high on the priority list for any on-page SEO undertaken.

In my experience, it seems that the authorship tag is given more prominence in some data centers than others and almost always when searching google.com. My guess is slightly different versions of the algo have rolled out on each data center, some with the *new* (July) Panda and some with the old. Authorship relevance has been tweaked in this last update, I’m sure of it, but I haven’t seen this acknowledged anywhere.

Of course, author trust / author rank is also at play – where the profile of a particular author is given more relevancy weight than others due to how prolific and widely syndicated they are. Posts from authors with more trust rank built up are pushed higher up the SERPs and are more likely to have their profile pics featured.

So have you noticed a change in SERPS relating to use of the rel=author tag since the latest Panda update? Have you observed more or less authorship profiles showing up in generic SERPs on Google.com than before Panda? Please let us know in the comments.

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