So you have just built a gorgeous website for your business. Every detail has been polished to the maximum. But after 6 months the only people who are visiting your website is your mom and some of your friends. Yikes!
We all have been there. Everyone dreams of 1 million visitors per month but only a few achieve it. Let’s see why your website is not ranking high on Google and what you can do to improve your rankings and traffic.
A. Technical Issues
- Your site is very slow – Google prefers fast loading websites as they leave a good user impression. Google’s main job is to keep their searchers happy, hence it penalizes websites with slow loading speeds. Make sure to keep your page loading time below 5 seconds.
- Too many 404 errors – If you often delete posts without redirecting them, your website is going to end up with lots of 404-page errors. Always redirect deleted URLs to the most relevant content if you delete pages often. You can use a plugin like Redirection if you are using WordPress.
- Bad shared hosting – Some shared hosting providers are known to be notorious for slow speeds and bad uptimes. If you are facing problems make sure to move your website to a more capable hosting service. Many hosting providers also have free transfer services making the whole process very seamless.
- Navigational issues – Navigation issues plague many websites which are often designed by inexperienced developers. These issues make it very hard for a website visitor to browse from one page to another leading to high bounce rates.
- Badly optimized images – Images are one of the main reasons your website is slowing down. Make sure to convert your images to .jpeg format and compress them using something like an image resizer before uploading to your website.
- Missing or duplicate meta tags – Meta tags are used by search engines to understand the context of a web page. Often times, many webmasters forget to optimize their meta tags thereby reducing their rankings and search engine visibility.
- No caching enabled – Caching is often used to improve site speed for repeat visitors. You can use a plugin like W3 Total Cache if you are using WordPress and see instant gains in website speed!
- Using too many H1 tags – Use only 1 H1 tag per page. Period.
- Your website is not responsive – According to a recent survey, more than 60% of people now browse using their smartphones. Hence, your website needs to be mobile responsive or your rankings will suffer. Google has also started to move towards a mobile-first index where it will rank websites according to their mobile friendliness.
- Using too many plugins – WordPress plugins are the main reason there are issues with the website. Often plugins have compatibility issues with one another which drags down the performance of the website. Non-maintained plugins can also open up your website to hacker attacks. A good rule of thumb would be to not use more than 20 plugins.
- Using free themes – Free themes are often badly coded (not all of them). Many also lack pro features which may require a purchase, limiting your designing capabilities.
- The domain has a bad reputation – Sometimes the previous webmaster might have used the same domain that you just bought for all sorts of illegal activities. Always check the domain rating in tools such as Ahrefs or Open Site Explorer to prevent such incidents.
- You don’t have an SSL certificate – In this era of privacy breaches and computer hacks, it is wise to use an SSL certificate. Google has also confirmed that having an SSL certificate may help in a slight rankings boost. If you would rather not spend money on the certificate you can also use a free SSL issued by Let’s Encrypt.
- You are using annoying pop-ups – Many websites often use pop-ups in order to gather more email addresses. Google has started to clamp down on those websites. A more elegant way would be to include a sidebar widget encouraging readers to sign-up for your newsletter.
- You often change page titles – Stop confusing search engines! Many SEO experts believe that changing page titles often may have detrimental effects on search rankings.
- You have sitewide “noindex” implementation – You would not believe how many this has happened to my clients due to an error in judgment. Using “noindex” tags, you are asking search engines to exclude your website from indexing. This generally happens when the developer has turned on the option in WordPress to prevent indexing during development stage but later forgets to turn it off.
- You don’t use alt tags – Alt tags are often used by search engines to know the context of an image. Please make sure to not overstuff with them keywords though.
B. Bad Web Site Content
- You have thin website content – The days of using 200-300 letter blog posts and ranking them are over. You need high-quality long-form content to rank on google. I am talking about at least 1000+ words.
- You use duplicate content – Stealing from other websites won’t really help your SEO. Google knows that you have stolen content from a more authoritative website and would always rank them above you even if they don’t outright give you a penalty. You may also receive a DMCA takedown notice from the aforementioned site webmaster.
- You don’t use images – Images convey more knowledge than words. Images also help your to reset audience attention, especially when they are reading your massive blog posts! Stay away from those cheesy stock photos though.
- Scraping content – Scraping content was a goldmine for SEOs 15 years back. Now it is more likely to give you a Panda Penalty.
- You don’t have a blog – This is a major fail unless you are a big brand. People always search for content while using search engines. A blog is the best way to connect with your target audience and improve brand presence.
- Going after highly competitive keywords – Going after highly competitive keywords is a good way to tank your rankings. More often than not, these keywords are dominated by big brands and people using AdWords, giving you website minimum visibility. Try using something like Ubersuggest to get more keyword ideas.
- You are willing to pay only $5 for a blog post – High-quality content writers don’t come cheap. For five dollars, you are only going to get an article that isn’t going to gain any traction. If you are planning to hire freelancers, check their rankings and reviews before awarding them your projects.
- Keyword stuffing – Aha! Another old-school SEO practice that will surely give you a penalty from Google.
- Hidden content – Using white on white text to hide content from users is never a good idea. Anyways, what is the point of targeting keywords which are not relevant to your domain? They will only lead to a high bounce rate.
- You don’t blog often – Make a content strategy at least 3 months in advance and follow it. Regularly blogging will help to keep your rankings steady.
- Linking to bad websites – This often happens with websites who accept payments for links. Accepting payments for links is strictly against Google webmaster guidelines. Even if you are accepting payments make sure to “nofollow” the link.
- Too many grammar mistakes – Too many grammatical mistakes make your site look like an amateur effort. Poor grammar can also mean you have not researched enough about the topic before putting pen to paper. You can also use a free extension like Grammarly which will help you improve your writing.
- Ads everywhere – I understand that running a site is a costly affair and those VPS hosting plans don’t come cheap. But putting ads everywhere on the site creates a bad UX and may result in high bounce rate.
- Affiliate links galore – Google easily understands when the site is made only to earn an affiliate commision. I recommend holding off on affiliate links until you have a sizeable amount of daily traffic.
- Using boring headlines – Click-baiting is an art only some writers master. Headlines containing words like “best”, “how-to”, “you won’t believe” are known to generate more clicks. Just have a look at Buzzfeed (the masters of click-bait).
C. Off- Page Problems
- No backlinks – Backlinks are used by search engines to determine its authority. Without backlinks, it is very hard for a website to rank for competitive keywords.
- Links from spammy websites – Links from spammy websites are often times more dangerous than no backlinks at all. If you have paid someone to generate thousands of backlinks quickly be prepared for a penguin penalty. If you think your competitor is purposefully increasing bad backlinks towards your website, create a “disavow” file and submit it to Google ASAP.
- Forum posting on irrelevant websites – Using automated tools to submit on many non-maintained forums is a very bad idea and may even result in deindexing of your website.
- Using PBNs – Using a PBN (Private Blog Networks) is a very expensive way to build links and Google frowns upon these links.
- Links from websites who have a different niche than yours – Often times many webmasters pay to receive a link back to your website. Google can easily make out when a link has been forcefully inserted into a page.
- Buying links – Though a common practice in the online world, buying links may result in Google penalizing your website.
- No outbound links – Not linking to pages which may help your readers means you have not done enough research before writing an article.
If you have been hit with a penalty make sure to submit a disavow file containing all the bad backlinks through search console. Submit a reconsideration request afterwards if your penalty was manual.