Why does my website not come up when you search for it?

How do the search engines work?

The search engines, like Google, are in the business of presenting the most relevant search results for the keywords entered in their search engine.

So if I enter “web design Napa Valley” in Google, Google responds with what it thinks are the websites with the most relevant content to that very specific set of words, “web design Napa Valley”. They do this by sending out what are referred to as robots all over the internet to read, catalog, and rank content, as well as record other information about websites, such as their speed.

Some of the main criteria that search engines use to rank websites for specific keyword phrases, is how often those exact phrases are used, where and how those exact phrases are used (ie. in headers, or at the start the about page, or the middle of the home page, or as a link, or as a descriptor of an image, etc.). And they will rank related phrases and also consider those.

That is just one set of criteria. Other criteria include what other websites link to yours, using what keyword phrases? What content do those websites rank for? How well do those website rank overall? How many website link to yours? How long do people stay on your website? How long has your website been in existence? How often do those keyword phrases show up throughout your whole website? How many pages do you have with those keyword phrases? Are those phrases used naturally or in a way to try to fool the search engines? {Search engines will actually penalize your website for inappropriate practices, called “black hat” practices”.} There are tons of other criteria, way too many to list here.

The search engines use very complex equations to determine how to rank page content. They refer to these equations as their algorithm, and it is their trade secret, because otherwise users would know how to manipulate them, and the search engines, as I started out with, want to provide us as users with the most relevant results.

What do I do then? How do I get my website to come up in the natural search results?

With focus, acceptance, patience, perseverance, and a little knowhow.

The world is a large place, with lots of people doing lots of things. There is both diversity in different people do, and similarity.  With regard to similarity, there are likely other people who would like to have their website rank over your website for the same search terms. In this way, getting your website to come up high in the natural search results is a competition.

So you need to ask yourself, in this competition, “How can I win?”

If you are a new hair stylist on the corner, how can you compete when there are literally hundreds of thousands of salons in the US alone? (Really, that is true.)  With focus.  Because in some way your offering is unique.  First off, your service is local to your area – so start there.  Secondarily perhaps you have areas that you specialize in – and if you don’t, then now may be the time to consider doing so.  This is part of your marketing and selling of your product or service.  Why should people come to you rather than someone else?

There is always a reason, because each one of us is unique, which makes each one of our products and services unique.  Identify that, and focus your SEO.

  • So what do you offer?
  • What keyword phrases might people enter into a search engine when looking for what you offer?
  • Which phrases are relevant, buying phrases (versus phrases people use when just browsing)?
  • Which phrases do you have a chance at competing with?

In our example, a new local hair stylist would be wasting her time optimizing her website for just “Hair Stylist”, but she might have success with “Napa Hair Stylist”. You get the idea.

One simple and free evaluation tool is to simply enter some different keyword phrases in a search engine and see what comes up.  Are the top results from large organizations dedicated to such a phrase, or just a temporary blog post on the topic?  You might be able to oust the latter, but likely not the former.  Look for phrases that you have a chance with, that you can compete with.  Google also has a free keyword tool that will help you identify useful phrases that people use.

So this is just a start. It is a big topic. There is a lot more to consider, such as how many phrases you can realistically and successfully optimize for one website, given the size of your website, the type of business you have and your budget. How best to apply those phrases to increase your ranking, but not to overdo it and cause the search engines to penalize you. How do you do it in a natural way, so that your website is also user friendly, engaging and enrolling to real people visiting your website – rather than being a website focused to search engines (have you ever found yourself on such a website?).

That seems like so much work, so much to learn, or likely costly to implement.

Yes and no.

If you have the budget, hire someone to help you, but be careful who you hire. Do your research. Ask around. There are more people who don’t know what they are doing than there are people who do. Be wise.

If you don’t have a big budget, or even a small one, then use your common sense. Think of 3 or 4 keyword phrases that you think are the most appropriate for your business. Those are phrases that people might enter when looking for your business, and they are specific enough that there is little competition and thus a decent chance that the search engines will rank your website well for them. They are phrases that you can and perhaps already have used in your website naturally, in such a way that it flows naturally in the content of your website, and use those phrases as such. Use them once in a main header, and a few times throughout each relevant page, once in the first paragraph, if you can naturally. Have your web designer add them in the code in a few places. That may be enough.

Give it a month and check back in the search results after searching those specific phrases. What page are you on? Experiment. Be focused with your phrases, accept that you can get ranked with some and not others, for now, and be patient as you try different approaches, test out your results, learn something new. If you can, enjoy the process. It’s like a game.

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