This is one of the most common questions we get, and as with so many things in life, there isn't one answer. Google has a complicated, ever-shifting algorithm that it uses to rank websites, and with so many factors going into search engine ranking there simply isn't a way to guarantee a page one ranking.
10 Reasons Why Your Website May Not Be Working The Way You Want
There are things that we know for a fact strongly influence how Google ranks your site. After combing through hundreds of websites—including our own—and analyzing the data, we have come up with ten troubleshooting questions that all business owners should be asking themselves. These questions will help you get to the bottom of why your site isn't ranking well and, when needed, will give you the tips you need to improve its performance.
1. Am I targeting the right keywords?
Let's say you're frustrated because you you've been searching for "Atlanta car accident attorney" and your website is way back on page five. But before you flame Google or fire your SEO guy, you need to ask yourself if you've been working toward ranking for that specific keyword on a specific page. If you've been using "Atlanta personal injury lawyer" in your title, headline and within the content of your car accident practice area page, you are going to be much less likely to rank for the specific keyword “Atlanta car accident attorney.”
2. Is the term too competitive?
When choosing your target keywords, ensure that competition for the term isn't too stiff. If it is, you'll have to spend a lot of time and a lot of money to even get close to the big dogs who have been optimizing for the search term for years. Back in the good old days when we had access to Google's keyword information, we found that only 20 percent of search traffic came from top-level target vanity keywords, or the keywords that everyone wants to rank for (Dallas accident lawyer, for example). This means that 80 percent of searchers were using unique variations of long-tailed keywords, phrases that are specific to their geographic region, needs and even local dialect.
3. Do I have a keyword strategy?
Without a way to make the most of your keywords, your page will never rank well; it's like trying to shoot a target while blindfolded. To help your site rank better you need to have a solid keyword strategy. This strategy should include using long-tail keywords; using multiple variations of your target keyword (crash, accident, collision, rear-ended, etc.); and placing keywords in the most important locations (titles and headlines) of your most important pages (home page, practice area pages, and “about us” page). Without these crucial elements, there is really no way you'll rank well. So get your strategy mapped out sooner rather than later.
4. Are my local citations on point?
Local citations are all of the places your business name, address and phone number are listed, Internet-wide. A big problem we've found in local listings is that businesses don't have the right categories selected in Google Businesses. For example, an attorney may be listed as "lawyer" but not "personal injury lawyer" or "personal injury attorney." Without these distinctions it's impossible for Google, Yahoo, or Yelp—the three biggest players in the local listings game—to rank you well. Also, variations in your name, address, and phone number (NAP) can mess with your rankings. So make sure that you're listed correctly, and in the correct categories, by reading our detailed guide on how to fix mistakes on your local listing.
5. Have I been hit by a penalty?
Now, I don't want you to jump to conclusions. Know that despite all the hoopla you read in the news, being manually dinged by Google is rare. In fact, I've only seen two sites that have had manual actions taken against them. One had been part of a large linking scheme and the other had super low-quality, spammy content. So unless you have been trying to cheat the system with black-hat SEO tricks, I wouldn't fret too much about your site being penalized by Google. And if you have been cheating? Well, good luck to you, my friend, because you're going to need it. Often the only way to fix this issue is to start over from scratch, and as you know, ain't nobody got the time or money for that!
6. Am I actively improving my website?
You wouldn't expect to get your dog to perform a new trick unless you worked with him to learn it, would you? Then you shouldn't expect your website to perform well unless you're constantly improving your website. This means adding top-notch content, posting videos, building backlinks, and cleaning up your online profiles, and not just once, but continually.
7. Is my content thin?
Regularly adding content is just one piece of the ranking puzzle. For your content to help you rank better, it needs to be robust. It needs to provide answers to your ideal client's most pressing questions and be of interest to your target audience. You can’t just take a news article about a car crash on I-66, write a paragraph about it, and assume you're improving your website or your ranking. Robust content answers specific queries with well-planned, quality content: writing that offers your unique spin and advances your image as an expert in your field.
8. Am I expecting too much, too soon?
When you make positive changes to your site or launch a brand new site, you need to give Google enough time to pick up on the awesomeness of your site. And this is not going to happen overnight. Heck, it might not even happen over the course of a month! When you grow a tree naturally, organically, you can't expect to plunk an apple seed in the ground and be eating apples in a week. Like this tree, your website cannot reach new heights without care and help. If you have a plan, a clear strategy for adding content, getting natural backlinks, and addressing the needs of your audience, the organic search engine traffic will come, trust us! You just have to give it time to grow.
9. Am I resting on my laurels?
If your website has been ranking well for years, it's easy to assume that it will continue to do so. But it won't. While older, more established websites do have a certain amount of influence, this will only sustain briefly. Newer, more powerful and fully optimized websites are getting authority quicker than ever. So if you don't write fresh content, get new backlinks, and keep up with the times (video, anyone?), your site will quickly go stale and drop in the rankings. Take heed: This doesn't mean that you should write content for the sake of writing content. New content should be timely and should provide your own unique spin. And of course you should never, ever, take part in a linking scheme. Ever!
10. Is my webmaster making serious errors?
If you're a client of ours, there is no need to worry about the following errors, but if you're not, it may pay to call up your webmaster and ask her a few questions. One issue we have seen during our free site audits is that the webmaster in charge of a website hasn't removed the "Disallow:/" line from robots.txt file. What this does is block search engine crawlers from indexing a website—a good thing when a site in under construction, but a terrible thing when it's supposed to be live. And as you can see in this article about how a robot.txt error nearly ruined an attorney's successful marketing campaign, the results can be devastating. Also, if you or your webmaster haven't submitted to Webmaster Tools on Google, the search engine won't know enough about your site, and therefore won't rank it well. Really, these mistakes are a matter of crossing t's and dotting i's, so just check to make sure that your webmaster has performed these simple tasks.
If you are utterly exhausted from reading this list and from doing some serious website soul-searching the questions necessitate, then please call us at 888-886-0939 for help. We can rescue you and your website from the search engine hinterlands by using only the most organic, white hat SEO and content techniques.
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