“Why isn’t our website ranking higher on Google?”
This often means you – the designer or developer – might receive questions like the above. Clients want to know why their site isn’t performing as well as it should.
After all, that’s what they’re paying you for, right?
But what happens when the website is finished to the client’s specs, but it’s still not performing well?
Sometimes the fault for an underperforming website falls back on you, even if it’s not directly included in your scope. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify potential reasons why a website might underperform, and know how to respond in those situations.
Here are a few things that might be hurting your client’s website performance.
“Your Domain Authority Is Too Low”
Appearing on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is a common concern for many clients, and it might be one of the reasons they came to you to build their site in the first place.
But according to RankBrain, the most search traffic goes to the first result, with click-through rates (CTR) decreasing significantly after the second position.
Google also reports that 34% of search results – yes, even those on the first page – get no clicks at all, and that 12% of all clicks go to the top 100 search-traffic-receiving domains.
So not only is it important for sites to rank high, but they really need to be number one to see significant traffic from their SEO efforts.
But one of the reasons they most likely won’t see the first page SERPs is due to low page authority. As mentioned, unless you’re in the top 100 domains, you may not rank on Google.
It doesn’t matter if your site is the best designed, most beautifully crafted website in the world. If you don’t have high site (domain) authority – a predictive score dictated by Moz and used by Google to rank results – you won’t rank.
This is doubly true for new websites. New sites usually start with a score of 0-1. For reference, well-established sites, like Facebook and Wikipedia, are close to 100.
If you’re developing or designing a brand new site for a client, and they complain about not showing up in Google, tell them that they need to focus their energy on driving traffic in other ways.
Paid ads, more posted content (on a blog, typically), or social media traffic can all help to improve domain authority.
“You Need More High-Quality Backlinks”
Another reason why a site may not be showing up as high on Google’s SERPs is due to low or poor quality backlinks – links that point back to your website.
According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.
In fact, the top ranked pages on Google have an average volume of 100,000+ high-quality backlinks.
High-quality backlinks can be notoriously difficult to get, especially for new sites, because they require other more popular sites (think top 100 domains for best results) to link to your landing pages or content.
The good news is that quality does make up for the lack of volume. A link from a relevant website in your niche, for example, might be worth 100 links from a lower quality source.
So how do you earn high-quality backlinks?
Over time you may naturally gain some links from other websites, especially as your organic traffic grows from regular content production or social traffic. But in order to gain the quality and volume needed to rank, you need to make some effort.
The first step is to focus on providing valuable and high-quality content on your website. This should ideally come from a blog that can be frequently updated, and not just landing pages.
Google looks for fresh content when considering rankings. Former Google Fellow Amit Singhal once explained that, “Different searches have different freshness needs.”
In other words, fresh content is needed for all your desired keywords.
You then need to find ways of sharing your content on other sites in order to create those backlinks.
Try posting content as guest blogs on larger editorial sites, or by linking to it on sites like Quora. You can also syndicate traffic from sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, both of which have domain authority ranks close to 100.
If you’re curious about your current site backlinks, you can use a free tool like Backlink Watch. Other paid sites like Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO and Ahrefs will give you a lot more information as well.
If clients don’t know why their site isn’t performing, you might recommend they try some link-building strategies, like guest blogging on popular editorial sites or asking customers to link to you on their landing pages.
“You Need to Optimize Your Content”
Because content plays a big role in how Google ranks sites – from the freshness of the content to the links it contains and more – it’s important that sites are creating content that can be shared.
In other words, a pretty website is not enough. It has to have more content.
And that content needs to be optimized so Google knows what to do with it. CTR for content on Google’s first page SERPs increases by 667% for posts that appear as Featured Snippets.
Featured Snippets are selected search results that appear on top of Google’s first page in a special box.
If you’re not sure how to get a Snippet, or you don’t yet have the domain authority to get a Snippet, there are other ways you can optimize your content to rank higher.
Posting content that is engaging – keeps people on the page and has a higher number of conversions into another action, like an email subscription (etc.) – can also improve your relationship with Google.
Their algorithm can track how long someone stays on a page, and what other actions they take and whether or not they click on other content from your site.
Creating content that keeps people enthralled will help improve search results.
You can also help your odds by focusing on long tail keywords in your content in order to gain more organic search traffic and improve your odds of appearing in either a Featured Snippet or on the first page SERPs.
If clients want methods for improving their Google search rankings, tell them to produce more high-quality, optimized content.
It’s important to explain to your clients that creating a beautiful website won’t guarantee them a high ranking on Google SERPs.
Even if it’s fully responsive and includes SEO optimization, if it’s a new website, it needs more to be truly successful.
The top strategies they can focus on include an improved domain, adding backlinks and creating optimized content.
You should also remind them that it takes time to build a reputable and high ranking site, and they shouldn’t give up if they don’t see results right away. With a little effort, it will happen for them.