What to do if your website is not on the front page of Google


The other day we talked with a distressed businessman from Morocco. He was an adventure guide and wanted to sell more tours. One of our clients had been on a trip with him and referred him to Bitwise because the guide was dissatisfied with his website traffic.

As we talked, I heard several “marketing catchphrases.”  Do any of these sound familiar to you?

“I want my website to be on the front page of Google.” 

Adhere to Google Webmaster GuidelinesWell yes, everyone wants this! However, with millions of websites and only about 20 spots on the front page of Google, there’s going to be some competition…

If you’re not Travelocity, Delta Airlines, or J.W. Marriot, this is a good time to step back and ask a more important question: “Why do I want to be on the front page of Google?”

The reason we want to be there is that we think it will help us meet our goals: More business. More exposure. More donations.

Truthfully though, getting on the first page of Google might not be the best way to reach your business objectives. If your business is built on impulse purchases made primarily by first-time site visitors, then getting on the front page is probably a good strategy. However, if your product requires a lot of research, or if your business is mostly from visitors who return to your site later or from long-time clients, then maybe you should look at PPC advertising, email marketing, or other strategies that come from analyzing your website analytics.

With a hefty-enough budget, anyone can technically get on the first page of Google… through advertising. However, that might not be the best investment of your marketing dollars. Maybe there are other options for meeting your objectives.

The businessman also shared this all-to-common statement with me:
“I’ve been getting calls from people who claim that they can guarantee me a spot on the homepage of Google if I pay them $XXX.”

Sigh. Ah yes. Those calls! Those scammers.

This is when I always have to spend a lot of time explaining that “no one can guarantee you a spot on Google’s homepage, because only Google can do this.” When you hear guarantees about ranking, it’s time to hang up the phone.

Even Google warns against these misleading advertisers: “No one can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. Beware of SEOs that claim to guarantee rankings, allege a ‘special relationship’" with Google, or advertise a ‘priority submit’ to Google. There is no priority submit for Google.” 1

As I talked through the above points with our friend from Morocco, asked one more question:
“Please tell me exactly what I have to do to get my website on the first page of Google.”

I told him: “We absolutely do not guarantee that you will be on the home page.” (Alas, even at Bitwise we cannot claim to have cracked the Google code!)

I went on: “However, what I can offer is that we will take your site through a thorough SEO audit and update all the pieces of your site. After these thorough upgrades, your site will adhere to Google Webmaster Guidelines. Then, it will be in a position to be ranked well by Google, without hindrances to a good ranking.”

Basically, Google provides Webmaster Guidelines. These are things that anyone can do to their site to eliminate problems that jeopardize its search ranking.

Here are just a few of the important area of your site to inspect for compliance with the Google Webmaster Guidelines (warning: industry jargon ahead!)

  • Mobile responsive site (very important… from June-December 2015, about 44% of web visits were from mobile devices like smart phones and tablets) 2
  • Title Tags
  • Keyword Meta Tags
  • Header Tags
  • Plain text site-maps
  • Keyword page and directory naming
  • Page descriptions
  • Image alt attributes
Also, regularly updating a website with fresh content is key to “staying on Google’s radar.” Many clients find that blogging (either doing it themselves or paying a service) is a great way to provide helpful content for their readers… and to keep Google supplied with fresh material to “crawl,” index, and rank. 

Another significant factor in Google page rankings are keywords. If you’re anything like most business people, keywords are as mysterious as the Milky Way. Here’s our HubSpot certified down-to-earth strategy for maximizing keywords for page rankings:
  1. Once you have an idea for a keyword, expand your list with alternative keywords
    • Try typing one of your keywords into a search engine. Notice the autocomplete keywords and the results.
    • Look for alternatives under the different search options in Google, like image search or YouTube search
    • Use a tool like keywordtool.io or the Google webmaster tools to get suggestions.
    • Add all of the alternatives that relate to your business and buyer persona to your keyword list.
  2. Determine which Keywords people are using to find your site
    • Use an analytics tool, like Google Webmaster or HubSpot Sources, to get some insights.
  3. Decide which keyword you have the best opportunity to rank for
    • Add all of the alternatives that relate to your business and buyer persona to your keyword list
    • Using more specific keyword phrases (long tail keywords) is significantly easier to rank for because they’re more specific and targeted. People searching for that long tail keyword know what they’re looking for, meaning they’re qualified visitors who are more likely to turn into leads and customers.
    • Use a tool like Google Analytics or HubSpot’s Keywords tool to discover how much competition there is for that keyword.
  4. Implement these keywords into your site’s metadata and content.

To wrap up our conversation, here are four things to do when you’re concerned about your Google page ranking… whether you operate an adventure business in Morocco or a tech start-up in Chicago or an auto parts manufacturing distribution center in Brazil.
  1. Change your question. Ask “What should I do to meet my business goals?”  instead of “Why am I not on the front page of Google?”

  2. Create a strategy that meets your business objectives, not Google’s. Getting on the front page of Google may or may not be the most effective investment for your business.
  3. Follow current development standards. Make sure that your website complies with Google Webmaster Guidelines and regularly provide fresh content on your website. 
  4. Maximize your keyword strategy. Maybe you can’t be on the first page of Google every time, but focusing on strategic key words could get you close… or even there.
Whatever your business or nonprofit objectives, Google rankings are part of your strategy. However, maybe it’s time to zoom out and look at the bigger landscape of your business objectives. Implement smart business strategies to positively impact your business, whatever your page rankings.

Bitwise Solutions was founded in 1991 to make clients successful in digital communication. With clients such as Citizens Energy Group and Indiana Farmers Insurance, their team provides highly-customized website and marketing solutions to help businesses and nonprofits reach their objectives.

1. https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35291?hl=en - Accessed 1/5/16
2. http://gs.statcounter.com/#desktop+mobile+tablet-comparison-ww-quarterly-201503-201504-bar - Accessed 1/5/16


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