Google is the Summer Olympics of search engines: a highly competitive environment with plenty of contenders vying for the number one spot on the podium. Sometimes it can feel overwhelming if you’re a smaller player, but it’s still possible to improve your performance by being smart and strategic.

Here are ten reasons why you’re not at the top of the Google rankings just yet (and some clever ways to climb the ladder):


1. You don’t have the best content

Ouch. We know this one hurts. The sad truth is that only one website can hit the number one ranking for any given keyword on Google, and your site is up against a whole lot of competition – even within relatively obscure niches. Google wants to direct people towards the best content, and their reputation as a quality search engine is on the line. If Google has decided that someone else is number one, it might be time to review your content for ways to optimise it.


2. Your keyword selection is poor

If you’re unhappy with your ranking, your first step is to triage your keyword selection. You might have chosen keywords that it are simply too hard to rank in, or you aren’t doing enough to focus on long tails. Long tail keywords are three and four keyword phrases which are very highly specific to whatever you are selling, and they enable people with specific search criteria to find you (these people tend to be the ones with the most serious intent to buy, coincidentally).


3. You’re not using enough internal and external links

This sounds counter-intuitive (why should I link to other URLs in case the reader leaves my website?) but there are benefits to this. One way to create an ultimate resource for particular keywords is to include links to other resources within your content - this makes your post more valuable and makes other content on the subject easier for Google to find. It also helps you get backlinks from other sites, and this is useful because pages with lots of backlinks rank higher.


4. Your site is new

Remember that old saying – patience is a virtue? If your website is relatively new it’s a bit rich to expect to rocket straight to the top of the Google rankings. Rank authority is built gradually over time, and getting ranked for specific keywords can often take months. It takes at least two or three weeks for your site to even be indexed with Google, which is what allows your site to appear in search results. It’s possible to manually index your site, but that tends to be unnecessary.


5. Your on-site SEO is sub-optimal

SEO is absolutely vital to ensuring that you are optimising your page rankings on Google, and if you are not doing this then you might as well give up all together. First on the list is to focus on your site architecture, because building a strategic internal linking structure will enhance the authority throughout your website and make your links more effective. The upshot of this is that you’ll need fewer links to rank and therefore less investment.


6. You have too much duplicate content

If there is one thing Google hates, it’s duplicate content. Google wants to know that all of your pages contain unique content because they don’t want to annoy people by sending them to a site that says basically the same thing over and over again. It might seem like a trivial thing but Google takes duplicate content very seriously and will punish your site in the rankings if you keep creating duplicate product descriptions or service descriptions across multiple pages.


7. You think that social media is an optional extra

Social media is time consuming and can be a little bit overwhelming to manage if you are short on time, but it’s no longer OK to consider it an optional extra because it can impact on your Google ranking. Social media is a big factor in SEO nowadays – it has even been proven that you can rank pages with social signalling. Google cross references your social media activity and can give your ranking an instant boost once you have introduced social signals.


8. You’re not optimising your images

Wait. What? You mean to say that the images on my website can enhance or harm my Google ranking? It’s definitely true, and optimising your images can improve your ranking in a number of ways: it can help you can get traffic through image searches and it’s another way to tell Google what your primary keyword is. Saving your images with keywords in the file name - as well as adding alt text and title tags - will give your ranking that extra boost it needs.


9. Your site isn’t optimal for mobile devices

If your website has been established for a number of years now it’s a good idea to make sure that it has been updated for maximum compatibility with mobile devices. Mobile-usability has been a big deal since April 2015, becoming a significant ranking factor with the release of Googles algorithm update. To check if your site is mobile friendly try using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test to ensure your site is optimised for mobile and is accessible on all devices.


10. Your site isn’t user friendly

The user experience on your site is another factor that impacts on your Google ranking, because the world’s most trusted search engine is reluctant to send their querents to websites that aren’t highly valuable. If users aren’t spending much time on your site it’s time to try to find out why. Key performance indicators you should be looking at include bounce rate, average time spent on site and pageviews per visit. If users don’t value your site, neither will Google.


There are other reasons why your site might not be ranking well, but these are ten of the most common. Becoming number one takes hard work and dedication, particularly in a highly-competitive environment like Google. You might not quite get there in the end, but it’s always great to aim for your personal best.

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