If you can’t easily find your website in Google then neither can your customers.
The most important thing is to work out ‘why’ – you can’t fix it if you don’t really know what’s wrong!
So let’s figure out why and how we can fix it.
Is Your Website Hard To Find in Google — Or Just Not There at All?
There’s a huge difference between your website not showing up on Google search, and not being able to show up.
What does that mean?
There are a number of reasons why your site may not even be in Google (what we call ‘indexed’).
If your site is very new, Google may just need a bit more time.
But it’s also possible to make some mistakes and have Google specifically exclude your site. For example – your site could be telling Google not to list your web pages. It’s even possible to have breached Google’s guidelines to the extent that your site has been penalised and is no longer allowed in their index (or if somebody owned your domain name before you – maybe they did!).
How Can You Tell if Your Site Is Indexed?
Step 1 therefore is to determine if your site is actually indexed or not.
You can just search Google for your domain name, e.g. “yourdomain.co.nz” and that would most likely find your site if it exists. But to be 100% sure, search like this instead:-
Here’s how this should look in Google:-
If the pages from your site appear then your website has been indexed. It is therefore ‘in Google’. Your problem in this case is that your site is ‘hard to find’ – which we’ll cover shortly.
If nothing at all appears then your site is either not indexed yet or excluded for some reason.
Either Way, Indexed or Not – Do This Step
One of the most important and useful tools there is for your website is ‘Google Search Console’. It’s one of the very few ways Google will interact with you about your website.
Why is Google Search Console important?
Because once you add your site to Search Console, Google will then tell you some very useful things about your website. Including if there are any problems that need fixing. Or if there are any penalties or other problems preventing your site from appearing in Google search results.
So, really important then. 🙂
Creating an account with Search Console is very easy (and free). You can use your existing Google Account for this or create a new one just for your business to keep things separate. Here’s where you can create an account.
Adding your site to Search Console is also fairly easy. The only tricky bit is ‘verifying’ your site, which you must do in order to get any useful information. ‘Verifying’ connects your site to Search Console by proving you own the site. It is a little technical though so if you need help with this just get in touch.
It will take time for all of the data to start filling in. But very quickly you will find out if there are major problems that need fixing.
My Site Is in Google — But Hard To Find
This is a common problem. But do the steps above first to be sure your site is indexed, or this won’t help you!
The first thing to be aware of is that being easy to find in Google takes some work. There is a whole industry built around websites not showing up in Google – you may have heard of it already, SEO or Search Engine Optimisation. It is complex, fast moving and ever changing.
That’s the bad news. 🙂
The good news is that your site does not need to be better at this than the ‘entire internet’. It only needs to be better than your immediate competitors.
SEO is really just one aspect of online marketing. It can range from useful to critical depending on the type of business you run.
If you run a second hand bookshop in Nelson, then it would be of solid benefit if your shop came up when people who are in Nelson search for ‘second hand bookshop’ on their phone. Or when someone searches for ‘second hand bookshop Nelson’.
On the other hand if you are dentist, chiropractor, plumber – it’s far more important. Because that’s how most people find you now.
It Starts With a Google Business Listing
If you run any kind of service based business or local business, this is so important. You may also need a website, but for some businesses a Google business listing alone can be enough.
For those that have a website but weren’t well advised and don’t have a business listing yet, this is a crucial step to go back and correct. Because a website search result cannot rank higher than a business listing.
OK – so what is a Google business listing?
A Google business listing is a map related search result, that appears above all of the ‘website’ based search results!
If you search for something that Google thinks should be a ‘local’ result you get a results page that looks more like this:-
How do I get one?
You have to set everything up in Google My Business. Which is an extra service provided by Google.
They don’t charge to be listed, but fair warning, it’s very easy to make mistakes with this. So either read all of their documentation very carefully and take it slowly. Or just get an expert at setting up Google My Business to do it for you.
NOTE: It will take some time to get your listing live, because Google will validate your address. They send out a postcard to your physical business address which contains a code you need to enter online to confirm the address. This process can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to as much as 6-8 weeks, so be patient.
Will a Google Business Listing Mean I Now Rank at the Top?
Not unless you’re the only business of this type in your area.
If you don’t have much (or any) competition from similar businesses then you may come out top. If you set your listing up well.
But if there are dozens of competing companies in an area then Google has to decide which ones are more important. And it has a whole heap of different ways to determine this. Everything from the specific location of the business, to the reviews each business has received, the categories the business is listed under, the way it’s described, the photos provided. Right through to the overall presence of that business online – their website and the content there, listings in relevant business or trade directories, their social profile pages. Everything feeds into everything else to establish credibility and the importance of your brand over and above other brands in your area.
So for most businesses this is definitely not a one off job. It’s something to keep working at gradually, to move up the listings and then keep yourself at the top. Get in touch if you would like help with this.
Do I Need a Website As Well?
It really does depend. Often the answer is yes, you really do. But it’s not necessary in every case.
Our second hand bookshop example above demonstates this. You could put up a website but what benefit would it provide? People want to come to you to browse the shelves. A Google business listing gives people what they need (without that though, you’re hard to find!).
On the other hand, for a chiropractor people will want to learn more about you and your practice before they visit or call. They want to know all about the services you provide, about your qualifications and pricing. They are going to be far more reassured if you build a well written and professional looking website. Which then encourages them to make the phone call, get in touch or book a free consultation etc.
What Else Can a Website Do?
Having a website also enables you to rank for many more search terms related to what your business does.
Someone may still be in ‘research mode’, so they aren’t sure yet if they want a chiropractor. They may be searching for things like ‘how can a chiropractor help with neck pain’. If your website has an article that answers this for them, then you may have just found your next customer.
Spreading the net wider like this can also be very effective where competition is tough and your website is not showing up for your main search terms. It can both generate customers and help improve your ranking for the more specific service and area search terms you really want to rank for.
Having a website also means you can build an email list and nurture web visitors into customers. You can let people book appointments directly in your calendar. Or let people buy online or pay up front.
You should now be clear if your website is indexed (‘in Google’) or not. And therefore if it is just hard to find or there are other problems preventing it being found.
Your next step from here may be to get a Google business listing properly set up, or to start working on steps to improve the ranking/visibility of that business listing.
Additionally you may need to look again at your website to see if you are covering everything a customer needs to know about your business. And consider spreading your net wider to show up in Google for more general search terms or questions related to your business.