When will my site show up in search engines?

This is the number one question we get asked by clients launching their very first website. Often many people assume that once their website goes live, people will be able to find them in the top listings of Google for any keywords related to their products or services.

Unfortunately it is not as simple or quick as that. The internet is a very large marketplace with many global competitors all trying to get the exclusive number one position in Google for their main keywords.

It is important to understand how much competition you have for your desired keywords and how established your competition may be. In order to rank above your competition, Google needs to regard your website as more relevant to people searching.

Take for example the term ‘maternity wear’. Doing a search on this results in over 16 million results. Out of the 16 million results, only 10 of them can be in the top 10.

In this article we explain how Google ranks websites for specific search terms. This will give you a better understanding of the work involved and what you can do to get good rankings.

If you were hoping for instant great rankings, don’t be disheartened. It is possible to get top 10 rankings (and even number 1 rankings) for new sites. It just requires time, work and quality content.

Keywords in the title tag (5/5)  
We would regard this as exceptionally high value in search engine optimisation. Ensure that the title tag for each of your pages contains keywords that relate to the specific page and ensure you have a few (no more than 2 or 3) keywords at the start of your title tag. For example, if you sell flowers on the gold coast, then the title tag for your home page should be "Flowers Gold Coast, Online delivery - Company Name".

Keywords in the body text (3/5)  
You should always ensure you have keywords in the body text of your pages. Ensure that you do not go overboard though as too many keywords can trigger Google to rate the page as ’spam’ and actually decrease your rankings.

Keywords in the body text relating to content (2/5)  
You should ensure that your body text and keywords do not conflict with each other. In other words if you have a page that talks about car parts, you should ensure that the keywords you are using also relate to this topic.

Keywords in the H1 tag (3/5)  
The H1 tag is commonly used by website designers for headings. You should always use this tag for your headings and ensure that you use keywords that people would search for in your headings. For example, if you have a page featuring maternity wear then your H1 tag should be something like <h1>Maternity Wear</h1>.

Keywords in the domain name (2/5)  
We have found a lot of mis information about this being one of the most important elements of search engine optimisation. Although it can help, we have found it is not critical to getting good rankings in Google. We have however found it helps a bit more with Yahoo rankings.

Keywords in page URL (3/5)  
We have found that naming your pages with keywords can help somewhat in search engine rankings. That being said, we have seen many of our clients websites rank very highly for competitive keywords without worrying about this. This can also be hard to implement on database driven websites where pages are automatically generated depending on the query string.

Meta description and keyword tags (1/5)  
Although 5 or so years ago this was very important, the use of meta tags is pretty much ignored by Google these days. We have found that Yahoo does place a little importance on meta tags but my overall opinion is that this is an area that too many people spend time and effort on without any significant results.

Important Note : Although we have given this 1/5 for SEO purposes, we would give this 5/5 for conversion rate purposes. The meta description is one of the main reasons why someone will click on your links rather than your competitors, especially if it is in the top 5 results. Many times people will glance over search engine results with vague meta descriptions and click on the listing that has a meta description that suits what they are looking for.

For example, if you sell dresses then a meta description of ‘We sell a wide range of stylish dresses. Free Shipping’
HTML validation to W3c standards (0/5)  
Validation of html to the W3c standards is severely over-hyped when it comes to SEO and I have seen no evidence at all of it effecting (positively or negatively) your search engine rankings. Although valid code is definitely a plus, it is often impossible (especially with database driven / dynamic websites) to have 100% validation. Even the Google home page does not meet 100% validation with W3C.

Valid HTML code is however great for ensuring that a site will work in all browsers and pages will render quickly and reliably.

Frequency of updates to pages (5/5)  
We have found that frequently updating pages and adding new (relevant) content to your website can increase your search engine rankings. It seems that Google identifies sites that are being updated regularly and in turn visits and indexes them regularly (on average about once per week). The best type of content to add to your website are news items and articles that relate to the content of your website and include good keywords. This is one of the main reasons why Blogs are so popular these days.

Related to this is the adding of fresh content to your site such as blogging, writing articles, etc.

In 2011 and 2012 Google made some major changes to how it looks at ranking websites. Previously to this, one of the best ways was to get incoming links from various sources which counted as ‘votes’ for a website. Due to unethical linking by many SEO companies (who set up link ‘farms’ to artificially inflate links), Google made major changes to their algorithm to devalue a lot of links and increase in value actual content on the website they regard as ‘quality’.

Quality content is content that is of specific interest to your target market and is related to your products or services. Quality content also attracts links from bloggers and other websites that find your content interesting and will also attract social media interactions such as Facebook likes and shares.

When blogging, our research has also shown that the blog should be an integrated part of your website and not an external blog (such as a Wordpress blog). When a blog is integrated into your site then it becomes part of your site. The content you add to the blog is regarded as actual content within your site. If you use an external blog such as Wordpress then it becomes a separate site which holds little to no value for your site when it comes to SEO.

Age of website (5/5)  
We have found that with Google places a very, very high importance on the age of the website. The main reason I believe this is, is because there is no way to ‘fake’ the age of a website. Google also assumes that if your website has been around for a while, it is popular and useful. Basically if your website is less than a year old then you can often have an uphill battle with rankings for very popular keywords.

Negative factors

The following factors will negatively effect your websites rankings:

Server is often down or very slow 
Content duplicated across the website 
External links to low ranking or spam sites 
Duplicate title / meta tags on many pages 
Participation in link farm schemes or actively selling links on your website 
Overuse of keywords (keyword stuffing / spamming) 
Inbound links from link farms / spam sites 
Low levels of visitors to your website (ie. If a very low percentage of visitors are clicking on search results to get to your site)