Passionate Digital Marketing Strategist, SEO student, Web Designer
Here you will learn what’s stopping your excellent site from hitting the first page of Google.
No Google doesn’t hate your website, but your poor rank definitely has something to do with the 7 reasons you'll find below.
Do you have a new website?
Perhaps it’s still on probation and unable to complete normally? That’s called being in Google's Sandbox.
Google Sandbox is an alleged filter (supposedly added in March 2004) that stops new websites from ranking highly in the SERPs.
In other words, with the filter actively working against you, you can’t rank even if your SEO is perfect.
Seems unfair but Google does this to prevent fly-by-night, churn-and-burn sites from ranking quickly with black hat spam, especially in more competitive and valuable SERPs.
How to Get Out of Google Sandbox Faster?
First, the good news. You don’t need to pay for an SEO service to get out of the sandbox.
Second, you’ll need to wait a bit. Some time needs to pass and usually it’s 6-8 months.
Third, proceed with building a trust and social fortress around your site.
Open up branded accounts with:
Fourth, become active on social media. Google wants to see you participate in your niche and that there's a real person behind your branded account and website.
Your social activity + social signals you scoop up for your site will make Google trust you more.
Fifth, avoid adding affiliate links.
Google has no problem with affiliate sites as long as they provide value.
But more often than not affiliate sites are thin affiliate sites whose affiliate campaigns are barely above pure spam and Google actively strives to remove such sites from their SERPS.
It’s best not to risk it, especially early on when you have no traffic and no one is going to be clicking on your affiliate links.
Finally, and this is a bonus tip as almost no one does this, send local citations to your site. They will funnel a bit more trust to your property and yes, citations help even if you run an affiliate business.
By “wrong”, I mean hard terms that are impossible to rank for.
Honestly, this is the most common mistake SEO newbies make. They see a large keyword with 300,000 searches per month and become fixated on it.
They imagine ranking for it and think that if they could just rank for just that one keyword all their problems would go away.
Of course, the real world doesn't work like that at all.
First, head terms are reserved for the oldest and strongest of websites on the internet. New sites can never rank for them. Second, head phrases come with extremely murky search intent.
Take for example the keyword “SEO”.
It boasts a huge search volume, with hundreds of thousands of searches per month. But what do these people really want? To read about SEO? To learn the definition of SEO? Are they looking for SEO services near them? Or are they looking for a general SEO specialist to do an SEO audit for their property?
Who can really tell?
That kind of traffic is next to useless in my opinion.
The answer to this problem is to target long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords contain the head term plus 4-5 extra words. They are usually really low in competition and even new sites can rank for them.
In fact, to tie this with the previous point, targeting really low competition keywords (or better yet KGR keywords) is one of the easiest ways to get out of the Sandbox faster, because as soon as you start ranking for stuff you’re officially out of the probation period.
Ugly sites, even with good content, can't rank anymore. Web users are spoiled now and know that they have ample choice of websites for any query they type in a search.
So, if someone clicks on your site from the SERPS, lands on your page and is welcomed with a website that seems stuck in the nineties, they will immediately hit the back button. This will tell Google that your site is so bad no one can even stand to be on it.
And then they’ll demote you and you’ll lose your high ranking position.
So in order to successfully compete, you need to have a decent looking site, a branded logo, and a consistent color scheme.
Notice that I didn’t mention custom design? That’s because you don’t need to pay a developer to customize your blog. A good premium theme enhanced with Elementor will do the job just fine.
Likewise, gone are the days where you could rank with just words on the page. It used to be that Google would rank anything as long as there were at least some keywords present to tell them what the article’s about.
But now in 2021 and beyond there’s more than enough content for any keyword imaginable and content quality is the way to stand out from the sea of mediocrity.
What Does “Content Quality” Mean?
Quality content is the one that matches the user intent and answers the searcher’s query in full. People online are looking for answers and if you can furnish them with what they need and fast you’ll be in good shape.
Again, I mention that you don't need to have a custom design for your content to stand out (creating engaging visuals does help a ton though).
Instead do thorough research and really bring your A-Game with every piece of content you publish.
That’s enough to rank for the majority of search terms because most bloggers are winging it with their content creation - even while creating helpful and useful content remains absolutely crucial to rank in Google.
Never build links without the accompanying social shares. Links are a relative rarity on the web. They happen, but not nearly as often as you’d think
Think about it, how many of your readers have blogs? How many or of them are actively publishing content? How many of them are willing to link to you? Some probably, but not too many.
And then consider this. How many among your audience have Twitter and Facebook accounts where they can share content? All of them! And many of them will share your content with their followers.
The point is that social shares are abundant on the web and they always naturally happen before links. So, before building a single link you need to pave the road for them to happen.
What to Do if You’ve Already Built Links Without Social Shares?
Luckily, this is an easy fix. Stop all link building and start sending social shares immediately. This will “make” the algorithm believe your links are genuine and you will get unstuck.
Maybe you're ranking just fine. Maybe you’re ranking better than normal even though you're on the 5th page?
What do I mean?
The point is that ranking in Google organically is a long term process and it seems even longer when you’re impatient.
The solution is to create more content so you create topical authority and have more chances of ranking. You should also build more links because links can significantly speed up the process.
Bonus Tip - proper site architecture is also crucial to speeding up the rankings process. Site architecture is nothing more than interlinking your site in such a way that PageRank flows to your money pages powering them up and giving them above average ranking position in a shorter time frame. Uff, what a mouthful of a sentence, I know :)
If you have a Google penalty applied against your site you will struggle to rank even if you do excellent SEO.
Penalties are in a lot of ways similar to Google Sandbox, but the difference is that they won’t go away on their own and you have to put in a lot of effort into fixing them.
There’s no room for it here as it’s a vast topic for a whole other guide, but basically, all Google penalties are divided into:
You can check for manual penalties in your Google Search Console. Go to your Google Search Console and click on “manual actions” tab to see if you’ve been affected.
If you have an algorithmic penalty you won’t be informed and you’ll have to figure it out on your own.
The easiest way to figure out is to see if you have a huge drop off in traffic coinciding with a time frame where there were no known Google core updates.
If that’s the case then you need to see what is going on with your traffic.
If you see a drop-off like this it’s time to investigate further.
It’s going to be harder to rank in Google. That's one SEO prediction that is guaranteed to come true in 2021 and beyond.
However, we as webmasters can’t despair over it. Instead, we need to equip ourselves with knowledge, skill and perseverance to succeed.
If you have a struggling site, make sure that one of the reasons above is not the culprit for your poor rank. If it is, fix it and move on.
As long as you keep moving, learning and doing, you’ll ultimately succeed.
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