1. Fresh Domains Struggle to Rank
How old is your website? A week, a month, or maybe three months?
Typically, this is insufficient for search engines to take your site seriously, particularly in competitive niches with high-demand keywords.
Even with consistent posting of quality content on low-competition keywords, building trust with Google is a slow process.
This is a common barrier for new bloggers: the SEO game requires time.
Don’t expect immediate results from a new website.
However, if your site is several years old with no traffic, there’s more to consider.
For websites under 6 months old, patience is key; they may not have issues yet.
Stay informed about potential pitfalls and focus on continuous improvement.
2. New Articles Take Time to Peak in Rankings
For a detailed understanding, refer to my article “How Long Does it Take to Rank on Google in [year]“.
In brief, new articles typically take 4-8 months to reach peak placement on Google, due to the 200 ranking factors involved.
Some articles may even take longer to achieve their peak performance—the stage where they attract the most page views.
If an article is over a year old and still invisible, it’s time to reassess.
If your content isn’t ranking after several months, you might want to:
- Write more supporting content to establish topical authority
- Revisit the piece and reassess content quality and search intent alignment
- Work on increasing your Domain Authority and Page Authority
- Make sure you maximized internal linking opportunities
3. Your Website is Having Technical Issues
Search engines prioritize websites without technical glitches.
Google Search Console can help you identify severe issues under its Coverage section.
Details about errors and their nature are available in the Details section.
For a thorough audit, use tools like Screaming Frog, which offers both free and paid versions. The free version is sufficient for smaller sites, allowing analysis of up to 500 URLs.
It’s important to address these issues promptly, as they can significantly impact your site’s visibility.
3.1 Robots.txt File Blocking Web Crawlers
The robots.txt file guides search engine crawlers on what they can and cannot access on your site.
To review your robots.txt file, type “yourdomain.com/robots.txt” in your browser.
If it’s set to block all access, this might be a manual setting or an oversight.
Changing robots.txt settings depends on your platform. For specific instructions, a Google search is advisable.
If your site had third-party development, the developers might have overlooked resetting this file to “allow access.”
In such cases, contacting them or referring to detailed guides is essential to resolve this issue.
3.2 Ignoring Noindex and Nofollow Tags Can Be Costly
Noindex meta tags signal search engines to ignore a page.
If set inadvertently, this could mean a page effectively doesn’t exist to search engines, leading to zero visibility in search results.
Imagine the impact if these tags were mistakenly left on your pages.
Regular audits for these tags are crucial, especially if multiple people are updating your website.
Nofollow tags instruct search engines not to follow links on a page. Generally, you want search engines to follow your site’s links.
Google advises using “nofollow” for paid links or untrusted content, as they penalize sites for manipulative backlinks.
Why? Purchased backlinks distort organic search rankings, and Google aims to prevent this.
Use a tool like Screaming Frog to identify pages with Noindex and Nofollow tags.
Regular checks ensure no page is mistakenly tagged, especially in multi-editor environments.
3.3. Absence of an XML Sitemap Limits Your Visibility
An XML Sitemap guides search engine crawlers to every page on your site, enhancing indexing.
While crawlers are increasingly efficient, they sometimes need assistance.
To see if your site has a sitemap, add “/sitemap.xml” to your domain. A 404 Error indicates its absence.
Creating a sitemap is vital. It’s fairly straightforward, depending on your platform.
For WordPress sites, the Yoast SEO plugin can generate a sitemap.
I recommend Yoast SEO for its overall benefits, not just for sitemap generation. The free version suffices for this purpose.
4. Ineffective or Absent Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the brief summaries shown in search engine results. They should lure readers into clicking on your article.
Although just a tweet-length (up to 160 characters), they significantly impact click-through rates.
Google often selects a portion of your article for the meta description, but this might not be the most relevant snippet, which can appear odd in search results and deter potential readers.
Crafting a well-thought-out meta description trumps any automated by Google.
Yoast SEO, for instance, simplifies setting your meta descriptions and offers a preview for mobile and desktop views.
Your meta descriptions should act as engaging advertisements for your content, enticing more clicks in search results, which can boost your article’s ranking.
Remember, the content must deliver value to avoid a high bounce rate.
5. Your Content Isn’t Indexed by Google
You can check if a page is indexed by Google in the Google Search Console.
Simply copy and paste the URL into the search box at the top of the GSC and press Enter.
Google will analyze the URL and return a few important insights one of which is whether it’s indexed or not.
Some of the most common reasons Google doesn’t index content is:
- Poor content quality
- Technical issues
- Site isn’t mobile-friendly
- Site is blocking Google crawlers
There are two main methods to prompt Google to index your article.
- Go to Google Search Console and click “Add Property”.
- Add the URL you want indexed.
- Click “Request Indexing”.
- Wait for your request to be processed (this may take over 20 seconds).
The second method involves paying third party indexing services that use Google API to index your pages.
Typically, these services are inexpensive for small to mid-size website but the costs can rack up for sites with a huge number of pages like ecommerce sites.
6. Lack of Mobile-Friendly Website Design
Did you know that over half of all web traffic now comes from mobile devices?
Mobile usage has eclipsed desktop, and Google has adapted with its mobile-first indexing policy.
This means Google primarily uses the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking.
If your website isn’t optimized for mobile, you’re missing out big time.
Solutions vary by platform. For WordPress, choosing a mobile-friendly theme is a lifesaver.
Another key factor is loading speed, crucial for Google’s assessment of mobile-friendliness.
Slow-loading pages can harm your rankings, but more on that in the next section.
7. Slow Article Loading Speeds
In extreme cases, if your pages load too slowly, Google might not even index them.
Even less severe, slow speeds hurt your rankings.
Over 50% of visitors leave if a page takes longer than three seconds to load.
Google measures user experience from the moment someone clicks your link in the search results.
If they leave before your page loads, it’s bad news for your ranking.
Use Google PageSpeed Insights to assess your website. Just enter a URL and click ‘Analyze’.
For instance, my site scored 80 for Mobile and 99 for Desktop – not too shabby.
Any score under 50 for Mobile and 80 for Desktop is a cause for concern.
Google also suggests ways to improve your load time.
One major area for improvement is image management. Images can make up a large part of a site’s size.
Using an image compression plugin like EWWW Image Optimizer can help.
Remember, your web hosting plan also affects page speed. Dedicated hosting usually outperforms shared hosting but is more expensive.
However, consider upgrading to dedicated hosting only if your site generates revenue and you can reinvest in better hosting.
8. Keyword Research Missteps
As we dive into the content aspects of why your articles aren’t ranking on Google, let’s talk about keyword research.
Keyword research is foundational to content creation.
Both free and paid tools are available for this task. Notable free tools include:
- Answerthepublic.com – explore my comprehensive guide on this tool.
- LSI Keywords generator – discovers related terms for your main keyword.
- Keyword Sheeter – assists in finding long-tail keywords.
- People Also Ask and Related Searches in Google SERPs – great for identifying common queries.
A major issue causing your articles to remain invisible on Google could be targeting overly competitive keywords.
Prioritize long-tail keywords. Here’s an example:
- Headphones for gaming
- Noise cancelling headphones for gaming
- Noise cancelling headphones for PC gaming
- Best noise cancelling headphones for PC gaming under $100
Notice the evolution from a broad to a more specific, targeted keyword.
Long-tail keywords generally face less competition and boast average conversion rates of 36%.
For instance, someone searching for “Best noise cancelling headphones for PC gaming under $100” is likely closer to a purchase than someone just searching “headphones”.
9. Ignoring Search Intent
Search intent is a critical factor that can determine the success or failure of your article.
Missing the search intent means even a well-crafted article might not rank.
For example, a Google search for “birthday presents for girlfriend” primarily yields lists of gift ideas. This indicates that users are seeking ideas, not in-depth analysis of what makes a good gift.
Failing to align your content with this intent means Google won’t favor your article, as it aims to meet users’ actual needs.
Before writing, always Google your keyword for competitive research.
Analyze the types of articles appearing in the top 10 ranks and you’ll know what the search intent for the given keyword is.
For example, if most or all articles are lists of products, that’s what searchers want and click on for this query.
Writing a piece of content consisting of anything but a list of products would be missing the search intent and condemning it to oblivion.
10. Lack of Original Content Hinders Rankings
Unoriginal content is a nuanced issue in SEO.
Google differentiates between ‘copied’ and ‘duplicate’ content, based on intent.
‘Copied’ content implies malicious intent to plagiarize.
‘Duplicate’ content, however, lacks this intent. It can occur naturally, like using manufacturer descriptions on e-commerce sites or replicating your content for legitimate reasons.
Google clarifies there’s no ‘duplicate content penalty’, but copied content is risky, as Google’s algorithm can detect even subtle changes like synonym usage.
Avoid copying content with malicious intent. It’s not a viable long-term strategy and can backfire.
For ‘duplicate content’, my advice is don’t do it unless you’re certain of what you’re doing.
11. Neglecting Multimedia in Articles Can Impact Rankings
Images and videos significantly enhance articles, and Google values this.
Historically, images have been integral to storytelling, a trend that continues digitally.
Articles with images receive up to 94% more views, influencing how search engines perceive their popularity.
Multimedia, especially videos, can drastically increase user engagement.
A case study by Wistia found a 260% increase in dwell time for articles incorporating videos, positively affecting ranking factors like user experience.
Incorporate images and videos judiciously in your content.
They should complement and make sense within the context.
For breaking monotony, an image every 200-300 words is ideal.
In step-by-step guides, use as many as necessary.
Remember, using copyrighted multimedia is strictly prohibited.
12. Lack of Copywriting Skills
Copywriting is crucial in ‘selling’ content to readers, even in a figurative sense.
In the limited space of SERPs, effective copy makes your article stand out.
Most people tend to be headline readers, and often share content based solely on the headline.
A compelling title can significantly boost your content’s social media presence.
I’m also working on enhancing my copywriting skills, so I won’t offer direct solutions here.
However, I recommend several books that are often cited as top resources in copywriting:
- The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly
- Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
- Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
- The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman
- The Ultimate Sales Letter by Dan Kennedy
13. Inaccurate Content
Content accuracy, though not a direct Google ranking factor, significantly impacts how your audience views your content and you as the creator.
Consider this scenario:
- A reader finds your article in the SERPs.
- They start reading but notice an inaccuracy.
- Consequently, they leave the page.
Google may not discern the reason for the bounce but recognizes it occurred.
Accurate content could have kept the reader engaged longer, potentially exploring more of your site.
This affects dwell time, average session duration, bounce rate, etc., all influential in Google’s ranking algorithm.
Content accuracy indirectly influences rankings by impacting these direct factors.
Always aim for the highest accuracy in your articles.
If inaccuracies are discovered post-publication, rectify them promptly.
Even minor corrections can, over time, lead to significant improvements in your rankings.
14. Incomprehensive Content Affects Rankings
Research indicates the average word count for Google’s first page results is 1,890 words.
But more words don’t automatically mean better rankings or better content for that matter.
Long-form content isn’t inherently comprehensive. Merely increasing word count won’t help.
The top results are usually lengthy because they are thorough and comprehensive, covering all or nearly all aspects of a topic.
However, there are scenarios where shorter articles still manage to be more comprehensive than their longer competition.
Tackle your topics from multiple angles to make them comprehensive and useful.
Before writing, review top-ranking articles on your keyword to understand what makes them outstanding.
Strive to produce the best content on that keyword, leveraging this as your competitive edge.
15. Neglecting Updates for Older Articles Limits Their Potential
Your article isn’t final upon publication. Search engines re-index content, noting changes and updates.
Refreshing older posts can be a powerful strategy.
For instance, updating a 2022 article on “Top Places to See in New York” with new locations and adding “Updated for [year]” in the title can increase its relevance and appeal.
This can potentially boost its ranking, transforming a low-traffic article into a high-performing one.
As your expertise grows, revisit older content to cover topics more thoroughly.
Strategic updates can significantly improve your content’s SERP position.
Ensure updates are meaningful, especially if highlighted in the title.
Warning: Avoid changing URLs during updates. When you change the URL, you create an entirely new page in the eyes of Google, as well as leave the previous URL broken.
16. Inconsistency in Publishing High-Quality Content Affects Rankings
According to a certain study, consistently publishing high-quality content is perhaps the #1 Google ranking factor.
Given that there are 7 million articles published daily, standing out with high-quality content is essential.
For new websites, publishing 30-50 articles in the first 2-3 months is often recommended to gain search engine recognition.
Maintaining consistency is even more crucial when building an audience.
High-quality content is consumer-centric and useful.
For a single-creator blog, posting 2-3 times a week is a good benchmark.
However, this varies with your niche and competition.
Creating a content calendar and preparing articles in advance helps maintain consistency.
17. Poor Interlinking Strategy Can Hinder Content Performance
Interlinking refers to linking between pages on your own website.
While many focus on backlinks, they often overlook internal links, which can be equally valuable and best of all – they’re entirely under your control.
Strategically interlinking can boost newer articles in rankings.
Warning: Only interlink when it makes logical sense. Overdoing it can be flagged by Google’s algorithm.
Develop “content silos“.
This involves writing a comprehensive article on a broad topic, then creating related articles that delve into specific sub-topics.
For example, a main article on Affiliate Marketing, supported by articles on its various aspects, forms a content silo.
Interlinking within a silo demonstrates extensive knowledge, presenting you as an expert to Google.
But remember, content silos are more of a long-term strategy.
Initially, focus on achieving smaller wins and targeting long-tail keywords to build authority before tackling major industry topics.
18. Weak or Non-Existent Backlink Profile Affects Rankings
Backlinks, though less dominant than before, remain a key ranking factor.
Google values external links to your content as a sign of credibility and relevance.
A robust backlink profile can substantially elevate your article in search results.
While not having backlinks doesn’t doom your content, it makes competing in crowded niches much tougher.
To gain backlinks legitimately:
- Guest posting: Write for other websites in exchange for a feature.
- Podcasting: Seek opportunities to appear on podcasts, enhancing your authority and earning backlinks.
- Content research: Identify highly linked content in your niche and create superior versions.
- Linkable assets: Develop standout content that naturally attracts backlinks. For instance, statistics often attract backlinks.
19. Incorrect Implementation of E-E-A-T Principles
E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) is particularly impactful in the medical and financial niches (Your Money Your Life – YMYL) where Google places higher scrutiny on content.
But don’t think E-E-A-T doesn’t play a role in other niches because it does.
If you lack formal expertise:
- Leverage experts: Interview or collaborate with professionals to enhance the credibility of your content. For instance, gathering doctors’ opinions on a medical topic and crediting them boosts your content’s authority.
- Publish a book: If you’re knowledgeable, authoring a book can grant significant authority points from search engines. This also opens doors for speaking engagements and podcasts, raising your niche profile and potentially boosting your SERP rankings.
20. Website Neglect Can Hurt Your Google Rankings
Google prefers not to direct traffic to neglected websites, which reflects poorly on their search results.
What constitutes a ‘neglected’ site in the eyes of search engines?
Signs of neglect include:
- Broken links
- Unmoderated comments section
- Spammy content
- Infrequent or no new content
- Broken images
These issues can signal to Google that your content is outdated or your site might be compromised, especially if software updates are ignored, leading to security breaches.
To remedy this, actively maintain your website. Repair broken links and images, moderate comments, remove spam, and consistently publish high-quality content. If Google has penalized your site, these actions can help restore its standing.
21. Google’s Manual Penalties Can Affect Your Website
To check for manual penalties, log into your Google Search Console, go to “Security & Manual Actions” > “Manual Actions.” A green checkmark indicates no issues.
If there’s a penalty, Google will provide the reason.
Most penalties are reversible, but first, address the underlying issues. Once resolved, you can appeal Google’s decision.
22. Not Claiming Local Business Listings Like Google Business Profile Limits Visibility
Important: This is only vitally important for local businesses.
Google Business Profile and other local listings are crucial for businesses with physical locations.
Claiming your business on directories and social platforms is vital, not just for local SEO, but also for your online presence.
With search engines evolving, they now match location-based queries with local results.
For instance, if you have a hiking gear store in Hot Springs, NC, and write about ‘Best Trail Hiking Shoes for Women in Hot Springs,’ someone in Hot Springs searching for this topic is likely to find your article.
Often, users don’t even have to enter the location and Google will serve them localized content for broader queries anyway.
Google understands that local searchers might prefer local stores, enhancing the value of your content and potentially driving customers to you.
Claim and complete your business listings on all relevant local directories, with Google My Business being a priority.
Fully fill out your profile; the completeness of your listing is crucial.
Ensure your Name, Address, and Phone Number (NAP) are consistent across all online platforms, including your website.
If inconsistencies exist due to past changes, consider employing an audit service to address this.