Google page one ranking: 20 shocking reasons your site isn’t at the top

illustration showing google page one ranking

There are a lot of factors that go into Google page one ranking. To help your website show up higher in search engine results, you need to understand the basics of search engine optimization and how Google works so you can do to improve your chances of edging out the competition.

To help you get to the top of SEO rankings, we’ve created a list of 20 common (fixable) problems that might be keeping your web pages from ranking as high as you’d like. Plus, we offer ideas on what you can do to solve each problem.

Keep reading to learn the specifics of how to fix your site’s rankings so you start getting more traffic from the right audience.

Here is a list of the top 20 reasons why some websites can’t get to page one on Google. Are you guilty of any of these SEO no-nos?

  1. Your website isn’t mobile-friendly
  2. You’re not using the right keywords
  3. Your website is not secure
  4. Your website is slow for Google page one ranking
  5. Your website is difficult to navigate
  6. You’ve focused on quantity over quality
  7. You have duplicate content
  8. You’re not using social media
  9. You don’t have an XML sitemap
  10. You don’t have enough (or any) backlinks
  11. You have a poor link profile
  12. Your website is too new
  13. You don’t have enough content for Google page one ranking
  14. You have a penalty from Google
  15. You’re not using Google My Business
  16. Your website isn’t optimized for local search
  17. You’re not using schema markup
  18. Your title tags and meta descriptions are terrible
  19. You’re using too many keywords on a page
  20. You’re not monitoring your website’s performance
1

Your website isn’t mobile-friendly

What is a mobile-friendly website?

A website is responsive when it automatically adapts to the size of the device that’s viewing it. This means that whether someone is accessing your website on a desktop computer, a tablet, or a phone, they’ll see the same content in an easy-to-read format. To make sure your website is responsive, you can use a tool like Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test.

If you don’t have a responsive website, you’ll need to create a separate mobile version of your site. This is a separate website that’s optimized for mobile devices. When someone accesses your website on a mobile device, they’ll be redirected to the mobile version of your site.

Creating a separate mobile version of your site can be a lot of work, so if you don't have the time or resources to do it yourself, you can hire a developer to do it for you.

Google loves mobile-friendly websites, and so do users.

Google's mobile-first indexing means that the search engine now uses the mobile version of your website to rank you in their results.

A recent study by Google found that 75% of users prefer (and are more likely to buy from) a mobile-friendly site. If your website isn't mobile-friendly, you’re losing out on a lot of potential customers because your site makes it difficult for those users to view and use your site. As a result, you’ll likely see a drop in traffic and rankings.

To fix this problem, you’ll need to make sure your website is optimized for users on smartphones or tablets. Unsure how to get started? Here are of the most important characteristics that all website mobile-friendly have in common:

  • Minimized loading times
  • Simplified site menus
  • Easy-to-use, clear, and distraction-free CTAs

Visit Google to test how your site scores on mobile devices and get tips for fixes.

2

You’re not using the right keywords

What are keywords?

Keywords are the words and phrases that people use when they’re searching for information on the internet. When you use relevant keywords on your website, it helps Google to understand what your website is about and match it with relevant searches.

One of the most common problems facing websites is content that features the wrong keywords.

If you want to rank for a certain keyword or keyword phrase, you need to optimize your site with the right terms—otherwise, Google will have no way of knowing that your website is relevant to that keyword.

How to select better keywords

Keyword research tools

Here is a short list of popular tools for finding the right keywords:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ahrefs
  • UberSuggest
  • Semrush
  • Moz

If you are struggling to find the correct keywords to target for specific pages on your business website, here are the three most important questions to answer during your content planning process:

  • Is this keyword specific to your business or product?
  • Is this keyword relevant to your target audience? Does it relate to a pain point? Will people in this group search for this term?
  • Is there a long-tail keyword alternative with search volume that you could target that has less competition?

What are the kinds of keywords should you avoid?

Generally speaking, if your goal is Google page one ranking, here are some of the wrong types of keywords to target on your business website:

Keywords that are too general

Example: Imagine you are a marketing executive at Mattel who wants to pick a keyword for a landing page that you’ll be pointing social media ads to as a way to promote this year’s latest release of holiday-themed Barbie dolls.

  • Avoid: dolls (100K – 1M, high)
  • Good: dolls for kids (1K – 10K, high )
  • Great: Barbies (10K – 100K, high)
  • Best: 2022 Holiday Barbie (100 – 1K, medium)

Keywords that are already being targeted by many others

Example: Imagine you help with marketing at a family-owned nursery, and you want to nurture existing customers (and attract new gardeners) by creating blog content that answers specific questions shoppers have about keeping their plants alive, starting with a blog post about how much water black-eyed susans need to grow.

  • Avoid: perennial flowers (10K – 100K, medium)
  • Good: caring for perennial flowers (10 – 100, low)
  • Great: how to care for black-eyed susans (10 – 100, low)
  • Best: watering black-eyed susans (10 – 100, low)

Industry-specific terms that are too difficult to rank for

Example: Imagine you are a back doctor at a regional hospital and you’re revising bio for your physician detail webpage with a new focus so you can attract more teen patients who need scoliosis or kyphosis surgery.

  • Avoid: orthopedic surgeon (100K – 1M, medium)
  • Good: spine surgeon (10K – 100K, medium)
  • Great: spinal fusion surgeon (10 – 100, low)
  • Best: pediatric spinal fusion surgeon (10 – 100, low)

Long-tail keywords that are too specific

Example: Imagine you are working on a new web page for your business consultancy and you want to build up your small business CEO clientele.

  • Avoid: TestGorilla consulting services for senior management for small businesses (0, —)
  • Good: leadership consulting for small business executives (0, —)
  • Great: executive coaching for small businesses (10 – 100, low)
  • Best: small business coaching (100 – 1K, medium)
3

Your website is not secure

If your website isn’t using HTTPS, that can be another reason why it might not be ranking as high as it could be. HTTPS is a secure protocol that encrypts data as it is being transferred from your website to each user’s browser.

This helps to protect against things like man-in-the-middle attacks, where someone tries to intercept the data being sent between your website and the user. Google has said that they may give a slight ranking boost to websites that use HTTPS, so it’s definitely something worth implementing.

4

Your website is slow for Google page one ranking

In our fast-paced world, people expect websites to load quickly. In fact, according to Google, 53% of internet users will abandon a website if it takes more than three seconds to load.

If your website takes more than a few seconds to load, you’re likely going to see a drop in traffic and rankings.

There are a few different things that can cause a website to be slow, such as big images with large file sizes, unoptimized code, and using too many plugins that take a lot of time to load in.

To solve the problem, identify the culprit behind your slow site speed, and then take steps to fix it. Unsure how to start? Check with your web developer or use a tool like Google’s PageSpeed Insights to get started.

5

Your website is difficult to navigate

If your website is difficult to navigate, that’s another reason why it might not be ranking as high as it could be. Users should be able to easily find the information they're looking for on your website. If they can’t, they're likely to leave your site and go to a competitor’s site that’s easier to use.

To fix this problem, you'll need to take a look at your website’s navigation and make sure it's easy to use.

What is a bounce rate?

Your website's bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who leave your site after viewing only one page. A high bounce rate is an indication that something is wrong with your website. It could be that your website is difficult to use, or it could be that you're not targeting the right keywords.

When people come to your website and then leave quickly, this is a sign that your website design makes it hard for users to find what they need or your content is irrelevant to them.

If you have a high bounce rate, you’ll need to take a look at your website and make sure your web copy is optimized and provides the right information that your target audience is looking for.

To put it more simply: A high bounce rate is an indicator that Google uses for ranking because it’s a signal that your content is unclear or optimized for the wrong terms.

If you want to reduce your website's bounce rate, you need to make sure your website's content is relevant to the keywords you’re targeting and that your website is easy to use.

6

You’ve focused on quantity over quality

It’s no secret that great content is essential for ranking on page one of Google. But what exactly constitutes “great” web content?

Essentially, it’s informative, well-researched, and engaging.

To produce pages on your website with web copy that meets all of these criteria, take the time to understand your audience and what they need. It’s better to have a few pages with helpful information presented in an interesting (and inviting) way that resonates with users than it is to have a lot of pages with subpar or mediocre content that inspires people to click away quickly to find something better.

Pro-tip: Don’t be afraid to update old blog posts with new and relevant information. This will not only improve engagement, but this clean-up is also a signal to Google that your site features fresh and relevant content. Identify any under-performing blog posts with critical keyword targets and give them a makeover.

7

You have duplicate content

If you have duplicate content on multiple pages across your website, this could be another reason why your site might not be ranking as high as it could be.

Google prefers unique content, so if you have the same content on several different pages, the search engine is likely to rank only one of those pages. To fix this problem, identify all instances of duplicate content and then remove these pages or rewrite them.

8

You’re not using social media

One of the best ways to improve your website’s ranking on Google is by using social media. Social media can help you to connect with more people and share your content with a wider audience.

When you share your content on social media, not only are you increasing exposure and engagement for that particular piece of content, but you’re also providing a link back to your website. This can help to improve your website's ranking on Google because it’s seen as being more relevant by the search engine.

Why social media is important for SEO

Google’s algorithm is a constantly evolving beast. But one thing remains true: the best way to rank on page one of Google is to create content that is genuinely useful to your target market. And, one of the best ways to signal to Google that your content is useful is to generate social signals—that is, shares, likes, and comments—on different social media platforms.

Although links from social media don’t count as much as links from other authority websites, they're still helpful. And, more importantly, posts with more social shares tend to rank higher on SERPs. So although social media doesn't have a direct influence on SEO, it can indirectly help you rank higher on page one of Google by:

  • increasing your website's visibility
  • helping you build relationships with potential and current customers

If you’re not using social media, you’re missing out on a valuable opportunity to promote your business and its website.

SEO guide cover

Use this tool to start planning a new website that will drive long-term digital marketing success.

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9

You don’t have an XML sitemap

If you want Google to index all the pages on your website, you need to have an XML sitemap, which is a file that contains a list of all the pages on your website and lets Google know which pages are most important.

You can create an XML sitemap for your website yourself or use a tool (e.g., Yoast SEO) to generate one for you.

Once you have your XML sitemap, you need to submit it to Google Search Console so that the search engine can find and index all the pages on your website.

Discover what are the 5 most important pages to include on your website

10

You don’t have enough (or any) backlinks

Backlinks are links from other websites to your website. They help improve your website’s search visibility and organic traffic because Google uses them as a ranking signal.

The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your site, the better. But beware, too many low-quality backlinks can actually hurt your website’s ranking.

To get high-quality backlinks, create great content that other website owners will want to link to. You can also reach out to other website owners and ask them to link to your site. But, if you’re going to ask for a backlink, don’t just ask for any old link. Make sure the website you’re asking to link is a good fit and has a high domain authority, otherwise you might end up hurting your site’s link profile.

11

You have a poor link profile

Your link profile is the number and quality of links that are pointing to your website. A high-quality link comes from an authority website in your industry and is relevant to your business. A low-quality link comes from a spammy website or is irrelevant to your business.

Google looks at your link profile when determining where to rank your website on SERPs. If you have a high number of low-quality links, this could be one of the reasons why your website isn’t ranking as high as it could be.

To improve your link profile, start by conducting a link audit to identify all the poor-quality links pointing to your website. Once you’ve identified these links, you can either reach out to the website owner and ask them to remove the link or use Google’s disavow tool to tell Google to ignore these links.

12

Your website is too new

If your website is new, it’s going to take some time for it to start ranking on page one of Google. This is because Google needs to crawl and index all the pages on your website before it can determine where to rank them.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula for how long it will take for your website to start ranking.

13

You don’t have enough content for Google page one ranking

If you want to rank well on Google, you need to have more than just one or two pages with high-quality content on your site. This is because Google looks at all of the content on your website to determine how to rank its pages on SERPs.

To improve your chances of ranking, complete a content audit. Identify gaps and determine which pages are too light or need to be updated. Then, get to work on expanding your site with new and refreshed content that is high-quality and keyword-rich.

14

You have a penalty from Google

If you’ve been hit with a penalty from Google, this could be one of the reasons why your website isn’t ranking as high as it should. If you think you’ve been penalized, the first thing you should do is check your Google Search Console account.

Google penalties can be either manual or algorithmic.

Manual penalties

A manual penalty is when someone from Google's spam team reviews your website and determines that you are violating one of their guidelines. If you see a manual action listed in your Google Search Console profile, it will tell you what the problem is and how to fix it.

Algorithmic penalties

An algorithmic penalty is when Google’s algorithm detects that your website is violating one of its guidelines. To learn more, check out Search Engine Journal’s complete list of Google penalties and guidelines on how to recover.

15

You’re not using Google My Business

Google My Business is a free listing that allows businesses to control how they appear on Google Maps and in the local search results. Google uses a company’s Google My Business listing to generate the information that appears in the Knowledge Panel on the right-hand side of SERPs, such as:

  • business name
  • business address
  • business phone number(s)
  • website
  • hours of operation
  • customer reviews
  • photos
  • news
  • etc.

You might be thinking to yourself: “Okay, but what does Google My Business have to do with optimizing my website for Google page one ranking?”

The answer is ... a lot! By optimizing your Google My Business listing, you’re increasing your chances of appearing in the local search results and generating more leads for your business. It appears in what is called the local pack section of SERPs.

What is the local pack?

The local pack is that map section that appears at the top of SERPs when someone searches for a local business. If you want your website to appear in the local pack, you need to claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.

What can I do to make my company’s Google My Business listing better?

To optimize your Google My Business listing, start by claiming your listing and then filling out all the fields with accurate and up-to-date information. Be sure to include your business name, address, phone number, website, hours of operation, and category. You should also add photos and encourage customers to leave reviews.

16

Your website isn’t optimized for local search

If you want your website to rank in the local search results, you need to make sure it’s optimized for local SEO.

How do you improve local SEO?

There are several things you can do to improve your local SEO, including:

  • Creating and claiming a Google My Business listing (see #15)
  • Adding NAP (name, address, phone number) information to your website (see #17)
  • Using keyword-rich titles and descriptions (see #18)
  • Creating fresh, original content (see #6)
  • Building citations and links to your website from other local websites, directories, and business listing sites (see #10)
17

You’re not using schema markup

Schema markup is code (semantic vocabulary) that you can add to your website to help search engines return more information about your site in the SERPs.

Schema markup is a great way to improve your click-through rate because it makes your listings in the SERPs more informative and eye-catching.

If you’re not using schema markup, you’re missing out on an opportunity to improve your website’s chances to rank on page one of Google (which can help you generate more traffic to your site).

18

Your title tags and meta descriptions are terrible

Your title tags and meta descriptions are basically mini billboards for a webpage. They are the first thing people see in the SERPs, so you want to make sure their text is optimized to encourage click-throughs.

Your title tag should be no longer than 60 characters and your meta description should be no longer than 150 characters. Both should be unique, descriptive, and relevant to the page they’re on.

Including target keywords in your title tags and meta descriptions can also help you rank higher in the SERPs. But be careful not to stuff your title tags and meta descriptions with too many keywords or Google might penalize you for adding clunky text to your metadata that isn’t user-friendly.

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19

You’re using too many keywords on a page

If you stuff a page with too many keywords, Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing. This means your website could get pushed down in the SERPs or even get completely removed from the search index.

Keyword stuffing happens when you include too many keywords on a page in an attempt to rank higher for those keywords. But, including too many keywords on a page looks unnatural and can ultimately hurt your website’s ranking.

To avoid keyword stuffing, make sure you’re only including a primary keyword or secondary keywords on a page as part of your web copy if those terms are relevant to the content on the page.

You should also avoid using the same keyword over and over again on a page. If you need to use the same term multiple times, try using variations of the keyword or synonyms.

20

You’re not monitoring your website’s performance

If you want your website to rank on page one of Google, you need to continuously monitor your website’s performance. This means regularly checking your website’s traffic, ranking, and conversion rate using a tool like Google Analytics, Google Search Console, etc.

Monitoring your website’s performance will help you identify any areas that need improvement so you can make the necessary changes to improve your website’s ranking.

What is Google Search Console, and how exactly can I use it to monitor my site’s keywords?

Google Search Console is a free tool that allows you to see how your website is performing in the search results and make changes to improve your ranking.

To use Google Search Console, you first need to add and verify your website. Once you've done this, you can begin using the tool to see which of your pages are appearing in the search results, how often they're being clicked on, and what keywords they're ranking for.

Frequently asked questions about Google page one ranking

What is SEO, and how do you create an SEO strategy for your website?

SEO is short for search engine optimization, and it is the process of optimizing your website so that it will rank higher in search engine results pages, also known as SERPs. If you want your website to rank on the first page of Google SERPs for your target keywords, then you need to have an effective SEO strategy.

An SEO strategy is a plan of action designed to improve your site’s ranking on search engines. This can involve optimizing your website’s content, structure, and design as well as building links to it from other sites with authority.

If you want your website to rank on page one of Google, then you need to have an effective SEO strategy. You should continually be working on your SEO to ensure that your website continues to rank well. Creating high-quality content, building links, and optimizing for voice search and local SEO are all important factors in determining your website’s ranking.

How long does it take for an SEO campaign to help you rank on page one of Google?

The time it takes for an SEO campaign to show results varies depending on the competitiveness of your industry, the effectiveness of your campaign, and other factors.

In general, however, you can expect to see some results within a few months.

What are the most common SEO mistakes?

Some typical SEO-related problems on websites stem from:

  • Not optimizing your website for mobile devices
  • Not using keyword-rich titles and descriptions
  • Not building links to your website
  • Not creating fresh, original content
  • Creating duplicate content
  • Keyword stuffing

How do you optimize a website for voice search?

Here are some tips for optimizing your website for voice search:

  • Use natural language
  • Make your content easy to read
  • Use short, concise sentences
  • Use headings and lists
  • Target long-tail keywords
  • Optimize your website for mobile devices

Getting started with improving your website’s Google rankings

Now that you know the reasons why your website might not be ranking on page one of Google, it’s time to take action and improve your SEO strategy.

If you follow the tips we’ve outlined in this article, you can improve your website’s ranking on Google and increase your chances of being found by potential customers.

Why hire TBH Creative for help with Google page one ranking

SEO can be a complex and expensive undertaking, but it is important for businesses that want to be found online. The good news is that there are some things you can do to improve your website’s ranking on Google.

Want your site to perform better but don’t have the time? Consider hiring a search engine optimization specialist to help you rank on Google’s first page.

TBH Creative is an award-winning web design and development agency in Indianapolis with experience building sites and writing web content that helps companies in competitive industries achieve Google page one ranking. How can we help you?

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Joy

About the author | Joy Miller

Joy is the creative director at TBH Creative and uses her expertise to help clients use their online communications to build, design, and manage their brands. She likes to blog about content marketing in all its forms, the latest trends in digital marketing, and share tools with readers.

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