How to get visible on Google
In this article, you'll learn how Google finds your website, how to check if your website is visible on Google and what to do if you lose visibility on Google. If you're a beginner and want to learn how to optimise your website for maximum visibility on Google, I recommend you read the article on search engine optimization or pick up a copy of our new SEO book.
Google is a fully automated search engine that uses so-called webcrawlers continuously scours the web for new websites and content, which is then added to search results. The vast majority of websites are not manually submitted to Google, but indexed (i.e. found and added) automatically by Google when Google's web crawlers crawl the web.
In other words, Google automatically indexes your website, which means that Google automatically collects information about the website so that Google can display it in search results. But there can be both intentional and unintentional reasons why Google can't index your website. You can easily check if your website is indexed in one of two ways:
- Create a free user in Google Search Console (you should do this in any case). Click on the 'Coverage' link in the menu on the left. You will then see the number of pages on your website that Google has indexed.
- Do a Google search for site:ditwebsite.dk. Google then returns a list of all indexed pages on your website. Review the list and check that the number of indexed pages is equal to the number of pages on your website.
If you've just launched your website, it can take up to a month for Google to find it and index it. You can help Google index your website faster by setting it up in Google Search Console. New pages on an existing website can take anywhere from a few minutes to several weeks to be indexed. The more often you create new content for your website and change existing content, the more often Google will review your website for new content.
Example of the process behind the visibility of the wt website
Reasons why you are not visible on Google
We often see companies approach us in a state of panic because they have suddenly lost a lot of visibility on Google. And there's good reason to panic, because organic visibility is a crucial part of many businesses' marketing, as around 90 % of all clicks are made precisely on organic rankings. Fortunately, it is often possible to find the cause of lost visibility and repair the damage.
But it can be a very time-consuming process, because there are many factors that determine a website's ranking on Google. Here we've put together a short checklist of the main reasons for lost visibility on Google:
- The website is less than 1 month old and Google has not crawled it yet. Wait for the situation or submit a sitemap to Google via the website robots.txt file to speed up the process (more on this in the next section).
- The website has access protection, for example login or blocking of selected IP addresses. Make the content of the website publicly available to everyone so that Google is no longer prevented from indexing it.
- A -tag the website source code on one or more pages. Ask your web developers to remove noindex tagso you're no longer telling Google not to index pages.
- One or more disallows in the site's robots.txt file. Ask your web developers to remove disallow directive from the pages you want indexed, so you're no longer telling Google not to index the pages.
- The website is built using Adobe Flash technology. Use a more modern technology to display content on the website so that Google is able to read the text.
- The content of the website is duplicated. Avoid having the exact same content on several different URLs (on your own website or across different websites), as Google only wants to show one version of the same content.
All modern CMS systems automatically allow search engines to index website content. However, it is not unusual for some folders and files to be made inaccessible, for example system files and files containing passwords to the database, which you do not want indexed for good reason.
If you act quickly, you can often repair the damage so that the outcome is short-lived. Of course, you can also use the checklist as part of a preventive SEO effort. By establishing good working practices in your SEO work, you can prevent potential problems and avoid suddenly losing valuable visibility on Google.
Advanced reasons why your website is not visible
In addition to the common reasons for your website not being visible on Google listed above, there can be a number of other reasons for lost visibility. They are:
1. New inbound links
Google usually considers inbound links as an indication of your website's quality, but a sudden increase in the number of inbound links to your website can sometimes trigger a drop in your Google rankings. It is the credibility of the inbound links that determines whether the new links have a positive or negative impact on your website's rankings.
Bad, suspicious and unnatural links that break Google's quality guidelines (so-called link spam), may cause Google to penalize your website - especially after the algorithm update Google Penguin i 2012. First, try to remove the bad links by contacting the owners of the websites that link to you. Then ask Google to disregard those links by following Google's own guide.
You can use Google Search Console to monitor inbound links to your website. Click on "Search traffic" and then on "Links to your website". In the "Who links most" column, click "More " and you can now use the "Get newest links" button to see if you've suddenly got a lot of new links and where they're coming from.
If your website has had credibility issues in the past, for example if Google has recorded many unnatural links to your website in the past, Google may for a short period of time rate new links negatively - even if the links are natural and relevant - in order to prevent any attempts to manipulate search results.
2. Missing links
Lost inbound links (including inbound links that are temporarily unavailable and inbound links that point to non-existent pages on your website) can have a big impact on your Google rankings. This is especially true if your website has only a few inbound links, in which case each link has a relatively high percentage value.
It's not unusual for inbound links to disappear over time, but the more inbound links that disappear or point to non-existent pages, the more SEO value you're missing out on. You can use an SEO tool such as Majestic to check which links have been lost. Alternatively, if you have a list of pages that no longer exist (for example, pages from a defunct blog or subdomain), you can use a Bulk Backlink Checker to check whether there are inbound links pointing to these pages.
Handling links that point to non-existent pages on your website is a simple and effective link building method. Simply redirect visitors from non-existent pages to relevant, existing pages to regain link value. Recovering links that have disappeared is a much more difficult task. You then have to contact the owners of the websites that no longer link to you and kindly ask them to link to your website again.
3. Missed redirects
If you have previously relaunched your website or made a major update, in many cases redirects from old non-existent pages to new pages, both to retain visitors and to maintain the SEO value of the old pages.
Your website relies on these redirects to maintain its rankings on Google, so if you suddenly lose your redirects, it can have an impact on your visibility. So check all redirects to make sure they are still active and working. This check should be done regularly so that you are always sure that redirects are active.
4. Algorithm updates
Google is constantly updating its search algorithm to improve usability and display the most relevant search results to users. You may have already heard about Penguin, Panda, Pigeon, Hummingbird and Mobilegeddon, all popular names for some of Google's major algorithm updates.
A drop in visibility on Google may be due to a major or minor update of Google's search algorithm. Sometimes Google itself announces the updates on their blogand they also explain the impact of the updates on search results. Other times, the updates are hidden and it can be more difficult to understand the impact and how to compensate for it.
If your drop in visibility on Google coincides with an algorithm update, chances are the algorithm update is the cause. Algorithm updates typically affect your entire website, so you'll see an overall drop in your website's rankings. In addition to Google's own blog, you can use Mozcast or Advanced Web Ranking to keep you up to date on Google's search algorithm.
The best way to avoid a drop in your rankings as a result of an algorithm update is to create a good website with quality content, and otherwise avoid using short-term and dubious SEO methods - because these are exactly the methods Google is trying to kill with their constant updates.
5. Manual sanctions
If you experience a sudden and large drop in your rankings on Google, it may be due to a manual sanction from Google. Manual sanctions are actions taken by a member of Google's Search Quality Team to punish inappropriate or illegal behaviour that violates Google guidelines for webmasters.
For example, you may be sanctioned if you use black hat SEO (unethical search engine optimisation), if you have illegal content on your website, if you have copied other people's content, if you generate content automatically, or if you otherwise behave in a suspicious manner (for example, by spreading viruses or trojans).
If Google manually sanctions your website, you will typically be able to see this in Google Search Console via the "Search Traffic" menu link and then "Manual Actions". It is important that you read the reason for the sanction carefully so that you can correct your behaviour. But even if you change your behaviour immediately, it may be a long time before Google removes the penalty.
6. Changed search behaviour
In some cases, neither your website nor Google's search algorithm is the cause of declining visibility and visitors. It can also be due to changes in user search behaviour. This is particularly the case for seasonal keywords such as "summer holidays", "Christmas party" and "fireworks" and for more news-based keywords, where current news is typically favoured in search results over static websites. The latter is called "Query Deserved Freshness".
Changes in search behaviour typically only affect individual keywords, so you will usually only see declining rankings for individual pages and not the whole website. A temporary change in search behaviour for seasonal keywords is natural and not something you necessarily need to worry about.
On the other hand, it is important to be aware of permanent changes in search behaviour, for example due to new technology (including new ways of searching), outdated products or words falling out of the Danish language.
7. Changed user behaviour
Google weights user behaviour (so-called User Signals) in their search algorithm because it gives an indication of how good your website is and how relevant it is to users. User Signals include the click-through rate, the bounce rate and the time visitors spend on your website. A decreasing click-through rate, an increasing bounce rate and a decreasing time spent can therefore have an impact on your website's ranking on Google.
You can get information about your click rate, your bounce rate and the time visitors spend on your website via Google Search Console and Google Analytics. If you are experiencing a drop in visibility on specific pages, you should check whether user behaviour has changed on those pages, as this may be the answer to solving the problem of declining visibility.
The Internet is dynamic, which means that content and technologies are changing (for the better) all the time. And you're certainly not the only one vying for a top spot in Google search results. So you're at constant risk of being overtaken in the search results by your competitors, reducing your visibility.
You can perform selected searches on Google to see how you and your competitors rank. If your competitors have overtaken you, you will see that they are ranked above you in the search results, while other websites have more or less the same ranking as before. If all the websites in the search results have been swapped, it is unlikely that a competitor has simply overtaken you.
If you have been overtaken by a competitor, it is important to examine their link building strategies in order to plan how to regain the lead. You may want to carry out a competitor and market analysis in order to lay out a concrete strategy for your SEO work.
9. Changes to the website
In larger companies, it is not uncommon for web developers and content providers to make changes to the website without notifying the marketing team and other key stakeholders about the website. This can have major consequences for visibility on Google, because when working with SEO, it is important that everyone is included in SEO strategy.
Therefore, you should ensure that the action plan for your SEO strategy is implemented across all departments in the company. Once the damage has been done, it's a huge benefit to have automatic versioning set up on your website so you can see what changes have been made to the site and restore an earlier version if necessary.
10. Technical elements
There are a number of technical on-site elements that can influence your Google rankings. Typical problems include content that cannot be rendered (and therefore cannot be indexed by Google), incorrect canonical tags and a robots.txt file that blocks search engines from accessing the site.
For example, you can use our technical SEO checklist to assess whether your declining visibility is due to problems with your on-site SEO. You may also want to take a look at any crawl errors in Google Search Console via the "Crawl" menu item and then "Crawl Errors".
11. Problems with the web server
Web server errors can make it difficult - or impossible - for search engines (including Google) to index your website, and you'll experience constant or intermittent drops in your website's rankings and visitor numbers. For example, a broken cache function mean that Google indexes faulty or outdated versions of your website, and you risk missing out on a lot of visitor traffic.
You may be able to find any server errors by checking your log files. You can also use the "Get and Replay" feature in Google Search Console (via the "Browse" menu link and then "Googlebot Simulator") to examine how Google indexes your website. Read the article on server error for more information on the importance of the web server for SEO.
Frequently asked questions
How do I get visible on Google?
Achieving visibility on Google requires ongoing efforts in three areas: technology, content and links. Read more about these areas in our SEO book.
Why am I not visible on Google?
Lack of visibility can have a number of common causes. If your website is less than a month old, it may be because Google hasn't indexed it yet. It could also be because you're blocking Google from the site via your robots.txt file or a noindex tag in the source code.
Can I buy visibility?
Yes. For many searches, paid ads appear at the top of search results, which you can buy through Google Ads.