If your perfectly optimized post isn’t ranking, what could be the matter? Is the problem that your site is not on Google at all, or is something else going wrong? What is keeping your content from reaching that coveted #1 position? In this post, we’ll discuss ten possible reasons why your page is not ranking, even though it’s optimized.
We’ve divided the possible issues you might be having into four sections:
- Indexing and crawl issues: How to check if your site is on Google, plus reasons why your site/page might not be on Google
- Technical issues with your website: Is Google disregarding your site because it’s not set up correctly?
- Linking issues: Is your internal linking structure and lack of quality backlinks limiting your success?
- Content and keyword issues: Is your content high quality and aligned to the right search intent? Are your keywords just too competitive?
If you’re not sure where the issue lies, you can also run a quick SEO audit to see if you’ve missed something. Remember, if you want your pages to rank, and keep ranking, your site will need to be SEO fit!
Quick question: how’s your internal linking? If your content is optimized but not ranking, or Google is ranking the wrong pages from your site, it could be because you need to improve your site structure or fix your orphaned content. We’ve made some really neat SEO workouts to help you check and remedy these kinds of issues — check them out and fix those issues now!
Indexing and crawl issues
The first few points on the list all deal with indexing and crawl issues. Put simply, you can’t rank if your page or site is not on Google in the first place. If you find these topics confusing, you might want to read up on how Google works and how to start with SEO.
1. Your site/page is not on Google
If you’re unsure whether your site is on Google or not, you can check using the site: search operator in Google. Type site:yoast.com and you’ll see a list of pages found on that domain. If you type in the full URL of a specific article, you should see only one search result return. If you see your pages, this means that Google does know about your site and has put — at least some of it — in its index. Once you discover that your page is in the index, but you think it is not performing well, you might want to dig deeper.
How to fix it
Check your WordPress Reading Settings. For the Search Visibility option, if you’ve ticked the box ‘Discourage search engines from indexing this site’, then that’s the most likely reason that your site is not on Google. If that’s the case, uncheck that box and click to save your changes. If the problem is that only some specific pages aren’t showing up on Google, then you might want to review your Search Appearance settings in Yoast SEO. Go to the tab for ‘Content Types’ and make sure your settings are correct.
2. Your site/page is still too new
If your site or page is new, it might simply be a matter chilling out and checking back in a little while. There are a lot of moving parts in getting your content crawled, indexed and ranked. Sometimes, it takes days or maybe even weeks for Google to finish its discovery process.
How to fix it
If you check and find your site is not on Google yet, you can install Yoast SEO and submit the generated XML sitemap to Google Search Console to help Google to discover your website. In Search Console, you can also use the URL Inspection tool to find out how specific pages are doing. It tells you exactly how Google crawls and views your site.
3. Your content is noindexed
One of the most common reasons for Google not indexing your site or a specific page is because it has — inadvertently — been noindexed. Adding noindex meta robots tags to a page tells Googlebot that it can crawl a page, but that the results can’t be added to the index.
How can you check if your page is noindexed? That’s easy, simply open the page and view the source code. Somewhere in the head of the page, you’ll find the code below. This tells search engine crawlers that the content of the page shouldn’t be added to the index and, thus, keep it from ranking.
<meta name="robots" content="noindex">
How to fix it
It happens! Even we occasionally make a mistake and inadvertently noindex a post. Luckily, it’s an easy fix. Willemien describes how to set a piece of content back on the right track with Yoast SEO.
4. Your site/page is blocking Google with robots.txt
You might have told Google not to index your content, but it’s also possible you’ve told Google not to crawl your site at all! Blocking crawlers in a so-called robots.txt file is a sure-fire way to never get any traffic. Blocking robots is easier than you might think. For instance, WordPress has a Search Engine Visibility setting that — once set to Discourage search engines from indexing this site — does its utmost best to keep crawlers out. Uncheck this to make your site available again.
From WordPress 5.3 on, WordPress uses the noindex approach described in point 3 to handle indexing of sites via the Search Engine Visibility setting. This change was necessary because Google sometimes still indexed pages it encountered.
How to fix it
If your robots.txt file is blocking Google from crawling your website (or parts of it) and you want to change that, then you’ll need to edit the file. You can follow this guide to edit your robots.txt file.
Technical issues affecting ranking
Is your page/website is indexed but not ranking? Then technical problems are something you might want to check. You can try taking our Technical SEO fitness quiz to see if your technical SEO is up to scratch.
5. You’re not ranking because your site has technical issues
Your website needs to meet certain technical benchmarks if you’re going to rank on Google! Loading speed, or how quickly your pages load, is an important factor. Security is important too, and that’s not all. You can read about all the essentials in our article: 8 things everyone should know about technical SEO.
If your post doesn’t show up in the search engines at all, technical issues could be preventing it from appearing in the search results completely. You could have conflicting plugins causing problems, and we’ve also seen some themes that actually prevent Google from indexing your site. And, while Yoast SEO takes care of many technical issues under the hood, it should be set correctly to do that properly.
How to fix it
The fix you need will depend on the technical issues your website is having, and we can’t cover everything here. You might want to check the following points:
- Ensure all your Yoast plugin settings are correct
- Check that you’re doing things the right way to keep loading times down
- Make sure your site is set to https:// and your security certificates are up to date
- Check your plugins and/or theme aren’t causing problems.
If everything looks good with your technical SEO, and your site is indexed, you’ll need to dig around some more to find out what the problem is. Keep reading!
6. You’re being penalized for breaking SEO rules
If Google catches you using shady SEO techniques that it doesn’t allow — e.g. sneaky tactics like buying links or stuffing keywords into hidden text — your page or site can be penalized. When you’re already putting in the effort to make a good website and quality content, it’s counterproductive to try. Even when everything else on your page is perfect, if you’re doing something that Google doesn’t allow then you’re going to have problems ranking (or even appearing in the Google search results at all).
Most of these things are common sense, so if you’re not trying to trick Google or spam people, you probably don’t need to worry. However there are a few things that used to be common practice in SEO that can now lead to major penalties — check out our article about SEO myths for more examples of bad SEO practices to avoid.
How to fix it
You can check whether Google has flagged your page for having these kinds of problems in the Manual Actions tab in Google Search Console (GSC). If you’re still new to using GSC, you might want to check out our introductory article. If you find an issue under the Manual Actions tab, you can take a look at this help article to find out more about what it means and how to fix it.
Linking issues that affect ranking
Having a good internal linking structure and quality backlinks are important if you want to rank high. Google crawls the web, following each link it finds, so if your links are lacking it can cause you problems with ranking.
7. Your site doesn’t have a proper internal linking structure
Another reason why your content doesn’t show up in the search results: a crucial part of your SEO strategy is not in order. Don’t underestimate the importance of site structure – the internal linking structure – for your SEO strategy. Having a clear site structure leads to better understanding of your site by Google. If your internal linking structure is poor, chances to rank high are lower – even when your content is well-optimized and awesome.
How to fix it
Start adding those links! Make sure that your important posts and pages have the most internal links to them. But don’t randomly add links: make sure you add relevant, related links that add value for your users.
You can use the Yoast SEO orphaned content filter to find posts without incoming internal links. Yoast SEO premium will help you even more by offering helpful linking suggestions as you’re writing. And if you really want to improve your site structure, check out our site structure training!
Read on: Site structure: the ultimate guide »
8. There are few backlinks to your site
If you just started out with your website, your content won’t instantly rank. Not even if you have optimized everything perfectly and every bullet in Yoast SEO is green. To be able to rank, you’ll need some links from other websites. After all, Google has to know your website exists.
How to fix it
Creating incredible content is a good way to get links to your pages. High-quality content tends to attract clicks from readers who might also share the content far and wide via social media as well. All this helps to get those links. Of course, there’s more you can do to get links in a natural, non-spammy way: here are fifteen ways of getting high-quality backlinks.
In order to get (more) backlinks, you can reach out to other websites. You’ll need to do some PR or link building. Ask them to mention your site or talk about your product and link to your site. You can also use social media to get the word out! Learn all about link building strategies in our All-Around SEO training!
Content and keyword issues affecting ranking
If everything else is as it should be SEO-wise, then the reason your page or site is not ranking might be related to your content or keywords. You can also take our Content SEO fitness quiz to see if you might have issues with your site’s content.
9. Your page is great, but there’s too much competition
In most cases, the reason a page doesn’t rank is that there’s simply too much competition. If you optimize your content for competitive keywords and keyphrases, such as [cat behavior], [robot vacuum cleaner], or [real estate agent], chances are high you won’t rank for that term.
To find out if this is the problem, check the results pages for your keyword. Do high authority sites, such as Wikipedia or Amazon, dominate the first page? Do you see many sites that have already firmly established themselves in this niche? Odds are, your site doesn’t have the authority that these other sites have (yet). So you can optimize all you want, but unfortunately, that’s not enough to rank high in the search results if your niche is too competitive.
How to fix it
If you want to rank for highly competitive terms, you should try a long tail keyword strategy. Write content that targets related long tail keywords and phrases before tackling the competitive keywords. If these long tail articles start ranking, you’ll be able to rank for more competitive terms as well. Such a strategy requires long-term efforts, but in the end, it will pay off.
Read more: Why you should focus on long tail keywords »
10. Low quality content, or wrong type of intent
One final thing that could be the reason your content isn’t ranking: it doesn’t match the intent of people searching for your keyword. Search intent is becoming an increasingly important factor for search engines these days: do people want to buy something, go to a specific website, or are they looking for information? Even if you’re targeting a more long tail keyphrase, if your content doesn’t match the dominant intent of searchers, odds are search engines won’t show it in the results because it won’t be what people are looking for.
Let’s look at a few examples. Say you’re a dog trainer who wants to rank for puppy training services, so you optimize for [training your puppy], with transactional intent in mind. But if you look at the search results, you’ll see that there are informational videos, and all the results explain how to train a puppy yourself. So searchers actually have informational intent. This can work the other way around too. If you’ve written a step-by-step guide for your blog on how to make your own garden decoration, aiming to rank for [flower garland garden decoration], you may have trouble ranking for that term if people just want to buy that, not make it themselves.
Bear in mind that not every search term has one dominant type of intent. Also, it isn’t impossible to rank with content for differing intent. Still, it can be worthwhile to look into this if your optimized content doesn’t rank in the search engines.
How to fix it
Unfortunately, you don’t have the power to change the intent of search engine users. But you can adapt your content strategy. If your optimized content isn’t ranking, take a good look at the search results (use private mode) and analyze what you see. Is one specific type of result dominant? Are there images or videos? Which related queries are shown? This is where your opportunities are. If you find mostly informational intent for a query, you can write content about that to get people to your site, establish your brand as a reliable source of information and stay top of mind when people do want to buy something. If you find a lot of images in the search results, you may need to focus more on image SEO. Take what you see on the results pages into account when determining your SEO strategy.
Optimized content still not ranking?
There are multiple reasons that could prevent a post from ranking. Have you optimized your post correctly with Yoast SEO? Then the most common cause is likely to be that the competition in a niche is just too fierce. Unfortunately, SEO is a long-term strategy. You need to work hard and be patient. In the meantime, there are a lot of other aspects of your SEO (site structure, link building) you can tackle. Try to focus on all aspects of website optimization, try to be that best result. It will pay off eventually!
Coming up next!
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- SEO webinar 20 December 2022 Our head of SEO, Jono Alderson, will keep you up-to-date about everything that happens in the world of SEO and WordPress. All Yoast SEO webinars »