Does it feel like you’ve done everything right, yet your website is still nowhere to be seen in Google’s search results?
The bad news: Several things could be preventing you from showing up in Google.
The good news: Many of them are easy to fix.
Below you will find nine possible reasons why you’re not showing up in Google and how to fix each issue.
1. Your website is too new
It takes time for Google to discover new websites and web pages. If you only launched your site this morning, then the most straightforward explanation is that Google just hasn’t found it yet.
To check whether Google knows your page exists, run a search for site:yourwebsite.com/a-page-you-want-to-show-up-in-google/
There should be one result.
If you see no results for either of these searches, create a sitemap, and submit it via Google Search Console. (It’s good practice to do this regardless.)
2. You’re blocking search engines from indexing your pages
If you tell Google not to show certain pages in the search results, then it won’t.
You do that with a “noindex” meta tag, which is a piece of HTML code that looks like this:
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”/>
Pages with that code won’t be indexed, even if you created a sitemap and submitted it in Google Search Console.
You probably don’t recall ever adding that code to any of your pages, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
For example, WordPress adds it to every page if you check the wrong box when setting up your site.
It’s also something that a lot of web developers use to prevent Google from indexing a site during the development process and forget to remove it before publishing.
Remove “noindex” tags from any pages that shouldn’t have them.
3. You’re blocking search engines from crawling your pages
Most websites have something called a robots.txt file. This instructs search engines where they can and can’t go on your website.
Google can’t crawl URLs blocked in your robots.txt file, which usually results in them not showing up in search results.
What you don’t want to see in robots.txt is this piece of code…
.… under any of these user-agents:
Why? Because it blocks Google from crawling all the pages on your site.
You also don’t want to see a “Disallow” directive for any important content.
For example, this Disallow rule would prevent Google from crawling all the posts on our blog.
Remove any directives blocking content that you want to show up on Google.
4. You don’t have enough high-quality backlinks
Even if nothing is stopping Google from finding your page, you still need to “prove” to them that it deserves to rank.
While there are hundreds of factors at play in Google’s algorithm, the number of backlinks from unique websites to a page seems to be a strong one.
If the web pages ranking above you have way more backlinks, then this could be part of the reason you’re not showing up in Google.
Consider building more backlinks if your page falls short on backlinks.
5. Your page is lacking “authority”
Google’s ranking algorithm is based on PageRank, which essentially counts backlinks and internal links as votes.
Some SEOs see PageRank as old news, but Google confirmed that it was still a critical factor in their ranking algorithm in 2017.
Unfortunately, Google discontinued their public PageRank scores a few years ago. Now, it’s not possible to see how the PR of your page stacks up against top-ranking pages.
Ahrefs has a metric based on similar principles called URL Rating (UR).
UR runs on a scale from 0–100. High UR pages have more “authority” than low UR pages.
Compare that to the UR of the top-ranking pages for your target keyword using the “SERP overview” in Keywords Explorer.
If the top-ranking pages have a much higher UR score than yours, it might be a sign that your lack of “link authority” is holding you back.
There are two ways to boost the authority of a web page:
- Build more backlinks;
- Add more internal links.
Generally speaking, the former is harder than the latter—especially if you want to rank a sales page.
For that reason, adding some relevant internal links to your page is often the best starting point.
6. Your website is lacking “authority”
Google continues to give mixed signals about whether site authority is a ranking factor.
Even if some pages above you are from high DR (domain rating) sites, you may still be able to outrank them. How? By building more backlinks and “link authority” at the page level. After all, Google ranks web pages, not websites.
7. Your web page doesn’t align with “search intent”
Google aims to rank the most useful and relevant results for each query.
That’s why it’s essential to align your content with what searchers expect and want to see. This is known as search intent.
Let’s say that you’re American Express and you want this page to show up in Google for the term “best credit card”:
Looking at their Domain Rating, URL Rating and the number of referring domains, it’s clear that American Express’s page beats all other top-ranking results on those fronts. But still, it doesn’t even rank in the top 100 results.
Why? Because the page doesn’t align with what searchers want to see.
If we look more closely at the top-ranking pages for “best credit card,” we see that they’re all lists of the best cards from different banks and providers. Like this one:
The page from American Express is more of a sales page.
Google knows people don’t want a sales page when searching for this query, so it doesn’t rank them.
8. You have duplicate content issues
Duplicate content is when the same or similar web page is accessible at different URLs.
Google tends not to index duplicate content because it takes up unnecessary space in their index—a bit like having two copies of the same book on your bookshelf.
Instead, it usually only indexes the version that you set as the canonical.
If no canonical is set, Google attempts to identify the best version of the page to index itself.
Unfortunately, Google’s ability to identify duplicate pages without non-self-referencing canonicals isn’t perfect.
To find duplicate content issues on your website, you can run a crawl using Ahrefs Site Audit, then go to the “Content quality” report. Look for clusters of duplicate and near-duplicate pages without canonicals.
Fix these issues by redirecting or canonicalizing the duplicates.
9. You have a Google penalty
Having a Google penalty is the least likely reason for not showing up on Google. But it is a possibility.
There are two types of Google penalties.
- Manual: This is when Google takes action to remove or demote your site in the search results. It happens when a Google employee manually reviews your website and finds that it doesn’t comply with their Webmaster Guidelines.
- Algorithmic: This is when Google’s algorithm suppresses your website or a web page in the search results due to quality issues. It’s more a case of computer says no than human says no.
Luckily, manual penalties are extremely rare. You’re unlikely to get one unless you’ve done something drastically wrong. Google also usually alerts you about them via the “Manual penalties” tab in Search Console.
If there’s no warning in there, then you probably don’t have a manual penalty.
Unfortunately, Google doesn’t tell you if your site is being filtered algorithmically—and this can be quite challenging to identify.
If you suspect an algorithmic penalty due to a recent significant drop in organic traffic, your first course of action should be to check whether that drop coincided with a known or suspected Google algorithm update.
Panguin is a useful tool for this. It shows known algorithm change dates over your Google Analytics traffic to make it easy to spot issues.
If you still suspect your site has been filtered or penalized at this point, talk to an expert before taking any potentially catastrophic actions like disavowing links.
Ranking in Google is like playing a video game.
If you have technical issues like a broken controller, then you’re never going to win no matter how hard you try. It’s the same with your website. You need to fix severe technical problems like rogue “noindex” meta tags and crawl blocks before playing the game.
From there, it’s critical to understand the level you’re playing at and the strength of your opponents. Some levels are easy because your opponents are weak. Others are difficult because they’re strong.
You may need to level-up by building backlinks and “authority” before taking on stronger ones.
If you’re struggling to beat your opponents because they’re too strong, play an easier level.
You can do this by targeting lower-competition keywords.
Just remember that it’s often worth making an effort to complete difficult levels because unlocking that achievement can be a game-changer for your business.
PS. A useful tip for page titles: don’t get clever with play on words or some type of curiosity headlines. No one is searching for fancy riddles. People search in simple words or they type “how to [specific problem]”. Have this kind of headlines.