Where’s My Website?
A very common question asked right after a website’s launch is, “Where is my website? It doesn’t show up when I search for it!”
This is normal! Let’s talk about why that is, and what you can do to remedy the situation.
First, Some Misconceptions
Google does not Own the Web
It seems like it at times, with Google’s hands being in virtually everything and the Google search engine being the king of search, but Google does not own the web. When you register a new domain, you don’t buy that domain from Google (unless you specifically register the domain from Google as a registrar.) Google owns the Chrome browser, Android software for phones and a number of other properties, but the internet itself… not so much.
Google does not have every website mapped
This one may be a shocker to many, but Google does not know about every single website on the web. Most of them, yes… but not all of them. Again, they don’t own the web, and there is no automatic notification of a new website being launched to let them know, so unless the Google Webbot runs across your website, it won’t know that its there.
Without Google, My Website Doesn’t Exist
Yes, and no. Your website exists as you can certainly visit it, and you can tell others about it, and they can visit it. However, if you are not found on Google, it may limit the amount of traffic you get on your website. Without Google, you can certainly have an effective website, but that is absolutely magnified with being listed in the search results.
Why is My Website Not indexed?
if your website just launched, or if your domain name itself is fairly new, there’s a good chance that Google may not even know your website or domain exists. Even if Google does know, most website will find themselves in the “Google Sandbox” for a while before being shown in the search engines. What’s the “sandbox?” It’s a fancy not-so-technical term that describes Google’s wait and see approach to new websites.
Keep in mind that Google makes their money on ads. These ads are shown in the search results along side the “organic” results. They make money on these ads because people click on them, and people will only come back to Google if they trust that Google will give them the best search results for the terms they are searching. As such, it’s in Google’s best interests to show websites that have been around for a while and that they trust will remain. So when a new website comes along, they will watch it for a while to see if it sticks around, doesn’t start becoming a spam farm or serve malicious code. Google wants to know that the owner of the website has good intentions, and since they don’t know you personally, they can only judge you and your website by the website itself.
Usually, as time goes on, Google will insert the new website into the results to see how it works with the users. It may not be shown every time, but when it is shown, Google will gather information about how the website behaves. If it behaves well, Google will begin to trust it, and eventually add it to the mix.
Think of Google like a puppy. Your website is a new toy, one that it hasn’t seen yet. While some puppies may jump on the new toy right away, this one will slowly approach it, sniff at it and maybe tap at it a few times to see what it does. As the puppy gets comfortable with the toy, it becomes a part of what the puppy plays with. But it can take time.
How much time, you ask? Generally speaking, the Google “Sandbox” effect can take a few weeks to a couple months. I would love to give you an exact date and even tell you exactly where your website would rank, but Google plays its ranking criteria close to it’s vest. They have over 120 parts to their search algorithms and the general public knows of only a handful of those. The rest they keep secret and keep playing with.
How Can I Help?
Well, first, let’s make sure Google knows you are there. After all, they can not include you in the search results if you are not even known. So you should introduce yourself.
Start by creating a Google Webmaster account. You can do this at https://www.google.com/webmasters/. This will not only tell Google that your website is there, but will give you some great feedback, including how Google Bot sees your website, notifications on any broken links and the ability to fix any issues with your website and Google’s information. Its one of the first places to start.
Next, make sure your website is “search engine friendly”, meaning that there are no issues blocking the search engine from checking you out. Again, the Webmaster tools will help you figure this out, so go back to the first step and get your account going!
Use Google’s Analytics. Analytics tells you who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, how they got there and so much more. But it does one more thing… it helps Google to know you are online! If they are tracking users on your website with their Analytics code, you can bet they know you are there!
Be patient. Once Google knows you are there, it can take time for your website to show in the results. And even then, it can take time for it to move from the 21st page of their results to the first 5 pages.
Grow Content. Content is still king with Google, so the more content you have, the more interest Google may have with your website. But make sure its quality, useful content… Google can and will penalize websites that try to get ranked with “fluff” content.
Get connected. Connect with other websites, related to what you do. Between related websites, online forums, social media and so on, there are plenty of areas to get your website connected. By connected, I mean linked. A link from another website to your website helps, especially if Google is searching the other website. The Google Bot may see your link and follow on over!
The Bottom Line
Launching a website will not get you on the first page of Google’s search results day 1. Imagine if that was possible, with millions of new website launching everyday, Google would be an absolute mess. It takes time, and some effort. But by taking a few simple steps, and being patient, you will begin to see your website in the search results.