This is something that I get asked a LOT when I do free website assessments. “Why is Competitor A’s website coming up before mine in Google search results?”
P.S. Once we’ve worked together on your website, you won’t ever need to ask this question 😉
Basically, there are some things not directly related to their website related that could be the reason. One being that they may do paid advertisements on Google, Facebook, or Instagram that get them more visits to their site. Or, they just may be more active on social media and have more followers on those different outlets. These are all things that you can’t control directly on your website. You can get more active on your social accounts though to keep up with your competitors if they are very active already.
What you can do is make sure that your website is optimized for search – this is called Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Tips
Now, without going into too much technical detail (which is so hard for me to not do), below is a list of items that we know contribute to your website’s ranking on search engines like Google and Bing.
Are you using heading tags and are they nested properly?
This is the most common error I find on websites when I do free website assessments. Headings are so important for SEO, but also just as important for web accessibility.
Headings facilitate page navigation for ADA compliance. They also provide semantic meaning and structure to the page. For example, a Heading 1 tag (H1) should only be used once per page and it should contain the most important text on that page.
Does your page load fast enough?
If your server is slow to respond to search engines, your site ranking could be compromised. Slow web pages are also just not a good user experience for your website visitors – I mean, who wants to wait more than 10 seconds, or even 5 seconds, for a page to load?
If you have analytics set up, like Google Analytics, check out your pages and each of the bounce rates. A high bounce rate along with a slow page load time normally shows that people are coming to your website, don’t want to wait for it to load, and then leave.
There are other reasons for a high bounce rate, like your web page doesn’t have the information that the visitor was expecting, but combined with slow page speed, your best bet is to speed that web page up and then review your bounce rate again in a month or so.
Do you have enough content on your pages and are you using keywords?
An average of 600-700 words per page is optimal for SEO. The keywords you use in your content are also important. For example, if you are a shop selling only t-shirts and you want to be found when people search Google for “tie-dye t-shirts near me”, you should be using the keyword “tie-dye t-shirts” in lots of places on your website.
You don’t want to write sentences like “We’re Casey’s tie-dye t-shirt shop specializing in tie-dye t-shirts that you can buy on our tie-dye t-shirt rack during our tie-dye t-shirts sale” because using keywords too much is almost just as bad as not using them enough.
The basic point here is that if you are wondering why when you search “tie-dye t-shirts” on Google that you don’t come up, make sure you have that keyword on your website in a bunch of different places.
Is your website mobile-friendly?
This one is trickier than people often realize. You automatically say, “Yes! My website comes up on my phone.” The truth is that all websites will come up on a phone’s browser – what Google is really looking for here is “How functional and easy-to-use is your website on a mobile device”. For example, are your links too close together, is your text too small, do you have a mobile style (hamburger) menu that’s easy to navigate?
Are other websites linking back to yours (backlinks)?
You can do a quick check of what/how many backlinks are pointing to your website using this free tool: https://ahrefs.com/backlink-checker
Are you using meta titles and descriptions to the fullest?
Google typically displays the first 50–65 characters of a title tag. It’s not only character limit specific though, because Google’s title tag actually has a pixel width limit rather than character limit, which is why I say 50-65 characters long.
You should have your page’s keyword in your page’s meta title – don’t overuse it though – 1-2x in the page title is more than enough. Make sure your brand name isn’t used first in the beginning of your page title too – people want to know what the page is before they click. For example, for an About Us page, the title should be something like “About Us & How We Got Started | Applewood Interactive”
Do you have “friendly” URLs?
A “friendly” URL means that the link is easy to read and someone can understand what page they are going to based solely on the URL. For example, if your page link is https://applewoodinteractive.com/?p=4568, potential site visitors have no idea where that will take them. Instead, use something like https://applewoodinteractive.com/wordpress-website-care/
This is super easy to do in WordPress – check out the Settings –> Permalinks section in your WP Admin area.
Is your website brand new?
Did you create a sitemap.xml?
A sitemap tells Google which pages are important on your site and where to find them. It’s a great idea to link to your sitemap.xml file in your robots.txt file as well.
Did you also submit your sitemap to search engines?
Building a website and missing this step is problematic. Think of it like you’re telling a real estate agent that you want to list your house, but never giving them any details about it. They know you have a house, but have no idea what rooms or how many rooms you actually have inside.
I’ll leave you with a great graphic from Moz.com that shows most of the items I describe above in a nifty hierarchy structure.
There are so many things that go into optimizing your web pages for search, and this blog post doesn’t touch most of them, but this should give you a great starting point if you are starting with no knowledge at all on how to do some basic SEO on your own.