How to Fix a WordPress Website that Won’t Show Up in Search Results
I recently launched a new travel blog, and I’m rather proud of it. Since launching, I’ve averaged about 1,000 visitors per day, with a peak of over 2,000. (Yes, that’s 2,000 uniques per day.) I’m happy to say that my site is growing steadily, and I’ve started to turn some pretty decent dollars from it. (I say this with some modest hesitation because I haven’t quite gotten the hang of selling affiliate products yet.)
As much as I love gaining new readers, there’s one thing I really hate. I hate the fact that my blog isn’t showing up in the search results for important queries on Google. (Yes, that’s right. I said Google. Most people still use Google as their primary search engine.) I know that I’m fulfilling all the necessary criteria; I’ve optimized my content for search, used the right keywords, and posted regularly. (Okay, maybe not regularly, but I’ve been pretty consistent about it.) Still, my blog isn’t showing up when people are looking for specific content related to travel and hospitality.
You can help. I’m hoping that by sharing my methods, you’ll be able to fix your own blog (or website) and get it showing up in the search results for important queries. (I’m also hoping that this post will convince at least one person to purchase my travel affiliate product.) Let’s get to it.
Fixing Bad Links
Before we start, it’s important to note that if your blog has been around for a while and you’re just now discovering the issue, it’s already been too long for it to be “fixed” by simply doing some keyword research and plugging in some rel=”author” and rel=”me” tags. (If you don’t know what those are, I’ll explain below.)
What you need to focus on is fixing the bad links that are currently ruining your SEO. Once you’ve done that, you’ll see huge improvements in your organic search visibility.
There are a few different ways that bad links can plague your SEO. (To be honest, it can happen to the best of us. Sometimes we all get a little too excited about a new post and publish it before thinking everything through. Or we might overlook a link that should’ve been followed. Or, occasionally, a commenter might leave a spam link in their comment. If any of those sounds familiar, I’m feeling really lucky today.)
Here’s how you can start identifying the bad links on your blog:
Use the Sitemap Generator
Most SEOs and bloggers use the Google Sitemap Generator to help them find and fix the bad links on their site. (If you don’t know what a sitemap is, don’t worry, I didn’t either until recently.) Simply enter in your website’s URL and the Google Sitemap Generator will crawl all of your pages and analyze them for you. (As an added bonus, the generator will tell you which ones get the most traffic and which ones need the most work.)
As soon as you enter in your site’s URL, you’ll see this:
As mentioned above, the above screenshot is from my own Google Sitemap Generator. (I have a habit of showing screenshots of my generators to prove a point. But don’t worry — this one’s pretty self-explanatory.)
Once you’ve clicked on the “Get a sitemap” button, you’ll see this:
Sitemaps are essentially lists of all of the pages on your site. (Think of it like an address list for your website.) The Google Sitemap Generator will go through all of your pages and generate a list of them. (The default settings are usually good enough for most sites, but if you want to be extra thorough, you can adjust the settings to include more or less content in the sitemap.)
As an SEO, the first thing you should do is go through the sitemap and identify any pages that are missing keywords or content. (You can do this by copying and pasting the URL in the address bar of your browser and inputting keyword variations.) You can also use a tool like Google Keyword Planner to help you find any un-optimized pages on your site. (As an aside, if you’re feeling extra creative, you can input a page address in the Google Keyword Planner and see what keywords they suggest. This is also a great way to find pages that are especially tricky to rank for — like a specific product or service that you offer — and make sure that they’re optimized for the key phrases that people are using to find that product or service.
Once you’ve found the pages that need work, you can use the Google Sitemap Generator to create an annotated version of the sitemap. (Annotated means that it will include all of the information about each page, including keywords and the date that the page was last edited.) You can then use this new annotated version of the sitemap to optimize your site for the search engines.
Annotating your sitemap and re-submitting it to Google is the simplest way to ensure that your pages get the best possible rankings. (You can also choose to submit your sitemap to Bing and/or Yahoo. If you have a travel blog, you’ll want to make sure that it shows up on Yahoo’s Travel Website Listings and Bing’s Travel Site Listings.)
Use the Google Webmaster Tools
If you haven’t yet started using the Google Webmaster Tools, I strongly encourage you to do so. (You can follow the steps below to get set up quickly.)
When you login to your Google account, you’ll see this:
The above screenshot is from my own Google Webmaster Tools dashboard. As you can see, I have a number of tools and features that can help me analyze and improve my SEO. (For example, I have a section of my dashboard called “Keyword Planner,” which helps me find the right keywords and ranks my pages based on how much SEO value they contain.)
Some of the important tools that you’ll want to check out: