To any web designer this question is all too familiar and is just as frustrating to answer.
Each time we launch a website, the client expects their website to be on the first page of Google after only an hour after going live! Here we attempt to nip it in the bud once and for all to get to the bottom of why a site needs more than just a nicely designed home page and hosting to be found on the world wide web.
Let’s first look at how a Search Engine works…
Search Engines are huge databases full of webpages. Because of the volume of information searched and the way in which it’s linked together it’s not possible to search in real-time. There are literally billions of webpages available to read on the internet. Trillions of words to read and this simply cannot be searched through in the blink of an eye by even the most advanced system available at this time. Think of how long your computer takes to search through your puny 250GB hard-drive for a family photo and multiply that by at least a million to get an idea of what is truly possible and you’ll get the idea.
So the best way to search for something quickly is to have the information ready and in place to look through. If you’re searching for something, you’re always going to be more successful if you know where to look. Google therefore is constantly preparing itself for searches by indexing and categorising webpages by relevance and popularity so that it can retrieve it’s best result as fast as possible. If you search for ‘Shoes’ then Google will already be bringing back results only for pages mentioning the word ‘Shoes’ before you even hit enter! Google is always one step ahead and it does this by a very common sense method…
Google is constantly searching the web as it prepares to be used for your needs. It stays ahead by sending out ‘web spiders’, a technical term used to describe the programme search engines use to crawl through web pages for keywords and relevant information that it thinks would be good as a result for a search term. These programmes run 24/7 – 365 days a year. They never stop so that they can stay as up to date as possible. However, as quick and as constant as these spiders are, they can’t do every website and every page on the internet at once. It takes time and it’s work is never finished.
What this means is that the ‘snapshot’ is rarely the most up to date version of the page that exists. Google will have to come around again at some point to update it. Now we can get a picture of why a new website may not even appear on Google at all as soon as it’s launched. It needs to be indexed first by the spiders and that can take time, which can be anything up to 2-4 weeks!
It is good practice to actually submit a url to Google to get things moving quicker. However, thanks to spam artists and con-men across the world using the internet for their own dark agendas all search engines now hold back from indexing new domain names straight away. The only way to answer how long it can take for a new website to be indexed is with another question… How long is a piece of string?
Next we must look at the other common question which is why your website is not on the first page of Google.
Google ranks websites not just by relevance but by popularity too using a simple ‘voting’ system. Search Engines also hold information about how different web pages link to one another. When one page links to another, a Search Engine counts it as a ‘vote’ for that page. All votes are not equal either; a Search Engine will look at the context of the page (the relevancy of the subject matter) and the quality of the web page (how many pages have already ‘voted’ for that). etc…
This also has a time element. If you have competition in your given service field that has been live for years then you are going to struggle to get ahead for a while until you can provide a better and more popular website for Google to index. Relevance means that you should look to offer not only the same as your competitor but more! Such is the nature of business. If you can get more recommendations than a competitor too in the form of links to your site then you are going to eventually get voted ahead of them. In the non electronic world we call this ‘word of mouth’ but the principle is the same. Put a link on your site for another and you are effectively putting your vote of confidence in that site. Why would you link to it otherwise? And so Google counts it as a gesture of approval and so (just like a recommendation from a friend for a good plumber) We have our common sense approach to getting noticed on the web.
Common sense and patience.
Google is not magic. Google is a website like any other on the internet. It’s there to do a job and perform a task. It’s popularity is based on it’s ability and reputation for doing it’s job well. Google is NOT the grand commander and chief of the internet! It is a simple website and tool like any other search engine. Google’s only advantage is that everyone in the world who owns a computer system has heard of it and will use it at some point to search for something.
So be patient and the results will happen (if you have all the important SEO elements in place!)
And if required a specialist SEO company or Google Adwords can give you that extra boost (but that’s another story!)