“How can I improve my Google listing myself?” That is one of the questions we, and many other SEO companies, are often asked, and with good reason. People often pay large sums of money for their websites, expecting to feature on Google soon afterwards. But when the customers don’t come knocking at their door immediately after their site has gone live, they start asking why not, and having just spent quite a bit of budget on their website’s design, they often aren’t willing to spend even more on getting their site properly search engine optimized.
So is there something you can do yourself to improve your search engine listing?
Yes, there are a few things, but first a disclaimer: These steps will help you to get your website listed properly on Google, but following them will probably not get you on page 1, depending on the competition in your industry and various other factors. For that you will need proper, professional SEO.
Step 1 – Ensure that your website can be crawled by search engine bots
Depending on the type of website you have, your website might be blocking search engine crawlers from indexing some or all of the pages. This is usually a simple setting that you can easily change in the Admin area of platforms like WordPress or Joomla.
In WordPress, for example, you can log in to your website’s back-end or admin area, then go to “Settings” > “Reading” and look for this entry:
Once you remove the tick mark from the box, then search engines should be able to access your site without any restrictions.
Sometimes though, bots are blocked in a file called “robots.txt” that’s located in your website directory. You can easily test it and see if any pages are blocked to crawlers by going to http://www.yourwebsite.co.za/robots.txt. You should see something like this (the details and number of entries may vary):
As you can see, search engine bots are not allowed to crawl and index the “/wp-admin/” folder. This is a good thing, since you don’t want your website’s back-end indexed on Google, only the front-end. But if you see any disallowed pages that should be allowed, you can edit this file (usually using a file manager provided by your web hosting company in their cPanel) to remove the “Disallow” entry.
Step 2 – Add your website to Google’s Webmaster Tools
The next step to ensure that your website can be indexed properly by search engines is to make sure that Google knows about your site and doesn’t just stumble on it by accident. To do this, go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and sign in with a Google account (or create one if you don’t have one yet).
Then click on “Add a property”. You will be asked to type your website’s home page address (URL), after which you must verify that you are the legitimate owner of the website.
The easiest way to do the website verification is to download the file provided by Google, then upload it to your website’s root folder using cPanel or FTP as provided by your web hosting company. After it has been uploaded you can go back to Google Webmaster Tools and click on “Verify”.
Step 3 – Add a Sitemap to Google’s Webmaster Tools
Now you need to tell Google which pages to index on your website. To do this you need to add a Sitemap to your website and to Google.
Platforms like WordPress and Joomla often have plugins that can generate a sitemap dynamically, like Yoast SEO for WordPress. In that case, simply copy the sitemap address as provided by the plugin (usually something like “http://www.yoursite.co.za/sitemap.xml”), then go to Google Webmaster Tools and under “Crawl” > “Sitemaps”, click on “Add / Test Sitemap” and paste the address of your sitemap in the space provided.
If you have an HTML website, or a website that doesn’t have a dynamically generated sitemap, you will need to manually generate a sitemap. Follow the steps below:
- Go to https://www.xml-sitemaps.com/. This is a site that allows you to generate a sitemap for free.
- Enter your website address into the space provided. The other settings can usually be left as they are:
- Once it has completed the process, click on the “sitemap.xml” link under “Download un-compressed XML sitemap”.
- Now upload the newly downloaded file to your website’s root directory, as you have done with the Google verification file earlier, using cPanel or FTP.
- Now go back to Google Webmaster Tools and under “Crawl” > “Sitemaps”, click on “Add / Test Sitemap” and paste the address of your sitemap in the space provided (which should be “http://www.yoursite.co.za/sitemap.xml”).
Once you’ve successfully completed all these steps (which shouldn’t take longer than an hour), you can rest assured that Google knows about your website and will do everything they can to index it. You can go back to Google Webmaster Tools after a few days to check the progress.
If you find that your website still isn’t generating the kind of traffic you would like it to, it may be time to call in the experts. Take a look at Hosting101’s Search Engine Optimization and Google AdWords services and feel free to give us a call for a free quote!