James Parsons is the founder and CEO of Content Powered, a content creation company. He’s been a content marketer for over 10 years and writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Inc, and many other publications on blogging and website strategy.
20 Reasons Your Blog Posts Aren’t Showing Up on Google
Like it or not, blogging is all about Google these days. Bing and the other search engines have some small portion of the internet audience, but Google has such a dominant position that they’re the ones you always check.
No matter what level of experience you have with blogging, there’s always some level of uncertainty. Did you do everything right? Are you following the rules? Did the rules change since the last time you checked? Did you make a mistake somewhere along the way?
We’ve all done a Google search for our content. Sometimes we’re just curious, sometimes we’re checking as part of an audit, and sometimes we’re just verifying how long it takes for content to show up. And, of course, sometimes it doesn’t.
So why not? What can cause your content to not show up in Google’s search results? Let’s discuss.
1. Not Indexed or Not Ranking?
The first thing you want to do is check to see if you’re not ranking for your keywords or if your content simply isn’t indexed at all. This will help you test other possibilities and eliminate possibilities that aren’t relevant. For example, if you’re indexed but not ranking, you don’t need to worry about checking your robots.txt directives.
There’s a misconception amongst novice bloggers that conflates indexation with visibility. Your content can be indexed on Google and still only show up on the 50th page of search results. Indexing just means Google is aware of it and has added it to their overall archive of the internet. It doesn’t mean it’s in a position where anyone would ever see it.
Advanced bloggers recognize this, of course, but it’s still worthwhile to check to eliminate some possibilities.
So how can you make this check? Simple: run a site search. Here are two examples:
Site:contentpowered.com “20 Reasons Your Blog Posts Aren’t Showing Up on Google”
The first example simply queries Google for any and all results it has for pages on this website. This is a valuable search to run to make sure your site is getting indexed as a whole. If nothing shows up, then your problem is not specifically with your blog post, it’s with your site as a whole.
The second example searches specifically for the title of this post. If this search comes up blank, but the previous search shows results, it means that post hasn’t been indexed. It could be because of a number of different reasons, which I’ll cover in a bit. On the other hand, if the post shows up, it means that the content is indexed but not ranking highly. Or maybe it is ranking highly, but for queries other than the ones you’re trying. There’s a lot to consider.
Once you’ve made this determination, let’s talk about the causes for each situation. We’ll start with: nothing on your site is indexed.
2. Your Site is Too New
When your site is brand new, it takes some time for Google to index it. Indeed, there’s even some indication that Google puts new sites into a “sandbox” for a while, to make sure they’re legitimate sites and not stolen content, flash-in-the-pan scams, or some other abuse of new content, before they add it to their total index. If your site is brand new, it might mean that there’s nothing you can really do about it besides wait.
That said, you can take a couple of steps to try to get Google to index your content faster. Primarily, you want to submit a sitemap to Google directly. You can also manually request indexing. Ahrefs has a good guide for this process.
3. Check Your Robots Directives
There are three places where your site might be blocking robots from accessing your site. Many people feel like blocking bots is a good thing, since it helps prevent spam and DDoS abuse, but it also prevents the Google bots from crawling your content.
First, check to see if the root directory for your site has a robots.txt file. If it does, check what’s in it. It should be empty, or have a few specific directives hiding specific pages or blocking specific bots. This guide is a good reference.
Second, look in the <head> tags of your website, looking for meta robots tags. Sometimes you might have these on your pages, set to block bot access until you’re ready to reveal your website to the world. You’ll need to remove the blocks.
Third, look in your server’s .htaccess file. This is a normally hidden system file with specific commands for visitors, including bots. It only applies to Apache servers, so if you don’t have Apache on your web host, this won’t apply. If you do, check this.
4. Your Site has Crawl Errors
Google’s bots access a site in a variety of different ways, but almost none of it actually looks like a browser user. Sometimes they render scripts and sometimes they don’t, and while you can technically cloak content from the Google bots, they can tell you’re doing it and will circumvent it just because they can.
Crawl errors are errors, intentional or otherwise, that prevent Google from indexing your page. Google will still view your pages, but they won’t add you to their index. To see if you have any of these, go to the Google search console, click on Crawl under your site, and look for the Crawl Errors section. This will show you up to 1,000 pages with crawl errors, and information about what they are and how to fix them.
5. Your Site is Full of Duplicate Content
Is your content all original? If you’ve copied content from other sources, even if you’ve spun it, Google can tell that it’s not original. If that’s the case, your site will be penalized for duplicate content. This isn’t a standard Google manual action, but rather a fact of how the algorithm work, so you won’t see anything in the search console. Just… don’t steal content.
6. Your Site is Full of Spammy Content
Spun content, content with spammy keywords, content with cloaked links or spammy redirects, pages with layer after layer of ads, pages with invisible content, pages with only ~200 words of content; these are all kinds of spam, or at least such low value that they don’t find it worthwhile to add it to their index at all. Much like duplicate content, just… don’t. Learn modern SEO, blogging, and marketing strategies – reading other posts on this blog can help! – and produce good content instead.
7. Your Site has a Manual Action Penalty
Google’s search console has a manual actions report. Manual actions are penalties incurred by violating the rules in one form or another. This can include user-generated spam, a free host, unnatural links, thin content, cloaking, keyword stuffing, and other spam signals. Check the report; it will tell you if your site has any, what pages have them, and how you can fix the issues.
Now, all of those are issues that would cause your whole site, or at least the majority of your site, to not appear in the Google search index at all. What about cases where most of your site shows up, but your new post does not?
8. Your Post is Not Yet Published
I’ve done this one before, and given myself a minor panic before I realized. I’m sure I’m not alone. You write a post, you save it in your WordPress dashboard or whatever, or you schedule it, and convince yourself that you’re done. Maybe you get distracted and forget you didn’t click that last button. Either the post is saved as a draft but not published, or it’s set to be published in the future on a schedule that hasn’t arrived yet. Either way, the post isn’t publicly visible, so Google can’t find it, so it won’t be indexed. It’ll be fine once it’s live.
9. Google Hasn’t Seen It Yet
Google checks content frequently, sometimes multiple times a day, sometimes only once a week. A lot depends on the popularity and size of your site, as well as your history of updates. If you don’t post often, Google won’t check often, so if you post something new, Google might not see it.
Having a sitemap uploaded to Google helps; they can see when you post something new because your sitemap updates, and they can check immediately. Even so, there’s often a queue, and yours might not be at the top. Regardless, just give it a day or two and check back again. Is it indexed now?
That’s more or less it for posts that don’t show up when the rest of your site does. At least, as long as you’re not copying content wholesale, which Google will penalize you for doing. In any case, let’s look at reasons why your content may be indexed but not ranking next.
10. Your Site Takes Forever to Load
There are a lot of different reasons why your site may be indexed but not ranking. That’s why half this post is dedicated to it! They all have to do with core principles of SEO, so let’s get right to it.
First up is site speed. Long load times used to be common back in the days of dial-up and low-quality mobile internet, but we’re long past that. These days, if a website doesn’t completely load in two seconds or less, people start leaving. If it takes four or five seconds, more than two thirds of your visitors will bounce. If it takes even longer, your site might as well not exist.
11. You Have Script Errors
Script errors can cause issues with rendering a page. It might mean a background doesn’t load in, or a navigation bar doesn’t work right, or some errant code displays across the top or bottom of your site. If the script doesn’t prevent the site from loading as a whole, it won’t block indexing, but it will take a hit on SEO quality. Make sure your scripts work on multiple browsers and on mobile before you rely on them.
12. Your Content is Low Quality
A lot of indicators of low quality content are mentioned above; things like overly short content, keyword spam, and so on. However, there’s also a broad range where the quality level of your content isn’t so bad that it gets you deindexed, but it’s bad enough to keep your ranks very low. It’s even almost subjective, since it’s compared to other content in the niche. I recommend reading up on what makes content low quality, and trying to fix any issues that you see in your own content.
13. You Aren’t Using Relevant Keywords
Google has evolved a lot over the last decade to include a lot of semantic indexing. That means they index your page, but they can tell what the subject of the page is, so you can show up for search results for queries that don’t actually use your keywords. Synonyms and related topics can lead to it too.
That said, you do still need to use some level of keyword knowledge to guide your topic. Without it, Google won’t know what you’re talking about, and your generic content won’t rank for anything.
14. You’re Not Promoting Your Content
It’s always important to remember that there’s more to the internet than just your own site. A huge part of how Google works relies on aggregating and measuring links that point to and from your site. Promoting your content helps bring in those links, which helps boost your site’s ranking. You want to gather links from many different sources, with as many relevant sources as possible included. A link from a site similar to yours but of higher ranking is the best; a link from industry authorities and so on. Links from aggregators can be decent, links from social media are alright, and links from middle to low quality sites don’t hurt. The only links to avoid are those from completely unrelated sites or from spam sites.
15. Your Site is Too New
I mentioned the sandbox above, and the same thing can happen with individual posts. New content is sometimes basically quarantined until it is proven that it’s not spam and that it has value. Sometimes you simply need to wait to develop any real ranking, and you might be waiting a while. It can take over a year for a site to fully blossom, during which time you need to be publishing competitive content the whole way.
16. Your Niche is Highly Competitive
Internal factors aren’t the only things to consider when evaluating your rank. External factors matter as well. Obviously, you can rank #1 for a keyword where there are zero other competitors. Conversely, even if you write excellent content, if your niche is packed with dozens or hundreds of high quality sites – like marketing, health, and so on – you’re going to struggle to be among the top.
This is not to say you can’t compete, or even that you should give up. It’s entirely possible to compete in a competitive niche, and even come out on top. It simply requires a higher minimum level of effort and quality, as well as more time spent on finding unique angles to approach content, networking within your niche, and other ways to gain an advantage.
17. You’re Ignoring Meta Data
Novice bloggers often notice that Google will create their own meta description for your site snippet when they index your site. They think to themselves “why should I have to worry about it if Google will do it for me?” Considering that in some cases Google will ignore your meta data in favor of their own, it’s a valid concern.
Even so, you should still specify meta data. It might be something Google chooses to use, and even more importantly, it shows Google that you care about SEO enough to specify it.
18. Your Site is Too Small
It’s an unfortunate fact that the size of your site correlates to how high you can rank with it. Very rarely will new or small sites rank well, and when they do, it’s almost always because they’re created by someone who has a lot of industry power and can direct both a lot of potent links and a lot of advertising money towards the new site.
I actually recommend that new sites publish new blog posts several times a week, or even once a day, to build up a significant content catalog. Once you’ve been established for a year, then you can start dialing back on it.
19. Your Headlines Don’t Attract Attention
One part of what Google considers when they adjust your ranking over time is how people are reacting to it. To a certain extent, they understand that the top results are going to get the most traffic, so they shuffle things around a bit to see if traffic follows brand names, headlines, or just position. It does, to a point, and that means making your headlines attractive is incredibly crucial. If you want to pull traffic away from those top spots, your titles need to be more attractive.
20. Your Posts are Full of User Generated Spam
I’ve mentioned user-generated spam a couple of times now. What do I mean by it? Primarily, it’s comment spam. Moderating your blog comments is hugely important for maintaining a successful site. It shows you’re engaged and active with maintenance. Or, rather, by letting spam linger, you show that you’re not actively caring for your site, and that’s bad. Always delete spam when you see it.
So there you have it; 20-ish reasons why your posts aren’t showing up in Google’s search results. Hopefully, checking out each of these issues allows you to figure out why your content isn’t ranking well, and how you can fix it.
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