Today, people expect instant gratification. There’s IM, instead of slow postal service. Instant video downloads, for those spur-of the moment entertainment needs. There are “instant noodles” when taking a few minutes to cook something just won’t do. And, of course, instant coffee for people who aren’t willing to brew a real cup.
So, when it’s time to get your website listed on the search engines, it’s only natural for you to want to be up on Google right away. I can’t tell you how many emails I’ve gotten from clients right after I’ve let them know that their site is launched, saying “But, I Googled myself, and I’m not there! Why not?”
There is no instant gratification when it comes to the search engines.
Even though it would be ideal for your site to be picked up by the search engines the instant that it’s launched, that’s just not how it works in the real world. There are two major roadblocks to your site showing up on the search engines:
1. There are a lot of stops on the search engines’ itinerary. The search engines don’t just find out about your site through some sort of Internet magic. They have a list of sites that their robots have to stop by and “index.” Which means the robots have to read the content on these sites, figure out what it all means, and then decide how to rank them.
It doesn’t take that long to index an average site, but there are a lot of sites out there to visit. The sheer numbers mean that it will take a while for them to get around to visiting your new site.
2. Google has a built-in waiting period. Recently, we talked about Google’s trust issues, (see the article here: http://www.elf-design.com/article-SEO-Trust-Issues.html) which come from unethical website developers trying to cheat and get better rankings where they didn’t deserve them. The waiting period is another consequence of that lack of trust.
Some website developers were trying to take advantage of the search engines by constantly starting up new sites and artificially improving their ranking through links and other strategies. Google figured this out and created a waiting area it calls the “Sandbox.” Think of it as a place for the baby websites to play while they grow up.
This is bad news for anyone just launching a website—Google won’t let you into its results for the duration of the waiting period, which seems to last anywhere from 6 months to a full year at this point. For a small business, waiting that long to get noticed can really hurt!
You don’t just have to kick back and wait, though.
Yes, while being patient will certainly get you listed on the search engines eventually, there are a few things you can do in the mean time to get things started.
To get the robots to come and visit faster:
- Tell the search engines that you’re there. I’ve said it a million times, but here it goes again: just telling the search engines that your site is out there can go a long way toward getting you listed quicker.
- Get links coming in to your site from other quality sites. Perhaps you have business associates who will do you a favor by linking their site to yours. Or, you may be able to find blogs that you can contribute an article to. Even submitting your link to organizations that you belong to—like the Chamber of Commerce or a professional organization—can help you get noticed.
To avoid getting stuck in the sandbox trap:
- Don’t get a new domain name if you don’t have to. The sandbox seems to only apply to websites with new domain names. So, if you’re launching a new site for a service or product, consider launching it within an existing site.
- Launch a temporary site ASAP instead of waiting for perfection. If you have a new domain name, or if this is your first website, get something up right away. Having anything available at your URL is better than nothing. Find a template that’s not too terrible, or have your designer create a simple one-page site to post at your domain while your real site is under development. This gives Google something to stick in the sandbox while you’re creating your grown-up site.
Even if your website design goes quickly, you’ll still have at least a few weeks of sandbox time behind you before you launch. Better yet, get a domain name and put up a temporary site as soon as you know that you’re going to eventually want a website. That way, while you’re searching for the right designer, writing your web copy, and designing your site, you’ll also be reducing the time that you’ll have to wait to show up in the search results.
- Pair your website with a blog. There’s some evidence that blogs are picked up by Google much faster than a website alone and that they don’t have to sit in the sand. Even if a blog doesn’t help your “real” site get noticed more quickly, it will give you a presence in the search engine results and will increase your chances of getting found.
While you still won’t get instant gratification from the search engines, these tips will help you get your site listed on the search engines more quickly.