search marketing

I Did SEO. Why Am I Not Ranking?

Written by Kurt Steinbrueck

More and more people are aware of the importance of optimizing their website.  Choose some keywords, use them in the Title and meta tags, use them on the page, and voila!  Except a lot of the time the voila ends up being more like the sound of crickets as nothing happens.  No new traffic.  No great rankings.

Vinny’s Italian Cuisine
In 1980, a man named Vinny decided to start an Italian restaurant.  So, he found a building to rent on the outskirts of town.  He came up with a name “Vinny’s Italian Cuisine”, he put together a menu with various Italian dishes, and he even decorated his restaurant with old items he found in Italy.  Then he sat…and waited…and waited…

What went wrong?  He used an Italian name.  He had a bunch of Italian things?

When you are on the outskirts of town, you need to get people to come to you.  When you are new, you need to make people aware of you.  Vinny needed to get the word out about his restaurant.  So, what could he have done?  (remember this is 1980, so think offline)

What Could Vinny Have Done?
At the very least our intrepid restauranteur could have gotten listed in the phone book.  He could have gone around town and asked people to put signs in their yards and in front of their businesses.  He could have had a grand opening celebration where he gave out free stuff and let people try his food for free.  He could have invited food critics to try his food and write about the restaurant.  He could have told reporters at the local newspaper and invited them to his restaurant.  I’m sure the list could go on.

So, what does all this have to do with why SEO is not producing the results you’d hoped for?

Every website starts just like that little building in the outskirts of town.  On the web, all new websites are in the middle of nowhere.  The search engines don’t even know you exist.  So, you have to find a way to bring the search engines to your site just so they know you are there.  That can get you listed, but not ranked well.  Once a search engines know you are there, they need to be convinced to recommend you to the people searching.  The search engines, however, aren’t very smart.  While they can figure out what your site is about by visiting it, they can’t determine whether your site is any good.  So, for that, they look to other websites.  They look for inbound links to websites.

An inbound link (also called a backlink) is simply when a site links to your website.  For example, here is a link to OurChurch.Com.  That would be considered an inbound link for OurChurch.Com.

Getting Listed in the Search Engines
When your website is new, in order for the search engines to find you, they need to find inbound links to your site on another site they already know about.  So, if the search engines know about Site A, but not Site B.  If Site A puts a link on their site to Site B, the search engines will find that link and discover Site B.  So, at the very least, some links are needed just for the search engines to list your website.  But you don’t have good rankings yet.

Getting High Rankings
Even if you have a well optimized site, that alone won’t cause the search engines to rank you well for the keyword you want.  The search engines look to other sites to see how popular and trusted your site is.  The more sites that link to your site, the more popular you appear.  If well established and trusted sites link to your website, then the search engines will trust your site as well.

And just like in the real world where some people’s opinions on a subject are more impactful than others, so on the web, some websites links are worth more than others.  If a really popular site that is considered an authority in your field links to you, that’s much more valuable than if some other brand new site that has no relevance to your field links to you.

You Need to Be Building Links Now
In order for you to rank well, you need inbound links in addition to on-page optimization.  As you get more links, especially from other popular, established, and trusted sites, your rankings will go up because the search engines will consider your site to be more popular and trusted.  There are lots of things you can do get other sites to link to you.  Entire books have been written about link building.  My point today is not to be an exhaustive resource on link building, but rather I hope to convince you that you need to be thinking about getting links to your website, especially if you have a newer site.

If you’ve done some optimization on your website, but aren’t getting the traffic that you hoped for, start thinking about ways to build links to your website.  Even if you are getting decent results from your on-page optimization, I’ll bet there are really popular keywords you would still love to rank well for.  Again, link building is how you can get those high rankings.  Also, keep in mind that rankings are determined by comparing your site to other sites.  So, if other sites are link building now and you aren’t, then you are falling further and further behind the longer you wait to get started.

Photos from Kalexanderson and J. Stephen Conn

Are you actively building links to your website?  If so, tell us about it.

  • What effects have you seen from the link building you’ve done?
  • What link building strategies have you found to be most effective?
  • What link building strategies to you think should be avoided?
  • Are you thinking about link building, but aren’t sure what to do or where to start?  Ask some questions below.

About the author

Kurt Steinbrueck

Kurt Steinbrueck is the Director of Marketing Services with OurChurch.Com. He also serves on the leadership of Family of Christ Lutheran Church in Tampa, FL. You can find him on Google+ as .


  • Very good,informative article that makes intelligent sense,my own site ,the old one has been tossed away and new one should be set up by the weekend,then its inbound links with other Remax sites across the globe,thanks for a good article. 🙂

    • That's great that you're new site is about to be launched. That's always an exciting time. Considering how important links are, it's great that you are able to immediately tap into network of websites like Remax has right away. I pray everything goes well with the launch!

  • While backlinking is really important don't forget your social media websites. Even though most of them are no follow google still considers them when it decides the rank of your website. But also remember that the key thing about promoting a product is not your google ranking especially if your trying to target a specific area. Google is going to give you more people outside the target area this is why people instead build a social network up of people within there target location once you have these people on either a mailing list or as a friend in a social network you can share links to your site causing a stream of people to flow everytime you publish something new. This is an important SEO tip that most people seem to forget you'll see a 75 pct return using social networks where you'll only see a 10% return with a google search.

    • Thanks for the tip Conquer Online. Social media has become a great means of marketing both in regards to SEO and as it's own marketing medium. Certainly building up a network and staying engaged will increase links and traffic to your site.

      I'd agree that people socially connected to an organization are more likely to share that organization's content and convert, but I'm curious about your stats, "you'll see a 75 pct return using social networks where you'll only see a 10% return with a google search". What do you mean by "return" (traffic? engagement? conversions?) and what on what study are you basing those statistics? Thanks.

  • I like your analogy and how you related Vinnys story with how it is the same online. It's true. If you don't put things in place for people to find you, you are doomed to fail, no matter how good your products, venue or services.

  • I work for a marketing company & in charge of the Online area… While backlinks are important, it's not the silver bullet anymore – Google has changed / in process of changing their algorithim were backlinks are getting cracked down on. I know of one SEO person personally who is about to see many first sports on google dropping because of it.

    Best advice is focus on everything & content is king!

  • I need to optimize traffic to my blog but fell off my mark with illness and studying for Bachelor program. I know I have to do more, but my condition didn't allow my much room for intense concentrated hours of optimization. Can you give me a basic approach to the first steps (on the site) for optimization? I may need to change the name of the site to the actual name on the site. When building it, I had not planned to name it after myself.

  • I think Google have now changed their algorithms. Backlinks are still important but only from relevent sites. Remember content is king, but quality content is God.

  • Great way to explain the importance of SEO in such a simple way, a site without SEO is like a man living on the planet surrounded by the public yet alone, to get himself recognized among the world he has to come in contact with them, similarly for a new website to get successful online needs first to be appeared on the top of the search engines in order to get good recognization and for these SEO is the basic necessity.
    Thanks for the post.

  • Things have totally changed after penguin update, In the future I would also recommend becoming a master of Google Analytic along with being an SEO wizard. The two together will work great at continuing to increase traffic to your site and help you to understand what domains and social media are referring you the most traffic which you can capitalize on

  • Well after panda and penguin update, SEO is not the same as it was in 2004, it is 2014 and google's regularly trying to stop marketers doing SEO and push them towards their paid advertising, that's google adwords. In today's era you can't even target your money keyword more than 20% in your strategy.

  • It is have so many interesting writing programs and so many essay writing tips. Those are all helps to every blog writer and every student. So many people are using your all writing tips and thank you so much to given these educational services.

  • I like your example and how you appropriate Vinnys story with how it is the same online. It's actual. If you don't put aspects in place for people to find you, you are damaged to don't be successful, no problem how outstanding your products, place or alternatives.

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