Have you ever been surfing the web and come across a page with such bad optimization you were amazed how high it was in Google’s search rankings? Or worse, a site with few, if any, backlinks?
Here are a few reasons why a site might get ranked highly, even without optimization.
Reason 1: Rate of click-throughs
One aspect of the algorithm Google uses is examining the rate at which users click through a site. Click through is calculated as a percentage of the number of clicks you got from people viewing your page after searching for the keyword you ranked for.
Higher percentages are more appealing and can raise your site above the competition. If your rate of click-through stays higher than your competitors, Google will reflect this by increasing your rank in their results page.
However, the click-through rate isn’t everything, as some people can use deceptive tags in their title or meta descriptions to inflate rankings. Because of this, Google also examines the number of bounces your site receives.
It examines how many people click into your page and then immediately leave and go back to the search results. If Google sees that 1,000 people have clicked on your website in their results, and all of them immediately go back to the results, it knows that your site wasn’t relevant to those results.
Many of the highest ranking sites on Google that don’t rely on optimization achieve their high rank with a combination of low bounce rates and high click through rates which maintains their high position.
If you don’t know how to see what your click-through rate is, log into your Webmaster Tools account and view your site profile. If your site’s profile isn’t listed, this means you need to add it to Webmaster Tools. Your website will likely take a few days to show up after you do this.
Once you can view your site in the Webmaster Tools, look for the option to view “Search Traffic,” and click on the heading “Search Queries.”
Reason 2: Site Age
Another significant factor in a website’s ranking is how old it is. Many high ranking sites are several years old.
While many of these older sites have used this time to generate more content and backlinks, that is not the situation for all of them.
A brand new site with lots of links and quality content will often fail to rank as high as an older site.
Regrettably, time is the only thing that can fix this issue. As your site matures, you will gradually receive more traffic, as long as you keep the site active and work on improving it consistently.
When it comes to backlinks, Google considers authority and relevancy to be just as important, if not more important, than simply how many backlinks you have.
Many sites that have a high rank without optimization have a few backlinks that are high-quality and link to appropriate pages. For example, if a site has just a few backlinks, but those links are from education, government, or other sites with high authority, your site will rank higher.
Besides having good backlinks, the sites should also have relevant anchor text attached to the links. Many SEO companies believe anchor text must be rich to achieve a high rank, but that isn’t necessarily true.
Google can see what website has a link to you, and examine the text surrounding the link in addition to the page’s text. The content of the page will help the algorithm determine how relevant the link is to your website, and what terms you should rank highly for.
Reason 4: Having Cross-Links
A page that doesn’t have great SEO and copious backlinks can still rank well if there is proper interlinking between your pages.
Interlinking isn’t just important to ensure your site is easy to navigate, but also from the perspective of site content. Adding in-content links within your site that interlinks pages will result in an increase in all of their search rankings.
However, if you don’t interlink the pages on your site, you may see that some pages rank well while others don’t do nearly as well. These pages don’t rank well because you haven’t distributed your links and authority across your site as a whole.
Reason 5: Quality of Content
Since Google has updated its Panda algorithm, it has gotten better at determining the quality of the content on a website. For example, it can tell if a site duplicates content or is thin on information, analyzing its content much more thoroughly than ever before.
Many of the sites that rank well have spent years building up vast amounts of quality content. You may not agree, but Google says otherwise.
Why is this so?
It’s because Google doesn’t look at a site’s content by itself, it compares it to content posted to other, similar sites. If your content is of a better quality than your competition, you will likely find your site outranking them in search results.
Reason 6: Competition
One of the great things about finding the right keywords is lowering the amount of competition you face. Many terms that aren’t competitive don’t have many people searching for them.
Finding lower competition keywords means the results page may not be updated as often by Google as the pages for terms that have high amounts of competition. The search engine results pages with higher amounts of competition are updated more often because the competitive keywords receive more views than those with fewer views.
Why would Google waste resources on updating terms and results pages that are not popular and not searched for often when it could focus on what people want and are actively searching for.
Reason 7: Link Velocity
What can you do to get your site to rank highly for a particular keyword? Your first impulse might be to post quality content and generate lots of relevant backlinks.
While this is a good idea, some website owners grow their number of links too fast. Gaining links to quickly looks unnatural to Google, and it probably is.
Google’s algorithms are very smart and contain lots of data on the websites in your niche which is why you will see older sites ranked higher, as their growth rate is at a natural pace, and doesn’t come across as manufactured.
Summing It All Up
There are some reasons why a site that doesn’t appear to be optimized for search engines may rank highly. The seven reasons listed here are among the most common causes of this that our Vancouver SEO company has discovered.
So, if you come across a website in your search results that is highly ranked despite breaking every SEO rule in the book, the chances are high that it is because of the reasons you learned here.
As someone who runs a website, don’t focus on your competitors too much. Instead, concentrate on making your site the best it can be. As time goes on, Google will always favour the site with the best products or services.