It is without a doubt the most frustrating phenomenon for those of you who have put a huge amount of time and effort into optimizing your websites. Websites that appear not to have been optimized are ranking above you in Google’s search results. How is this possible?
1) The website has a higher click-through rate and lower bounce rate.
Forget about keyword density and PageRank. These term are out, and Google has moved on. The current algorithm is much more advanced; instead of taking terms literally, it now interprets user input. One of the ways it makes sure that users get exactly what they are looking for is by matching the query with websites that have a high click-through rate (CTR) for the same or a similar query.
Imagine that Google sends 500 people to a website, but 495 of those people leave the site after just a few seconds. Google will respond by marking the site as unreliable, and the site will go down in the search ranking for that particular query. A website where users spend more time and visit more pages will be seen by Google as being more reliable for that query, and will be rewarded by advancement in future search rankings.
Your job is to keep visitors on your website for longer by giving them quality content, answering their questions, and having an accessible design.Tricking people into visiting your website by optimizing for popular keyword combinations that are not strictly relevant to your content will harm your search ranking.
2) The website has a higher domain authority and has been around for longer.
A website that has been on the Internet for many years will have more authority than a young website. This is because Google awards websites with a small amount of authority every time the website has a successful visit, i.e., one in which the visitor stays on the site for a while. A website that has been around for a long time simply has had the opportunity to accrue more authority over the years. It is hard for a young website to compete with that.
What is more, a website that has been around longer will also have gained more backlinks, compared to a younger site. Even though Google has started to value other factors, such as the number of visitors and search behavior on the site, some of the old factors still add up. Backlinking is one of those factors.
3) The website has more relevant and naturally generated backlinks.
If there is one thing that Google doesn’t like, it is unnatural search engine optimization (SEO). Backlinking is one of those areas where younger websites are at a disadvantage, which is why it might be tempting to help things along. However, Google isn’t fooled that easily (anymore).
The current algorithm does more than just count backlinks. You may have a large number of backlinks with high authority, but if those links have little or no affinity with the actual content of your website, those links are worthless. This is how a website with fewer backlinks can score higher in the search rankings. If this has happened to you, it probably means the rival site has backlinks that are more relevant to the content of the site. They probably are also making smart use of relevant anchor texts.
4) The website has a more organized site structure.
Linking well internally between your web pages is as important as linking to pages on other websites. When visitors arrive on your website, they need to be guided to other pages in a natural and logical way. They also need to be able to find their way back easily. Breadcrumb navigation is the ideal solution to that particular problem.
To do breadcrumb navigation properly, however, your website needs to have a logical and clear structure. Every page on your website needs incoming links from, as well as outgoing links to, other pages on your website. Doing this allows visitors to flow from one page to the next without meeting a dead end. Consequently, they will stay on your website longer and visit more pages, thereby increasing your site’s authority.
Moreover, a clear structure makes it easier for search engine bots to index every page of your website. This is necessary for them to establish the context of your website.
5) The website has higher quality content.
Content is ultimately what makes or breaks a website. However, it is possible for a website to score high, or even get first place, in the rankings for a particular search term, while not even mentioning that term on the page.
Search engines have been using latent semantic indexing (LSI) for a while; instead of just looking at one page and one search term, search engines look at all the pages on a website. They also take into account other terms that are relevant or similar to the original search term, thereby building a picture of what the website as a whole is about. In other words, Google looks at the context of a web page, and a web page with a more relevant context will score higher, even if the original search term is not on the page.
There are many reasons an apparently non-optimized website is outperforming your website in Google’s search results. SEO is a much more subtle art than it used to be, and natural optimization takes preferences over that which tries to force results.