How Google Works: Why Does Crappy Website Rank Higher Than Mine?

How Google Works: Why Does Crappy Website Rank Higher Than Mine?

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How exactly has Google PageRank become the accepted standard by which we measure our websites?

If you take a look at Google’s Technology Overview, you’ll see that it points to relevance as the primary ingredient of how Google search works.

So why are countless posts being written on Pagerank and yet no one seems to be talking about relevance?

I truly believe it’s because PageRank comes as a number – it can be easily measured, explained, and presented.

Not so much with relevance.

However, just because PageRank is easy to track, it doesn’t mean that it accurately represents how well your site should rank in search engine results.

Why Don’t I Rank Higher?

This post is my best shot at responding to the numerous questions I get that sound something like this:

“Why is a particular site ranking higher for a search query than mine, when on the surface of things, our sites are equal in terms of links and other signals or my site is even better?”

I’ve asked the same question a few SEO experts in the past and always got a boiler-plate answer that never quite did it for me.

The truth is no one really knows how Google REALLY works.

Neither do I.

However, as I was researching the topic, RELEVANCE as the answer made more and more sense.

Allow me to explain.

How Does Google Work?

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1.   Googlebot crawls the web.

To be quite precise, Google spiders don’t really roam the web.

What really happens is that they request web servers to provide specified pages, then they scan them for hyperlinks, which in turn will lead them to the new documents that they fetch in the same way.

2.   Google builds an index.

Now that crawling is done, the pages are not searchable yet.

The next step is to build an index.

This process lists every document that contains a certain word.

For instance, the word “ballroom” might appear in documents 5, 11, 54, 71, and 97, and the word “dancing” might appear in documents 11, 23, 54, 68, and 71.

3.   Google ranks documents.

Now Google is ready to determine how relevant documents are and rank them accordingly.

If you are to do a search for “ballroom dancing“, Google will take the following two steps to return search engine result pages (SERPs):

  1. Find the set of pages that contain your query.
  2. Rank the matching set of pages in order of relevance.

In the example of documents containing words “ballroom” and “dancing” above, you’ll see that BOTH words appear only in documents 11, 54, and 71.

Those are the prime contenders to be listed for your query first.

How Does Google Rank Relevance?

Here’s where the answer to the question of “Why is my site not ranking as highly?” might lie.

It only makes sense that a document that mentions both “ballroom” and “dancing” next to each other will be deemed more relevant than the one that talks about square dancing and simply mentions the word “ballroom” somewhere else on the page.

Similarly, if the entire “ballroom dancing” phrase is mentioned in the title of the page, it will appear to be more relevant to the topic.

In the same way, if the phrase is mentioned several times throughout the page, the page is more likely to be about ballroom dancing than if the phrase appears only once.

Check out this great quote I found at Google’s Librarian Central (there used to be a link to the source here, but the source moved and I couldn’t find it again):

As a rule, Google tries to find pages that are both reputable and relevant.

If two pages appear to have roughly the same amount of information matching a given query, we’ll usually try to pick the page that more trusted websites have chosen to link to.

Still, we’ll often elevate a page with fewer links or lower PageRank if other signals suggest that the page is more relevant.

For example, a web page dedicated entirely to the civil war is often more useful than an article that mentions the civil war in passing, even if the article is part of a reputable site such as Time.com.

Is Your Website Relevant?

I understand that there are certain topics you think your site is relevant to, but remember you need to spell it out for the Google bots – that’s how Google works.

On-Page Optimization Determines Relevance

Yes, it might come down to how well you optimize the page itself that will determine whether and how highly it’ll show up in Google search results.

Things like title, <H> tags, description, on-page keywords.

So What’s Your Plan of Action?

Now that you have an idea of how Google bots work and how they determine which page to move up the search results, let’s get to work.

1. Stay on Topic

If you want to tap into the wealth of SEO traffic, you have to work for it.

And that means staying on topic.

Both your readers and search engine bots will love you for that.

If your post subject is list building, don’t talk about video marketing.

If you run a cooking blog, don’t talk about relationships.

This principal applies both to your entire site (pick a niche, i.e. a specific subset of a broad market) and each particular page of your site.

Remember, Google ranks pages (that includes your home page), not websites.

2. Learn about on-page optimization

On-page optimization is all about using every trick up your sleeve to tell Google bots what your page is about so that they can rank it accordingly.

As I mentioned above, it’s things like title, <H> tags, description, on-page keywords.

If you need to learn more about on-page optimization as well as other Google ranking factors and how to use them properly to get more search engine traffic, I strongly suggest you pick up a copy of my free SEO report.

3. USE on-page optimization

Having the knowledge on a subject vs actually applying it are two different things.

I know just about everything there’s about on-page optimization.

It’s not exactly rocket science.

But do I actually optimize every post I write so that it has a better shot at ranking for specific keywords?

No.

4. How to stay on track

To make sure you actually apply the principles of how Google works to your on-page factors, I suggest you do one of the following:

1. Do it yourself

You could put together a check list of all the factors that are important and make sure you stick with it when writing a new post.

2. You could hire someone to do it for you

SEO outsourcing doesn’t come cheap, but if you value your time above money, it’s a great way to go.

3. Get a tool to help you do it yourself

I was never a fan of using on-page SEO tools in the past; particularly because of all the recent Google algorithm changes.

I am referring to the tools like ScribeSEO, SEOPressor, and Easy WP SEO.

(Note: I’ve tested a few tools and the best one by far was Easy WP SEO, both for the features and the price. That’s why I didn’t bother linking out to the other two, but Easy WP SEO link is affiliate.)

However, I must admit, I didn’t actually test any of them; just thought I knew what I was talking about… a perk of being Ana Hoffman, I suppose.

Since then I put my money where my mouth was and tested SEOPressor and Easy WP SEO at Traffic Generation Cafe.

I was so impressed with Easy WP SEO that I am sticking with it and revising on-page optimization for some of my older post, including this one.

4. Do nothing.

Free search engine traffic that brings in targeted visitors like a clockwork?

Too much work…

Doing nothing is certainly an option.

Marketing Takeaway

I realize that this post is just my opinion on the issue of how Google works and how we can take advantage of it.

And you’ll still see many crappy websites outrank yours for no apparent reason.

At least now you’ve got some knowledge and tools to help you kick them to the curb.

Dot your I’s and cross your T’s and then let Google do its job.

Whether it’s a job well-done on their part is entirely out of our control.

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Google+ Comments

94 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. I think that it’s not a good idea to sit there and compare yourself to other websites that are ranking higher than you. Just accept that they are and work on doing better.

    Personally I’m far more worried about how people are responding to my content. I tend to assume that if people are enjoying my content, commenting on it, and sharing then that’s sustainable in a way that SERPs positions are not.

    Not that SEO can be ignored or anything like that. I just don’t think you should stress if a so-called “crappy” site is outranking yours. If it’s really that crappy Google will slap them eventually. Even if it’s not, your own commitment to continuing to do the good, hard work of building an audience will still bring rewards!

    • Ana Hoffman

      Ideally, I’d agree with you, Carmen. However, in real world, if we don’t know how and why Google ranks some websites higher than others, we can’t really do much to improve our own search engine rankings.

      And yes, referral traffic is always best, but the short-term nature of it (you have to keep working at it to get more of it) is at times annoying. :)

  2. Shell

    Hiya,

    I bought Easy WP SEO sometime back, and had it on a blog that ranked number one in Google for a competitive phrase, but the first lot of Panda/Penguin wiped it out. However I think that was because all my anchor text was the same (name of site) and from low PR sites/blogs. But I do remember getting a huge boost in the rankings when I first started using Easy WP SEO, so I think I will install it on my current site I am working on and having trouble ranking (and it’s not that competitive a term) and see what happens!

    Excellent article and easy to understand as always, thank you! :)

  3. This is a very useful and helpful article – and timely as we often forget to take into account fully how Google can affect our work.

      • Peter Ryan

        Ha, I have been in and out – but not commenting! I enjoy your blog and it is always worth my time to browse. BTW, I am building Apps for blogs and websites – so perhaps we can chat about that soon?
        cheers

        • Ana Hoffman

          Sure, Peter.

          I am very much behind on the mobile technology (I don’t even own a smart phone – don’t want it, don’t like it), but I know most of my readers are quite the opposite.

          Shoot me an email!

  4. Thanks for the article. I have seen many poor blog got higher rank. But many rich blog with unique quality content has got lower rank. Why does it happen??? I am always confuse about it.

  5. Hi Ana:

    How are you?

    Cam across your blog
    when I was researching on how
    crappy one page sites
    appear on first page of Google 1.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Take care.

    Best wishes and regards.

    Veena:)

    • Ana Hoffman

      You are very welcome, Haroun. Nice to see your comment not go to spam for a change, by the way. :)

      • Thanks Ana. I was think the same thing this morning, and wondering if I was only going to hear from you on this post in a few weeks time again.. :)

    • Hey Ana,

      You know what irritates me Is that we all look at Google as some big mysterious entity which requires quite literally Magic to unravel its weird and complex conundrum.

      But guess what people. Humans built it. I was made by us!!!

      I hear you say *really*. Yes Really!

      No big UFO, No ET lifeforms came to earth and left us with this unfathomable search engine.

      So all those hours and hours spent optimising on your site, to get a higher ranking. Some Idiot decided he wanted you to waste your time in that fashion.

      I’m saying F*** that. I’m not going to chase panda, penguin no more.

      I’m going to wait for some no frills guy like me to make an engine which gives you straight attainable SEO status, or maybe invent some engine that enables people to get more exposure without trying to solve an algebra equation with no actual answer.

      Because at lease then I won’t waste the time some idiot decided he wanted us all to waste.

      We would spend it on ourselves an and know exactly what reward we would receive when we solve that feasible riddle.

      • Ana Hoffman

        Definitely see your points, Joey.

        Of course, we always have to remember that Google and other search engines are built for the users, not the webmasters, just as they should be. So the fact that we have to jump through the hoops to be seen by those users comes with the territory.

        And of course, there are plenty alternatives to Google. Unfortunately, most of our target audience still uses it and, if we want to be seen by them, we don’t have much of a choice.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I don’t use Bing because most of my readers still prefer Google, but I see your point, Katherine.

    • I’m also getting more traffic from Bing, not as much as Google but I do see a noticeable difference. I think its because of all the anti-virus software that people using that automatically changes the default search engine to Bing.

      • Not getting much traffic from Bing, but I agree with Haroun. Anti virus softwares are turning out to be game changers. They choose how we should search for certain things on the web. They block, redirect and do lots of other stuff. Even some times the browsers do not function the way we want it to.

        • I’m happy to be on a mac, and not have to worry about these infernal antivirus programs that take over the browser. I feel sorry for my friends when I visit them and happen to use their browser :(

  6. Chris Baxter

    Hi Anna :)
    Very interesting read and informative post for on page seo. I for one am constantly keeping an eye on the best plugins for this job, and of course content MUST be completely relevant to rank in the serps.

    I’m a fan of the Yoast seo plugin, but I’ve never tried the WP easy seo plugin.

    However I have recently switched to the updated google friendly seopressor V5 plugin.

    The reason being is I heard the V5 plugin had an over optimization feature which lead me to discover that I was Over Optimizing my content by nearly as much as 10% on some of my niche sites posts and pages!!

    I too saw scribe and thought about signing up for that, but it’s way too expensive for a monthly cost like that!

    I am still building a site around the V5 tool and i’ve got to add videos and a bonus package.

    Have you tried the new updated version of seopressor V5 Anna?

    Would love to know your thoughts if you have tried it? :)

    The secret to ranking highly is of course relevance with on page seo optimized, but also to engage your audience. Which is exactly what you do ;) :D

    I am new to your blog by the way, and you really do have an excellent informative blog… Awesome :D

    Will be back for more :D

    Thanks a Million

    Chris B :D

    P.s. I agree on your review for the Empower Bullshit Network! It is actually a great concept that they are doing, but why on earth would anyone pay money to sign up for something that you have no control over at all?!
    It didn’t seam ethical to me either. So i too avoided it!

    • Ana Hoffman

      First of all, welcome to Traffic Generation Café, Chris.

      Yes, v5 is the one I have installed here. Now that I’ve had enough time to play with both SEO Pressor and Easy WP SEO, I am sticking with Easy WP SEO.

      It doesn’t conflict with other plugins, is easier on the server, and easier on the wallet.

      I will publish a post talking about both plugins tomorrow (Thursday); be sure to drop by and let me know what you think.

  7. Well detailed presentation Ana, this is good information that I got because I’m confused actually how exactly Google works particularly crawling or indexing a website. Thank you for giving tips as well as your suggested tool. I’ll check this one.

  8. Great post! I have a question that actually led me to this article, and I haven’t found the answer elsewhere, so hopefully you can help me.

    For the most part my site ranks well in search engines, but for some reason I have a page that won’t show up in search results even when I enter the url itself into google search. Any ideas why?

    • Ana Hoffman

      Usually, that’s an indication that the page is simply not indexed, Shannon.

      Throw a few links to it, even internal links within your blog, ping it with pingfarm.com and that should help.

  9. Hello,
    The process described on about how google works… this could be the reality but as you said, you don’t even know yourself.
    Of course, whatever the process is, the facts are clear, stay on topic and with quality.
    Lately I am employing my time mostly on trying to convince people about how real SEO works, you know, everybody is sick in hurry about the well known expression: “Get #1 position in 1 day!!!”
    Thank you for your post, maybe this one could teach them. :)

  10. Hey Ana… really nice analysis, but I have to tell you that I almost laugh when reading this article, because, for sure Google is kind of strange guy! And it is really hard to answer your question about why website A ranks better than your or mine.
    In this week one of the main keywords I was targeting when from page one to beyond the top 100 results! I was ranking page one for 4 weeks in a row, and the worst part, when I looked at my analytics, the time on page, bounce rate and page views were OK. Everything looks fine!
    Seriously Ana, Google is a weirdo!! That is it!!
    Take care!

    • Ana Hoffman

      Sometimes, laughing is all we can do when it comes down to Google rankings, Felipe.

  11. Thank you for your post Ana. I am still an amateur with SEO but I agree with some of the comments above. I do not understand how a stale site could remain the rank meanwhile other sites keep getting new contents constantly. Does old backlinks worth more than new constant fresh contents? Many thanks.

    • Ana Hoffman

      At this point in time, yes, Rose, age authority does play a huge role. More mature sites tend to have more links, more longevity, and thus more weight in Google eyes.

      Hopefully, their algorithms will improve with time. But then again, someone else will start complaining. lol

  12. This is exactly what I was looking for. However we don’t know how Google works, but the tips you have given are really good for a blog success. You suggested us a tool Easy WP Seo. I think I am going to give it a try.

  13. Great post Ana. I really like the google quote. I like the thought that a website dedicated to one topic can outrank a bigtime website like time magazine.

  14. “Why Does Crappy Website Rank Higher Than Mine?”

    This was the catchy part of the title that brought me in. However I don’t feel like I got an answer.

    If you recall my backlinking experiment, I’m ranking high for the keywords proposed, but from time to time I’m dropped off by a very crappy website or Youtube video that tries to explain the same topic in 300-500 words or less.

    I still have hopes in Google because this normally happens when they publish the post/video and after a few days or weeks I come back and beat them. But it really makes me thing about the algorithms used.

    I took me a while to beat a Youtube video without SEO other than the title. No description, no subtitles, no tags. Just its title!

    And yesterday I found a new one that dropped me to 4th place (was in number 2) and when I read the article, it was pretty lame to be honest…

    Oh, and my blog has more PR than them, more backlinks, and correct on page SEO while the rest normally don’t…

    And the icing on the cake is that the 1st result for that specific keyword is an exact match domain with just 1 page (and an about page) and it’s a complete sales page to bring money. Where’s that EMD update again?… LOL

    • Ana Hoffman

      I wish there was a clear answer to this question, Servando, but you and I both know that even Google might not really know it.

      One hope we should always hang on it is the fact that sooner or later crappy sites will drop off the first page and hopefully won’t be replaced by another one. :)

  15. You know how I stumbled on your post. I was trying to find out if getting on page 1 of google actually makes sales. I still have not found my answer yet.

    However for some keywords we are on page 1 of google but I really have seen very little of click through.

    It would be nice to see if someone could research exactly which industries get click through by being on page and then convert to sales.

    Say maybe you : )

    Nice read though

    • Hey Dan. Fair question.

      Here’s how I make sales while being number 1 at Google or at least on the first page:

      – I promote products with reviews or comparisons
      – Or if it’s a guide that needs a tool to be done, I’m affiliate so that everyone that buys it makes me a commission.
      – Or if I have an online store, more people would buy from me than from others.

      The reason you’re not watching any profit even if you’re on the first page of Google can be sorted into multiple variables:

      – How many searches do you get for that specific keyword?
      – Are you promoting something or is it just a guide or a topic without monetization?
      – Are you using Ads, contextual links or anything similar?

      Almost any industry can be converted and monetized if done well, but you need to consider all these factors along with others Ana might explain.

    • Ana Hoffman

      There’s really no clear-cut answer to your question, Dan, and I am sure you kind of know that.

      The first consideration is the keyword itself. What are people searching for here: information or a solution to their problem? You can see how the former might not yield any sales and the latter would.

      Also, just because you might show up on the first page doesn’t mean that people will actually click on your link. That’s called click-through rate.

      Then if they do click through, but don’t like how you packaged your content, they still won’t buy from you, even if you have the right goods to offer.

      You see how complicated it gets once you start analyzing it?

  16. I’ve had a few sites that went down a point in page rank or went up one. Yes, Page Rank is important to an extent, but you really have to sit back and ask are you being successful in your standards. Sometimes, you’ll rank well on Google or Yahoo or Bing. Either way, if you capture a great audience and they stay on and become loyal readers and participants, you cannot deny that your content has value. That transcends just building up search engine rank, imho.

    • Ana Hoffman

      Very true, John – if your content doesn’t make people want to stick around, what’s the point of doing any SEO, right?

  17. Nice slide show Ana. SEO actually is pretty simple these days in my opinion. Do your keyword research, don’t pick anything too competitive (especially if your site isn’t very strong in the index), stay consistent with quality content and link building and give it time. It does take time to generate steady search engine traffic and that is where a lot of people drop off.

    I can’t say that I enjoy doing SEO. I like the “results” but I do not like the actual work involved. It’s better for me to outsource, but that can come with serious issues if you don’t select a good firm to do the work.

    Also, it is important to remember the search engine marketing is not “Internet marketing”, it is a part of it. It’s best to have a well rounded game plan for marketing your product or service that “includes” search engine marketing, but is not totally dependant on it.

    • Ana Hoffman

      It does sounds simple the way you put it, Michael. :)

      I think the most frustrating thing about SEO is the fact that we can do everything that makes sense and we know to work, and still not rank.

      And that’s why I am completely with you: it should be just a part of our marketing strategy.

  18. I’ve given up trying to please Google, he doesn’t play nice!
    Just today i found this: givefreeachance.com – pr7?? seriously!? I know they probably wont last, but it makes a mockery of those of us slogging our guts out to please the mighty G while trying to inform and engage with our readers only to get slapped down at every corner we turn..

    rant over

    AND RELAX – deep breathes lol

  19. Hi Anna,
    Quite interesting post. It drives a very clear understanding of an important issue in Internet marketing. Understand how Google works to me is one of the key points to succeed online.

    I have used SEOPressor but I’d like to visit Easy WP SEO and take a closer look.

    Thanks for sharing your views.

  20. Lee

    Hi Anna
    Easy to understand article in plain English thanks for that. With the on page seo is it a bit of a balancing act now between putting across to google through your key words what your page is about and not over doing them so that when they crawl your site they think you have just stuffed the page to highly. Or is this just a myth and as long as it reads correctly and sounds right it doesn’t matter how often you put your key words in. I keep reading about this and have never really cleared it up in my head????

    Await reply thanks lee

    • Ana Hoffman

      This should be a very common-sense issue that’s not common sense at all, Lee.

      Yes, we need to use our keywords sufficiently to make sure the bots understand what the post is about and what to rank it for, yet our writing needs to feel natural for the human reader.

      The plugin I mentioned in the post, Easy WP SEO, does a pretty good job at recommending the keyword density; however, I always find it that I need to go under what it recommends for the content to feel natural.

  21. Allan

    Hi Anna
    That is a great article. Such a lot of info, yes I agree knowing what to do and doing it is the thing. Now I too will be dell point at my post to see what changes I need to make. I use Optimize Press theme so I will see if the plugin you mention is compatible with it

    Regards
    Allan

    • Ana Hoffman

      On-page optimization is one thing we can control on our blog, Allan; I’d definitely recommend you look into it.

  22. Well, rewriting old post is something, that makes me mad – even without former authors knowing and swearing because of that. It would be not such a problem, if I could rely on Google, that it will understand other shapes of same word, but, that’s rather risky whhen I actually don’t now, what I’m doing, so I rather stick with the SEO plugin ( http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wordpress-seo/ ) advices, which means I have to bend a vast ammounts of text into such loop, that the focused shape of keyword fits in. :(

  23. It’s very interesting and helpful information. Very good that you know what you are doing and peoples are coming through with your site and are thankful. You are nice and welcome for me Ana.

  24. I really like your analysis on how Google works & why my site ranks lower than other.
    I have done lots of experiment on the same topic & I could never find the answer. I have checked many of the websites where the keyword is mentioned only once but getting the first place on first page love. And that is when I always think, how exactly Google works.
    That is really one of the biggest secrets everyone is trying to find.

  25. Hello Anna,
    I seriously don’t know much about SEO but i make sure i try as hard to make my post as exciting as possible. Google is a mysterious creature that can’t be predict :D they can change to favor any blogger or webmaster. Thanks for this post and i really enjoyed it.

  26. Hi Ana,

    Interesting information especially the quote from Google’s Librarian Central.

    This seems to prove that what some prefer to call Web Content Optimization is one of the keys to getting your content to appear higher in search queries.

    It’s well worth taking the time to find good LSI keywords and optimizing your content with them.

    Sandy

    • Ana Hoffman

      Off-page SEO definitely has its place, Sandy, but I think it was role in actual rankings was greatly de-emphasized in the recent updates.

      The only true control we have on the road to better rankings is on-page factors, and we should definitely take better advantage of them.

  27. Ana, I threw my arms up and walked away from that whole PRgument some time ago. My blogspot blog once registered “7” on the PR scale. Encouraged, I pressed on to write extra good relative content, and in the blink of a digital eye, the blog was a PR 2. ?!? Nowadays it goes forth and back between 3 and 4. Nowadays I don’t care anymore! Yet, I,

    BLOG ON!

  28. I am not against any paid SEO plugin, Easy WP SEO looks great, but WordPress SEO by Yoast has nearly all of the features and is free in WordPress depot. It is highly recommended if you don’t have the budget and it trains you how to do SEO as well by showing you what to optimize, on page optimization. I don’t think it does secondary keyword like this one, but is more than enough for bloggers on a tight budget who can’t afford an SEO plugin and if you are using All in One SEO then convert to WordPress SEO by Yoast and leverage it to learn, you learn to write more SEO friendly content by taking the feedback and suggestions and it helps you adapt your writing style around SEO over time.

    Pageload speed is also a factor playing more and more into the SERP rankings, if your website takes 5-7 seconds to load and the another site loads in < 2 seconds it could gain a higher ranking, don't underestimate pageload speed as well.

    • Ana Hoffman

      There are certainly plenty of options for marketers on a tight budget, Justin; even just creating a checklist like I mentioned in the post.

      What I like about SEO plugins is their gentle “encouragement” to do better on-page optimization, as in a lower score. No other SEO plugin will do that.

      As I mentioned, even with that much SEO experience as I have, I kept forgetting to do a better job with my posts. Now I have a constant reminder to do it and to do it right. lol

    • Ana Hoffman

      Google seems to be going through a constant state of menopause – moody and unpredictable.

      • *laughing hysterically* YES! That’s exactly it! Black magic and menopause! Bad juju all around.

        Which is why when I want SEO and optimization work done, I hand it off to a friend/freelancer of mine. I tell HER to deal with the cranky Google dragon and appease it while I create great (I hope) content.

        Doing that has cut down on the number of times by head wants to explode each day. Now if I can just do something about the other hundred daily explosions . . .

  29. Ana,

    Here is a question I have not been able to get insight on. I am going to make either a page or a post on my WordPress-built website. Page/post title will be Wholeness. The title and URL will be directly off of my main URL. I know a fair amount about on-page SEO, etc.

    My question is, do you think Google will treat a blog post or a page any differently in regards to the degree of its page rank?

    Thanks!

  30. Regardless of the Penguin and Panda updates on Google I am still seeing several websites with a ‘questionable link profile/duplicate content’ that are ranking on page one for strong search terms.

    What I am having a problem with is images in blog posts that are ranking higher than the blog post article… although the image page/url has little to no content on it and is NOT relevant in its entirety to the search term… for example I have “interview with x” and rather than the full interview being ranked in the search results… which is a unique interview…. I am finding the image that is linked from that blog post that is ranking… based on WordPress… I am now going through removing teh ‘linked’ images which are the default on WordPress.

    Any suggestions on how to resolve this strange behaviour would be greatly received.. :)

    • Ana Hoffman

      That’s a tough one, Neil. However, aren’t you saying that both the image and the post itself are ranking; it’s just that the image ranks before the post? So if the image leads to the post, don’t you get the benefit either way?

      Personally, I always make sure to avoid linking images within my blog unless I have a specific goal in mind. I don’t really see how images in my niche could bring in qualified traffic.

  31. Ana, I read your article and found it to consistant with what I have seen others express. My site, from a seo perspective, is wanting in many ways, however it is full of relevant content and also has what I call “relevancy link” between the home page title, domain name and content. The site dominates locally and places number one or two in the world. I make a lot of sales and gain commercial accounts with it. I have done many others sites, with the same results.When I didnt get ranking it was because I didnt follow my own rules. The bottom line is, you are spot on, but my experience is many will not believe you.

  32. This has really baffled me because there are websites that have not updated in over two years still dominating the top. Also sites that keyword stuff their main page and all kinds of stuff. It’s irritating, but I am making progress.

  33. thanks Anna for this very useful and interesting article on How really Google ranks the website. And I am really glad to read this whole informative facts and experience. Yes there are many being confused to know why their websites not ranking well despite with the excellent job done with the websites, and ranking well and crappy are still well there. It seems you worked really great job in order to explain most of necessary things why it happens or really it’s not.

  34. Moses

    This is an aspect of the internet that I have been thinking about for quite some time now.

    Even though this article was just your opinion Ana, I do agree that Relevance is a major factor in ranking well with Google or other search engines as well.

    What gets me is that my competitors for example really do have ugly websites, no content and no SEO but yet they still rank fairly well. I think the website’s life duration has a big key factor in the decision of rank as well.

    With the recent Penguin update, my competitors did drop down in pagerank. One of them from PR 3 to PR 2 and the other from PR 4 to PR 2, ouch.

    The point I am trying to make is that as long as you stay relevant and create good content that is informative and has good on-page SEO, in the long run search engines will award you.

    Really liked the title of this article by the way.

    Thanks for a great read.

      • “Google is now making me re-evaluate everything I ever thought about it.”

        That pretty much bottom lines it with me too. Could not have said it better myself Anna. I am so glad I did not dive into a bunch of “sites for adsense” or build any type of web empire that involved garnering traffic from Google’s organic search exclusively…

        This latest animal attack would have wiped it all out. One of my sites has been sent to the Goo lag of SE results in terms of keywords. I now have a “page not found” ranking in the top ten of a low competition, EMD I had for years…

        I should have listened to the old marketing mantra of “the money is in the list”. Having more control over my customer base and leaving it all on table with organic search was a mistake…

        Sergy Brin hates walled gardens like Facebook and Apple, well, he is going to see a lot more people adopt a fortress mentality after the latest Penguin migration. How anyone can depend on them to be a good business partner now is beyond me…

        If Tim Carter’s AskTheBuilder.com site can get hit for a 70% traffic reduction, then none of us is safe. He was an Adsense case darling. This story is pretty eye opening…

        http://theaveragegenius.net/google-reward-quality-original-content-interview-askthebuilder-tim-carter/

        Anyway, I guess a “change it had to come, we knew it all along”.
        Some of us were smarter and more visionary about Google’s intention then others. No excuses now…

        Stay excellent…
        Robert Cary

    • I came upon this article for similar reasons to Moses. Our website is full of high quality content, I’ve done a modicum of SEO work on it in the past few months, added new quality content, tried to build some back links, built a mobile version of the site… And still we come up on page 6 of Google, waaay behind competitors with tiny, unprofessional sites with less content and that haven’t been updated for years. I’m at a loss, because if quality content truly is what Google is looking for in its PR, then we should be on page 1 for the keywords we’re targetting. The only thing I can think is hurting us is that our index page is too “clean”, ie, mostly just image slideshow of our work, with little text. But it seems unfair that Google would punish websites that are trying to look clean and professional, and reward low-quality 1 page sites that sloppily cram everything, including lots of text with keywords, on to their intro (or only) page…
      I think I will need to use that stress reducing kit above…

  35. I used to think you could just write content that you’re passionate about and traffic would come. And that’s how it worked for me for 10 years.
    But now it’s seems more complicated and you just cannot ignore SEO.

    I am no SEO pro – but appreciate posts like this that help me learn more. I think there is a fine line between knowing to much and knowing just enough. LOL

    Right now I think I know just enough to hurt myself – so I keep reading and learning.

    Thanks for the post!
    -Kelly

    • Ana Hoffman

      I know what you mean, Kelly – I always learn just enough SEO to feel like I know what I am doing, and then Google proves me wrong, again and again.

  36. Yes Ana you are right on certain points. Actually sometimes it is difficult to understand why Google ranks a post too slow while bing and yahoo rank it to first page quickly. However thanks that your post is useful to clear some points on this issue.

  37. Hi Ana,

    I really like the way you put up the point of how exactly Google works, because most of the new bloggers just try to run, they just want traffic to their blog,and with this they forget to learn the basic things and try to jump the basics which leads to a block and frustration ,with 1 question in mind
    “why they are not getting traffic and why other blogs are ranking much higher on Google.”

    Thanks again for sharing the useful information for bloggers

    And by the way you look beautiful as your articles.Keep up the good work to share this kind of good work.

    Thank You
    Shorya Bist
    from Youthofest

    CHEERS!