How can a site rank for keywords that aren’t anywhere on its pages?

How can a site rank for keywords that aren’t anywhere on its pages? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Matt: Today’s question comes from Land Lubber in Colorado. Land Lubber asks, “A site for my client’s competitor shows up on a SERP for keywords that never even show up anywhere on the site (not even hidden in the source code). How is this even possible, and isn’t this spam? What can my client do about it?” Okay, Land Lubber, let’s take a step back and stop hatin’ on everybody for a second. Let’s put it in the realm of universities. Suppose I do the search “Cal”, a lot of people might expect Berkeley to show up, because a lot of people call Berkeley , “Cal.” Or if I search for “tar heel” maybe I expect University of North Carolina @ edu,, to show up even if the word “tar heel” isn’t anywhere on that page. One of the things that Google pioneered was the idea of using Anchor Text to return a page. So, it could be that someone is linking to your competitor’s site with Anchor Text that has that particular phrase. Your competitor’s not doing anything sneaky. They’re not cloaking. They’re not hiding text anywhere. It’s not anything that they’re doing. It’s just that’s the phrase that happens to be pointing to their particular page on their website. So, that can happen many, many times. Now, it’s always possible that your competitor’s cloaking. Cloaking these days is a little more rare. It’s higher risk; so people tend not to do it that much. You can always usually fit key words in naturally. So people don’t need to really cloak as much these days as they did in the old days. If you wanted to, you could try pretending to be Google Bot and fetching your competitor’s website, but frankly I would probably spend my time looking to develop better content on my own website, beefing up the views of my own website, things like social media to promote my website. Rather than really kind of obsessing where that one guy is able to show up for that one ranking. It can happen for Anchor Text. It doesn’t mean that there’s anything sneaky or nefarious going on. So I’d say just peace out, spread the love, don’t worry about it that much, and keep working on making your own website as good as you can.

by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team


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