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How would a non-optimized site outrank a site which has done SEO?

How would a non-optimized site outrank a site which has done SEO? - answered by Matt Cutts

Matt's answer:

Today’s webmaster video question comes from Polyanna in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Polyanna asks, when analyzing rankings for highly competitive key words in our industry, we have found sites not as optimized as ours on page and that have few links and little content that are still ahead of us. What gives? Why are unoptimized sites ranking so well? Well, the thing that I want to avoid is the impression that it’s only the optimization that would make you rank. There’s lots of different factors that would make you rank well, but fundamentally, we try to look at on-page content as well as off-domain links. And it’s not the case that just because somebody has done optimization it’s automatically better than a site that hasn’t done optimization. There’s a lot of sites from schools and students and people that handwrite their HTML. And they might not necessarily get every single thing optimized, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good resource. So another thing is, we typically don’t show all of the back links for a site to your competitors. If you log in to Google Webmaster Tools, then we give you a very exhaustive list. But even if you’re going to Yahoo! Link Explorer or anywhere else, you’re going to get only a subset or a different sampling of the links that point to a particular competitor’s site. And the reason that we do that is link colon originally, we didn’t have the storage space to return all of the back links, and then over time, that just sort of became a tradition. So there might very well be links from very high-rate PageRank or very reputable sites pointing to that particular other page that’s allowing its rank. So it’s always tough whenever you’re talking about it in terms of other people in your industry. We always want to look at it and say oh, that’s not as good a page, not as good a site as my site. But bear in mind that you can absolutely have links that you might not know about as far as to competing sites or to your own site that your competitors might not know about. And then we try not to put so much emphasis that you have to do SEO because we want sites to be able to rank well on the basis of merit. If they’re good, they should show up in search results. That’s our basic philosophy.

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


Original video: