Many search engine optimizers will tell you that only by actively doing proper search engine optimization (SEO) can one hope for one’s site to rank highly in search engine results pages (SERPs). However, there are, in fact, many websites that still rank highly even though they don’t seem to be properly optimized. Even stranger than this, other websites, for whom their optimizers performed questionable optimization practices in the past, are also still ranking highly.
So, why does this happen? Could it be a glitch in the search engine’s ranking system? For sites that have done dubious SEO techniques in the past, the simple answer could be that Google’s algorithm simply hasn’t caught up with them yet. This is an info which Google’s anti-spam team leader Matt Cutts had already revealed in the past.
Nevertheless, there are actually several very real factors that can propel a website to the top of SERPs, even given the aforementioned conditions. Here are some of them:
It has few competitors
If your business belongs in an industry where you have very few competitors, then this could be a factor for your site still ranking high in SERPs even if you are not actively doing SEO. For instance, if you’re selling African tie dye garments in Cincinnati, Ohio, then your website is more likely to have fewer competitors than if you are selling, say, coffee.
It has really great content
Even if a website is not being optimized, it can still rank pretty high if it provides really good content to its readers. Because search engines like Google are now smart enough to determine awful content, it is likely to weed out those that are thin, spammy, or duplicated from other websites. Content that is unique, helpful, and well-received by readers, as proven by engagement metrics, will be rewarded the top spots in SERPs.
It’s been there for ages
Many high-ranking sites have a common denominator —they have been around for years. Even if they are not actively doing SEO nowadays, they probably already have built an extensive portfolio of backlinks and content that are now powering them into the top of search engine results pages.
It has a good link profile
In connection with the above point, a website could rank high if it has a good link profile. Perhaps it has backlinks from relavant and authoritative sites, like those with .edu or .gov extensions. It could also be that it has a well-constructed system of internal links.
It does well in social signals
If the company and its website has good brand equity and reputation in the industry, among its customers, or in the community it is serving, it can rank high in SERPs. If the website’s content is shared often and if people engage with it very positively, this could compel search engines to rank the website highly. It also helps if the website has a good following in social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Its marketers are doing PPC
Lastly, you might not be doing SEO, but perhaps you are doing something else, like PPC. Running a pay-per-click advertising campaign is one of the best ways to buy visits to your website. It should come as no surprise at all if your site is ranking highly because of the visits your campaign is generating.