How sites rank in certain industries on Google often doesn’t seem to make any sense. When a website, that looks like it was designed by a hyper-active teenager in the 90’s can be found more easily that one with interesting content and an intelligent design, you could understandably question the value of Google’s weighting algorithm in bringing you the most relevant websites.
Examine them more closely though and you might find that the weaker one, simply has a better understanding of effective SEO practices. (Or their poor design just simply lucked out.)
Broad Link Profile
One of the most obvious and widely publicised ways to improve your rankings is through being linked on other sites. Often sites that have been around for longer have the simple benefit of having had more time to build these links. And maybe they were building them in a time when link building was a bit easier.
At the end of the day though, how well designed a site is isn’t necessarily an indication of how much effort is put in by the webmaster to build links. They may have simply hired a company to do the design work and now simply add content without any technical knowledge of the rankings.
Natural Content/Keyword Stuffing
A poorly maintained site might post endless lines of content that, in a traditional marketing sense, would fail to catch the consumer’s attention and overload them with information. A good site might only have a few of pieces of necessary information that give the consumer and clear and comprehensive idea of the company.
To Google though, the worse website seems to have richer content because they’re using the same keywords over and over in a seemingly natural way. This won’t be penalised by Google’s Penguin algorithm because it’s hard to recognise.
Having even the most basic website will put you higher in the rankings than having your content on a popular site that doesn’t specifically represent you.
It seems incredibly obvious but many companies forget to have an individual web presence. Of course, being listed on business directories or affiliating yourself with a larger business entity (e.g. a clothing store putting their content on the site of the shopping mall’s they’re located) will improve your rankings, but being on these sites without having a homepage to link to, is a wasted online presence.
The Site is Relevant to Its Industry
A bad site may have unhelpful content but it might still be relevant to a specific topic. On the other hand a better site might have content that appears to digress but really just tries to provide broader information on the concepts and products therein.
To Google bots though, it seems as if the bad site is more specific to the industry that is being searched for and therefore more pertinent to the person searching.
Archaic Sites Often Have More Searchable Content
Flash content or content embedded in pictures can’t be picked up by Google so it’s doesn’t figure into the rankings. More modern sites can suffer as a result.
As mentioned above older and poorly designed sites not only have a large degree of repetitive and uselessly descriptive content but will likely have dozens of unnecessary site-wide links with just as much keyword rich content, that tricks Google into thinking it’s the content itself that’s rich.