Why are lower-quality websites outrank my professional site?
Have you ever seen this question in social media groups, communities, or SEO forums? Maybe you have asked this question.
In most cases, it’s not unusual at all. A business owner invested money in a professional website, but some crappy websites of competitors outrank it.
So let’s consider an example of this that’s completely practical.
A classic case description
Business owners often give the same description:
Our site is better than the websites of competitors. It has been around for 5-10-15 years, one of the very first in our niche, and has a powerful backlink profile, DA 70. We produce several high-quality pieces of unique content per week.
First, you should know that bad sites can outrank a good website. Using unethical SEO tactics like paid links, cloaking, content spamming helps many sites to rank well for their bad-faith efforts. Also, search engines can’t compare the quality of websites. Search engines use many algorithms to find and present relevant information to the users. It is more about web page relevancy than the quality of a website.
Second, the quality of the website is a subjective assessment. Are you sure your site is quality? Can domain age, backlink profile, domain authority (link authority), content uniqueness make your site better?
Domain age and site age
One of the most popular myths is that older domains rank more strongly. It’s not true. The major search engines have access to domain age, IP address, and owner. However, Google’s John Mueller confirmed that domain age is not a ranking signal, tweeting, “…domain age helps nothing.”
Site age, on the other hand, has more ranking relevance. Very new sites that are less than six months old can have trouble ranking. But “sandbox” for new sites is also a myth. Search engines collected more search signals about old sites. But it doesn’t mean that search engines prefer old sites.
Imagine the following situation: you are an engineer who works for one of the well-known search engines. Your goal is to provide the most relevant content for searchers. Would you use domain age or site age to rank pages? A searcher also prefers to find the relevant answer for your search query, not a fifteen-year-old page.
Your site was the first site in the niche
Many years ago Jack Trout and Al Ries wrote ‘It’s better to be first than it is to be better’ in their book. That has never worked in marketing. That has never worked in SEO.
Users and customers do not need the first company. They need services, information, product. You are a customer too. Do you really care about companies that were first?
It’s the same in SEO. Search engines don’t care about a website that was first in the niche. You create a site, add content. Then competitors enter this niche, build sites, create content. The new queries in the niche start. Content and links tend to peak after queries peak. Then a niche becomes saturated with content. The content that the average searcher needs is already there. It becomes increasingly more difficult to promote new content to the top of search results. But it will be changed when in a mature niche the queries drop off.
No matter so much who was first.
A powerful backlink profile
The search engines provide clear guidelines about which links are acceptable to them. Unfortunately, many people didn’t read the Webmaster guidelines. Everyone uses SEO tools to evaluate a backlink profile. People trust the SEO tools’ evaluations and take action on the basis of what those tools tell them.
The real problem with backlinks in search engine optimization is that SEOs have no industry standards, so a lot of people are selling SEO tools and backlink audit services. Anyone who wants to conduct a backlink audit can do so and there is no way to show they are right or wrong. So you should be careful which SEO advice you trust.
And there’s another problem, no one knows which link pass value and which link is ignored by a search engine. Search engines evaluate backlinks algorithmically and they don’t share how they do that.
In other words, you can’t be sure that your backlink profile is ‘powerful’ and you can’t compare your backlink profile with other websites.
Several years ago Rand Fishkin of Moz identified some great points why lower quality websites rank higher. Moz built their theory around domain authority (DA). Also, Rand Fishkin told about page-based features, such as the content, keywords, links, and overall user experience. But SEOs have focused on DA.
Domain Authority is not a Google ranking factor and has no effect on the SERPs (Moz). Would you like more proof?
High-quality pieces of unique content
If you create content for SEO, you create content spam. Even if you create ‘quality unique content’ to get top on the SERP, you create content spam.
Content spam is what you publish when you’re just following a content plan to target keywords.
Does it mean that you provide good unique content for your target audience? Let’s just come clean. No, it doesn’t. In most cases, we all just generate spam content to add some keywords, internal links, and share this content on social media. It is patronizing, not new, and uninspired. And at the same time, competitors post pieces of crappy content that are a little bit better optimized than yours. In some cases, your competitors post something that people looking for and you have no chance to outrank their sites.
There are many reasons why competitors’ content wins. But the main reason is you follow “SEO tips” instead of following your target audience’s needs. The rule is to write because you have something interesting to say. It means you have to know your target audience’s needs and product/service features.
Stop following “SEO tips”! Unfortunately, many marketers don’t know what quality content looks like. They create a post on How to outrank the competition on Google [27 quick and easy tips] to create spam content that will generate traffic.
Yet another weak SEO idea is now being elevated to the status of pseudo-fact: that fresh content somehow outranks old content in Google’s search results. It’s this kind of nonsense that really leads people to generate new content.
Gaming the freshness of content Is not new. SEOs change dates from page content, URLs, and XML sitemaps. SEOs create content every week. In fact, many sites publish content on a regular basis. Marketers and SEOs do it because they have put themselves in the position of having to publish something. Otherwise, they’ll lose subscribers or whatever it is that makes their businesses flow.
And the truth is old content can generate traffic and leads as well as new content. If you create a really good one, it will generate traffic and leads for a long time (years).
You can disagree with our arguments presented. If you think your website is “great, quality, optimized” but competitors still outrank your website, it means that you are doing something wrong. Try to do something different unless you just really enjoy your competitors outranking your site in the SERPs.