Kalena Jordan of Ask Kalena was recently asked this question:
Why do older unoptimized sites sometimes rank better than younger optimized ones?
It’s a good question and I like the way she answered it. I’m going to give my own answer now even though she and I are in agreement.
The search engines have well over 100 criteria that they judge when deciding which sites rank for specific keyword phrases. The algorithms are such that no criteria is weighted so heavily that it dominates all other criteria. On-page optimization is just one ranking factor. Other ranking factors that influence where websites fall in the line up include:
- Age of the domain
- Relevance of inbound links to the domain
- Quality of inbound links to the domain
- Server neighborhood of the domain
- Registration history and future of the domain
- Web page load time
- Code to text ratio
- Link attributes and graphic alt tags
- Many, many more
There is more to website optimization than merely choosing the right keywords and placing them a number of times within your content. Internal links are important, site navigation is important, and there are a ton of off site optimization techniques that are looked at. If an older non-optimized site in your niche is outranking you, it is likely because it is doing enough things right that the one ranking factor (on-page optimization) simply isn’t enough to push it down and push you up.
The good news: Over time, if you keep doing enough of the right things, you should be able to bridge the gap.