Neil Patel wrote a great blog post at Search Engine Journal about why some websites rank well in Google even though their pages aren’t optimized. I think he had some good things to say, so I’m going to follow up with some thoughts of my own.
- Click-Through Rate – This one is difficult for some people to understand. If a web page starts off on page 10, how does it get found enough to have a click-through rate (CTR)? It happens because some searchers are deep searchers. Google has enough information to compare other results on pages 8, 9, 10, and 11, and if your CTR is well above other comparable sites, you’ll move up. As you do, your CTR should increase, you’ll get more traffic and more CTR and rise in the rankings even higher.
- Bounce Rate – It isn’t enough to have a high CTR, however. If you have a high bounce rate, that could be an indication that your Title and Description are misleading. But if you have a high CTR and a low bounce rate, Google likes that.
- Age – This refers to both domain age and page age. There may also be some backlink age working in your favor, but that’s a separate issue (see below). Older domains simply have an advantage. Remember that when you try to build your backlink portfolio for a new site.
- Backlinks – It isn’t all about the number of backlinks. It’s more about quality and authority of the sites linking to yours, as well as anchor text relevance. You should spend some time studying backlink philosophies before you try to implement your link building campaign.
- Cross-Linking – This one is very important. In fact, some SEOs think it may be as important or more important than building backlinks. It certainly is important either way you look at it. The idea is to link the internal pages of your website with relevant anchor text and in a way that makes sense for your end user. This is where a blog could be helpful.
- Content Quality – Content doesn’t have to be well optimized to be of high quality. If the articles you write, or the website content, answers readers questions, that’s often enough.
- Keyword Competition – This is where mediocre optimization can help you out. If there is a low level of competition for certain keywords, you can rank well for those keywords with minimal optimization. Of course, the low competition could be an indicator that search demand is low, as well.
- Backlink Growth Rate – Even if you do all the right things in building links, if you do it too fast, it can backfire. Getting 10,000 backlinks a day every day for a month won’t look natural, especially if you only get 25 or 30 in the months before and after your breakout month. Slow and steady is better than fast and furious.
It’s possible to rank high for certain keywords if your pages aren’t optimized, but you’ll still do yourself well to optimize those pages.