So what happens if you’re doing everything right, but you still see bad pages outranking yours? This situation can happen to the best of sites, and there are a number of reasons that it could be happening.

There’s nothing more frustrating than undertaking extensive search engine optimisation (SEO) on a site, only to have your rankings stay put. It’s even more frustrating when you get close to your ultimate goal, but appear to be blocked at the last step by what looks like low-quality sites. In both cases, there are two scenarios that you need to consider.

1. There’s something wrong with you

This is possibly the last thing you want to consider. If you’ve just spent a couple of months overhauling your site for SEO, it’s tempting to look elsewhere first. However, it’s worth having another look, if only for one reason – too much SEO.

Although the search engines have denied penalising for over-optimisation, plenty of SEOs have reported cases of it. What it usually comes down to is a little too much application of certain search engine optimisation techniques. If your rankings aren’t doing what you want them to, it’s time to check:

  • Keywords – is your density too high? Is your site looking keyword-stuffed?
  • Content – have you managed to trip the low-quality content trigger in the algorithm? Do you have enough on each page, and is it interesting and unique?
  • Links – are there any that don’t look natural? Have you been link sculpting badly?

If there are any areas of your SEO plan that you’ve been a little too enthusiastic about, it’s a good idea to pare it back.

Other areas to look at include your link profile in comparison to these new competitors on your radar. Which leads me to…

2. There’s something wrong with them

…Or rather, there’s something wrong with the way the other site is performing SEO. You don’t have to be involved in SEO for very long to realise there’s still a lot of black hat tactics being used around the net. Although the search engines continue to weed out black-hat operators with algorithm updates, some sites still slip through. If you’re looking at a low-quality site that has somehow outranked your high-quality one, you may be looking at a black-hat operator.

Before you do anything else then, you need to identify how they got to where they are. One of the best places to look is at their link profile. With all the changes the search engines have made to stomp out black hat SEO, link profiles are still the most vulnerable to manipulation.

A couple of things to remember:

  • Check to see if there are any links you can use. It’s always best to be cautious when investigating low-quality sites, but they may have links from blogs or review sites that you don’t. Analyse their profile just as you would any other competitor, to see if there’s anything you can make use of
  • If they truly are using black hat techniques, they can be reported. Notify the search engines of your suspicions
  • Waiting is an option. Often, sites using black hat SEO techniques are devalued in the rankings after a while, but this can take patience

It’s important to remember, though, that search engine optimisation is as unpredictable as any other online marketing discipline. Even when the site you’re up against is employing black hat techniques, the real answer may be a complicated one. Look at your social media presence and general reputation for full answers as there’s an awful lot to search engine optimisation.

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