Everybody on the web, whether they be a small business or a multinational corporation, wants to be at the top of Google for their given keywords. Most aren’t satisfied until they rank No.1 for at least 10 of their keywords. Of course, for every keyword only a single website can be ranked first. The website owner will believe Google is doing a great job of ranking their website first for that keyword, whereas everybody else will believe Google is being unfair or that their SEO consultant is incompetent at their job.
We live in a blame culture. It is far easier to point the finger at somebody else or even Google. Google isn’t fair, and it polices the web and ranks accordingly to the best of it’s abilities. Not all websites deserve to be ranked first though. Only websites with the best content deserve to be ranked, and Google does its best to rank the best content first so the searcher can find the most relevant content for that search keyword.
The “best content” is a subject open to debate though; Google displays the best webpages that best meets the intention and need of a searcher for a particular keyword phrase. The best content could be just a few lines versus a 1000 word article. Google can’t review every single site fairly so it’ll make a snap judgement based on quality content and backlinks. Google also determines a website by metrics such as the words and phrases used on a page, how long people spend viewing a page, and the number and quality of other websites linking to a page.
It is important to note that website which generally has great content and a ton of backlinks can be outranked for a particular keyword by a website that generally has poor content and few backlinks. This can happen if a webpage on the generally poor website has more relevant / better content than a webpage on the generally good website.
The best content doesn’t always get ranked great in Google. You can usually spot a website ranking poorly with great content due to unethical means of attaining their site authority (in Google’s eyes), whether this be low quality backlinks or SEO shortcuts in general. Google is constantly looking for websites that use underhand methods to boost their rankings and the penalties can be seen with poor ranking with quality content. It is important to think long-term with SEO, and a long term plan can be anything from 12 to 24 months.
The only safe long-term way to achieve good rankings, the safest way, is to earn them and deserve them using a safe practice. Aim to improve the content on your webpages individually, so that the content is better than the content on all of the other pages ranked in the top 10 of Google for that keyword. You have to look at the content on the pages ranked in the top 10 and ask yourself whether you’re prepared to create content that is at least as good as that content. If you’re not prepared to invest the time or money required to do that then you don’t deserve to be ranked first.