On one search term I have, there is one particular site with very low quality content, and yet their search engine ranking is always number one, with my site usually at position three.

How can I go about investigating the reasons for a third party site's search engine rankings?

One method is to try to find incoming links with a link:www.example.com search in Google. What are other methods?

3 Answers 3


One of the most accurate methods is actually Yahoo's Site Explorer. If you search for link:example.com in Yahoo you will get redirected there. You can exclude the domain itself to make sure you see links from other sites.

I actually read an interesting article on SEOmoz just this morning about looking at competitor's backlinks. It uses their Open Site Explorer tool which is free for a few uses per day.

  • Didn't know Yahoo's Site Explorer could be of any use still. Thanks for reminding me. Aug 15, 2010 at 0:48

In assessing the "searchability" of a site, here's a stab at the major factors:

  1. Quality of the content
  2. Longevity of the site and content
  3. Timeliness of content (how often updated)
  4. Quantity of content
  5. Number of inbound links
  6. Quality of the sites sending inbound links (how good are the sites that link to you?)
  7. Timeliness of inbound links (does your link appear in the news? on social networking sites like twitter, perhaps because of "buzz"?)
  8. Content markup semantically savvy (<title>, <h1>, <h2>, <ul>, alt and title attributes
  9. Indexability of your site (robots.txt and sitemap.xml files appropriately specified and are welcoming to search engine bots)

If I knew the order of the importance of these factors I'd be a rich man. I usually refer to the Official Google Webmaster Central Blog, which discusses current issues related to how sites interact with search engines.

  • I'd like to believe that, but the quality of content in the particular case of my competitor is so appalling that it's a joke. First of all the whole page is factually incorrect. Second I don't think it's ever been updated, it is like a poor quality geocities page or a copy-paste of some usenet posting. As for markup, the main text on the page is a succession of <pre> blocks of text like typewritten, with bits of stuff which disappear because they have unescaped < and > in them (I only found out when I was checking for this comment).
    – delete
    Jul 14, 2010 at 15:25
  • I feel like I'm answering a "best practices" question, but you're commenting about a VERY specific instance with VERY specific frustrations about how your page is losing to this other site. I'm not sure what you expect here. Without knowing the url of your site, the competitor's site, and the search engine and search terms you're using, all I'm left with is answering with what I understand to be how to assess the search worthiness of a page/site.
    – artlung
    Jul 14, 2010 at 15:39
  • I'm not complaining about your answer, just remarking.
    – delete
    Jul 14, 2010 at 21:28

well, first of all keep in mind that the factual accuracy and look & feel of a site aren't ranking factors.

And really, neither is HTML quality, or frequency of updates (although that's a longer issue)

If it looks like an ancient site, maybe it is. Google's going to give a lot of weight to a 10 year old site, especially if most of the competition is much newer.

Apart from that, its gotta be links. Use Yahoo Site Explorer / Open Site Explorer / whatever else.

You'll (probably) either find that the page has a bunch of really strong, natural links, or that it has a bunch of spam / paid links. If its the latter, you can spam report him.

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