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Puzzled why a site is ranking w/o keyword on page

     
3:42 am on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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Ok so the past few months I been noticing sites at the top of the SERPs that don't have any of the keyword phrase in the page itself for the phrase I am searching.

I searched through the page source and there is zero occurrences of the keyword phrase, and even parts of it.

The categories do match. But in no way do the phrases themselves correlate with one another to be even near a match.
6:55 am on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

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The site is generally accepted to be about the keyword by Google so individual pages tend to rank better for the umbrella of keywords the site is about. Yes, as you're seeing, keywords in text are optional now to a larger degree than they used to be.

Look in your GWT to see what Google thinks your site is about, in the keyword section I believe. You'll have an easier time ranking pages according to what Google thinks you're about than if you try to rank a page on a totally unrelated topic.

Webmasterworld for example could never rank top 10 for the word appliance, not because of the competition per say but because this site isn't known to be about appliances. It CAN however rank a page for a webmaster related topic without using the exact keywords if Google feels there are enough synonyms on the page (or on pages talking about it).
9:14 am on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

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:: insert boilerplate about how, as a user, I absolutely HATE it when something comes up in a search, and then my search term does not exists anywhere whatsoever on the page, even hiding in source code ::

Sometimes it's synonyms. Sometimes it's text used in links to the page from elsewhere. Sometimes it's a dynamic page that used to have what you're looking for, but that was seventeen posts ago. No way of knowing which.
10:59 am on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I have to agree with lucy24. I've been using verbatim search since they announced it. Using it makes Google SOOOO much better.
12:40 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I agree with lucy24. There was a time when Google would show pages that contained the exact phrase, making it easer to find the portion of the document that I want to see. I often use Cntr-F to jump to the phrase on the page, but when the phrase doesn't exist, I resort to the cache. Sometimes, the phrase doesn't even exist in the cache rendering it a complete waste of my time. If I am researching about Multiple Sclerosis, I expect to find that phrase on the pages returned in the serps; but all too often, it doesn't.
3:04 pm on Apr 11, 2012 (gmt 0)

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I'm thinking synonyms. I have a client who has a couple dozen products that commonly go by several different industry terms - it's about 50/50 - and in some cases we rank for both even though only one shows up on the page (or even on the entire site)