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How are sites like this ranking above ANYONE?!
The search engines, especially Google and Bing have moved well beyond what most "SEO" sites (the ones I've seen anyway) are touting as important.
Therefore, a site can have spammy stuff on the page but rank well because of good visitor behaviour.
I'm sure it's been answered at point: But, why? If the high-ranking sites are quality, why does Google care so much that they combat these SEO firms?
Therefore, a site can have spammy stuff on the page but rank well because of good visitor behaviour. Perhaps the site you are looking at looks spammy, but it still provides the information required and your average surfer likes it. As someone who knows a lot about the subject of the website, you may think it is terrible, but many thousands of less informed people may accept it as good. Also, maybe there are a few very high quality back links which could make a big difference.
visitor behavior (completely in my opinion) is becoming, or has become, the "new links" in rankings.
Google would have to keep track of what the visitor continues to do (ie if he goes back to search from your page and searches for the same thing again) to even start to figure out if the visitor behavior is positive or negative for the site.
What, like I have to every time I search for anything on Google lateley?
A backlink check of a competing (poor quality/spammy-type site, btw with visible keyword stuffing, etc) has only 800+ backlinks, whereas mine ranks well below it, off the 1st page (and other more quality competitors of this site) have upwards of 2000+
Lately I see my sites moving all over the place, sometimes on first page sometimes 4th or 2nd page. It keeps changing constantly through out the day. Aol seems to have the only consistent google results. Whats going on with google?
1) I am not sure what tool you are using to find the link counts but none are as accurate as Google themselves.
2) Do you know how many domains redirect to your competitor's domain and how many links do those redirecting domains have?