Yesterday evening a post appeared on TheRegister discussing how it had come across a "supposedly" secret manual from Google that it provides to “human reviewers” to manually evaluate websites with.
Most people believe that Google’s listing are ranked according to some sort of mathematical equation and would never think that the position of your website is determined by a human reviewer. The answer is somewhere in between.
Sure the Google indexing algorithm is one the smartest going around, but if they purely left it up to the computerized system to determine your sites rankings then Google would become "too easy" to game!
So now they are using an increasing number of human reviewers that have to visit a website using predefined search terms and evaluate what they think of your site.
There's a lot of responsibility places on these reviewers and if they get it wrong then your website could seriously suffer, so it advisable to find out what they are looking for and optimize it for that (as well as the standard SEO criteria).
It hard for them us to imagine that these human reviewers would visit every site on the web, but I am sure they visit those sites that rank highly for particular search terms. Maybe just those sites in the first couple of pages of search engine results.
So, this is a theory I've had for a while.
It’s a lot easier to get an attractive looking website (one that’s easy on the eye and looks like someone took some time to create and has some sort of pride in the site) than an unpleasant website.
Both sites may have the same number of back links, same on-page factors etc.
But one will rank higher than the other one.
Have a look at the report on TheRegistry, it’s well worth the read.