Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.
Jim Munro: googlebot is far from realtime. I once saw an almost-blank pdf ranking number one for a competitive term. It seemed impossible too but a check of found a previously-expired domain from long ago with content good enough to justify the ranking. I just misled you, BTW, I did not figure it out. From hazy memory, I think it was who unearthed the old listing.
BTW, that`s why it`s not a good practice to continuously fiddle with your site. It`s usually best to get it right the first time and leave it.
Jobin John: It could be that they are hiding their backlinks (PBN), also could be that they have really high domain and url rating... Google trusts this site and thus ranks it higher. Google does have metrics to rate domains based on their overall performance.
Michael Martinez: The overlap between backlinks you find for another site via SEO tools and the backlinks Bing and Google actually index is typically small (less than 50% in the cases where I have been able to compare data), so you should never assume a site only has a small number of backlinks. That said, rankings are not solely determined by backlinks. It IS possible for small content sites to outperform larger, better-linked sites, even in competitive queries. The search engines use hundreds of signals and you ignore the validity of those other signals at your own risk.
Tim Capper: It not all about links, relevancy, context and location
Glenn Cooper: With all due respect, pages 2 and 3 are nowhere..