Just because you are a good player, play by the rules, you are an SEO angel – it does not mean you should rank number one or very well in the search results for whatever you want. Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter, “just because a site isn’t spamming doesn’t mean it’s the best result for user queries.”
This is in response to asking why his site isn’t ranking well when they do white hat stuff, have never built any links and has no manual actions.
I suspect most of the web is in the same boat – where they don’t even do any SEO, everything is natural and they have no penalties but they don’t rank #1 for all the queries they want to rank for.
So here, John Mueller’s advice is accurate and on point. Just because you don’t spam Google, it doesn’t mean you should rank well. You still need to be awesome to rank and of course, not just awesome but the most relevant result.
Forum discussion at Twitter.