Beginner SEO: Intro to PageRank, Keywords, Backlinks, & Semantics

The Best Shortcut to Good SEO is Not Taking Any.

Over the years, Google has altered the algorithm that dictates the terms that its ranking system operates under to determine what websites are the most relevant and useful for people who search for related terms. Many marketers and business owners have lost their spots on the search results page after Google had updated the algorithm.

In particular, the recent release of Penguin has caused much consternation amongst SEOs, webmasters, and digital publishers. Penguin not only raised the bar in terms of user experience by penalizing mobile sites with interstitials (popups), it has also greatly improved Google’s ability to interpret the actual content of a page in a much more holistic manner.

Gone are the days when it was up to proper tag hierarchy to send the right “signals” to Google bots. Now, the Google algorithms look for lexical diversity when determining the quality and relevance of a webpage. This seems to be a full-on assault on publishers who continuously practice keyword stuffing.

Rather, publishers would be better off populating content with “proximity keywords” to further tailor the angle of the page content in a way that increases visits from the target audience. Adding these proximity and context-building keywords increases the richness of language on the page.

In the past, a technique like the one above would have likely had an adverse effect on SEO. It was considered a best practice to optimize a page for a certain word, not straying from it. But, as Google’s algorithms develop or “learn,” they have been able to better take into account dialectical and regional differences. What does this mean for SEO? It means that writers and marketers need to put less credence to the idea of “writing for search engines” and focus more on writing to improve the user experience (UX); interpreting the semantics in keyword data to understand the user-base’s lexicon.

Nobody knows the exact factors that make or break a website’s rank, but a lot of companies have invested time and money to get a better understanding of the process. If you don’t want Google to penalize you, then keeping a few SEO survival tips in mind will ensure that you stay safe during the next update.

Keyword Optimization and Content Quality

Keywords play a vital role in how well a piece of content ranks, but you have to place each one in a way that makes sense and does not harm the experience of the reader. Using your keyword once in the title and one or two times throughout the article is plenty, but you can use it more than that as long as each placement appears natural. Using your keyword in the heading and subheadings of your content is a great way to let Google know what topic your pages cover.

In the past, webmasters and SEO experts have said that content is king, but that statement is only partially true. Although content is a vital element in every SEO plan, it won’t do anyone much good if it’s low-quality.

Rather, high-quality content is king, and you will always want to write your articles in a way that solves the problem that is prompting your users’ search engine queries, leading them to your website. Don’t try to trick visitors onto your page with lofty claims and fascinations. Solving the problem up-front is key to ensuring repeat audience engagement.

So anytime you opt to place a piece of content on your site, ask yourself whether people will find it valuable and engaging. No matter what updates Google implements, its goal is always to offer relevant and useful search results.

Understanding Search Context

It’s crucial to understand user intent by analyzing the lexical semantics behind any given keyword group. If the audience you’ve optimized website’s content for isn’t the audience that is likely to make a purchase or other conversion, what’s the point?

It used to be the case that an effective backlink strategy was the central pillar of any successful SEO strategy. Every SEO and digital marketer knew that the key to getting the best possible rank involves building backlinks to the content.

But before you start gathering every link that you can, you must understand why Google values backlinks. And it should be noted that as advances in natural language processing technology occur; backlinks will increasingly serve a supporting role to the content; effectively providing a layer of quality assurance.

How do Backlinks Help Determine PageRank?

Because it can’t manually review each website for relevance and quality, Google uses backlinks to determine the value of each site. Google’s search engine algorithms know that people have tried using links from low-quality sources to improve their ranking.If you don’t want to encounter problems, review the existing backlinks to your site, make sure they come from reputable domains and that they appear naturally created.

Although businesses from around the world have spent a lot of time, effort and money to discover how Google ranks content, the primary PageRank factor is value and relevance. Through understanding Google’s goals and keeping the needs of its users in mind, you will be able to rank your website or blog, and you won’t need to worry about getting penalized.

Avoid Black Hat SEO to Avoid Getting Delisted

Ask yourself if your company is—or employees are—taking any risky shortcuts or trying to cheat the system.  Your results won’t last if you are. On the other hand, offering compelling content, placing your keywords naturally and earning—rather than seeking—backlinks from authoritative websites is essential for organic audience development.