Search engine optimization is the art of making a web page rank well in search engines. People are excessively opinionated about this concept. Almost every time I write about anything related to SEO (search engine optimization), I have people dispute and protest. If you have any concerns about my knowledge in this area, please look up ‘internet marketing’ in Google and take a look at the sites that appear on the first page.
This lesson will cover two important aspects of SEO – PageRank and keyword authority. There are literally hundreds of factors that search engines use to rank pages, so this lesson is not intended to be the ‘be all’ of lessons on SEO. However, these factors are crucial and definitely can not be ignored, in fact ignoring either can create a situation where your web page falls prey to stronger and more authoritative pages.
PageRank And Keyword Authority Are Not The Same Thing
Before we discuss how to increase PageRank and keyword authority, we definitely need to address that fact that PageRank and keyword authority are NOT the same thing. You can have great PageRank and terrible keyword authority, and vice versa. This area is one of the most misunderstood areas of SEO, and if you are confused on these subjects I sincerely hope that I can shed some light.
What Is PageRank Exactly?
PageRank was designed by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page – the founders of Google – in 1998 to determine the strength of pages relative to each other on the internet. I have written about this formula before and if you’re interested in that, you can read about it here: The Beginnerâ€™s Guide To Top Google Rankings. Instead of writing about the formula itself, I want to provide to you the basics of how PageRank works.
PageRank is calculated by looking at the link structure of the internet. Brin and Page believed that they could find the most important web pages on the internet by assuming that the most important pages would be linked to more often and by better sites than sites that were less important.
Yahoo.com, for example, has been linked to by over 300,000,000 other websites, many of which are very important sites (New York Times, etc.). Because of this, the PageRank formula will deduce that Yahoo.com is one of the most important sites online, and will reward it with a high PageRank, in this case a PR9.
Since new sites start out with no links, they start with basically no PageRank. Since the PageRank scale is 0-10, these sites will have PR0 until they acquire more and better links.
Higher PR Sites Push More PageRank
To show you how PR of a web page increases based on links, let’s assume that we’re starting out with a brand new, PR0 site. A single link from the Yahoo.com homepage (PR9) would likely increase the PageRank of the homepage of our brand new site to PR7 or PR8. On the other hand, it would probably take millions and millions of PR0 links to push a site to PR8. It might take 10,000 or 100,000 PR5 links to push a page to PR8 – this is pure estimation, it could take much more or much less. Since I have never owned a PR8 site I haven’t seen this happen personally. The idea, however, is sound – higher PR pages pass higher amounts of PageRank to the pages they link to.
Knowing that the system is based on links, we can determine that in order to increase the PageRank of one of our web pages, we will need to increase the amount of web pages that are linking to our page. We can either get a small group of high PR links, a large group of low PR links, or some combination of the two.
Common Misconception About PageRank
There are schools of thought that believe that the PageRank of a web page is affected by the topic of the pages that are linking to it. I have not found this to be the case, in fact I have tested this theory by setting up new pages that are linked to from off-topic pages. They seem to gain just as much PageRank as pages that are linked to by on-topic pages.
This misconception probably comes from the fact that getting links from on-topic pages positively influences the page ranking of a web page. PageRank and page ranking are two different beasts – PageRank is only a small part of the system Google uses to calculate page ranking.
While getting links from on-topic pages doesn’t seem to affect PageRank any differently than getting links from off-topic pages, it does affect page rankings more powerfully than off-topic links would, and that leads us into our next topic, which is keyword authority.
What Is Keyword Authority?
Keyword authority is one of the many ranking factors that search engines use to rank pages and is based primarily on three factors:
- Topic of web pages that are linking to the page in question.
- Anchor text (the words the links are made out of) of links pointing to the web page in question.
- Keyword authority of the web pages linking to the page in question.
While keyword authority is determined primarily by links that point at a given web page, it is different from PageRank. Keyword authority is heavily affected by the topic and of the pages that are linking to the page in question, while PageRank doesn’t seem to be.
CourtneyTuttle.com is a meager PR5 site that is sitting on the first page of Google for the keyword ‘internet marketing‘. If you take a look at the sites that we rank in front of, you will see that there are quite a few PR6s and PR7s in there. What does this mean? It means partially that CourtneyTuttle.com has more keyword authority for the keyword ‘internet marketing’, even though the PageRank of the site is weaker than some of its competitors. It can also, of course, mean that we are doing a better job with some of the other metrics than the other sites.
Now that we have determined that PageRank and keyword authority are two separate beasts, we can discuss how to create keyword authority. To increase keyword authority, there are a few different types of links that we can build:
- Anchor text links from weak, unrelated sites and pages. This is probably the weakest type of link that builds keyword authority, but is still somewhat useful. If we have a site about bananas and get a link from a site about Paris Hilton, it will help us to build a little keyword authority for bananas as long as the link contains bananas in the anchor text. Since the Paris Hilton will be very weak in keyword authority for bananas, the benefit will be small but will still exist. The link will also pass some PageRank, but not very much because the site is weak.
- Anchor text links from strong (high PR), unrelated sites and pages. This link will also provide a fairly small amount of benefit, but can still be worthwhile. Remember that a small amount of benefit is much better than no benefit. Since the site is still unrelated to our site or page, it will lack in keyword authority for our topic. A link that contains bananas in the anchor text from a strong, high PR site about Paris Hilton will still not pass much keyword authority for bananas (it will still pass some), even though it will pass a good amount of PageRank.
- Non-anchor text links from weak but related sites and pages. For this example, we are going to assume that a site about bananas links to our site using a keyword that has nothing to do with bananas. In my experience, this is more helpful than the previous two examples, especially if the site that links to us already has some keyword authority for bananas (if they are a site about bananas this is likely). Since the site is weak, it probably doesn’t have tons of links and keyword authority for bananas, but the topic of the site will create more natural authority for bananas than a site about Paris Hilton would.
- Anchor text links from weak but related sites and pages. An link using bananas as the anchor text from a site about bananas will always be beneficial. However, since the weak site won’t have a ton of authority for ‘bananas’, it probably won’t be as helpful as a non-anchor text link from a stronger site about bananas. It will, of course, provide a lot more benefit than an anchor text link from a weak, unrelated site.
- Non-anchor text links from strong, related sites and pages. Now we’re going to assume that a site that ranks very well for bananas links to us, but doesn’t use bananas in the anchor text of the link. This site obviously has great keyword authority for bananas and some of that authority will pass on to us, even though they don’t use bananas in the anchor text. This will be a very beneficial link that will create a good amount of keyword authority and will also help our PageRank.
- Anchor text links from strong, related sites and pages. This type is the holy grail for building keyword authority. For this example, we’re going to assume that a site that ranks very well for bananas links to us using bananas as the anchor text. This will help us to build a huge amount of authority for bananas, since the site that linked to us is already one of the most trusted sources for ‘bananas’ online.
Most of the time, you are going to need to use a combination of the above types of links to build keyword authority for your keyword. Remember that each of them will allow you to build keyword authority, although some are more effective than others.
Some of you may be wondering how many links you need to get to get enough keyword authority to rank well for you keyword. The answer is simply complicated – you need more than your competitors.
How PageRank And Keyword Authority Relate To Each Other
PageRank and keyword authority are two of many different metrics that Google uses to rank web pages. While they are two very different entities, they both grow based on links that are pointing at a web page. For this reason, hopefully you can see that you can work on them both by increasing links that point the page you’re trying to improve.