Organic search engine optimization (SEO) depends heavily on keyword research and targeting, but its main goal is to "optimize" webpages for maximum search engine visibility, and that means gaining as much PageRank as possible. PageRank is Google's measure of how authoritative a webpage is compared to relevant keywords queried by end-users.
While Google may not be the only major search engine out there, it IS undoubtedly the largest, most powerful, and most complex. Furthermore, other large search engines such as Yahoo and Bing have their own measure of PageRank — named differently but still quite similar. So for the sake of simplicity, we'll use Google's PageRank.
PageRank is driven by inbound links — both internal (from the same website) and external (from other websites), though external inbound links typically "weigh" more. When Google was first developed, the calculation for PageRank was very simple (this IS simple compared to how it probably is now):
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
Where A is a webpage and PR is the PageRank, and T1 … Tn are pages linking to A. C is the total outbound links within any given webpage, and d is a damping factor typically set at 0.85.
Now before we get any more technical, that formula simply states that the PageRank of any webpage A is the accumulation of the PageRank of any webpages linking to it divided by how many outbound links those pages have, multiplied by the dampening factor. The points we need to focus on here are:
• A webpage's PageRank is "shared" to all of the other pages it links to
• That shared PageRank is part of the PageRank of every webpage that original webpage links to
This means that the total PageRank of any webpage is partly comprised by the number of backlinks it has as well as the PageRank of the sources of those backlinks. And looking at that computation, value trumps number. If your website gets a hundred links from different low PageRank websites, it will not get a higher PageRank than when you have a single link from a very high PageRank source. Quality is more important than quantity.
Of course, today, PageRank is much complex — taking into account internal and external linking, linking behavior, and more. But this core concept stays the same and has even been refined by Google's Panda and Penguin algorithm updates. So what should you do to increase a webpage's PageRank and thus rank it higher in search engine results pages (SERPs)?
1. Set Up the Webpage to Rank
Usually you would hire a website designer to create and design the main webpage you want to rank highly in SERPs. Make sure it has highly optimized on-page and off-page elements, and the user experience it offers any traffic that lands on it is perfect. This page can be your website homepage, a point of sale page like a product page, or a landing page where hard selling market copy is placed.
2. Link Internally
Next, you build up webpages from within your website to link to that main page. These webpages can be blog posts or other webpages where there are different sorts of web content optimized for search engines. You do not need to rank these webpages very high in SERPs, though that would help, but you need to make sure you target as many important primary and secondary keywords within them. All of them should point to that main page so their separate PageRanks can boost the PageRank of that main page.
3. Pitch in Some Link Building Efforts
Now you build up the PageRank of those secondary webpages and the main page as well. Try reaching out to websites within the same niche, guest blogging, or writing up high quality, optimized material in other external but relevant websites. If your secondary and main webpages had high quality content, chances are they will naturally gain backlinks as time goes by, but you also need to make an active effort and build those links whenever possible.
Remember that the PageRank of any single webpage is an accumulation of the PageRanks of pages linking to it. So let's say for instance you write a guest blog post on a high PageRank website. The webpage where your blog post is placed will have part of the shared PageRank of the entire high PageRank website. So if you link to your main or secondary webpages (which point to your main page), you will be taking a share of that PageRank and giving it to your main page, which makes it rank higher in SERPs.
4. Align Your Marketing
Now, since you are already building PageRank for that main webpage to rank higher in SERPs, you might as well align your efforts to your inbound marketing in the process. For example, set up pay per click ads for specific pages as well as your main page so both organic and targeted traffic is directed to it. You should also make sure that the backlinks you place in your web content are not just there for the sake of PageRank, but also for the sake of the readers who will follow them. Place effective calls to action and lead traffic from one stage of your sales funnel to the next, culminating in them landing on that main webpage. You can learn more on this topic on the blog.
Throughout this entire process, Google employs various means of making sure the web content that links to that main webpage is high quality, free of fluff and not "thin" or useless, irrelevant content. One recent measure implemented is the Panda update, which is actually a sifter that fires off into areas of the Internet on irregular intervals, intent on combing through web content indexed by Google and purging thin content.
Yet another measure put in place to ensure that people are not gaming the system is the Penguin update, an important facet of which is an algorithm update that checks linking behavior, outbound and inbound links, and other factors to determine if PageRank calculations for webpages are accurate.