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SEO: The Basics of Ranking Well

Written by Chris McCarthy Posted in SEO

SEO: The Basics of Ranking Well

We get a lot of questions on how you can rank well in the search engines. This is a vast topic matter that will be extensively discussed in our blog. For now, we just wanted to give our audience some quick pointers about the essential components of an SEO strategy. If you have specific questions, feel free to ask them in our SEO forum.

A brief overview

As with every specialized knowledge, we can draw broad strokes, while reminding the reader that the devil is in the detail.

Our SEO 101 Guide will open with describing the broad principles. They will give you an eagle eye overview of the framework in which we work coupled with a short overview of how these principles have developed historically in the search engine algorithms.

Raw PageRank (a.k.a. Link Juice)

pagerank_googleLet’s start with the smallest factor of interest.

PageRank used to be an important factor in SEO optimization for Google. Today, it is somewhat important, but it’s advocated effectiveness is more myth than reality.

PageRank was a simple algorithm that calculated the likelihood that a person randomly clicking on links will arrive at any particular page. In other words, it wasn’t the amount of links that point to the page that were important (this is a frequent misconception) but rather the chances that somebody could stumble upon your page.

In the hay day of SEO, PageRank was extremely important. You could install the Google Toolbar, that gives you an indication of the PageRank of each page. The trick was then to get links from pages with high PageRank, as this would increase the probability of a surfer randomly clicking on links to arrive on your page. The algorithm would then list you higher in the search engines simply based on this algorithm.

Since the beginning of the Naughties search engines have gotten smarter, and PageRank has declined in overall importance, in many ways because it was such a random way of assessing the value of a page.

Key Words on the page

Next on the list is optimizing the keyword distribution on your page. Although the second least important factor, this can really give a boost to your site, and it is recommended that this is where you start your SEO efforts. We will be giving you an in-depth guide on On Page Keyword Optimization.

But for now, a quick overview:

It is important that keywords that are indicative to the search appear on the page. In other words, if a searcher looks for ‘electric kettles’ and your page is about ‘electric kettles’, those words better be on the page. Seems obvious, but quite often we don’t know what search phrases our audience would use. This would then require us to first find out what key phrases are the most popular when people look for our services. Once we know these key phrases, we should then include them on the page.

There is a whole ’science’ behind on-page optimization, and we will be addressing this in-depth. The science also extends to optimization for visitor to customer conversion, and this will be addressed in November’s tutorials.

Anchor text in Backlinks

Backlinks move your site to the center of the web

More important than the keywords on the page is the words used in the link from an external page (on a different domain) than your page. If your page is about search engine optimization, and an external page links to you for the keywords search engine optimization. than that will count towards how relevant your page appears to be to the search engines, especially if the link comes from a page that is contextually relevant to your topic material.

The influence of anchor text in external links has been declining in the past, because this is yet another element that can be gamed by SEO’s. But if you have a lot of backlinks to your site, you will see a definite uplift in your position in the search engines!

Domain Trust / Authority

Way way back in the history of SEO, when the industry was still in its infancy, an astonishing 7 years ago, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, Domain Trust didn’t really play a role that I knew off. Today, it is THE factor in SEO.

If Google decides that you are a trusted domain (like the BBC or Wikipedia) you will do well in the search engines for all key phrases that are relevant to topics you discuss. That is not to say that you can’t be beaten by pages that have lots of backlinks (see the previous page), but you will have to try a lot less to get far superior results. In fact, Google’s algorithm update this year (called Vince) has given even more weight to the fact whether Google trusts your brand or not.

So the task at hand is to write lots of quality content and become a trusted domain (this can take years) – or the second best thing: get lots of links from trusted domains (we’ll discuss this in future updates).


Although we will discuss some tricks other than the four main categories above, adhering to the above rules will take up most of our discussions and activities when optimizing your site for search engines. The recipe is simple: don’t worry too much about the myth of PageRank, focus on creating quality content with strategic placement of keywords, accrue backlinks across the web and fight hard to become a trusted site (the best way to avoid calamity with each new search engine algorithm update).

Over the next month, we will give you step by step instructions how to achieve success in each of these categories.

Over to you

Do you agree? Do you disagree? Do you think we left some essential information out? Or do you have questions that require clarification? Let us know, we love to hear from you.

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About the Author

Chris McCarthy

Chris McCarthy

Chris blogs on marketing for small businesses and social media.

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