Improving pagerank slowly and steadily?
April 1, 2012 4:01 AM   Subscribe

What can you actually do to improve your website's pagerank (slowly and steadily is fine)?

I've made a website, and it has a good amount of quality content. Now what?

In terms of my particular details, my website is a language learning website, and I have a pretty straightforward and decently-sized audience (there are about 30 people per day that ask "What's the best way to learn Spanish/French/Japanese/Whatever)?" on Yahoo answers, for example). Answering questions over there has brought in a bit of traffic, but since they use nofollow links, doesn't do anything for my pagerank. Is there a better use of my time?
posted by sdis to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
PageRank is just one of many metrics you use to keep track of your actual conversion goals. So what are your conversion goals? At the end of the day, what do you want your marketing efforts to result in?
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:32 AM on April 1, 2012

You can have a pagerank of 0 but still be the top result for a google search. You're probably be better off spending time on street legal SEO rather than worrying about pagerank.
posted by w.fugawe at 5:19 AM on April 1, 2012

Response by poster: A good question. I wrote a book on the topic of language learning, but haven't yet gotten it out to agents [waiting for my editor]. The website was sort of a way to build an audience before being able to release the book, and eventually provide a good online supplement to the content inside the book. In the mean time, I've been gathering and reviewing books and online resources for individual languages, and I get Amazon affiliate income from any book sales, which is lovely, but doesn't amount to much money unless I get a lot more views per month (I got a quick burst from a reddit /r/bestof thread, but I don't expect that to happen multiple times).

Ideally, if the website starts showing up in searches for "how do I learn languages quickly?" then the traffic should increase on its own.
posted by sdis at 5:20 AM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: This guy has good tips
posted by Tom-B at 5:33 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, depending on your goals, a very modest Google AdWords buy ($10/month) might bring you the traffic you want, and indirectly generate incoming links, which will ultimately have a snowball effect.

Not the only answer, but I've seen it work very well.

The trick is to have your keywords (and ad headlines) track the questions people ask, and have the target page on your site provide answers to those questions.
posted by mikewas at 8:38 AM on April 1, 2012

Best answer: [The following is a text that I've been waiting to write for a long time. I've tried to encapsulate my thoughts on web marketing with a strong focus on goals and customer focus but it's also a reaction to several traps that I think people get caught in when doing web marketing.]

Great, you have begun untangling your goals.

The easy - but less meaningful - answer would have been to say that your goal is to make (more) money or increase your page views. But on closer inspection these turn out to be terrible goals because:

* there's no focus on customer or providing value (they don't care about you making money or getting more hits).

* They are compounded, high-level goals that consists of many sub goals that are much more fruitful to work with.

* They are generic business goals that could apply to virtually any business across time and space. Goals should have specifics which makes them quantifiable and actionable. Typically you want to at least answers questions such as: how much? For how long? For who? Where?

* Maybe you're not just in it for the money, maybe you want to make a name for yourself, create a marketing campaign, genuinely help people to learn new languages, etc. Same goes for page views: you can have 50k page views per day but if, say, your site is subpar (wrong ads on your site; spending too much resources on content so that you actually increase your debt by working, etc) your financial success will be non-existent.

Let's say that you've identified one of your main goals to be:
sell at least 100 copies of my book per month.

Now, this seems like a nice goal that's quantifiable and actionable. And selling a book, that's not generic at all, right? True, but there's a problem: the customer focus is weak.

Try this experiment: put yourself in your customers' shoes and ask yourself how aligned your customers are with your goal. Do they care about purchasing a copy of your book? To a certain extent, of course. Many of them might be language nerds who love reading about language acquisition.

But if you start analyzing your customers' goals, you might realize that they have other goals that are much more important to them. In this case, a sensible high priority (as opposed to low and medium priority) goal for your customers would be: how do I learn new languages as efficiently as possible? As far as your business is concerned, customer goals don't get much better than this. The level of abstraction is right (you've elevated the customer goal to a level where you have much more elbow space and can try various initiatives to solve the goal) and the goal has a lot to do with becoming more competent, growing and self-realization; aspirations that are timeless and apply to most people.

We shouldn't expect customers to have better goal formulations with specifics and such because that would require too much work of them.

Now that you better understand your customers' goals (there might be many others but this is a good start), you need to align yourself with them. So instead of wanting to sell 100x copies of your book, a better, more aligned goal would be:
Help people aquire the necessary skills to efficiently learn new languages.
All your business efforts should drive you towards this super goal. Writing a book on learning new languages? Great. Writing book reviews? Pretty good but the customer focus could be stronger. Why not create a solution of some kind that makes it super easy for your customers to acquire all this knowledge, say by creating bundles for each language? For instance, your Japanese Bundle would have your book and a selection of the best grammar, dictionary and pronunciation literature.

You're probably wondering what happened to all that talk about goals being quantifiable because your new goal seems kinda fuzzy. This is when you can use your old goal ("sell at least 100 copies of my book per month") to make a hierarchy of goals where sub-goals support achieving higher level goals. This is incredibly powerful because at the top you have a great goal that's 100% customer focused and acts as a vision and below it you have goals that are more concrete and can guide you on a more strategic (and tactical) level.

The entire point here is to figuring out what your goals are and aligning them with your customers. And by creating the hierarchy of goals you get vision, strategies, operations and tactics. Moreover, any time you're thinking about engaging in a new initiative you should ask yourself how well it works towards your goal and how aligned it is with your customers' goals.

I've mentioned some of the things you can try out but I now want to put these things in a larger context that hopefully makes it more clear how you actually go about doing all of this.

First of all, the lower you are in the hierarchy of goals the more graspable and doable things will be (just like in war where the individual soldier can only bother with tactics on the field). The hierarchy is, however, a tool for alignment and evaluation and doesn't primarily *drive* goal idea generation or innovation.

Because if you've done all this hard work with goals, it's kinda disappointing to in the end "write better content", improve your keyword optimization, etc. These initiatives aren't bad - in fact they are necessary lower level work - just not innovative enough to stand out amongst the competition (especially if your competitors have more resources than you have). Ideation, creativity, innovation - so much has been written about these topics that it would be impossible to even summarize the key insights.

What I want to emphasize is this: recognize the necessity of lower level marketing work (the stuff that everyone else is doing) and that it's the foundation of your initiatives, but never forget that greater success comes from being innovative. I'm thinking about solutions that offer value, that are mesmerizing, that create a buzz or are just incredibly useful. There are no shortcuts here: creating innovative marketing takes a lot of time and effort (but fortunately not always lots of money).

I was about to write about various marketing ideas and strategies you might want to try out but realized that in order to do so convincingly, I needed much more information about you, your business and the industry. Anyways, I hope at least some of this made sense and wish you good luck!
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:15 AM on April 1, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'll assume that you're looking to improve your website's PageRank in order to rank higher for various terms on Google. Otherwise, there isn't much of a reason to focus specifically on PageRank unless maybe you're looking to sell the domain anytime soon. As things change, PageRank may not be as much of a determining factor in ranking, so keep that in mind.

SEO has been changing a lot over the past few years, so you'll always have to be ahead of the curve. As well, PageRank doesn't update all that often, so it is a good idea to be "in it for the long haul" because it may be a while before you see changes. Without knowing anything else about your situation, I could recommend working on your social presence and creating quality content (maintaining a Facebook page, blog, etc.). As exhausted as those two suggestions are, they really are surefire ways to build a maintainable rank that will last Google's algorithm(s) change.

Building links, on the other hand, can change your rankings in a lot of ways. Assuming your website already has some clout, you could work on your internal links. Maintain your sitemap, create internal links to different parts of your website, include footer links on every page, et. al. As long as you make a conscious, smart effort, you should be able to push your natural growth along at a decent speed.

Take a lot of what you read about SEO and PageRank with a grain of salt. If things don't make sense, remember that trying is a lot more productive than reading up on arcane methods of ranking better. Good luck!
posted by quinlan at 11:49 AM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Pagerank isn't hugely important, but your Google Search ranking most certainly is.

Get other sites to link to you. You can do this by researching relevant directories, and listing you website (and its URL) in those directories.

Get another website to review your website on their blog. Get another website to list your website as a resource. Note: Google does not like direct link exchanges, so you might consider creating a quality blog on a different domain to reciprocate.

Get listed in Google places. Get listed in Panoramio. Get listed in Yelp.

Ultimately, getting links will help your search performance.

As well, make sure you have researched keywords for the main pages of your site, and make sure those pages are optimized for Search.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:14 PM on April 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all these answers! I had a question - I have a bunch of keywords planned out, and I've put them all in the meta tags of every page; is it better to have more specific keywords for each separate page?
posted by sdis at 12:21 PM on April 1, 2012

Response by poster: @KokuRyu: What's the difference between Google search ranking and Pagerank? Isn't Pagerank supposed to sort of determine your search ranking?
posted by sdis at 12:22 PM on April 1, 2012

A higher PageRank - a measure of a page's authority - will lead to a better ranking. The backlinks you receive (as you've noted, this only applies to do-follow links) will pass "link juice" to the linked page. The worth of a backlink depends on a number of things, not just PageRank. But an example; pages that have a low number of outbound links (low-OBL) transfer more PageRank. Wikipedia goes into depth about different factors, but it's quite heavy stuff.

To segue quite abruptly, you may not even really have to worry as much as you think about PageRank. More info here:, but the gist is pretty simple. Google is changing their various ranking strategies and has outright told people not to value PageRank so much, so checking out how to improve your keyword ranking is probably a much better use of your time.

And on the topic of the "keywords" Meta tag - you probably shouldn't bother. It's another factor that has been devalued by search engines, and it lets your competition know which interesting keywords you're looking to target. It'll help to keep them in mind while writing, but that's about the full extent.
posted by quinlan at 1:36 PM on April 1, 2012

Yeah, Pagerank is a measure of authority (Page refers to Larry Page, rather than a webpage), but what you really want to care about in the short term is where your page shows up in Google Search results - SERP, or search ranking.

Besides linkbuilding (and Google actually cares about the relevancy and authority of who is linking to you), you should also make sure that your site is updated with "fresh" content. This means writing a blog on a regular basis - say, weekly. Your blog ought to use the same keywords that appear on other pages on your site, and individual posts should link to those pages.

Just to cordially disagree with quinlan, but unless you're in a highly competitive space, such as affiliate marketing or perhaps software downloads, I wouldn't worry too much about the competition looking at your website for your keywords.

In my experience, very few businesses pay attention to SEO.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:19 PM on April 1, 2012

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