SEO Signals Framework: A Complete Guide In Improving Page Rankings

SEO Signals Framework: A Complete Guide In Improving Page Rankings

SEO Signals Framework: A Complete Guide In Improving Page Rankings
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Search engine optimization (SEO) refers to the activities or techniques that enables websites to appear in the results of search engine pages as close to the top of the list as possible. The success of an SEO activity is based on the ranking of your webpage in the search engine results. From a 2008 Google patent, there were 200 factors identified to affect page rankings. Ten years later, the number of ranking factors have grown and algorithm updates have become more complicated. This meant launching an SEO campaign became a more difficult task. In order to facilitate the creation of SEO campaigns and keeping up with updates in Google ranking algorithm, we have to understand the four major SEO signals – Popularity, Authority, Relevancy, and Technical.

The four Major SEO Signals


Popularity signal

Popularity signal is a great factor for websites to get rewards from Google. This signal is based on quantity rather than quality and has three types.

Type of Popularity Signal

  1. Link popularity. Links were the foundation of Google’s original algorithm in determining page rankings. They used to play a huge part in SEO campaigns. However, because marketers found a way to generate links in great amounts, the role of links have since diminished.
  2. Social popularity. In the onset of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, social popularity is now a huge factor. Google uses these platforms by tracking URL mentions and shares for a website.
  3. Search popularity. This is popularity based on the listing in organic searches, and the number of times people click on the resulting websites. Popularity in organic searches can be increased by interesting and catchy site title and description.


Rangking trends


Authority signal

Due to the diminishing value of link popularity as the main metric in Google’s Pagerank algorithm, authority signal is now becoming a popular way to determine page rankings. Authority signal stems from the trust the internet users put on certain websites. Trust can be gained in the following ways.

  • Duration or length of interaction with user
  • Frequency of interaction
  • Recommendations or references
  • Context
  • Association with another trusted website
  • Content or expertise on the subject

Authority Signal

Trusted websites usually exhibit the following characteristics of high authority signals.

  1. Social and search popularity is high. These sites become popular in social media platforms through links and URL sharing.
  2. User activity is high. These sites generally incur a high amount of traffic from searches and direct visits.
  3. The site has an established presence.
  4. High amount of page count and relevant content is present.
  5. The site is highly referenced or mentioned by other sites.

A website can establish authority in different ways. Social authority sites get a lot of natural traffic, take Facebook or Twitter for example. Brand and niche authority sites, like and respectively, have established sites due to brand ownership and industry leadership. Editorial content authority generates traffic through articles and blog posts. and are examples of this.


Relevancy signal

Google originally conceptualized relevancy as keyword density and frequency. As marketers found a way to increase site rankings by stuffing their web pages with as many keywords as possible and obtaining as many links as possible, ranking algorithms became more sophisticated. This involves Google acquiring several companies who specialize in semantic research. This move enabled Google to map out relationships between keywords using an algorithm called Rank Brain.

Today, relevancy means looking at group of words to determine the intent of the page. This body of text is called a keyword clout. In order to maximize Google’s algorithm, we need to use the keyword or relevancy clout using Relevancy Stacking or implementing it on both our on- and off-page processes.

For on-page optimization, the best way to increase relevancy is to focus on a content cluster or using keyword clout compartmentalization. This involves packing as many related words as possible into the page elements. Google extracts these content clusters to determine the relevancy of the web page. The use of URL, title, and description tags must be maximized since Google puts more value on these than other elements on a web page.

On-page keyword clouts should also be extended to off-pages. Relevancy becomes stronger when you get contextual links from external blog pages. A way to do this is by using relevancy stacking

As in other signals, relevancy also has different types.

  1. Semantic interchangeability or synonyms, e.g. attorney and lawyer
  2. Semantic variation, e.g. lawyer and lawyers
  3. Semantic categorization, e.g. legal and law firm
  4. Geolocation, e.g. NY and New York


Technical signal

From the four signals of SEO, technical signal is easiest to understand. This involves the web page loading speed, security of the site, and available formats, i.e. for desktop and mobile. Currently, technical signals are not known to be a major factor in page ranking. However, due to developments in the ranking algorithm, this might be one major factor in the future.


Using the SEO signals framework

Now that we understand what the four signals in SEO are, we can take advantage of these things. Since Google’s updates on page ranking algorithms are unpredictable, we need to think of a way to somehow ‘tame’ or keep up with them. Using TRAP (Technical, Relevancy, Authority, and Popularity), we can prevent sudden unexpected changes to SEO activities brought by changes in the ranking algorithms.


Roles of TRAP components
You may wonder how do these four signals work together. First, we have to lay out the characteristics and roles of each one.

  1. Technical signal has a qualifying role. Webpage speeds are critical to be considered for a crawler’s visit in Google. Note that page ranking starts with indexation both on-page and off-page.
  2. Relevancy signal has a relational role. The content of the web page should be intended for the users.
  3. Authority signal has an amplifying role. Site authority will result in a faster and higher page ranking.
  4. Popularity signal has a validating role. Once the pages are published, Google will attempt to verify the website’s off-page activities by checking popularity metrics such as website traffic.

Now that we know all the roles of the TRAP components, we can use them to provide a ‘holistic SEO’ campaign. This is an efficient way to map out patterns in page rankings and create preventative measures against ranking algorithm updates.

Google’s updates on its ranking algorithm are unpredictable and complicated, but their motive is simple. Google wants to increase profit for its shareholders by keeping marketers from understanding the workings of its algorithms accurately and to the slightest of details. However, this fact won’t keep us from preparing ourselves for these kinds of changes.

Keep in mind that a successful and healthy SEO campaign needs to use all the elements of TRAP in its activities and techniques. By recognizing this fact, we can monitor the progress and look for deficiencies in an ongoing campaign. Maintaining the four elements will result to better preventative measures against unpredictable updates in the ranking algorithms.

Here are some steps to ensure TRAP elements are in good standing.

  1. Create a TRAP checklist to monitor each component. List down activities and techniques involved for each and do your best to keep up with them. Web pages do not need to exhibit all components but the whole site should satisfy the checklist.
  2. Monitor the ranking progress and use the checklist you created to maximize or minimize certain signals.
  3. Do not try to implement things to counter major updates you just heard news of. Wait until the algorithm changes are already in place and identify how TRAP requirements have also changed.
  4. Determine the requirement shifts and devise a way to make up for deficiencies using the checklist you created.


Strategies and dynamics of TRAP
How are we going to use the trap elements in our SEO campaign? The answer is simple: by choosing a kick-off signal and gaining ranking traction or lead using your chosen component. Usually, most campaigns start more heavily on the authority signal. However, popularity or relevancy can also be used. Let’s take a look at how each component can be used to kick off a campaign.

primary signal

1.  Relevancy as the kick-off signal. The use of both on-page and off-page relevancy elements can gain momentum in page rankings. A keyword clout-rich web page content enables the use of this model. This clout can gain visibility in search engine page results if done correctly. This can be possible through the use of long-tail broad match patterns which satisfy the popularity signal. Here are some characteristics of an ideal campaign which uses this model.

  • Relevancy stacking is implemented. Off-page relevancy is the focus of a content-rich site.
  • Long tail keywords enable the site to gain search traffic.
  • Links and content are shared in social media.
  • Authority will be established over time due to high relevancy and popularity.

For a campaign to be successful using this model, here are some things to consider.

  • Upload fresh content frequently or on a regular basis in order to gain popularity via long-tail searches.
  • Start using paid social shares to enable social popularity.
  • Resolve authority signal deficiencies.


2.  Authority as the kick-off signal. Most campaigns attempt to use authority signal as their primary focus. If you can easily gauge the competition and ranking metric is purely dependent on link popularity, this is the way to go. However, with so many factors affecting page ranking nowadays, there is a very high risk involved. Here are some characteristics of an ideal campaign which uses this model.

  • Implement high metric links to your homepage.
  • Use high volume short-tail keywords to increase and kickstart traffic.
  • Social media shares of your website start.
  • Blogs and other websites start to reference your site.

For a campaign to be successful using this model, here are some things to consider.

  • Use authority signal outside your private blog network (PBN). This will decrease the risk of diminishing value if it is implemented solely in your PBN. Take note that whether or not you are using PBN, the maintenance cost of rankings can be expensive, especially when doing white hat link building.
  • Ensure that the content of your site is relevant. Satisfying keyword clout relevancy is of highest importance in building authority for your site.
  • Paid social media shares can also be implemented to compensate constant ranking fluctuations in short-term keyword landscapes.


3. Popularity as the kick-off signal. One of the strategies employed in this technique is content marketing. In contrast with putting value only on content, the objective of content marketing is to increase the popularity of your web page. Here are some characteristics of a successful campaign which focus on popularity signal.

  • Content of your web page must resonate with the target audience. Remember, your aim is for it to be shared and go viral.
  • Google starts ranking keywords involving the content being shared.
  • Your site gains links and mentions by other authority sites. This satisfies the authority signal.

For a campaign to be successful using this model, here are some things to consider.

  • Maintain popularity momentum by producing content that relates to users and target audience.
  • Make up for authority signal deficiencies by referring to your checklist.
  • Relevancy signals should be maintained by creating keyword cloud-based content related to the article or content that went viral.

Whatever signal you use in your SEO campaigns, these models can be used to implement a preventative measure against Google’s page ranking algorithm updates.


External factors that affect page rankings

The TRAP model recognizes the internal factors that can affect page rankings. However, there are external factors, can either be positive or negative, that need to be considered.

trap model

Here are some of the negative external factors that can affect page rankings.

  1. Competition. Demand for SEO skills due to rising costs for paid ads have increased and also brought about competition. In order to maintain control, you must strengthen all TRAP components in an ongoing SEO campaign.
  2. Google Data Center. Due to a huge amount of data processed in multiple servers, data latency or lag, called Google dance, can be experienced. This results in an upward progression sine wave in page rankings. A way to minimize this is to create a consistent signal velocity, i.e. link building effort.
  3. Google’s profit motive
  4. Google’s algorithm update. Updates have two purposes: the first is to eliminate spammers, and second is to curve marketers who figure out how the algorithm works. Effects of the update can be prevented by using the TRAP method.
  5. Google penalty. Examples of these penalties are periodic PBN de-indexation and removing the value of guest posts and links.

Positive factors include the following.

  1. Perfection not required. TRAP components need not be perfect to launch and maintain an SEO effort. Progressive resource allocation protocol is key to balancing these components.
  2. Controllable signals. Signals we generate allows us to have some form of control over them. This will enable us to determine what needs to be enhanced or minimized using checklists we create.