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You may not have fully understood the title. I will explain my question with an example.

https://www.w3schools.com/html/html_exercises.asp Page ranks 1st in HTML Exercies word because the page is completely optimized for that word, but it ranks high in words such as HTML Quiz, HTML Question and HTMl Challenge. How is this possible even though there is no study for that page in those words?

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    "there is no study for that page in those words" - What do you mean by that exactly? The only standout phrase for me from your list is HTML Challenge, where "Challenge" does not appear on the page at all in the returned result. However, w3schools would appear to be highly optimized for HTML Quiz (just as much as HTML Exercises) and Question appears on the HTML Quiz page, which is the page returned in the SERPs.
    – MrWhite
    Sep 8 at 0:11
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The answer to this question is basically a combination of a few concepts:

  1. Google often doesn't rank sites based on exact keywords but based on concepts derived from latent semantic analysis. So for the purposes of determining page topic, the latent semantic analysis algorithm will treat the phrases "HTML Exercises", "HTML Quiz", etc. as highly related concepts with a small conceptual distance between them. They have a lot of conceptual overlap.

  2. Google ranks and categorizes pages based on off-site information just as much as on-site information. The topics of all the sites that link to your site, and the link anchor text, are just as important as the topic your site is actually about.

  3. The higher a page's "seo juice" (formerly Page Rank), the more likely it is to be recommended for search intents that are more loosely related. That's how you get SEO behemoths like W3Schools outranking other pages that have exact matches for the search terms. The way to improve this is through good old fashioned SEO, covered by the answers here.

In short, Google ranks pages based on LSA of the page itself and the anchor text of incoming links. It doesn't only use the page itself, and it doesn't always care about exact keywords because a lot of the algorithm runs on LSA. To improve SEO from this standpoint, don't overly worry about exact match keywords (though they certainly do have a place), and above all make sure you're being linked to as much as possible from related, high-authority sites.

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    There's been a growing sentiment over recent years that "links don't matter anymore" which I don't really understand. No matter how many new ranking factors emerge, PageRank will always be at the core of Google. Sep 7 at 22:28
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    @MikeCiffone Because Google's AI is omnipotent, it just... understands everything and knows what you're thinking! Scary! (Joking, or am I? I'm a bot.)
    – MrWhite
    Sep 8 at 14:17
  • Motion to require @MrWhite to pass a Turing Test before posting Sep 10 at 1:39

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