Your relationship to search engines
Terms and conditions - Google has rules they want you to follow and if you break those rules or do things that are likely to harm Google then they will kick you out. When it comes to deciding whether or not to use a particular SEO technique that may be shady then just pretend Google is a partner company that is run by your best friend. Would you use that tactic and not tell your friend?
I hardly ever read search engine guidelines. The reason is that I have good judgment and I know that Google is a partner whose needs should be respected by webmasters. But I recommend reading that link for educational purposes but not necessarily for strategic reasons. In other words, read the page to learn about SEO but don't MAKE the search engine guidelines your SEO strategy.
Algorithms - There are many webmasters that read SEO forums trying to decipher search algorithms to try to find the magic formula to getting good results. Don't be one of those people. First of all, much of what you read on the internet about SEO will be opinion and rumor. You don't want your strategy to be based on what some random comment on the internet. You won't ever know for a fact whether your hypothesis is correct so you'll always be guessing and will never be able to find proof.
But most importantly, if you spend all your time trying to find the magic formula then you will have wasted time and passed up on the opportunity to create more content. The search engine algorithms that Google uses change all the time anyway so even if you found some meaningful information your hunt will be a never-ending endeavor of chasing a constantly moving target. The irony is that if you (or many webmasters) were to find out what the algorithms were and created sites according to what the algorithms wanted then Google would just change the algorithms because Google wants to reward pages that are created to make web users happy, not pages that were created to make search engines happy. So there is no real way to "beat" the algorithms - just create a great site and don't worry about it.
PageRank - PageRank is all about your inbound links. It's determined by the quantity and quality of the links to your site. PageRank has become one of those indicators that has attained an unhealthy amount of attention from webmasters lately. I say unhealthy because it does not tell you how much traffic your site gets or how good the content is. My advice is to not bother looking at pagerank because it is one of those indicators that will take care of itself. If you build good content then you PR will be fine, if not then you aren't doing your job. I have web sites that I have run for years but have never checked their pagerank. Your home page will have the highest PageRank because it is the page that is usually linked to from other sites.