What is Google’s PageRank? If you have ever done any reading about search engine optimization or were just curious how you can get your site to the top of the Google search engine results, understanding PageRank is vital. I’m going to introduce you to the basics of PageRank and also provide a brief discussion on how much you should really worry about PageRank if you are running a website or Internet business.
Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, invented PageRank and it forms the basis for how Google works. Google didn’t become the best search engine in the world by chance, it became the best search engine because it provided the best results. PageRank is in fact the technology that gave Google its competitor-killing edge, a way to greatly improve the accuracy and validity of a search response to a user query.
In essence PageRank provides a means to determine the value of a website for any given search term or keyword phrase. This value is determined by how websites link together with the more popular (and theoretically better) sites receiving more links. It’s these incoming links that help the site have a high PageRank value and thus display higher up in search results.
Let’s read how Google explains their PageRank system:
PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important.”
Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank, which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.
The key rule to understand is that it is a combination of variables that determine how well your site performs in Google. These are the most important variables to worry about:
- Incoming links to your site.
- The relevancy (to your site’s theme) of the pages linking to your site and the PageRank of these pages.
- The keywords that other sites use to link to your site.
- The keywords on your website in particular in places like page titles and headlines.
Some of those factors you can control, others you can manipulate but not directly control. The important thing to understand regarding PageRank is that all those variables will determine how high your site shows up in search engine results. PageRank is the name for the technology that ranks sites and includes all those variables and many more.
PageRank Numbers - The Little Green Bar
If you install the Google Toolbar into your browser you can choose to switch on the PageRank display (it’s in the options). This will make a little green bar appear above web pages you visit. The green bar represents the PageRank of the page you are viewing in your browser. The ranking starts at 0 (no ranking) up to 10, the highest ranking and can be blanked out completely if the page has been banned from Google. If you don’t want to use the toolbar you can try this free PageRank lookup tool to find the ranking for any web address.
Google created quite a storm when it launched its green PageRank bar. Webmasters became obsessed with methods to increase their PageRank and high PageRank sites started selling text links for hundreds of dollars. A link from a high PageRank page, from a PageRank 7, 8, 9 or 10, has been known to make lower PageRank pages increase a full number, even two if the incoming link is from a PageRank 10, and there is no doubt it is good for search engine rankings.
The problem with PageRank being displayed in a little green bar is that it is very hard to really gauge how valuable a ranking is. The Google PageRank technology is complex containing many variables, some of which I mentioned above, and to interpret a number from 0-10, especially when only Google really knows how it works, is difficult. Worse still, the visible representation, the green bar that the public can see, only changes on a quarterly basis, while the real PageRank of a page changes on a daily basis. Most of the time you are looking at a very outdated ranking value.
PageRank paranoia is an issue that every webmaster may fall victim to. There are rumours that Google will be changing the PageRank system because they are not happy with how it is being manipulated and interpreted. As a rule of thumb, watch the green bar with interest but don’t take it too seriously or spend too much time trying to force it to increase (staring and yelling at it will do you no good, trust me on that one).
The Randomness Of PageRank
Search engine optimization experts actively track PageRank and investigate things like page backlinks to try and work out what the top search engine ranked sites are doing right so they can replicate and then surpass them in the rankings. This is a very good strategy for any person running a web business looking to improve their search ranking. There is no need to reinvent the wheel - copy what works and do it slightly better than the competition.
This is all good in theory, but unfortunately there is a good amount of randomness in PageRank and search engine results. Google of course would argue that it’s not randomness and their PageRank system is merely using algorithms that we don’t understand, and no doubt that is true, but for the human webmaster trying to get traffic, PageRank and Google can be baffling sometimes.
There are instances of high PageRanked sites having little to no backlinks. Given that incoming links are one of the most important variables used in PageRank calculations you have to scratch your head and wonder how a site with no links could have a big green bar. Google’s own backlink lookup tool (see this article - Beginners Guide To Backlinks - for details) is another phenomenon that search engine experts often choose to ignore rather than try and evaluate.
Thankfully the randomness of PageRank can result in positive outcomes as well, with your sites jumping high into search results in places where you wouldn’t expect it. The only consistency is randomness but there is logic that can be followed and smart search engine optimization practices that when implemented well will work. Just don’t expect it to work precisely how or when you want it to.
What You Should Know And Do About PageRank
This advice I offer from experience as an avid PageRank chaser and search engine optimizer. The key to gaining PageRank is to ignore it and focus on the variables that control it.
Having people link to your site has always been a good thing and PageRank was in fact a result of this. Don’t get confused with the order of things, first came the Internet and links and then came PageRank. Focus on amassing quality incoming links from quality sites relevant to your site. This practice will naturally improve your PageRank and also increase the amount of visitors coming to your site. Don’t get bogged down chasing links from only high PageRank sites or waste energy adding links from just any site willing to link to you. Do things naturally and your site will grow naturally.
Learn about the importance of keywords. My SEO articles will help you with this. Keywords play a crucial role in bringing the right type of traffic to your site but you should never spend half an hour in front of a computer trying to come up with the perfect title for your article. Name your content logically and think about what search words your audience would use to find your article and you can very quickly and easily develop good keywords without spending hours and hours tweaking every little phrase and heading. See what your competitors do in regards to keywords if you are completely lost.
If you build a good website with good content, always keep in mind your important keywords and proactively work every day to earn and create new backlinks to your site you will improve your PageRank. The best sites with the highest PageRank never worry about PageRank, they simply keep churning out content that people love to link to. This is a strategy that every webmaster and Internet entrepreneur should emulate for success online.
Internet Business Coach