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Old 05-24-2010, 09:38 AM
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mjtaylor mjtaylor is offline
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Page Rank: What It Is, What It Isn’t and How To Get Some

PageRank: What It Is

Page Rank (not to be confused with where a page ranks in the free results*) is a much-misunderstood factor in Google's algorithm. Let's try and look at what we know and don't know about PageRank.

PageRank (PR) is a calculation, based on incoming links, of Google’s estimation of the importance of a page. It is expressed on a scale of 0-10 in the toolbar, with ten being more important. Actual PR is calculated on a scale of 0-1.

Legend has it that PageRank was named after Google founder Larry Page, who theorized that links to a page were analogous to citations in scholarly journals. In other words, a link from another page indicated the value of a page. Another way to look at it was as a vote of confidence in a page.

PageRank: What It Isn't

*PageRank is not the same thing as the rank of a page in the free results. It’s a common misconception because the words are the same but think of it like this: a page can rank in all of the search engines, but it only has PageRank in Google.

PageRank is not the be-all-end-all of SEO. It is not what you should be chasing. It is not the best indicator of a site’s value – even if you are buying links.

PageRank: What It Was and What It Is Today

PageRank was the central formula that set Google apart from other search engines. This wiki does a good job of explaining how Page Rank was originally calculated

As Google has developed, PageRank has evolved. In Google’s own words, from (bold mine):

PageRank Technology: PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results.

PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page's importance.
So, Pagerank is based on both the quantity and quality of inbound links. And allow me to repeat what I think is an important note about PR: Pages that Google perceives as important "receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results."

ToolBar Page Rank and Actual PageRank – What’s the Difference?

Google opened Pandora’s Box in December 2000 with the release of a toolbar that showed the PageRank of a given page. Webmasters who wanted to raise their position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) were thrilled to know how Google valued a page. In short time, Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) became the deciding factor for many on whether to exchange links for buy a link on a site.

Alarmed at the growing obsession with PR, Google stopped pushing PageRank to the toolbar in a timely fashion and later removed it from Webmaster Tools altogether. Matt Cutts, who heads up the spam fighting team at Google, has worked hard to convince webmasters that PageRank is “just one of 200 factors.”

What We Know
  • Toolbar PageRank is not the same as the actual PageRank; it is an out of date approximation of Actual PR, at best.
  • Toolbar PR is based on a scale of 0 - 10; Actual PageRank is based on 0-1.
  • Actual PageRank is one of 200 factors that Google uses to decide where a page ranks in the SERPs.
  • Actual PageRank is a calculation of the importance of a page based on the importance of the pages linking to it.

What We Don’t Know
  • We don’t know how PageRank is really calculated. We can read its original formula (see the wiki page cited above) but we are pretty sure Google has considerably refined the formula. Google was recently awarded a new patent that bears study for any serious SEO. See:
  • We don’t know how important it is.
  • We don’t know if Toolbar PageRank is simply an outdated version of what the actual PageRank was at some time in the past, or a completely unrelated calculation.
  • We don’t know why some sites outrank sites with higher PR, but we suspect it is because toolbar PageRank is not an accurate reflection of actual PR. (That’s why Toolbar PR is often called Foolbar PR – you might be a fool if you believe it means anything. )

Given Google’s current statement that “PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms,” it is safe to say that PageRank has evolved well past the original PageRank formula. But in what ways, and to what extent? We really don't know.

Okay, I Understand PageRank Better Now, So How Do I Get Some?

Get It Naturally - The best way to get PageRank is to create unique, compelling content that attracts links naturally. Google values one way links from related sites. You can find ideas for creating “link bait,” -- that is, content that will bring you links organically -- here: and particularly:

Self Service Links - You can also create what our SuperMod ~CReed calls “self service” links through these practices:

Directory Listings – Links from directories such as DMOZ, Joant, Yahoo, and other human edited directories can be helpful. Look for niche directories, too.

Article Directories – Write and publish original, useful, relevant articles with a link back to your site.

Guest Blogging – Find blogs that need content and write useful posts with a link to your site.

Forum Participation
– Participate in forums which are relevant to your website. Don’t expect a link from an unrelated site to help much, and know that a few links are not going to pass much PR, if any. Consistent participation over a long period of time can be effective, but a few links here and there are probably not worth the effort.
What you should know about “self service” links is that Google is out to devalue them. You might get some short term benefit from these strategies, but in the long run, the successful site will have attracted links for its content and usefulness.

What Else Do I Need To Know About PageRank?

What do “nofollow’ links have to do with PageRank? Links with a nofollow attribute do not pass PageRank. It does not mean that Google won’t follow or crawl or index the site linked, but it does mean that neither PageRank, anchor text nor any other SEO benefit will accrue from that link. It essentially says to Google, I don’t trust this site.

To determine whether a link is no-follow or not, you can view the page source through a browser and look for the attribute rel=”nofollow,” you can add a Firefox plug-in that makes every nofollow link highlighted in red, or you can, in FF, right click on any link and check the Properties for ‘nofollow.’

So many people say “forget PR,” others say it’s really important. Why all the disagreement among SEOs and what should I believe? PageRank probably is more important than most factors – it was central to the search engine concept that set Google apart from other search engines – but since you really can’t know what that number is, it has become kind of ridiculous to spin your wheels too much about it. When the toolbar was first released and you could apparently see a true approximation of PageRank, it made much more sense that webmasters focused on it. It was a known metric whose formula was publicly available through a patent application, in a sea of unknown factors of the algorithm. All you had to do was trade links with a site with higher PR than yours, and you were golden. Or so it seemed. Content was always King. Still is.

Google has since done an excellent job of removing pretty much of anything SEO professionals had figured out about PageRank. There have been new patents – and it's not known which have been implemented, the toolbar has been voided of any reliable data, and PR has been removed from Webmaster Tools. With so little information, chasing this elusive metric is less and less effective as an SEO strategy.

So, What Should I Do? Concentrate on content – compelling, original, useful content that will attract links naturally. Continue building links with the focus on traffic, your own judgment of quality and adding value for the user. If you want to focus on a metrics for your site, here’s what Google suggests in an FAQ on crawling and ranking:
Q: My site's PageRank has gone up / gone down / not changed in months!
A: Don't worry. In fact, don't bother thinking about it. We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it's easy doesn't mean it's useful for you as a site owner. If you're looking for metrics, we'd encourage you to check out Analytics, think about conversion rates, ROI (return on investment), relevancy, or other metrics that actually correlate to meaningful gains for your website or business.

What If I Want To Know More?

PageRank Resources