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Home Affiliate Marketing Blog Two easy steps to conquering your fear of PageRank

Two easy steps to conquering your fear of PageRank

Two easy steps to conquering your fear of PageRank

PageRank has been with us for awhile now and it seems the years have bred a host of stories: some true, some urban legend and others a mix of the two. This doesn't surprise us – anything that has to do with Google and SEO is bound to be misunderstood or misinterpreted simply because Google guards its results formula with a zeal normally reserved for queens and presidents, and hence the rise in 'making stuff up'.

The problem with so-called experts making stuff up about PageRank is that a lot of people actually start to believe it, either through their own inexperience, or because the ‘expert’ makes a compelling case. These people then go away and start making decisions based on false assumptions, often with unpleasant results (just ask any kid who thought they could fly!).

So let's clear the air about PageRank. Understanding exactly what it is and, just as importantly, what it isn't, will help you conquer your fear of PageRank and see its place in SEO more clearly.

What is PageRank?

PageRank is an arbitrary rank given to a website by Google based on what it determines to be site authority, which appears to be improved by a site's age, traffic, inbound links from other authority sites and site quality.

Ok, so that was a dictionary definition, but does this mean Google simply plucks numbers out of the air and scores different websites based on a gut feeling? Anyone who knows how Google operates knows that maths and science are at the core of everything they do, including assigning PageRank. In fact, the PageRank formula packs a lot of science into a small green bar on the Google Toolbar (just as an aside, the PR you see on the Google Toolbar is not exact). You can also use the Affilorama PageRank Calculator to find out the PR for any site.

One of the great minds behind the Google search engine, Sergey Brin, helped write a whitepaper on the subject that explains the intent behind PageRank. It uses the illustration of a random surfer who visits random pages by clicking links and never clicking the back button. The probability that the random surfer visits any particular page is its PageRank.

If this isn't making much sense then it might help to compare PageRank with social networks. Social networks work in a similar way to the World Wide Web, with a series of links connecting different individuals (think 'six degrees of separation'). You sometimes hear an individual being described as 'well-connected'; Other individuals are described as ‘reclusive’ when they have very few connections. Most of us, however, lie in the middle somewhere. When we compare how everyone on the planet is connected to how websites are linked, we can better understand what PageRank is.

PageRank is basically Google's way of saying how 'well connected' it thinks a website is.

What PageRank is not

So now that we've established that PageRank is essentially the probability of a random surfer clicking links and landing on your website, we now need to make sure we're clear on what PageRank isn't.

PageRank isn't the same as ranking. Sure it's confusing because it has rank in the name, but the two are quite different. That's not to say that PageRank won't influence a site's ranking, but it is not the primary factor.

Google say that PageRank is used to prioritize search results, but this isn't at the expense of the relevancy of the results. This is because Google wants to create the best user experience, not just return a list of popular websites. PageRank may well be an indicator of how well connected a website is, and how many citations (backlinks) it has, but that does not mean it's what the user is looking for. And Google knows this.

What does this mean for you?

So is this casual wander through the ins and outs of PageRank merely an intellectual exercise? Is there anything you can take away from it and apply to your own online marketing?

Happily yes, there are a number of points you can take away from having a clear understanding of PageRank.

  • Compete with high PR sites – A site with a high PR does have an advantage in the search rankings but it's not everything. In fact there are lots of other factors that Google takes into account to determine who appears at the top of the search results. This means that, even if you are a relatively new site, you can confidently compete with high PR sites in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Page).
  • Focus on other attributes – An important element of backlinking is relevancy. While getting a backlink from a high PR site can boost your ranking (just like if Tiger Woods mentions your name to the staff at that country club you just can't seem to get a membership to!) it is often more important that you have a highly targeted and relevant backlink. That should be just as much a consideration when planning your link building campaign.
  • Build your niche – Large, popular sites with high PageRank may have a lot of pages and a lot of information, but often it's generalized. You have the opportunity to develop a specialist website, with expertise that users will seek out. Going back to the analogy of a social network, I might not be the most well-connected person amongst my associates but if they need help with their website, they seem to find me quite easily!

So don't be intimidated by that little green bar the next time you visit a competitor's site. Sure it means they're popular but your website might be what the searcher is looking for, and Google knows that.

Stay focused on your niche and delivering value to your visitors and you'll enjoy good rankings in the search results, regardless of your PageRank!

12 Comments Add your comment
  • Reply Akin • 3430 days ago

    Thanks for your report, I used the calculator to try to find out my web site ranking. It shows zero. Does that mean no one is looking at my web siteb or just simply not on the top recognized web site..... Please educate me on this topic.


  • Reply Sylvan Newby3430 days ago

    I would like to add that page rank is easy to buy... you can just purchase links from PR7+ sites and watch your page rank jump the next time google does a page rank update. However, my experience is that this has little effect on your SERP rankings.....

  • Reply James Pruitt3430 days ago

    Thanks Jason. as always you have provided a great post. It sometimes gets confusing to distinguish all of the things that Google does. thank you for clarifying page rank for us.

  • Reply Titans Den3430 days ago

    Can a blog have a high PageRank? My blog has a 0/10 rank. I have very targeted keywords and have been working on this blog for at least a year. No sure what I am doing wrong

  • Reply Raymond Ward3429 days ago

    Thank you very much, as I am what you would call a newbie to the land of the internet. I will be looking for all the help and support I can get.

    Ray Ward

  • Reply Kenneth Santucci3429 days ago

    Excellent post Jason!
    Your simple analogy of page rank works makes things much clearer for me!
    Thanks for the link to the white paper.

  • Reply Mark Ling3427 days ago

    @akin A PR of zero is quite common for new websites. It can take weeks if not months to build up your PR, and get off the mark. It depends how effective your link building campaign is but things like http://amautomation.com article marketing has been known to help.

    @TitanDen Absolutely blogs can have high PR. Matt Cutts has a PR7 blog (http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/) and ProBlogger has PR6. Even our own blog is creeping up with a PR4 currently. You just need to work on getting backlinks to your site (see my comment above). Just don't get too hung up on PR - it's not everything!

  • Reply Maxeffort • 3424 days ago

    Page rank as I understand it can be improved by direct linking to your most relevant pages and using the "no follow" on pages you don't want to register any page rank.This could be your Contact Me or Privacy policy which are less important.


  • Reply william eckard3424 days ago

    Very interesting and enlightning article Jason, thanks. Thanks also to Mark for responding to a question, it shows your involvement and interest in your own site! The PR tool is a blessing to me as I could never find this info anywhere (also fairly new at the game and glad that I took the premium membership)

  • Reply Jason Dodd3423 days ago

    @Maxeffort PageRank Sculpting used to be an effective way of controlling the flow of link juice, or link equity, through your site and focus it on your most valuable pages but it doesnt have a lot of value now. The recommendation is to work on improving your site structure so that its logical for both humans and search bots.

    @stargate66 Thanks for your comments and great to hear you're enjoying Premium - there is a lot of value in it. And now it has got website hosting included it's even better!

  • Reply ed mason3410 days ago

    What is the difference between a link and a back link?

  • Reply Tom Horton @ StartOutOnline • 3404 days ago

    Increasing my page rank is what I'm concentrating on at the momnet. Thanks for the info, great post

    Tom Horton

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