PageRank is a secret algorithm which Google defines as: “…PageRank continues to provide the basis for all of our web search tools.”
Google also states: “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 purpose of this article is to document the pervasive myths, correct and clarify the definition by Google, correct the inaccurate PageRank information visible on many Forums, and the unwarranted obsessive nature that many folks have about PageRank. In essence, PageRank does not work the way you might think after reading the Google page.
Linking to other sites using PR (PageRank) as the determining factor and or any factor in your decision.
This is a false assumption. Don’t waste your time using the Google Toolbar. PR has nothing to do with where your site is listed in a given search. Want some proof? Drill down to some of this sites Webmaster Directory pages which opens in a new window, extract a few keywords and search. In some cases this site is in the top 5 listings and my page is PR2. Still not convinced? Fasten your hard disk. Run a search for “free webmaster tools” and you will see that this site is currently listed in the top 6 and the PR for my home page is only 6.
Reciprocal linking and linking guidelines
You should link to another site because it provides quality content complementary to your own, enhances and helps your visitors, propagates your “brand”, and has the potential to provide both you and your link partner with targeted traffic. I’ve been using this criteria for a number of months on this site with absolutely no regard to PR. The net result is my Google traffic is up over 100% and so are my PageViews and unique visitors. Our own Barter/Trade Links Forum has provided thousands of Webmasters with link partners, which enhances both parties targeted traffic.
There are no shortcuts or tricks to this procedure. You need to examine the other site, reject “Link Farms”, “Off-Site Link Services”, “TopSites”, and any site who has a “links” page which does not branch from the sites home page. What about “bad neighborhood” sites which have a gray PR bar? If you take my advice and spend the time to visit the other site, you will spot some of these “Spam” kings and reject them without the use of the Toolbar. If a few slip through, don’t worry. I have no evidence and neither do you that Google will ban your site for linking to an unrelated “Spam” site nor am I concerned because I spend the time to examine the site using the criteria I mentioned.
What is the value of PageRank?
Google uses PR in it’s Directory listings. The default listings in a given Category is initially sorted by PR. This Directory uses data from ODP (Open Directory Project) which is also known as DMOZ. You can’t determine the actual PR number but you can view the PR bar and ballpark the number. I consider this PR sort of limited value. Given the fact that most surfers don’t drill through the Directory to reach your site. On this site, only about 15% of the Google referrals originate from the Directory. Does Google update these sorted PR listing? The evidence is inconclusive.
Want some proof to support the claim that PR may in fact never change in the Directory? My long-time friend, Ryan Adams, of ClickQuick fame used to have a fantastic site but because of time constraints, the site has not been updated or any page changed in over 1.5 years. ClickQuick is still listed as number 3 in the Google Directory with a PR6 and as one of his link partners, I can tell you that traffic from my old link on his home page has experienced a 400% reduction. Perhaps this is an isolated incidence as I have other examples where new sites move up in PR and eventually reach the sorted list as not all sites are sorted by PR. My point is that a higher listing in the Google Directory because of your sites PR is still of little concern/value and you can and should improve your site for Google with new content, rather than obsessing over PR.
Have you ever wondered why the PR number is not available in the Directory (even though the data is fetched) and why you must use the Google “Advanced Features” Toolbar, which tracks your surfing habits to obtain the PR number? I don’t read minds but this procedure is a mystery to me. Is this a marketing ploy to collect your surfing habits to enhance the advertising sales of Google? I don’t think so, since so few surfers actually use the Advanced Features Toolbar. Frankly, the small percent of folks who use this version of the Toolbar are SEO geeks and very teckie Webmasters. My own surveys of regular surfers indicate 90% of them never use the Advanced Features Toolbar and never use a PR value as a criteria on bookmarking the site and making it one of their favorite stops.
It’s important to remember that everything Google does is secret and in constant flux. No Webmaster (including me) or any SEO geek can tell you with 100% certainty exactly the way PR or a SERP (Search Engine Results Page) work. I say this after spending over 100 hours in research to create this article, PageRank is but one of perhaps 100 different factors which Google may use to determine exactly where your listing will appear in a given search. That’s all that matters, top 10-20 placement in a search. It’s best to view PR as a “very raw” metrix and most importantly, an automatic result of proper site construction, maintenance, and SE optimization.
What I can tell you with absolute certainty is to use common sense from a “user experience” perspective and that sites should be built using three factors in the exact order stated:
Appropriate Design including usability and advertising placement
Compelling content updated on a regular basis
Optimized for Search Engines and Directories
Forget PR, build your sites in this order and Google will reward you with targeted traffic.
Please remember that once you submit your sitemap it will take time for your site to reach page 1. Google's 200+ criteria come into play and depending on the popularity of your product and the number of search queries your what you have to offer are major contributing factors.