Google PageRank Explained

Submitted by Matt Foster | Category: Search Engines | Published on Jan 24, 2007
What Google PageRank does and does not mean.
There is much discussion surrounding Google PageRank, what it means, and how to improve it. With the advent of the Google toolbar, anyone willing to perform a short, free software installation can easily view the PageRank of any page on the Internet. But what does this all mean?

PageRank, in a nutshell, is determined by an algorithm loosely explained as follows: the more sites which link to any given site (site A), the higher the PageRank of site A. This does come with a couple of caveats, however:

  1. The PageRank of the sites which link to site A determines the importance of their link - in other words, sites with higher PageRanks cast votes with more weight than sites with lower PageRanks
  2. Regardless of the PageRank of the external site linking to site A, a one-way, inbound link will carry more weight than a reciprocal link.
  3. PageRank is only one of over 100 factors used to determine a site's organic search ranking - so, while a high page rank is desirable, it is not the determining factor in achieving top rankings - which can only be achieved by a quality, thorough search optimization performed by a trained professional.

The first caveat above is relatively straightforward: if you look at a link to a site as a "vote" for that site, greater credence is given to sites which Google considers more important (higher PageRank). So, it is always best to seek links from sites with a relatively high PageRank. Of course, these links are harder to obtain, because sites with high PageRanks are less likely to want to "bleed" PageRank to lesser important sites.

The second caveat may come as a bit of a surprise to you - reciprocal linking does little, if anything, anymore, in determining the PageRank of a site. While at one time any link to a site was considered a "vote" for that site, Google soon realized that in the case of reciprocal linking (where two sites link to one another), the existence of the link was not so much a vote for that site as it was indicative of an agreement between two web site owners to exchange links for the purposes of artificially inflating their PageRank. The omnipresence of link exchange schemes is evidence of the flawed thinking that any links, no matter what, are valuable.

Reciprocal linking is wrought with perils, not the least of which is that while you cannot control who links to you, and are not punished for it, if you link to an external site which engages in known search engine spamming techniques (such as link farming), you will be penalized for linking to a "bad neighborhood". Google especially does not like attempts to manipulate its ranking algorithms, and it deals harshly with sites which engage in practices which are a violation of its Terms of Inclusion, or sites which link to these sites. I have seen many, many well intentioned individuals end up greylisted or blacklisted by Google because of innocent efforts to improve their PageRank through link exchanges or other schemes. It is important to remember that, 9 times out of 10, you are not smarter than Google. Therefore, anything you do to try to artificially increase your ranking will likely get you penalized - because they know all of the tricks in the book, and even some that aren't in the book.

This is why one way, inbound links are so important. You are not at risk of linking to a bad neighborhood, and your links are not discounted due to reciprocity. But, how can we obtain one way, inbound links? Well, the answer, in the abstract, is fairly simple - give people something to which they will want to link. This is known as content.

Rich, quality, unique content not only makes search engines very happy, but it generates interest in your site, which generates the ever so valuable one way, inbound links. The most ethical, effective and quick way to obtain these quality inbound links is through the use of a weblog coupled with an outbound Atom XML or RSS site feed.

A weblog is simply a means by which you can add fresh content to your site on a regular basis, say once per week, by spending thirty minutes or so writing a brief article about what it is you know about - it can be your product, your industry, whatever. The important thing is that you are providing fresh, rich, unique content on a regular basis. This is powerful, as Google also has implemented a new "freshness" algorithm, by which sites with regularly updated, fresh content rank higher than stale, static sites. Additionally, when you implement an outbound XML or RSS feed, coupled with content syndication, your content then automatically appears on third party web sites who subscribe to your feed. Each time you update your site, their site is automatically updated as well with your new content. The most amazing thing about this technology is that, by default, when your content appears on a third party site, it automatically generates an anchor text link back to your site, for which you do not reciprocate. That is your benefit as the content provider - you get the one way, inbound link, and the third party site gets to use your content! You can quickly build hundreds or thousands of one way, inbound links by using this technology, and under the guiding hand of a trained search engine optimization professional, who will perform the necessary installations and site optimization, then train you on how to write your articles and syndicate your content.

I know this all sounds confusing but it is really quite simple, and takes less than thirty minutes per week! Many people say, "I am not a writer," or "I don't have thirty minutes a week". Well, how much are you already paying for your pay per click or other marketing campaigns? Would thirty minutes per week be worth your while if it would eliminate the costly, recurring fees of paid inclusion and other marketing schemes, by allowing you to appear in the organic search results for your relevant keyphrases? Most certainly, it usually is worth it!

As to the third caveat above, by all means, do seek to improve your PageRank. However, perform any search on Google and take a look at the sites listed in the top ten or twenty results, and you will see that they are not ranked according to their PageRank. So, to insist on increased PageRank as the defining factor of a quality search engine optimization is missing the point. Search engine optimization should only be measured by increased traffic over time - not the performance of any one particular keyphrase or PageRank.

Matt Foster is the President of ArteWorks Business Class, and is an expert in search engine optimization, regularly achieving top rankings for his clients. Mr. Foster has been active in the industry since 1995. For further information, or to begin the process of optimizing your site for search engines, please contact Mr. Foster toll free at 877-812-2217, or by email


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