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Google Page Rank Explained?

Many of ProBlogger.net readers are reporting in comments significant changes in their blog’s Google Page Rankings in this latest update. Those sites that are reporting the largest changes tend to be new sites (which is understandable) with older more mature blogs reporting only minor (if any) changes.

Every time Google updates like this I find my email inbox full of questions about Page Rank – questions like”

  • what is Page Rank?
  • why is it important?
  • how do I improve my blog’s Page Rank?
  • why isn’t my Page Rank changing?
  • how do I check my blog’s Page Rank?
  • why has my blog’s Page Rank gone down?
  • is Page Rank still relevant?

The questions are many and varied so I thought I’d attempt to answer a few (keeping in mind that on many of these questions no one (outside of Google’s inner circle) really knows the answer to some of them).

Google describes Page Rank (PR) like this:

‘The heart of our software is PageRank, a system for ranking web pages’ that provides’ the basis for all of our web search tools.’

So they’re writing that it’s an essential part of the way they determine which sites rank in what order on their search results. They continue by writing:

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. In essence, 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.’

Ok – so this is the official spin on PR. But many ‘experts’ (outside of Google) believe that whilst this might have been the way things were at the beginning of Google – that things have changed and that Page rank is no longer such a central and important part of the way they rank sites. Theories abound about PR ranging from that it’s been abandoned, downgraded, modified, superseded, that it’s a publicity stunt, through to it still being the same as always. Some see conspiracies in PR, others take Google at face value.

So what and who should we believe?

My personal opinion (and I’ve stated this previously) is that Page Rank is still a factor to watch – but that it’s not the be all and end all of getting your blog on the receiving end of lots of traffic from Google.

Why isn’t it everything? Here are a couple of my experiences that lead me here:

  • I have a number of blogs with Page Ranks of 6 and 7 which get little traffic from Google.
  • A couple of PR updates ago a number of my blogs went from PR of 0 to a PR of 6. Traffic did not alter that day or any time shortly before or after the changes.

There may be many explanations for these experiences – many argue that they illustrate that PR is irrelevant and has nothing to do with Search Engine Results Positioning rankings (SERPs). I’d probably not take it to this extreme – but think that it is pretty clear that an increase in PR doesn’t automatically lead to a direct and proportionate increase in your SERPs and therefore traffic.

I’d be arguing that PR is just one factor that Google looks at when they determine your blog’s SERPs and that the day we see an update to our PRs is not the day that Google first determines them and that they change our SERPs. Instead many argue that the day we see a change in PR publicly in Google toolbars (and other tools) is actually days (or even weeks) after Google has worked out our PR and has taken into account the effect of this on our SERPs (some argue its the other way around and that PR takes a few weeks to have an impact upon SERPs).

Another important factor that many believe is more important that PR in determining SERPs is backlinks (or how many links from other sites (and even within your own sites) point to your domain. In fact backlinks seem to have a more direct impact upon traffic levels. I know that late last year that the number of backlinks Google recorded as being pointed at one of my sites decreased significantly during an update and that on the same day my traffic decreased by two thirds. Many others have noticed this also (although as usual there are many divergent opinions).

Another theory that many ‘experts’ have about Page Rank is that it could be more important in how powerful a site is with its outbound links. ie if my blog links to your blog and it has a page rank of 2, that link does your blog less value than if my blog with a page rank of 7 links to it. This makes sense to me and I’ve seen a number of people try and ‘prove’ it – none convincingly – but it seems to resonate with my experiences.

So is Page Rank important?

I would argue that it is on some levels. I can’t see that Google would keep it going as a system if it were not. Their PR updates come every couple of months usually and must take significant energy and resources for them to do. I doubt they’d do this just to keep us believing they still used it. It must have some usefulness to them.

I keep an eye on my blog’s page ranks because it gives me some sort of indication as to how important Google thinks they are. It may not be directly linked to traffic but it gives me an indication if I’m on the right track to improving quality which I believe eventually leads to more traffic.

PR is also important to me because it also helps me monetize my blogs. On a number of my blogs I sell text links to other site’s operators. One of the few ways that seems to be used to judge the worth of a site for such purposes is Google’s PR. As a result if I see one of my blogs promoted from one level to another it’s a cause for a mini celebration. I guess in addition to this it’s good for the prestige and reputation for your site to be highly ranked.

Whilst most of the above is just opinion and speculation – it’s about as good as I can do at this point and comes out of experience. I’m sure there is ALOT more to it than I’ve mentioned and that Page Rank is one of those things that Google is constantly monitoring and adapting as they themselves learn and observe patterns on the web.

I’m interested in the thoughts of others and invite your suggestions and lessons learnt below in comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Mike says:

    My blog has a PR of 5 which is fairly nice, despite the fairly low level of traffic it receives. One thing is that any site I develop and link to will automatically get at least a PR of 3 or 4.

    I know PR doesn’t automatically put you in the top rankings, but I am sure it helps a little.

  2. theaardvark says:

    Page Rank cannot be the only factor otherwise high-PR sites would rank highly for all search terms. However, I do think it’s an indication of the general importance of a site. A site with high PR has a large number of incoming links and, the chances are, a lot of those links will relate to the subject/s of the site / page.

    A single subject site / page should therefore find that its ranking for searches on that subject will have a very close relationship to the comparative PR of it and competing pages. A site with a wide variety of subjects will likely find that it’s ranking has a much more vague relationship to its PR.

  3. Thanks, Darren, useful info. It’s interesting that Bloglines CEO, Mark Fletcher, has said that no blog search service works well at present, including his own. He promises a world-class service by “summer”. Will Bloglines then supersede the current Page Rank system from Google and put us all out of our mysery?

  4. Being and SEM/SEO professional, I keep a close eye on PR. Most of the experts agree that there are two types of PR. One is the toolbar PR that we can all monitor (which is a decent barometer of your site’s link popularity, but isn’t always accurate, because it isn’t updated very often).

    the other PR is Google’s PR…which I’m sure is still a big part of their algo. This number is calculated according to the number and quality of inbound links…..the actual calculation of which is a tightly guarded secret.

    that being said, our triathlon site jumped from a 0 when it launched June 1st to a 4 in this recent update…..which is still thrilling to me :)

  5. Paul says:

    It seems to me that when Google is working on PR or BL, they throw huge resources into it. If you keep an eye on GoogleBot spidering of a site, the number of spiders per day, reduces drastically, about a week before the new rankings appear, from between 4 and 8 a day, to only one a day.The strange thing is that although this happened up until 17th July, when sites were re-ranked, and then spidering went back to normal, this weekend, it has gone back to just one spider in 24 hours. Maybe Google is doing something else with their resources, that we aren’t aware of !! Maybe a new ranking system, or BL [backlink] system !

  6. Great insight Darren.

    I bought my domain, placed a “nothing” page and did zip for 6 months. Then when I went back to it and started up my blog I had a PR of 5 !!! No idea how! I had no backlinks and no content – so go figure.

    I use my PR’s exactly as one of the points you have stated: when approaching others for a reciprocal link or seeking a sponsor, having a high PR opens doors. it’s sad, but true.

    BTW, do you have a trackback feature here at problogger?

  7. Sebastian says:

    Toolbar PageRank is just entertainment for the masses. It has some value when you know the timestamp of the snapshot taken from the ongoing ‘real’ PageRank calculations to feed the toolbar PR database every 3-4 months, *and* if you’re able to track back your (client’s)linkage to that date. The current toolbar PR update is a snapshot from mid of June – 4 weeks old data at the time of the update. Using the outdated toolbar PR for comparisons is like applying the weather forecast of April 1st to the whole summer. Rolling forward from the snapshot’s timestamp and taking all changes of linkage into account can lead to a vague guess of the current ‘real’ PR, not more. Bottom line is, toolbar PR is pretty much useless. One can find out much more interesting things analyzing search results.

    However, green tranquilizes:
    http://sebastianx.blogspot.com/2005/07/green-tranquilizes.html

  8. Paul says:

    Further to my comments above, as I said, something strange is happening ! [Bear in mind, I am talking GMT time.] My recently launched site was ranked 2 last Thursday. This morning it went to a big fat 0, and this afternoon, it’s back up to 2 on some pages, and 3 on others. So you may say it depends on the Google IP address, but on checking, it was the same across the board ! Much is said about content, but in reality, pages that have little content, in some cases, have achieved a rankig of 3, whilst others with huge content, have reached only a 2. Which only goes to prove that Google is bright enough to keep us guessing, and whatever we read, or imply, we will ever really understand their procedures :-)

  9. I believe that pagerank is more important to how often that the googlebot visits your sites more than anything. I have two blogs that I am active with and one of them has a PR of 2 and the other a PR of 5 both are just as popular as each other as far as traffic and backlinks but I have been a little better at adding content to the PR 5 blog on a daily basis. Do you think this maybe more of a determining factor Darren?

  10. Bill J. says:

    I think you may be right about other factors coming into play.

    My PR is only 5, yet I recently ascended to the first page of Google results under “Yoda”. I often find myself on the first page for other keywords and phrases.

  11. Jerry says:

    Thanks for the explaination. Wasn’t that clear, not after reading your article.

  12. Hi,

    Great work and wish you good luck for your blogs n future projects.

    Basically I am more interested to know more things about SEO and Webmaster related stuff. But even before that, Next Google PR Update is a must know question. hahah :P

    Its already 27th January, 2006 today and no sign on PR Updation from Google. Do you have any idea about when its going to happen? How long do we have to wait?

    As you know, as a new website webmaster, I am more keen to know about whats going to be the pagerank of my website – http://www.itsallaboutlinks.com

    I hope its normal ;)

    But again,
    Thanks for the update.

    Paras Shah
    Webmaster – SEO Expert
    ItsAllAboutLinks – Web Directory – Add Link – Submit Article – Online Store – Forum

  13. Like Paul in his post, i too have seen my blog page’s PR ranking rise and fall within the SAME day from PR 0 to PR5….

    Im not that worried, but am curious as to why this is happening for the last few weeks now.

    Any insights into this mystery would be highly appreciated.

  14. greg abel says:

    Darren,

    I’m still not quite getting the page rank idea. Is there a single determinant to how often Google visits a site and spider’s the page? Seems like some sites get it every day or so and others don’t get it for what seems like forever. Is there a time period that they try to crawl a site within?

    Greg
    http://www.DiCaprioBengals.com

  15. Mike says:

    so, when we will ne Google PR rank update?
    Because I see my page rank sometimes at night 2, otherwise 0.
    I would like to know when we will see google PR rank final update for this period?

  16. Simon says:

    The recent Google PR update didnt seem to make much difference in the amount of traffic to my website, in fact i personally think its got less which leads me to believe its not a major part in SEO, rather a guideline on your websites popularity amongst the websites that currently link to it.

  17. Alvin says:

    Actually I’m not really understand pagerank but I know that the more backlink you have, the higher your pagerank.
    This thoery is not true for me. I saw lot of website and blog that have NO backlinks and LESS visitor…
    So, What is that? Why?
    Conclusion, pagerank is important but not fair to some of us which have backlinks but low pagerank.

  18. andre says:

    Hi guys, my website had a PR2 , I added more than 300 backlins and my PR went to 0, any idea why?

  19. JACK says:

    Thanks for all comments,which are helpful for me.I’ll pay attention on more comments. JACK – http://www.chinabboss.com

  20. is blogspot hard to improve page rank compare v domian?
    my blog http://www.sharingthelife.blogspot.com nearly 3 month , but still zero page rank, can any 1 help me?

  21. rudy says:

    you said:

    PR is also important to me because it also helps me monetize my blogs.

    it doesn’t make impact on adbrite

  22. Deanzod says:

    My sites all stay at the same pagerank no matter what I alter. I can try and ruin a site and after it is revisited by google it still has the same PR. I think PR is just random.

  23. Psychic says:

    I have had an increase in pr. I have also had an increase in cpc continually now compared to the last ranking. I don’t know but I do suspect pr does affect your cpc. Nothing else changed on the site except for some clever css. TerryG

  24. jerry holmes says:

    I too have noticed all my sites lost page rank and am glad to see the posts saying it only lasts for awhile and dont know why it does go down.
    But does anyone know why it does do this?

  25. julz says:

    If you want to increase your pagerank you should focus on incoming links from a website that have a higher pagerank than yours.
    For example if you have 3, you should try to get an incoming link from a page that has at least 4.

  26. Foxy says:

    Hi

    just read your articule and im just looking to know if there is any sites that give a ruff idea when the next pr is going to be, i set up my site http://www.sportzandmoviez.com in June and i want to get off the page rank of 0!

  27. TJ says:

    Great article Darren! You answered most of my questions, thanks!

  28. Glenda says:

    Darren, is there a way to know what your actual current PR is? I’ve heard that PR is constantly updated daily, but the toolbar is not updated.

    Thanks!

    Glenda

  29. PR is very important for blogs or websites
    Glenda i read that google update the PR every 4 months

  30. johhn says:

    Just wondering how long will it take for me to get accepted into Google.

  31. alhnuf says:

    Thanks Darren ,
    that was helpful ..
    thanks alot .

  32. alhnuf says:

    Thank darren
    that was helpful ..

  33. merkaz says:

    thanks for the blog….its really nice & useful information

  34. beingaqutic says:

    “A couple of PR updates ago a number of my blogs went from PR of 0 to a PR of 6. Traffic did not alter that day or any time shortly before or after the changes.”

    That’s because PR update is not an overnight process. If you move to PR 4 from N/A, there’s not much change in traffic because they update the SERP way before finally ‘tagging’ the TBPR to your page. The moral of the story is “keep doing good work, post good content, build good link and everything will go as planned”

  35. Get a good web designer to SEO your website. It costs a little money but worth it

  36. Budhi says:

    I think I am agree with beingaqutic , “keep doing good work, post good content, and build good link” and things should go as planned ;-) I don’t think it’s wise to concern too much on PR since at the end of the day, it’s your reader who decide whether your blog is worth visiting or not, right?

  37. I agree get a good Web Designer but shop around first

    Jamie

  38. Billy says:

    My website was on the first page of google for the search terms taser, tasers, taser c2. But now its gone and not anywhere for those terms. I havent changed anything on my site. I did a site:wegotsecurity.com search on google and I am still there. I have been reading and they state it might be a google error or joke. Is this correct? They said to waite until the next index and I should be back up there.

    Thanks
    We Got Security

  39. WPRanking says:

    Great infos about page rank Darren. Thanks!

  40. Remya says:

    Good information about page rank.
    In my view page rank is important and is depends on the number of quality back links…

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