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Google PageRank

"Is PageRank Going Away?"

Latest News:
The decreasing importance of Google PageRank -- Theory

PageRank is a system that helps Google to organize its search result pages. It used to be the heart of Google's ranking algorithms. Google explains PageRank as follows:

"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. [...]"

The PageRank of a web site is displayed in a little green bar in the Google toolbar. The wider the green bar, the higher the PageRank of a web page. Every page of a web site has its own PageRank.

Why all the hype about Google PageRank?

PageRank used to be so important that many webmasters only concentrated on getting a high PageRank without caring about other important aspects of their web site.

Even today, many webmasters only want to link to web sites with a high PageRank and some webmasters even accept only links from web sites that have a high PageRank.

However, a high PageRank does not mean much to your business. It's basically only a green line in a search engine toolbar that has little effect on your web site rankings. It doesn't mean that you'll get more visitors and it also doesn't mean that your web site is useful to your web site visitors.

You can have top 10 Google rankings with a low PageRank

To prove this statement, here are some examples of search terms that return web pages with a low PageRank in Google's top 10 results:

Search term Google search results and page rank of that page
  #1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10
wonderbra PR4 PR0 PR4 PR4 PR4 PR4 PR4 PR3 PR5 PR5
sneakers PR5 PR5 PR5 PR0 PR5 PR5 PR6 PR3 PR5 PR5
grill equipment PR1 PR0 PR3 PR0 PR3 PR0 PR0 PR1 PR4 PR5
life vest PR4 PR4 PR5 PR0 PR4 PR4 PR0 PR4 PR4 PR4
buy Post It notes PR5 PR3 PR3 PR4 PR3 PR2 PR3 PR3 PR0 PR1
buy a new office chair PR3 PR3 PR0 PR0 PR4 PR4 PR0 PR0 PR6 PR4

Example: The Google results on position 3, 4, 7 and 8 for the search term "buy a new office chair" have a PageRank of 0. The top ranked page for "grill equipment" has a PageRank of 1. (As of 7 June 2004, PageRank values often change)

As you can see, it is possible to get a top 10 ranking on Google even if you have a PageRank of 0. In addition, you can see that the search results are not sorted by PageRank.

Did Google drop the PageRank concept?

Rumor has it that Google does not rely on PageRank anymore because it doesn't own the rights for it. Actually, the PageRank patent is granted to Stanford University.

If Google continued to rely on PageRank, Stanford might get a large amount of the profit when Google goes public. For that reason, Google might have dropped the PageRank concept with its IPO plans. This is only speculation but it doesn't sound too incongruous. At least it seems that PageRank is now less important than it has been before.

What does this mean to you and your web site?

Don't care too much about Google PageRank. A high PageRank is nothing more than a line of green pixels in the Google toolbar. It doesn't mean that you'll get better search engine rankings and it doesn't mean that you'll get more visitors.

If you want a successful web site, then build a useful web site for your visitors. While the PageRank number seems to become less important, links to your web site are still an important factor for high Google rankings. Get links from other web sites that are related to your site and provide links to other web sites that are useful to your visitors. That linking strategy will not only bring you targeted visitors from other sites, it will also result in a higher PageRank for your web site if that is important to you.

In addition, optimize your web page content so that it makes sense to both your visitors and search engines. As explained in previous issues of our newsletter, optimized web pages get better search engine rankings than unoptimized pages.

A web site with useful content, good design and good incoming links will bring you the best results. You'll get high rankings on search engines and - even more important - more customers and more sales. Again, don't worry too much about Google PageRank.

Learn more about Google PageRank and website promotion

Google Toolbar PageRank only for entertainment purposes?

Last week (Dec. 2004), two statements about Google's PageRank started a new discussion about this topic.

The first statement was made in the Search Engine Watch forums. It was from a person who received the following answer to a PageRank question from a Google employee:

    "The PageRank that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is for entertainment purposes only.

    Due to repeated attempts by hackers to access this data, Google updates the PageRank data very infrequently because is it not secure. On average, the PR that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is several months old.

    If the toolbar is showing a PR of zero, this is because the user is visiting a new URL that hasn't been updated in the last update.

    The PR that is displayed by the Google Toolbar is not the same PR that is used to rank the webpage results so there is no need to be concerned if your PR is displayed as zero.

    If a site is showing up in the search results, it doesn't not have a real PR of zero, the Toolbar is just out of date"

In another forum, a person with the name GoogleGuy, who is believed to a Google employee, made the following statement:

    "I'd strongly disagree with the statement that the toolbar PageRank is for 'entertainment purposes only'--millions of toolbar users use the PageRank display to judge the quality of pages.

    I think it's also a little irresponsible to quote John Galt claiming to talk to some random person at Google, and then for you to quote it as a response from Google, which makes it sound more official. I'm happy to refute that this is any sort of official stance."

GoogleGuy didn't say that the comments in the first statement are wrong. He said that toolbar users use the PageRank display to judge the quality of web pages. He did not say that Google uses the number of the PageRank toolbar to rank web pages.

The PageRank feature is also no longer mentioned in the official Google toolbar tour.

What does this mean to you?

Of course, PageRank is important to get good rankings on Google. However, the PageRank number that is displayed in the Google Toolbar and the green PageRank bar are not important at all for good Google rankings.

It's very likely that the PageRank number that can be seen in the Google Toolbar is mainly a marketing instrument for Google that doesn't have much effect on the search results. Google seems to use an internal PageRank value for its ranking algorithm and a public PageRank value for the toolbar.

That would explain why many web pages with a high ranking on Google have a low (toolbar) PageRank.

When you want to trade links with another web site, don't look at the PageRank of that site. Instead, ask yourself:

  • Is the web site related to your site?
  • Would it make sense for web surfers if they linked to you and you linked to them?
  • Could visitors of the other web site be interested in your site?

If you find a web site that you would want to visit or your visitors would want to visit then link to it and ask for a link back to your site.

Just use common sense. If you like a page, changes are that other people also like that page, no matter what PageRank the Google toolbar displays.

Visit Axandra to see tools that help with website promotion.

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Did Google recently change its rankings?

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How long does it take to get listed in Google?

Does Google think your website is spam?

Can too many links hurt rankings?

Why search engine ignore websites.

Google's patent reveals links, content secrets

Google Analytics - Is Free Worth It?

Google's supplemental results

Google's Sitelinks

How do I get my website into Yahoo?

What are the "other" search engines?

Optimizing websites for search engines

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What are "Thumbshots"?

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