With an update to the Google toolbar PageRank on the horizon, I thought it would be a great time to review exactly what PR is about and how it should influence your Internet Marketing decisions. This article is a re-post from  our 3 part series on PageRank versus MozRank on the BuildMyRank blog.


Google PageRank

What is PageRank?

PageRank was developed by Sergey Brin and Larry Page as a method to create a link graph of the web and give priority to pages based on their position on the graph. By looking at the links between sites and how they correlate, Google is able to establish a ranking for each page. This is what separated Google from competing search engines early on. Over the years, PageRank has continuously evolved but it is still an important algorithm, although only one of many, that Google uses to determine what appears on the search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific queries.

PageRank Myths and Misconceptions

Toolbar PageRank is an accurate reflection of my page’s actual PageRank

The Google Toolbar only shows an approximation of a page’s PageRank at some point in time prior to the toolbar being updated. Google Toolbar updates are few and far between with at least 3-6 months between updates. As anyone in SEO knows, that is a very long period of time in Internet years.

But even outside of the infrequent updates, the toolbar scale is functionally not an accurate representation of true PageRank. PageRank is a logarithmic scale similar to the Richter scale. This means the difference between numbers grows exponentially as the scale increases. So, the difference in PageRank of  4.00 to 4.01 is greater than the difference from 3 to 4. You can see how this presents problems if you are relying on the toolbar PageRank, which is in whole numbers, for any kind of meaningful analysis.

A high PageRank means your site will rank higher in the search engine results.

Not necessarily. In reality, PageRank is only one of hundreds of factors used to determine ranking in the SERP’s. A site may have a PageRank of 5 but may actually rank on very few terms. On-site content, anchor text used in external and internal links, site load times, domain age, and other factors come into play when Google is determining the position of a page for a keyword query in the SERPs.

If I have a lot of outbound links on my site, my PageRank will leak out and I will be left with none

This has been and continues to be a prevalent misconception of how PageRank works and is also a very narrow view of how the web works in general. In the early days of Google, there was a sentence in the Webmaster Guidelines that mentioned keeping the links on a page below 100. This was due to the limitations of the Google bot at the time and was also just a rule of thumb for usability concerns. This has long since been removed from the guidelines and Google now advises webmasters to keep the links to a reasonable number. PageRank is determined by inbound links to a page and the quality of those links. Linking out to other sites will not lower your PageRank but if you are linking out to bad neighborhoods then Google may determine that your site is not a trusted source of information and act accordingly.

I hope this clears up a few of the larger misconceptions about PageRank. What are some of your experiences with PageRank? How do you explain PageRank to your clients or colleagues? We would love to hear what you have to say!

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons