What is PageRank?
PageRank is all about reputation and the value of links. It’s a measurement of how important any web page is, based on the number of links to that page and the importance of the sites providing those links.
PageRank is at the heart of Google’s ranking algorithm, which guides the company’s attempt to return the most relevant results for any search query. Google uses at least 200 ranking factors, which is good to keep in mind whenever anyone starts talking about PageRank.
Interesting factoid: While PageRank is a measure applied to web pages, it’s actually named after Larry Page, one of Google’s two co-founders.
What do PageRank numbers mean?
Google’s internal PageRank calculations are continually updated, but the public PageRank numbers we see on toolbars like the one I have on Firefox are updated only a few times per year. The number you see on a toolbar may not be an accurate reflection of Google’s current internal PageRank rating for that page. Matt Cutts of Google explains this in the video below.
Public PageRank is displayed in toolbars as a number ranging from zero to 10 (or unranked). Each page within a website will have its own PageRank value. The vast majority of web pages have a public PageRank of zero. As the PageRank number goes up, the number of web pages with that number gets smaller. Just a handful of very popular web pages have a PageRank of 8, 9 or 10.
For most websites, the home page will have the highest public PageRank. Other prominent pages on the site will have higher PageRank than less-linked, less-visited pages. A typical website whose home page has a public PageRank of 3, 4 or 5 is doing quite well.
How can you improve your PageRank?
Using recommended tactics for improving the PageRank of your important web pages will also improve the search engine optimization (SEO) of those pages, helping them rank higher in search results. You’ll also likely boost the number of pages on your site that are indexed by search engines, which in turn should make it easier for your target audience to find your site.
- Get good backlinks to your site’s most important pages.
- The best way to get links is to provide interesting information on your site, and to win the attention of bloggers in your field or industry. For tips on getting quality backlinks, read our articles about link building.
- Make sure the links you try to get aren’t NoFollow, because NoFollow links don’t help PageRank. NoFollow links can still help you get more visitors if people click on them, though.
- Be careful that the links to your site don’t look like they were paid for, because Google’s Penguin update has cracked down on “unnatural links.”
- Make sure your important pages are three or fewer clicks from your home page. Pages buried deep within a site are harder to find, and therefore, get linked less often.
- Creating an HTML sitemap can help distribute the goodness of high PageRank pages within your site to other pages, as explained by Google’s Matt Cutts in this video clip. Linking related pages on your site to each other can also help distribute PageRank goodness within your site.
What does Google say about PageRank?
Until October 2009, Google included public PageRank in its Webmaster Tools metrics. A Google employee explained that the company removed PageRank from Webmaster Tools because Google believes it’s not very important. The company also wants website owners and operators to stop obsessing about PageRank and focus instead on providing value to people searching the Web.
Though Matt Cutts and others have tried to get PageRank removed from the Google Toolbar since 2007, it remains in place.
Questions about PageRank
Is a link from a PageRank 5 site more valuable than a link from a PR 4 site?
- First of all, the phrase “PageRank 5 site” isn’t really meaningful – it just refers to the PageRank of the website’s home page. While Google does apparently calculate an overall PageRank value for a website, that number is not publicly available.
- A link from a page with higher PageRank is more valuable than a link from a page with lower PageRank. Often a site’s home page will have the highest PageRank of any page on that site. If you know the person who has linked to your site, you might ask them to link from their highest-ranking page, so you can get more value from the link.
Linking to any web page (unless the link is marked NoFollow) effectively gives it some PageRank. Does that mean that including a link on one of my pages makes it lose some of its PageRank?
- In a word: No.
If my website’s PageRank decreases, does that mean it has been penalized?
- Again, no. See next question.
Can a web page’s PageRank decrease?
- Absolutely. PageRank is essentially reputation, conveyed by links. That reputation, and therefore your PageRank, can decrease if:
- some websites stop linking to you, or
- websites linking to you lose inbound links and PageRank, or
- a web page linking to you ceases to exist.
- If a web page’s PageRank decreases, you may also see its public PageRank number decline. Remember, though, that public PageRank for any web page is not as frequently updated as Google’s own internal PageRank number.
Have a question about PageRank? Comment below.
More PageRank resources
- What Is A Link Worth? Part 1: Valuing PageRank from SearchEngineLand.com, February 2010
- 36 SEO Myths including: Your PageRank score, as reported by Google’s toolbar server, is highly correlated to your Google rankings.
- The Science of Ranking Algorithms: How Does PageRank Perform? by Rand Fishkin on SEOmoz.org, April 2010
- Interview with Ted Ulle (Tedster) from WebmasterWorld where he said “What PageRank is measuring (or attempting to measure) is still very critical — both the quality and number of other web pages that link to the given page. We don’t need to worship those public PR numbers, but we definitely do need quality back-links (and quality internal linking) to rank well on competitive queries.”
- There’s some interesting math behind PageRank. It’s based on a logarithmic scale, and SEOmoz estimates the log base at 8 to 10. That means a PR 5 web page has 8-10 times more PageRank than a PR 4 page. For more on the math of the PageRank link analysis algorithm, see the Wikipedia article about PageRank.
- You can check the PageRank of specific pages on your site using tools such as the PageRank checker at PageRank.net (visit). You can also install a web browser extension like the one I use for Firefox, which shows the PageRank of the web page you’re currently viewing. This extension also shows you the site’s Alexa rank.
This article was written by Kristina Weis of AboutUs.