The Complete Idiot's Guide

Growing Your Business With Google
By Dave Taylor

Exactly what does Google PageRank mean?

Dave, maybe you can explain something for me: my Web site Freedom For Animals.org apparently has a PageRank of two out of ten (2/10), and I don't really understand what that means. Does it mean, for example, that my organization's site is #2 out of 10 hits?

It's hard to pin down exactly what Google means when it talks about PageRank, but the best definition is that its a rough indication of the popularity of a Web page. A higher PageRank indicates a more popular page.

Notice here that I'm not talking about Web sites here too: Google considers every page of a Web site to be an autonomous entity, one thing that quite frequently confuses people. We've all been taught to think about Web sites, but the new, modern Web is all about separate autonomous pages, not sites at all.

Let's jump back to PageRank for a moment, though. Google PageRank is a measure of the relative popularity of a site, ranging from a rank of zero (you have insufficient inbound links or are too new to have a rank) to a rank of ten (which means you're one of the dozen top sites on the entire network).

A few example values: www.yahoo.com has a PageRank of 9, www.google.com has a PageRank of 10, www.microsoft.com has a PageRank of 9 and www.redcross.org has a PageRank of 8.

But PageRank isn't just an indication of how many Web pages point to your page, it's an indication of how important those sites that point to your page are too. This is the piece of the Google algorithm that make its search engine so darn interesting: if a small number of highly popular (e.g., high PageRank) pages point to your page, you could be considered more important than if hundreds of less important Web sites have links to you.

As a result, everyone who pays attention to PageRank dreams of showing up on the Google home page. That'd be a glorious day for your PageRank!

So now that we've talked about how PageRank is calculated, let's spend some time talking about why you should - or, perhaps, shouldn't - care about its value.

First off, let's set aside a common misunderstanding: a higher PageRank does not mean you'll have better Search Engine Results Placement (or SERP, as search engine geeks call it). Or, at least, it's only one of what's likely over 100 different variables fed into the calculation of what Web pages should be shown in what order as the result of a specific Web search query.

You can see that if you've installed the Google Toolbar, actually. Perform a search for something relatively uncommon, then check the PageRank value of the top 10-15 results. You'll see that the top match or two are often not the highest PageRank pages on that list of the top dozen.

In the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) community, a lot of people pay a lot of attention to PageRank, and seek links to their pages (and sites overall) from other sites with relatively high PageRank. Other SEO people, however, encourage all of us to just simply ignore PageRank entirely and instead focus on building good Web sites.

What's my view? Well, as I wrote at length in my popular book Growing Your Business with Google, I think it's useful to pay attention to your Google PageRank, but the best long-term Web strategy is to build a smart site that offers your online community or marketplace valuable content presented in a readable and credible manner.

And, yeah, asking your friends and colleagues for links to your site doesn't hurt either!

This Q&A originally appeared at Ask Dave Taylor.



Category: Google Q&A   (Article #4384)
Comments

Hi Dave,
Nice article.

If page-rank is merely about the importance of the page and does not impact the search engines in a big way, then why are there so many people involved in exchanging and buying the L inks all over the internet. Personally when I go to a website I just read their article and hardly ever check the rank of their page assigned by Google. I feel this whole page-rank deal is too much over blown.

- Joe

Posted by: Travel Joe at October 31, 2007 10:43 AM

Thanks for your clear and eloquent answer on the importance of Google Page Rank. I'm a member of a number of forums, where the participants seem to think that a PR=1 means that they will come up on Page 1 of a search for their keyword.

Also, I appreciate the details of how Page Rank is not the end all be all of SEO. It's all part of the pie. Thanks for the great writing. You have a fantastic site for non-techies like myself.

Posted by: The Fertility Acupuncturist at July 28, 2008 8:39 AM

Very good information, I been trying to find out what exactly does google page rank mean. I'm bookmarking this page for re-reading, defined it clear. Thanks

Posted by: Essaylandia at June 24, 2009 8:27 PM

I guess the bigger your site is the higher your page rank is. So thats why yahoo has a page rank of 8 and newer websites start with 0, moving on up to page rank 1. Funny, when I first started out with websites i thought it was the other way around. Thank you so much for explaining this.

Posted by: William Copper at June 24, 2009 8:37 PM

Well, not exactly, William. PageRank is based on a lot of factors, but the key factor is really how many pages point to a given page. There are small sites with great PR and really big sites where there's almost no PR because they just don't have any incoming links.

Posted by: Dave Taylor at June 24, 2009 8:39 PM

Thanks for the info. I've had my site running 2 months and just now found out what pagerank means. I've been actively trying to get links but I'm still not sure how it all works. I mean do links from Reddit and Digg mean as much as a link from a popular forum? I wonder because anyone could post 12903094932 links to their site with services like Digg and I can't imagine that would be a big help in rank. This is still confusing but it's a learning process.

Posted by: Baphomet2013 at June 30, 2009 12:24 AM

I have been stuck on PR2 ever since the making of my site and no matter how many high ranking dofollow links I find I still cant seem to get it any higher, but ints interesting that you say there are about 100 other attributes to your listing so from now on I think I will divide my time into looking into other methods and still add backlinks as well but look for other ways to get listed higher.

Great reply there and interesting read, cheers mate

Gavin

Posted by: gavin at January 14, 2010 6:22 PM

My PR is stuck at 4. dmoz.org sure does seem to increase PR.

Posted by: John at January 18, 2010 3:42 PM

Don't think the Quality Back links will make it rank higher according to this if i have a link at google "Don't we all have in locals" as it ranked #10 so every one should have high rank pulse having a link at a good website is useless unless its crawled and at a busy web servers most admins restrict crawlers crawl most of the time

Any comments let me know

Posted by: Syed Ali at February 16, 2010 5:00 PM

I agree with the above if web site is not crawled who knows that your link is there

Posted by: Adam at February 16, 2010 5:02 PM

So what does having a high ranking do for a business exactly? why would they want to have a high ranking?

Posted by: Anonymous at April 15, 2010 1:42 PM

Anon, a great question. In a nutshell, most businesses I know seek more visitors to their Web sites so that they can gain more customers. To get more visitors, you need to rank well in the search engine results -- if you're match #2 for a customer search, you'll clearly get more traffic than if you're match #834. To get better rank, you need to get better pagerank (though it's one of over 200 variables that are factored into the results). Make sense?

Posted by: Dave Taylor at April 15, 2010 8:01 PM

thanks for the great information on pagerank

Posted by: oswin grant at June 16, 2010 7:15 PM

I guess page rank does not mean squat! if it does not lead to conversions and sales. It depends on what your goals are online. I have a page rank of 4 yippee dee. :-)

Posted by: Alexander Herrera at September 23, 2010 9:14 PM

This has cleared up my understanding of page rank, thanks a lot. One of my sites is page rank 3 but my others are all 0 as they are fairly new, so I guess I have a lot of work to do.

Posted by: Jackie Stenhouse at June 30, 2011 7:02 PM

It's quite spectacular that many webmasters, such as myself, go years without bothering to research into PageRanks. Perhaps that's just me.

This article is really helpful. Question: do you think Google +/+1 will be used by Google to determine PageRank?

Posted by: Paul at August 6, 2011 2:53 PM

Great question, Paul. I think that Google is clearly starting to take into account some social networking / popularity rank data in addition to its older algorithm, but whether the "+1" will directly affect your pagerank or just your serps, well, we'll have to see.

Posted by: Dave Taylor at August 6, 2011 3:30 PM

Being not as tech-savvy as I sometimes like to assume I am, it is good to know that each separate page of my rather large site is rankable. That's helpful as I continue to grow my site.

I will be returning!

Posted by: Melani Bolyai, L.Ac., Dipl. C.H. at October 26, 2011 10:32 AM

It's like you read my mind! You appear to know so much about this, like you wrote the book in it or something. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

Posted by: Laurence at April 23, 2013 10:04 PM

I do have a comment, now that you mention it!









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