PageRank is an algorithm that analyzes the number and quality of links pointing to individual web pages. Allow me to explain why the numbers you see in the toolbar and elsewhere are inaccurate and don’t mean anything.
What is my Site’s PageRank?
Firstly, one thing that you should be absolutely clear about here is that PR does not apply to websites, it only applies to web pages (hence the name PageRank, in addition to the method being named after the Google founder, Larry Page, it’s a double entendre). This same logic applies to domains, links, and anything else online commodity-related. Most people will try to sell you “PR3 Domains” or “Links with a page rank of 5″. These same people generally don’t know what they’re talking about and should pretty much be avoided (It’s a marketing tactic to make you think “Higher PR is better”, even if they don’t know any better themselves).
The numbers that most SEO Experts and BS Internet Marketers use when they refer to their PageRank are the one’s contained within the web browser’s toolbar, based upon a 1 to 10 scale (downloaded from Google). PageRank has nothing to do with Search Engine Optimization, and shouldn’t be treated as such.
It should also be noted that PageRank is not affected by the following:
- The Content of the web page
- The number of visitors and traffic the web page receives
- The look or style of the web page
- The number of supposed “Keywords” found on the page
The ONLY factor that affects PageRank is links, in number and quality, nothing more, nothing less.
So should I be concerned about the PR value in the Toolbar?
No, the true PR of any page is going to be a number somewhere between 0 and 1. And since the algorithm uses a probability distribution (The Bernoulli distribution, specifically), the sum of all the values of web pages that Google calculates in their link analysis index is going to be 1. That’s a few billion pages.
This is why an integer-based scale (Toolbar PR) does not represent the real numbers (Real PR) of the algorithm precisely or effectively. A page shown as the value of PR5 could be exported as a real number ranging anywhere between 4.5 and 5.499999999999999999. Therefore, a page that links to the page being calculated that has a real power of .000000000000000001 could effectively mean the difference between a PR4 and PR5, or a PR5 and PR6 web page.
The 1 to 10 PR scale used in the Toolbar is also NOT an effective indicator of where the page ranks because it’s a Data Export. It’s not represented in real time, and normally hasn’t been that way for months. Since the updates in the Toolbar are so infrequent, a page with a supposed PR4 may have dropped drastically within the past month or two (and in that real-time instance it could actually be a PR3, or even PR1, based upon the integer scale they’re using). Toolbar PR is only a reflection of Real PR at a specific instance in time (whenever the data export occurs).
So what should I be concerned about?
PageRank and ranking in the Search results are not directly correlated. Google has already stated that PageRank is just one of over 200 factors considered when they compile their results pages. However, if you’re going to make a claim that focusing on ranking placement in Google’s SERPs should be you’re top priority, you’re going to be wrong.
Attempting to rank your site’s pages well is a wasted effort. Why you ask? Well, the results for your search query aren’t necessarily going to be the same as what others’ will receive (Google has 100s of Data Centers they use to distribute different results to users all throughout the world).
In addition, ranking well means absolutely nothing if it doesn’t convert. Allow me to use an example. If you run a website selling item X (say greeting cards), and you happen to be listed well under a search query for phrase Y (perhaps for something like “Computer Repair”), it isn’t going to do you any good. Person A searching for Service Y isn’t going to care about Item X on the SERP since it has nothing to do with what they’re looking for. Searchers looking to fix their computers aren’t going to be looking for greeting cards. Obviously this is just one specific instance, and the variables for X and Y are interchangeable many times over when they’re completely unrelated to each other.
So basically, guessing at whatever your page’s rankings or PR might be in real time is a time-wasting exercise and you won’t accomplish anything wondering about and fretting over it. Toolbar PR is not a valid measurement tool and rankings fluctuate all the time, which is normal. Focus your attention on real metrics, such as how much targeted traffic you’re earning from varied sources, the conversions these results are producing, and just real people in general!
Where can I learn more?
If anyone’s interested in learning more about how PageRank really works and the mechanics behind how pages are calculated, you can learn more about the topic on the paper the Google founders wrote back at Stanford:
- March 13, 2010
- Search Engines
- 2 Comments