Google PageRank: How Relevant is the Algorithm Today and How Do You Optimize for It?
If you have been doing SEO for the last twenty years or so, you probably are very familiar with Google Pagerank. On the other hand, if you have just started, or are from the ‘new wave’ of SEO experts, say 2015 or after, then you most probably haven’t taken Google Pagerank as seriously as SEO technicians did previously.
What is Google Pagerank?
PageRank is a Google algorithm used for measuring a webpage’s quality. It provides a web page a score between 0 to 10, with the higher number representing a better webpage quality.
When we look at the early days of search engine algorithms, they ranked web pages based on the number of keywords. It meant that websites, regardless of the content quality or relevancy, could redeem higher ranking positions if they had many keywords.
Google Pagerank brought links to the equation. Google was quick to notice that links on good websites pointed to other good websites. Similarly, spam sites would link to lower quality sites. Thus, Google released the Pagerank algorithm, which analyses the quality of links to a site before assigning it a rank.
How Does Google Pagerank Work?
To understand Google Pagerank’s working, we have to go back to when developers first made the search engine. If you didn’t know, initially, Google was called Backrub. Its creators were Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who first launched ‘Backrub’ on Stanford University’s internal network.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin thought that websites were like books, and the search engine was a library where people could find books and research pieces.
When it comes to the books, research, and studies in a library, they are as credible as the number of credible studies they take reference from. In other words, books with citations to credible researches are taken more seriously by the people.
Google Pagerank introduced a similar concept to websites. If good websites have pointed to your website, then it means your website is good as well.
We have to understand that Google Pagerank didn’t (doesn’t) only take the number of links as a basis for giving a website its ranking score. The quality of the link also matters for the trust factor. This means that you will get a higher PageRank if websites with higher PageRank have links to your webpage.
The Maths Behind How PageRank Works
The above information should be enough for every user who wants to learn the basics of PageRank. However, if you want a more advanced look into it, you should know the mathematics behind it.
Let us suppose,
A is a web page, which has links from many other webpages.
T1, T2, T3,…. are the pages that have linked to web page A.
D is the damping factor, which is usually 0.85. It can change, however, and we talk about it later.
C is the number of links going out of Page A.
Then, the formula for the page rank of A is as follows:
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
The page rank score of a webpage can be between 0 and 10.
What to Take from the Google PageRank Equation?
The above was a straightforward calculation of the page rank of a website. However, it gives us a very clear idea of how page rank works.
When page A has a link to page B, page B gets a specific link value, i.e., a boost of PageRank from page A. Generally, when page A links to page B, page B’s gets 0.85 times the PageRank value from the one link of Page A.
Remember, just because Page A has pointed to Page B doesn’t mean that Page B is going to get the ranking of Page A. This is because Page B is only getting one link from Page A, and page A has its own sets of links pointing to it.
When page B links to another page on the web, say page C, page C will get 0.85 times the PageRank value of page B. It is equal to around 0.72 times the link value of page A. This continues, and pages that have links from good sites redeem a higher search rank.
Damping Factor and PageRank Sculpting
Originally, according to Google Pagerank, every page pointed by a page would get 0.85% of the link value from the pointing page. However, this led to a black-hat SEO practice called PageRank Sculpting.
PageRank Sculpting means manipulating ‘no follow’ tags in web pages to hide links from Google. It allowed website owners to add an abnormally high number of links on their pages for better SEO score.
Thus, with further updates, Google started to make the distribution of Damping factor fairer to websites. These days, links from authoritative websites have more damping factor than the links from spam sites.
The History of Google PageRank
Like said above, the initial search engines were highly ineffective compared to the search engine today. They showed websites of all sorts- from spam to the sites with the best information on the same results page.
Search Engine creators wanted to do something about it, ensuring that the search engine only showed good sites. Soon enough, Rankdex, a search engine designed by Robin Li developed an algorithm known as link analysis, which would rank a website depending on the number of websites linking to it. It was in 1996, and the development of the algorithm, which is now used on Robin Li’s another highly popular search engine, Baidu opened doors for other search engines to develop the algorithm on their own.
Robin Li was granted his patent of the algorithm in 1999. Similarly, Google’s founder, Larry Page, referenced Li’s work in his US patent for PageRank. By the way, Larry Page had already started working on PageRank in 1996, and the patent was filed in 1998.
Google company was officially incorporated in 1998. That is when Backrub became Google and started showing results for the general web users. The search engine used PageRank as its most important search algorithm.
In 2000, Google introduced a Toolbar that would let every user see the PageRank of the websites. This also gave birth to SEO experts, who would help sites get higher ranking by analysing their PageRank and comparing them to their competitors. Subsequently, backlinks became essential parts of SEO, and they still are.
From the date of its creation till now, Pagerank has gone through various revisions. Google has made it more comprehensive and accurate in analysing the quality of web pages’ links.
Does Google Still Use PageRank for Ranking Websites?
Google removed its PageRank toolbar in 2015, which got many wondering if the search engine still uses the algorithm. The truth is yes; Google still uses PageRank. Even if Google has introduced and implements other algorithms, Pagerank is an essential metric for you to analyse.
However, just like the other Google algorithms’ updates, it is not clear how exactly PageRank works. One thing we can be sure of is that linking and having links to authoritative websites is going to give us great SEO juice.
How to Find Your Google PageRank?
Initially, finding Google PageRank was simple, with a toolbar on top of the web browser showing a score between 0 to 10. These days, there are websites where you can enter your website information, and they return the value to you.
By the way, Google removed the PageRank from websites because SEO experts and site owners somehow started being very obsessed with it. SEO is supposed to improve a website’s quality, but most owners focused only on improving the link quality and letting their other shortcomings be.
Furthermore, Google now has more ranking factors than before. So, showing only the PageRank for a website isn’t relevant, as that is only one factor. Thus, to find your Google PageRank, you simply need to find third-party websites that help assume PageRank for your webpage.
Factors that Influence a WebPage’s Google PageRank
The history of PageRank taught Google an essential thing. That is, to never be very clear about the ranking factors, as if they do so, website owners will start optimising for the factors, more than improving their website quality.
So, even when it comes to Google PageRank, we can’t be entirely sure about all the factors. However, SEO experts will always recommend the following things to improve your Google PageRank:
Anchor text is the text that links to other pages on your website or other websites. Your webpage will get a better PageRank if the anchor text is precise about what it promises.
In the early days, SEOs would use keywords as anchor texts. Even if that practice applies today, you have to make sure that you have used anchor text in a more suitable place.
For example, if you have a web page about the top 10 phones, the anchor text linking to the page shouldn’t say ‘top 10 laptops.’ Your PageRank will decrease even if ‘top 10 laptops’ is a more widely used keyword than ‘top 10 phones’.
Many of such misleading anchor texts will result in toxic links, which in turn, will lead Google to categorise your webpage as a span.
The Likelihood of a Link to be Clicked
Again, this is about the relevancy of the link for a reader. Not all links have equal weight, as some links can’t be useful to the user.
For example, a link that leads to the ‘Terms and Conditions’ of use doesn’t have the same potential as the link that leads to the main content of the page.
At the same time, links outside of the main content, for example, footers, and headers don’t have equal weight as the other links.
This also means you should use similar niche links in your content. For example, you shouldn’t use an irrelevant tech link on a health website. Not only will this decrease the link value, but also confuse Google regarding what your website actually is.
Internal Links aren’t only for increasing your traffic. Using internal links in the right place can also give some SEO juice to your webpage, with help from the PageRank Algorithm.
Yes, you heard it right- internal links also influence Google PageRank. If one of your web pages has links from great external sites, it will gain an authority score. This authority score will be passed to your other web page which has been linked to the current page.
It would help if you created a working strategy to build internal links. Just like with external links, use the relevant anchor texts. Also, only links when it is relevant, and don’t overuse links on your page.
Now, this one isn’t necessarily a ‘no-brainer’, but it is what many SEO experts believe. They feel that using subdomains may give a lesser PageRank score than using links on the same website.
It has been seen that Link score flows more freely and effectively in internal links. When you have a page on your website with a good PageRank, it won’t be difficult to convince Google that your other pages are good as well.
Now, when you link a subdomain, the PageRank crawler can actually take your subdomain as a somehow different webpage. This is the reason that some SEO experts recommend website owners to create subdomains only when it is absolutely necessary.
Sometimes, a web page of your website can have a problem. In such cases, you will move your webpage to another link. Redirect will allow your users to visit the new link of your web page, even when they click the old link.
Now the question arises- does a redirect affect the PageRank? Will using a new link instead of an old link for a page diminish the new page’s link score?
The answer may be yes, but not as much as you think. In the original days, the redirects did decrease the PageRank score, but of course, didn’t diminish the score completely.
For example, say there are three pages, A, B, and C. Page B is your main webpage, and there is a link to B from an external high authority website, A. Now, say there is a problem on page B, so you move your page content to a new page, C.
We need to know how redirectors work. First, the user clicks page B’s link on Page A, and the browser finds that there is a redirect to another page C. This means the link score has flowed from page A to page B and finally to page C as well. However, the damping factor may reduce, as we discussed in the above topics.
These days, using redirects may not necessarily decrease the PageRank, as Google’s algorithms are more advanced than before. But you still shouldn’t use redirects if it is not necessary.
Distance from the Seed URL
According to newer patents, a website’s distance from a Seed URL is an important factor for PageRank. A Seed URL is a URL that Google believes has the best content regarding the topic.
Seed URLs are specifically selected web pages from Google. If the Seed page directly links to your webpage, it is a great thing in terms of the link. Even if that doesn’t happen, if a Seed URL points to another webpage (and maybe more), your page will get a significant boost if it is not very far away from the Seed URL.
This factor explains more clearly why PageRank is more about the quality of the links than the quantity. Even hundreds of links from decent websites may not give you results as effective as a single first-hand link from a Seed URL.
How You Can Optimise Your Website for a Better GooglePagerank
If there is one thing that we learn from this article, even if PageRank is important for better SEO rank, it isn’t the only thing that you should
You Need to Build a Good Strategy for Internal Links
Your strategy should focus on using internal links everywhere needed with the right anchor texts. Furthermore, a good SEO expert wouldn’t recommend you to overuse links. As we also discussed how the damping factor diminishes slowly as it moves between links, you have to keep your important pages as close to your homepage, as most of the backlinks in other websites will point to your homepage. Apart from that, as the Pagerank flows between links, make sure that none of your web pages is the ‘end of the road.’ Ensure every content on your site has a link.
Link to External Links in the Right Way
There is a common myth that having external links hurts your rankings. This is not true, as long as you link to good websites. On the other hand, pointing to spam websites may harm your ranking score.
Not linking to other websites isn’t a great idea, as Google may think you have almost no network and are using no reference for your content, which may question its genuinity. Furthermore, using Nofollow Links every time is also not recommendable, which may make the search engine crawler think that you are trying to ‘hide something.’
You also have to fix the broken external pages where you have linked your website to.
You Have to Increase Your Page Speed
Page Speed is one of the most important factors that determines the rank of a website. If you want a better ranking, your page should load fast; if possible, your webpage should open within seconds of the user clicking on its link. If not, not only will most of the users exit the page before it being opened, but Google will also think that your site doesn’t have the required quality to get or retain the top search position. To increase page speed, you should use a minimal theme on your website and should optimise the coding, media, and use good hosting with a Content Distribution Network if possible.
Back Link Building Needs Work
Many SEO workers have a bad habit of looking for cheap backlinks. Indeed, having a lot of backlinks can cause a surge in Google Ranking, but it won’t last forever. The truth is that even if it is easy to get cheap backlinks by paying websites, most of those sites generally are spam. This means you may get a good position, but you will lose it eventually. Thus, you have to focus more on outreach; for example, guest posts, Press Releases, or backlinks from good websites rather than throwing some penny on cheap services.
You Have to Use the Right Target Keywords
Use of relevant keywords not only on your links but also on your content is essential. Some people may say that keywords aren’t as important as in the olden days, but that’s not exactly true. Keywords are essential, as they help users find your web page and Google to know if your content is relevant. However, overusing keywords just for the sake of ranking is out of logic. The Google system is so advanced these days that your website may immediately get penalised. You won’t even get a chance to see your site on the top or later, even complain!
Your Ultimate Focus Should Be On User Engagement
User engagement not only affects Google Pagerank but almost all other factors of Google. The three important user engagement metrics are Click Through Rate, Time Spent in a Page, and Bounce Rate. This means for better PageRank, users should click on your website frequently when it pops on their search results. At the same time, they should spend a reasonable time on your site. Furthermore, to decrease the bounce rate, users should not close the website after visiting the first page. This means if you are able to impress them with your content and they visit other pages of your website as well, it will help tons for your Google Search Rank.
Content Quality is More Important than Ever
Google removed metrics like Google Pagespeed from their toolbar and started implementing more comprehensive algorithms than the use of keywords because of the lack of quality content on many websites. If we look at how PageRank is affected by the distance from a seed website, we can see that Google favours websites that have, or at least have been pointed by the best content in the topic. Hence, you should also make sure that your content is great and nothing less.
Content Quality- Google PageRank and Googlebot
Google bot is the crawler of Google. In other words, a Googlebot visits a website, then ‘travel’ through its various web pages to notify Google about the information that the site has.
Usually, we would think that Googlebot regularly crawls websites, but that is false. After all, the internet is very big, and websites keep on increasing. So, it is not practical for Google to use its data and resources to keep on crawling websites.
Rather, Google page bot crawls sites with better PageRank, as they normally have better information than other sites. So, if you update your website regularly with good content, Google will crawl your website more than your competitors, which will increase your chances of getting a better rank.
Finally, Context is Very Important
You can add great content on your website and create backlinks on sites with the highest authority scores. But even that may not be fruitful if you forget about the context.
Google is slowly transitioning from keywords to the context. Rather than showing users results based on a word, Google has been developing its technology to deliver results based on the thing that the word represents.
You have to link to and create backlinks on websites of your niche as much as possible. If you have a business blog, you will hardly get results with backlinks on a pet website.
Metrics that You Can Use Instead of (or Along with) Google PageRank
After Google removed PageRank from the toolbar, we no longer can get the ‘exact score.’ However, some websites help ‘guess’ the score, while other companies have introduced their own metrics to find a web page’s quality.
Here are some metrics that can you can use along with the PageRank to get maximum results:
SeMRush- Authority Score
The Authority Score from SemRush takes referring domains, follow vs no-follow inbound and outbound links, a number of outbound links, backlinks, referring IPs, referring subnets, etc. as factors to assign a web page a fixed number. Additionally, their machine-learning algorithm uses search and website traffic data and backlink information to help find how trustworthy Google finds your website.
Domain Authority (Page Authority)
We could say that the Domain Authority (and Page Authority) score from Moz is one of the most used metrics for understanding backlinks. New websites start from absolute zero, and the score goes on increasing up to 100, depending on the backlink and external links profile. The metric page authority is also from Moz, which analyses a single page rather than the entire website. The algorithm seems to be very useful, as even if it is not Google’s own metric, websites with higher domain authority usually have high ranks.
Ahrefs URL Rank
AHREFs URL rank is another tool that helps you analyse the backlink profile, including the health of a website’s external and internal links. The metric, as it has been developed from popular SEO software, is used a lot, even if the term isn’t thrown around as usually as Moz’s PageRank. All in all, if you optimise your website for a good score for AHREFs URL Rank, you would have done enough in the PageRank department as well.
Most of the Domain Analysis software have their own metric, which they claim to be the best substitute for PageRank. Whichever one you use, you have to focus on building links on good websites and link to better sites with genuine content.
Google PageRank: Final Takeaways
Before ending the article, here are some important points for you to take:
Google PageRank isn’t Dead
No, only the toolbar is dead. Google has updated the algorithm in its own office and applies it to your website. Even if there are alternative metrics, they have been developed to simulate Google PageRank as closely as possible.
You Have to Focus On Link Quality than Quantity
We have already stressed this enough. One link from a very good website can be more valuable than 100s of links from average sites. Numbers are just some illusions, and sometimes, a lot of backlinks can actually alert the search engine and lead it to see if something is wrong.
You Need a Good Strategy for Building Links
Pagerank Score travels through links; both internal and external. If you want your website to do good, you need to come up with a strategy that will link other websites and your best pages to pages that you want to rank.
PageRank isn’t the Only Factor
PageRank exists, but it isn’t the only thing that determines how a website ranks. Improve your outreach and content, and you will surely get the rank you have been longing for. Remember, SEO is about the usability of your website more than the technical stuff.
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