Obsessing with Google PageRank

Google PageRankEvery time I write an SEO article I get a bunch of comments from web marketers who are obviously obsessed with Google PageRanks, so obsessed that they literally believe that PageRanks influence everything from rankings into Google’s SERPs to the overall online influence of a site.

Apparently it doesn’t matter how many times reputable SEOs like Michael Gray, Aaron Wall, Dany Sullivan and others advise not to obsess about PageRanks – there will always be people who proudly showcase their success in getting a higher PageRank, or get terrified when their sites’ PageRanks drop. Last week I had a commenter who was so convinced that scraper sites helped his site get a higher PR that he almost turned into an advocate of scrapers.

What many webmasters don’t know is that there are in fact two entirely different things that are called “PageRank”. The one everybody is obsessing about is the toolbar PageRank, which really doesn’t matter, because:

  • What you see is not what you get. PageRanks are computed continuously so when you see a PageRank 5 that site could in fact have a PageRank 7 or 2 (Matt Cutts).

    PageRank is computed continuously; there are machines that take inputs to the PageRank algorithm at Google and compute the resulting PageRanks. So at any given time, a url in Google’s system has up-to-date PageRank as a result of running the computation with the inputs to the algorithm. From time-to-time, that internal PageRank value is exported so that it’s visible to Google Toolbar users.

  • Toolbar PageRank updates do not influence SERPs (Matt Cutts)

    It’s just a toolbar PageRank update. Even if you don’t show much PageRank, Google still has 200+ other signals we use in our ranking. It’s definitely common to see lower-PageRank sites ranking above higher-PageRank sites–which tends to confuse the people who obsess too much about PageRank, and who don’t focus on other factors that search engines might use to rank pages.

  • Google lowers manually PageRanks for sites that are selling links (Danny Sullivan)

    So I pinged Google, and they confirmed that PageRank scores are being lowered for some sites that sell links. In addition, Google said that some sites that are selling links may indeed end up being dropped from its search engine or have penalties attached to prevent them from ranking well.

  • It doesn’t determine your Google footprint. Criticizing Steve Rubel’s take on PageRank importance, Vannessa Fox writes:

    If there’s one thing that PageRank is not, it’s the determination of your Google footprint. The internal “real” PageRank isn’t even that. Lots of things go into determining your Google footprint. His discussion in the comments goes further down this path of misunderstanding what PageRank is. He agrees with someone in the comments who says that “PageRank is the sum of all other measurements.” It’s not. It’s one measurement added in with a whole bunch of others.

Don't judge a site by its pagerank

The only thing that does matter is the internal PageRank assigned by Google to a site, but that’s something no one except Google knows.

To make a long story short: there’s nothing magical about having high PageRanks, and definitely not if you obtain these by employing black hat or gray hat techniques (like using scraper sites or other bad neighbours to boost PageRanks). You will never really know what the real PageRank of a site is anyway, not even if you “test it” using such a tool that checks Google PageRanks in 700 data centers.

Sure, you can optimize your site for higher PageRanks, and for more traffic, and for better SERPs, but, as Vanessa Fox said:

If you “optimize the crap” out of your site so that you rank #1 for relevant keywords, but your site isn’t compelling to searchers, that ranking will be completely meaningless as those new visitors will click right back to the search results rather than engage with your site.

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  • Zeno

    Unrelated to the topic:
    The correct Yoda quote would be “Judge me by page rank you do?”. The verb is always last in any sentence spoken by Yoda :).

  • Angelo

    This is exactly what I say in a very short comment on my blog about search engine optimization. Focusing too much on PR is, in my opinion, plain wrong. Design a nice website, have a lot of fresh content, promote it and you will see some results!

  • essexboyracer

    I agree. The Page Rank toolbar is just a merketing effort by Google. I like to work with people who have a passion for what they do, that’s what makes a successful website

  • http://seriocomic.com seriocomic

    One of the best, shareable posts I have seen on the topic. I can think of so many times linking/posting to this article that will be helpful – it’s a shame that it’s come to that.

  • Shahriat Hossain

    When I get any SEO’s tutorial I find that like a hot cake, thanks for sharing :)

  • tehgamecat

    All this does is highlight the fact that 90% of what Google tells you with their tools is utter bulls***. That is surely the real deal that should be discussed over and over again.

    Keyword tool – inaccurate
    Page Rank tool – inaccurate
    Analytics – inaccurate
    Webmaster Tools Top Queries – inaccurate

    Nothing is correct – ever. How can we know whether anything is working?

  • http://www.mooladays.com Mooladaysdotcom

    Simply do backlinking and on-page optimization for SERPs and not think about page rank as the only factor to getting ranked well in the search engines. As the post stated above, page rank only plays a certain role in the algorithm and the higher it is, the better, but it doesn’t fully determine everything to being ranked first.

  • http://www.ewriting.pamil-visions.com/ Mihaela Lica

    @tehgamecat – the short answer would be conversions. :)

  • Angelo

    There is a reason why I follow Mihaela on Twitter! She wrote a very short comment but to the point. Who cares if you have a high PR, you are positioned veri well for a key-phrase and you have no, or little, conversions?

  • http://www.hairproductsforsale.com cybernac

    I have a PR5 site that gets hardly any traffic. I make most of my income from a PR1 site – go figure!

  • http://www.travestisohbet.net iclal

    I’m writing my personal opinion from within, for example, travesti word made out by the link will show the effects of pagerank and ranking, of course, this is not only the current content and analysis will be taken from site Backlink I think in important.

  • mysterylinks

    Page Rank can be very useful.

    Not focusing on it all would be just as silly as focusing on it 100%.

    Like all things in life, you must find the balance :)

  • dober

    That last paragraph say it all, if you dont hook up your visitors with a great design that catch their eyes and showing them the product they are looking for they will go right away. I am working very hard to get Home Security Premium to the top and it seems that my visitors like it a lot, with just few months online i am getting sales! I have a couple other sites related that age better and have higher PR and dont sell nothing at all!

    thanks for your post, it was really refreshing to realize that i am on the right path.

  • Mark

    When my blog PageRank was increased from 1 to 2 my blog have about 100 percent more visits. If you don’t believe see graph of PR impact on visits

  • technolojik

    I made a blog and no back links to it but its page rank becomes 2!!

  • technolojik

    I made a blog and no back links to it but its page rank becomes 3!!hiberya.com

    is there any idea?

  • http://www.spanishhotproperties.com/ SpanishNick

    1. Thats a great blog and makes so much sense my site Spanish Hot Properties only has a page rank of 3 but we have managed to get into the top 10 for Spanish property and Spanish properties one of the hardest areas of SEO due to the huge amounts of money spent by companies trying to get into the top 10, interestingly property net Spain has is number one for property in Spain and also has PR3. The only time it can become a hinderance is when sites with big PR of 6 or more don’t want to exchange links with you.

  • http://nationalspectator.com Daddyoh1

    Good point with the Rankings! Page Ranks do make a impression on Advertisers though!

    -Daddyoh
    http://nationalspectator.com