Once the darling of e-commerce analysts and SEO gurus around the web, Google’s PageRank is an algorithm developed by Google in its early days that we haven’t heard much about recently. While Google still uses PageRank to some extent, the iconic ranking tool conceived by co-founder and CEO Larry Page is showing its age.
Years and years of Black Hat SEOs spamming the web, buying links and using every sneaky trick in the play book have taken their toll. As a link analysis utility, it was truly revolutionary when it first debuted.
However, many webmasters are now questioning its relevance in an increasingly complicated and cut-throat SEO environment.
How PageRank is Calculated
So, if a web page is linked to by numerous other websites with high Google PageRank, “link juice” will be passed on to the target site and consequently confer a high PageRank to it in turn.
The PR scale runs from 1 to 10, with prominent sites like CNN and USA Today weighing in at 9 and an 8, respectively. A simplified explanation of the algorithm is that it is fundamentally logarithmic by nature.
Toolbar PageRank vs ‘Real’ PageRank
A common way to find any site’s PR is through the Google PageRank Toolbar. Despite its convenience, the toolbar has led to a fair degree of confusion since it’s not really that accurate.
The difference between ‘Toolbar’ PR and ‘Real’ PR can be quite large. Toolbar PR is an approximation and is often outdated as it’s only updated only once every three months or so, whereas Google’s internal PageRank calculations are updated daily.
Ultimately, what matters is that PageRank isn’t the be-all and end-all of winning the Google SERPs championship when there are many other elements that factor in.
Google’s Tapestry of Value Indicators
The problem with looking at PageRank when crafting your SEO strategy is that it’s now just one of hundreds of cues that Google acts on when assessing the quality of websites.
More and more, Google also leverages user-generated content, social media information, RDF-based meta data such as Rich Snippets and more to accurately gauge a site’s usefulness.
Nowadays, things like keyword density and optimization, negative SEO and deep link analysis contribute just as much if not more so to how well a site will rank for any given query in Google’s complex SERPs.
Using PageRank for Modern SEO
Common wisdom is split as to whether PageRank is useless or just less important. Today, it’s really best for SEOs to use PageRank as a guide while not entirely basing their efforts on it.
Domain Authority as espoused by SEOMoz, link analysis and TrustRank are better methods for ascertaining value. Instead of focusing on PageRank alone, use these tools when working to boost PageRank alongside page views, click-throughs, conversions and so on.
Long story short, PageRank is somewhat valid but hardly the only thing that matters. What really matters is sites featuring quality content linked to other sites with quality content in an honest manner.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
It’s good to be aware of the origins of PageRank and its gradual transformation over the years, but the fact of the matter is that it’s not nearly as relevant as it once was.
It’s not that the idea behind PageRank is no longer important, it’s just that the methodologies that Google uses for evaluating the relationships between pages have changed quite a bit in the last half a decade or so.
We can waste time guessing as to how these algorithms work, or we can just invest our efforts into putting out the best content we can. At the end of the day, the choice is yours.