Google PageRank Is Not Dead: Case Studies, Myths & Facts

Google PageRank

Google’s PageRank is undoubtedly one of the most hyped SEO (Search Engine Optimization) term. Webmasters and SEOs around gave a lot of importance to it until mid 2000s. But again the question is: Is the PageRank dead? In one word: No, it’s not dead (at least that’s what my sense says). Before I move on I assume that you already know how Google Search works.

Google PageRank: Should You Increase Your PageRank?

I’m not going to say exactly what a PageRank is (or how is it calculated) as it involves some jargons and it’s irrelevant here. According to Wikipedia, Google PageRank is a link analysis algorithm, named after Google’s Larry Page. That said, Google PageRank is nothing but a number ranged from 0 – 10 which is Google’s opinion about how reputable a web page is. Its like a score that Google gives you but its called a rank. It’s not just about the backlinks to your web page but about how important those links are. Google determines the importance of those links by conducting a massive amount of computation which figures out which pages are the most reputable.

“The most famous part of our ranking algorithm is PageRank, an algorithm developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who founded Google. PageRank is still in use today, but it is now a part of a much larger system.”

Basically a PageRank shows a web page’s backlink profile and not necessarily its ranking potential. Few examples include http://www.microsoft.com/ (PageRank 8), http://www.yahoo.com/ (PageRank 9), http://www.google.com/ (PageRank 10) – all these pages have a high PageRank. In fact they were all PageRank 10 several years back but now it appears like Google is biased when it comes to PageRank 10 and they assign it manually. They are assigning a PageRank 10 to only the sites they like otherwise Microsoft, Yahoo!, Facebook, Apple all definitely deserve a PageRank 10. Google displays this PageRank via their toolbar and hence this public PageRank is popularly known as Toolbar PageRank. PageRank was an obsession to most webmasters and SEOs (perhaps even now) and they abused it by manipulating PageRank. (You know how, don’t you? [Hint: Paid links])

The PageRank algorithm is the secret of Google’s success as they used a web page’s link profile in a sensible way. Google never exactly revealed how important a PageRank is but it is STILL one among the many ranking signals though it’s not as important as it was before.

Google PageRank Updates: What You Need To Know

How do PageRank updates work?

If you want to learn more about PageRank then I suggest you to check out PageRank sculpting by Matt Cutts and PageRank’s explanation by WebWorkshop.

How Often Is Google Toolbar PageRank Updated

Why aren’t the Google Toolbar PageRank values updated more often?

Matt’s verdict on PageRank updates:

“And in general, my advice is not to obsess about PageRank, but to think about not just links, but all the content of your site. How good is it for users? Think about everything from return on investment, conversion rate, to speed. There’s a lot of different stuff that you can pay attention to besides just that green indicator in the Google toolbar.”

How does Google rank web pages?

How does Google decide which few documents I really want? It’s by asking questions – more than 200 of them. Like, how many times does a web page contain your keywords? Do the words appear in the title, in the URL, directly adjacent? Does the page include synonyms for those words? Is this page from a quality website or is it low quality, even spamming? What is this page’s PageRank? That’s a formula invented by our founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin that rates a web page’s importance by looking at how many outside links point to it, and how important those links are. Finally, we combine all those factors together to produce each page’s overall score and send you back your search results about half a second after you submit your search.

Google Says Don’t Worry About Your PageRank

Some time back Google’s About page had a Technology section (now it’s disappeared) which described PageRank like this:

“When Google was founded, one key innovation was PageRank, a technology that determined the “importance” of a webpage by looking at what other pages link to it, as well as other data. Today we use more than 200 signals, including PageRank, to order websites, and we update these algorithms on a weekly basis.

PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results. PageRank also considers the importance of each page that casts a vote, as votes from some pages are considered to have greater value, thus giving the linked page greater value. We have always taken a pragmatic approach to help improve search quality and create useful products, and our technology uses the collective intelligence of the web to determine a page’s importance.”

Now an official blogpost by Google Webmaster Central says:

Why bother with a number that’s at best three steps removed from your actual goal, when you could instead directly measure what you want to achieve? Finding metrics that are directly related to your business goals allows you to spend your time furthering those goals.

PageRank is no longer — if it ever was—the be-all and end-all of ranking.

And hence they want us to track or focus on our website’s Conversion , Bounce Rate, and Click-through Rate (CTR), Return On Investment (ROI), Social Media Marketing (SMM), Page Loading Speed, and other metrics.

Now if you ask any SEO professional today then they would certainly say not to chase PageRank as it’s is just a number you see on Google Toolbar which is updated every few months and is NOT the actual PageRank which Google uses internally (which is frequently updated).

But Why PageRank STILL Matters [Case Study]

Now here’s my view on PageRank based on a case study. I wrote a quality blog post targeting a keyword which used to receive 1000s of monthly global searches. I did a comprehensive keyword research, topic research, and adjusted keyword densities as well to make sure that I don’t overly optimized the page. And the result? I was #1 for the primary keyword which I targeted beating all high PageRank domains and authority websites.

Then few weeks later I noticed that another blog in the same niche outranked me. That triggered a competitive analysis as I was curious. Both the blog posts (mine and that of the competitor) were useful to users but I believed that mine was better (quite human isn’t it?)

The competitor’s PageRank was low and the SEOmoz link profile was also not great either. Then how exactly did the site outrank me? Well, there was only one reason. A very high PageRank authority blog in that niche was linking to that blog post. So it boosted the rankings of that blog suddenly such that it began to perform well for all keywords related to its primary keyword.

Now you know… PageRank is not dead yet and it STILL matters to some extent. That said you shouldn’t focus on PageRank alone. Just write great content and your PageRank should increase naturally.

But again, I outranked that website. How? Did I focus on link building? No. I didn’t. Instead I focused on content creation itself and updated that blog post regularly.

So it means that if your competitors have a better PageRank, you shouldn’t worry too much. Instead you can do a competitor analysis and dig the link profile of that web page/domain. Again, Google is smarter now and it knows how to differentiate a quality blog post from a spammy one (in most cases). If you believe that your blog post offers more valuable information than the competitors then you should outrank them eventually if it’s not a very competitive niche. If the keywords which you’re targeting are very competitive then its going to be very difficult to rank higher without SEO.

When Is PageRank Nothing But A Number

Having said that, sometimes PageRank is nothing but a number. Let’s say I started a website with no real value or content but it somehow went viral on the Internet and attracted 100s of backlinks from quality sites including popular media sites with 1000s of Facebook likes, Tweets etc. So in that case that blog would naturally get a high PageRank. But it’s not likely that it would rank higher in search results as in this case PageRank is nothing but a number in the Google Toolbar.

Another case study is something.com. That website was PageRank 5 when it was first featured on Search Engine Journal. Now it’s a PageRank 0 as I assume that Google penalized the website manually as part of their search quality though the domain STILL has a good link profile according to Open Site Explorer.

Finally, The Google Page Rank Facts & Myths

  • Today most SEO’s are ignoring the toolbar PageRank instead they rely on some metrics by SEOmoz namely Domain Authority (DA), Page Authority (PA), mozRank (mR), and mozTrust (mT).
  • The real PageRank of a web page is known to Google only (what we see is the toolbar PageRank).
  • Incoming backlinks can increase your PageRank but only high quality incoming links WILL increase your organic rankings in search engines.
  • A higher PageRank doesn’t necessarily mean that your site will be on top in Google’s search engine results pages (SERPs).
  • Writing original content can achieve a natural PageRank even if no one is linking to it (depending upon your domain’s PR).
  • Increasing the number of backlinks WON’T increase your PageRank (as it’s all about quality and not quantity when it comes to links).
    Google removed PageRank from its Webmaster Tools several years back.
  • Google already revealed that webmasters shouldn’t bother about PageRank.
  • Google updates the PageRank every 3 months (sometimes 6 months).
  • PageRank is just one of the 200+ signals that can affect how your website is crawled, ranked and indexed.
  • Websites/Domains don’t have a PageRank because as the name suggests PageRank is for a ‘page’ not domain (It means that a web page example.com/test.php can have a PageRank of 5 when the PageRank of example.com is 3).
  • PageRank is NOT proportional to your traffic.
  • http://spectracar.com Dhruv Bhagat

    Hi Mahesh Mohan,

    I appreciate your content. I believe that everything is just a PageRank of a blog. Some people also believe in Alexa Ranking which is just fake!

    I always work for increasing my PR. I have started guest blogging, forum posting now… :)

    And, I am excited for the next PR Update :)

  • http://www.ramshyam.com Neil Walrath

    page rank is one of the very important factor of today’s SEO market and in no way it is dead it still helps us in the google search index.

  • http://seekdefo.com/how-to-earn-200-plus-for-each-of-your-guest-posts/ George

    Page rank may not be important for ranking in search but its important for newbie bloggers like me who see their only income source in paid reviews which depends on advertiser mind sets which again depends on page rank plus alexa rank.

  • http://issc.in/programs Jimson Paul

    google page rank is still an important module and yes it does help in determining you website strength

  • http://techwarrior.biz/home/ Techwarrior Technologies LLC

    Thanks for the walk through im always trying to figure out more about pagerank im starting to understand it a little more thanks to you.

  • http://www.pimediaservices.com/ Mark Weyland

    Thank you for this informative post. It really cleared my confusion on what exactly to focus at for the time being. Also its very much relevant that content plays a very important part in this process.

  • Pingback: What is a PageRank and How Important is it in 2013? | Digital Marketing Blog | WooRank Blog: Digital Marketing tips for Small Business()

  • http://problogtricks.com Blog Tricks

    Very good informative post. Google Page rank is very useful for bloggers who has 3+ PR.They can post unique posts.But as i distinguished these Blog posts( With dofollow links from low PR sites) can decrease the PR of these sites.Google is the best Search engine no doubt that. But we also should consider about other search engines such as Bing,Yahoo,Baidu etc…