What is Google PageRank?

Google describes PageRank as their measure of ‘importance’. Authority, trust, whatever. And the PageRank score – or value – for a web page is just a number, an algorithm.

To the search engines, links pointing to your site are an indication that your content is valuable and  important. So, as you build links and your site’s authority increases in the eyes of the search engine, that search engine crawls and indexes more of your content, in turn getting more pages into the search engine.

The more pages you have, the greater the capability to control your own destiny.

You can check how many pages on your site are indexed by typing site:www.yourdomain.com into the search query box.

Google PageRankPageRanks’s original purpose was to pre-sort all of the pages that the Google search engine was considering to present to the User for a search result – and put the most important pages on top.  So PageRank is a way to cut down on those tens of millions of pages for a particular search query to about a thousand, in a hurry. And if your pages don’t have enought authority, you’re not in contention.

Google PageRank is not about sites, its about pages, it actually comes from web pages. Every page that’s in the index has to have some. The index is not a bunch of web pages, it’s a big database of words.

PageRank Algorithm

The PageRank algorithm itself is based on analysing individual web pages and the links between them. But the PageRank score – or value – for a web page is just a number, a mathematical process for coming up with that number. So PageRank is the sum of all the individual pages in your website, those pages, that is, that are actually in the index. PageRank flows around your site – coming in form links that point to various pages, and flowing between pages via your site’s internal links.

PageRank is kind of like a plumbing system: there’s a certain amount of water pressure in there, and you can control how it flows by opening and closing valves and making some of the pipes bigger that others…

Imagine that you yourself sat down with a browser that opened a completely random web page and are presented with a potential pool of links that you can, and maybe do, click on. Every page that you go to you either click a link at random or you decide to stop. PageRank is nothing more and nothing less than the probability that a random surfer will find your page.

Now, the more links there are pointing out from a page, the more choices the random surfer has – the lower the chance that any given link will be clicked . The number of links on a page reduces the chance that any given link will be clicked.

The number of links on  a page reduces the chance that any given link will be clicked. That means that when you get a link from a page that has 10 links on it, you’re getting about a tenth of the ‘link-juice’, or PageRank, that the page can pass along. That doesn’t mean you don’t want links, but it does present the conundrum: “What value do I ascribe to any given link, and how do I leverage that rating?”

If there are several links from my page to your page, only one of those links will count – usually the first one on the page.

If a page that links to you isn’t in the search engine’s index, then to the search engine there is no link.

Google Toolbar PageRank

[two mosquitoes fly near a bug zapper; one flies towards it, as if in a trance]
Mosquito #1: Harry, no! Don’t look at the light!
Harry the Mosquito: [entranced] I-can’t-help-it. It’s-so-beautiful.
[Harry gets zapped, falls]
Harry the Mosquito: Woo hoo!

A Bug’s Life, 1998

What does it all mean?

Well, first of all, the Google Toolbar gives you a rough approximation of a PageRank number that they can’t tell you for the home page of a site, the data of which is several months old. When you go somewhere else on the site the number they display is even more inaccurate and useless than it was on the home page. So here’s a tip: turn that Google Toolbar PageRank thing off – stop looking at it and go get some links instead. Turn it off, my friend, turn it off. Don’t look at the light.

John Hargaden is CEO of wevolution digital, your full-service digital marketing partner focussed on growing your business online. Case Studies.