PageRank Basics

PageRank, named after Google’s co-founder, Larry Page, is Google’s proprietary system for ranking every site that appears within its index. This is a guide to understanding the basics of PagRank and how it affects your site’s organic (SEO) traffic.

Nearly every site within the visible web has a PageRank. The exceptions are spam sites and very new sites. As an example, Google ranks at 10 (out of 10, at the time of this publication) while the BBC ranks 9 out of 10, which are very high numbers within the PageRank world.

What  is PageRank

PageRankPageRank is, boiled down, a number that says how popular your site is. It is a weighted count of how many other sites link back to your own site. Think of every link as bumping your site up the list, with a few exceptions.

What PageRank is not

PageRank is not a reliable indicator of where your website is going to appear in the search results. Google has repeatedly told the general public that PageRank is not the same as their ranking algorithm. That being said, PageRank can be a somewhat helpful tool to gauge where your content is appearing within search engines.

What are the ranks?

Think of N/A as the starting point. This can be your status because your content has been marked as a spam site within Google’s servers, or, more likely, because your site is relatively new. Google only publishes a new listing every few months, so if you have not been around and indexed before the list comes out, you will have to wait until it updates a few months later.

Higher than that is the 0 or 1 group. 0 and 1 are where a majority of sites lie, much like a pyramid. Slightly higher is the group of 2 and 3, and sometimes, even 4. These are the sites who have done their due diligence to climb the ranks and have built a lot of links back to their own sites.

At PageRank 5, we have people who are getting popular and probably appear on top 100 lists in certain niches.

Looking at PageRank 6 and all the numbers after, we will see sites that are popular and dominating their respective niches, with plenty of daily visitors and unique visitors alike. 10 is reserved for only a handful of sites on the web – like Google itself and Facebook – which are dominant across multiple demographics and niches. Many sites above 6 or 7 have appeared on the front page of many other websites, and anything above a 7 is likely to be the front page we are talking about – a website that can make or break a smaller site.

How do I climb up the PageRank ladder?

PageRank sculpting, like many SEO techniques, is looked down upon by the search engines. As such, Google has never publicly revealed its algorithms for calculating PageRank. It can be assumed that if they ever do reveal it, it will be because they have developed something even more clever.

What has been somewhat proven, however, is that the most effective way to gain a higher rank is to get a lot of links to your website from large, established, trustworthy sites within the same niche. These are the most effective links.

Second place can be argued: some people feel it is smaller sites in your own niche, while others thing it is bigger sites with irrelevant content. Either way, getting a healthy mix of both is your best bet.

There are other factors that affect PageRank which have been speculated on, such as length of domain existence (with the theory that new sites rank lower), domain expiration date (they say 5+ years is the way to go when purchasing a domain name), and the time of publication on a particular page (some believe that older pages will rank lower than new pages with just a couple fewer links).

However, PageRank mostly boils down to one very crucial thing: how many sites link to you, and how reputable they are.

There are three simple rules for increasing PageRank – and, by correlation, increasing rank on search engines.

1. Always provide good, relevant content.
2. Keep your site updated.
3. Keep your site visible.

Too long, didn’t read? Make your content something people will want to link to.

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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