Google PageRank: Overhyped, Irrelevant, and Not So Important in 2010

by Marcus Sheridan

This may be one of those posts that is a little advanced for a few entrepreneurs and business owners just starting on the Web 2.0 train, but hopefully those of you that are attempting to dominate your niche through internet marketing will find some value in the topic found herein.

First, let’s start off with a quick definition of ‘Google PageRank’ for those of you who don’t know what the heck it is. Wikipedia explains PageRank as follows:

………

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important”.    ”

In other words, a PageRank results from a “ballot” among all the other pages on the World Wide Web about how important a page is. A hyperlink to a page counts as a vote of support. The PageRank of a page is defined recursively and depends on the number and PageRank metric of all pages that link to it (“incoming links”). A page that is linked to by many pages with high PageRank receives a high rank itself. If there are no links to a web page there is no support for that page.

Google assigns a numeric weighting from 0-10 for each webpage on the Internet; this PageRank denotes a site’s importance in the eyes of Google. The PageRank is derived from a theoretical probability value on a logarithmic scale like the Richter Scale. The PageRank of a particular page is roughly based upon the quantity of inbound links as well as the PageRank of the pages providing the links. It is known that other factors, e.g. relevance of search words on the page and actual visits to the page reported by the Google toolbar also influence the PageRank. In order to prevent manipulation, spoofing and Spamdexing, Google provides no specific details about how other factors influence PageRank.

Although I know it’s written in a rather technical manner, hopefully you now get the gist of what PageRank is. And as Wikipedia mentions, PageRank has been a significant SEO factor in the past. Let me give you an example:

As everyone that reads this blog semi-regularly understands, one of my companies is River Pools and Spas. We are a fiberglass pool builder in Va/Md that has managed to establish the most popular swimming pool website and blog in the United States because of our SEO efforts. Essentially, we’ve done this by an intelligent Long-Tail Keyword strategy through consistent blogging. And as each blog has gained more and more momentum, we’ve been able to rank higher and higher with certain keywords causing our site to be on the first page of most of the search engines (like Google) on hundreds and hundreds of keywords in our niche.

PageRank Frustrations

But despite our skyrocketing traffic which is on top of the industry, our Google Pagerank is a ridiculous 2 out of 10, and it has been that way for quite some time now. In other words, after one year of intensive Web 2.0 and SEO efforts, Google Pagerank still hasn’t given our site any more ‘love’. As you can imagine, this has always driven me bonkers because many of our competitors, who don’t get nearly the traffic we do (nor have near the content) but may be more established with more links, have a higher Pagerank. And with this higher ranking, these sites, at least in the past, had an advantage in terms of general keyword optimization—a VERY big flaw in the system in my opinion.

But this is why I’m so pleased to find the Google algorithm that dictates this crazy thing we call SEO appears to be agreeing with me these days in that PageRank is often times a load of crapola and shouldn’t carry so much weight with the search engine rankings. As a matter of fact, here are a few comments from some highly regarded sources regarding PageRank’s future:

Stephan Spencer of Search Engine Land recently stated in his excellent article: 36 SEO Myths That Won’t Die But Need To:

Your PageRank score, as reported by Google’s toolbar server, is highly correlated to your Google rankings. If only this were true, our jobs as SEOs would be so much easier! It doesn’t take many searches with SEO for Firefox running to see that low-PageRank URLs outrank high-PR ones all the time. It would be naive to assume that the PageRank reported by the Toolbar Server is the same as what Google uses internally for their ranking algorithm.

And expert inbound marketer Kirsten Knipp of Hubspot hits the nail on the head as she says:

Like all other indicators or even metrics, its importance is based on its comparative relevance.  So, much like saying I had 100 unique visitors today … what does that mean… nothing unless compared to yesterday and if yesterday was 50 then, that’s  a good sign.  Page Rank is an indicator, one of many, but unlike past years, it is no longer the Holy Grail for your site as a goal.  If taken too seriously it can mislead you in many ways.  I’d think of it as a barometer. If page rank drops then a storm is a brewing, if it stabilizes or goes up, the potential for good weather ahead is much greater.

Quality Content is Key

There are many other articles on the web right now discussing this subject but suffice to say that PageRank’s demise is just another example of something I’ve been discussing quite a lot about lately on this blog and with clients—the fact that Google (their algorithm), is getting smarter and smarter. This is just further reason why content is the key to unlocking online marketing success for any business.

I also think the phasing out of PageRank is another example of the focus businesses must have with their SEO efforts. Shortcuts to build links, writing content just for the sake of content, and attempting any number of other ways to take advantage of the system ain’t gonna work long-term. Yeah, some might argue that it’s working now, but the fact is Google is getting smarter. More and more they can see thru the junk that’s out there and identify the best content. Frankly, this is very, very exciting. It means any business that is willing to pay the price, offer the most quality content, and give the most to their web audience will end up on top. Beautiful, don’t you think?  :-)

Thoughts/questions on PageRank? The future of SEO? As always, your comments are very much appreciated.

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Daniel M. Wood April 21, 2010 at 9:22 am

Hi Marcus,

I agree completely.
My blog has the lousy Pagerank score of 1. Though it still places itself well in the search engines and I do get a fair amount of traffic from google.
.-= Daniel M. Wood´s last blog ..Battling Sickness =-.

Reply

Marcus Sheridan April 21, 2010 at 11:28 am

Good point Daniel. Getting traffic, not a high pagerank, should be the ultimate goal. And if a high PR does come with time, then so be it.

Reply

Vancouver Search Engine Marketing April 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm

I agree with you completely. I came across some great directories and websites that are low in PR but high in SERP. I have also come across some PR 5 and 6 directories that Google does not crawl anymore due to abuse and spam. I guess it is a gut feeling what is good and what is not as well as some research of your competitors :))

Reply

Marcus Sheridan April 21, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Great point Vancouver! You bring up a few great examples of just how skewed PR can be. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

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Bob Ault April 21, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Another great article Marcus. I believe that one of the important factors for getting hits and position, is knowing what the consumer will type in. It’s my opinion that most consumers don’t use the proper search terms. Example: The consumer types in “fiberglass swimming pools”. The search engine doesn’t know if this person wants to buy a pool, if they want to know who manufactures pools, who repairs pools, who installs pools etc. Knowledge about what the consumer types in when searching for your product is very important.

Reply

Marcus Sheridan April 21, 2010 at 1:35 pm

Hey Bob, great to hear from you, as always. You are very right in what you’re saying, which is exactly why long-tail keyword strategies are becoming more and more important for businesses. I do think that consumers are becoming more and more ‘search savvy’ and are finally figuring out they need to type in specific versus general phrases. Great points……

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John April 22, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Great post! You have taught me lots this year, Marcus!
.-= John ´s last blog ..What does social media have to do with selling cars in Winnipeg? Everything! =-.

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Marcus Sheridan April 22, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Thrilled to hear that John….and love your most recent blog post!!

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Domain Name Ninja April 30, 2010 at 5:45 pm

Yeah you summed it up well. I use PR as a gauge of how well my SEO strategies like link building and page optimization are doing.
But I also think that long tail keyword phrases are more important. I have seen other sites rank higher than me with lower PR’s and wondered why.
My theory is that although my pr was higher, i wasn’t optimized for the same keywords as they were. I was still included, but not at the top. I’ve been tracking our keywords used to find us and I’ve been shifting them in the long tail direction lately with my meta tags. So far I have been able to outrank those same sites for a few keyword phrases and increase traffic. But who knows for sure if that is really the reason. Something worked though, hehe.

Reply

Marcus Sheridan May 1, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Thanks Ninja. Yeah, the long tail is the direction everyone needs to be headed in, that’s for sure. Keep up your great work, sounds like you’ve got some very successful optimization strategies you’re using.

Reply

babor_7uiu June 6, 2010 at 3:25 am

Thanks for your sharing.
Your post helps people understand the importance of this article.

Reply

Grant August 30, 2010 at 11:18 pm

Thanks so much for this article! It’s amazing how much power I give to Google when in fact there are so many other ways to increase my website’s stickiness (like responding to your blog)! ;-)

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justme June 24, 2011 at 12:07 am

thank you for this article. i have google pagerank for like 8 months now and its still 0.. It only gives me frustrations.. And to stop this is to remove my google pagerank.. I feel like waiting for nothing..

Reply

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