Pagerank - does it matter? Put Simply....

To most ordinary Joe's, probably not much. Well, not unless you are in the business of selling advertising space on your blog or website. Used by Google, PageRank is supposed to be a measure, on a scale of 1-10, to determine the "quality" of a site. It takes into account the number of "quality" inbound links, put very simply, the number of votes for a site. For example, lots of non-reciprocated, high PageRank inbound links from sites in related subject areas to your own, acquired slowly over time, may get your site a higher PageRank value. To count, such inbound links must be of a type that do not block search engine spiders from following, i.e. they must be followed links. (Most forums and wiki's will not follow links in posts or signatures, by the way. This is to avoid being bombarded with poor quality/nonsense spam postings, purely for the gain of PageRank.)

For simple HTML pages the code may look like this for a followed link:

<a href="">Mydepictions Website</a>
The page must also not be excluded from search engines, for example, by use of robots.txt or meta tags.
Or like this (bearing in mind the above note) for a non-followed link:
<a href="" rel="nofollow">Mydepictions Website</a>
In both of the above cases the link would still appear like this on the page:
Mydepictions Website

If you have the Google toolbar on your browser, you can see the toolbar PageRank (TBPR) of websites you visit. TBPR is usually three months old and so is outdated. There are some sites which have a tool where you can check a sites PageRank. Here's an example of one: iwebtool PageRank Checker

Do not waste time obsessing over this, though. From what I have read, PageRank alone is widely thought among webmasters to have little impact on the position of a website in the search results pages that are returned for a specific Google search. Meaning a low PageRank site may outrank a higher PageRank site in the list of search results returned, if that site is more relevant to the searched term. Google employee Susan Moskwa recently made these comments in repsonse to a webmaster querying PageRank and lost backlinks (backlinks= followed, non-reciprocated incoming links):

Regarding your PageRank, it sounds like you're using a third-party tool to check it, which isn't always reliable. Also, the publicly available PageRank numbers are updated fairly infrequently, which is our respectful hint for webmasters to worry less about PageRank. It's just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled,indexed and ranked.

Source: Google Webmaster Help Discussions:Page Rank and Back Links Lost Nov. 20 2007.

Google recently did some updates and changed the way it appears to calculate PageRank. Mydepictions static website's PageRank dropped, along with some very big players, so I was in good company! This was possibly due to a drop in the number of incoming links to my website, but also perhaps due to my practice of crosslinking between this blogspot hosted blog and my website, hosted elsewhere. In the past, this may have afforded a slight gain in PageRank for my website and blog. No doubt there were some blogs, free websites and sister sites linking to websites hosted elsewhere purely intended for the purpose of gaining PageRank. Google appears to have been targeting this practice with its recent update by lowering the Pagerank of such crosslinking sites, whether or not the intention was to dupe the search engines, as well as sites selling links. In light of this, it would now seem good practice to add the rel="nofollow" tag to HTML links in the kinds of situations listed below: (this doesn't apply to adsense/javascript type links as they are not followed by search engines):

  • if you have advertisements/ affiliates schemes which link out to the sponsors website
  • if you link out to websites you are not certain you can trust (e.g. they might link to viagra sales, link farms, "bad neighbourhoods" etc.)
  • crosslinks between your own sites/sister sites
  • repeated/lots of links out to sites you therefore might appear to be advertising for, e.g. eBay
  • links to sites that are not directly related to your websites main subject area.

That said, when exchanging links with friends sites, don't nofollow a link to a website closely related to yours, unless any of the above applies. It is nice to have some PageRank value - a value of 0 suggests a new unranked site/webpage, a poor quality site, or one that may have been pennalised by search engines! Also remember, you can still get traffic referrals from nofollowed links, its just that PageRank is not passed on. Providing reference material and good quality written content are one way you can help bolster your chances of increasing your PageRank by way of increasing backlinks to your site.

Some further reading: Check out what Google says about Link Schemes
Timesonline article October 31, 2007 Google takes aim at "cash for Links"

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