Q. What is PageRank?
A. PageRank is a measurement that Google uses to determine a web page’s authority and importance by analysing the inbound links to that page.
If that is still a bit of a mouthful, here’s a more simple explanation;
PageRank Explained – Simply
PageRank used to be displayed as a score between 0 and 10. To put it simply, there are 3 main factors that Google takes into account when calculating the PageRank for a page and these are:
The Quantity of Inbound Links
Every single website has pages. Whether it be 2, 8, 20 or 300; every site has separate pages with unique URLs. Every web page will have a varying amount of inbound links/backlinks (external websites that link to that particular page).
The Reputation of the Inbound Links
Not every inbound link has the same value, however. Inbound links that come from websites that are seen as ‘authoritative’ (generally meaning that they already have a good reputation on Google) will have a greater value compared to inbound links from less popular sites that aren’t appearing as high on Google.
The Relevancy of the Inbound Links
Backlinks from sites that are relevant to the respective web page that they are linking to will also have a greater value. For example, if you run a site for a Bed & Breakfast business and a ‘Hotels and Accommodation’ blogging site links to a page on your site, that link would have a greater value than if it were to come from an ad on an e-commerce site selling furniture.
Is PageRank Still Important in 2018?
Yes! There is no doubt that PageRank is still important in 2018.
However, it is certainly not as important as it once was and it is no longer used by Google and webmasters in the same way. But that is absolutely not to say that Google doesn’t still use the PageRank algorithm as a ranking a factor.
To understand where you stand with PageRank in this day and age, you need to know a little bit of history first.
A Bit of Background on PageRank
PageRank was first documented in 1998 by Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. However, a prototype of the PageRank algorithm was put into practice by a search engine before Google was even founded. This search engine was called Bakrub. Funnily enough, it was the same two people behind the search engine steering wheel here; Larry and Sergey.
Bakrub transpired to be little more than a test dummy for their backlink analysis algorithm. Once they [Larry and Sergey] had a working formula, they branded it PageRank and made it the most important ranking factor for their newly founded search engine – Google.
In its early days, PageRank meant everything to webmasters. For almost a decade, if you wanted to appear higher on Google, you just had to better your PageRank score. Don’t get me wrong, there were still other ranking factors that Google considered in its algorithm. So it was possible to still appear high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), even with a poor PageRank. But in the majority of cases, it was as simple as acquiring inbound links however possible and watching your position on the SERPs rise.
The simplicity of this concept led to an onslaught of Black-hat SEO tactics. Because PageRank was based on the backlinks to a webpage; reputable sites started selling links and those that weren’t appearing so high in Google sought out links to buy. We have written more on these ‘External Link Exploiters’ in our Rise of Google blog.
I’m sure most of you have used or seen the Google toolbar at some point in your life. Why are we bringing up the toolbar now, when we are talking about PageRank? Well, because of this…
When PageRank featured on the Google Toolbar, you didn’t have to be any kind of SEO Pro to find out what the PageRank score was for pages on your website or anyone’s website for that matter. As you can see from the image above, it was just a case of downloading the toolbar and clicking one button to find out more.
The Google Toolbar still exists, however, the PageRank feature does not. Which is certainly a good thing for the search industry! Google stopped updating the PageRank scores on the toolbar in 2013 and completely removed the PageRank feature from the toolbar altogether in 2016.
Cue the ‘PageRank is Dead‘ Myth
After Google confirmed that they are no longer updating the PageRank scores (to the public), there were just a few (hundred) posts claiming that ‘PageRank is Dead’… On the surface, yes, PageRank had died. However, it certainly hadn’t behind the scenes. Google did even confirm that they would still be using it within their algorithm at that time. So, despite all of the ‘PageRank is dead’ talk, that was certainly not the case.
To Summarise – Here’s What You Need to Know
PageRank is still an important ranking factor in Google’s algorithm to this day! The only difference is, nowadays, there are hundreds of other ranking factors that are also taken into account when calculating where a page will appear on the Search Engine Results Page. In addition to that, the Google machine has become much more sophisticated and intelligent over the past 5 – 10 years. To put it simply, Google can easily tell the difference between a good link and a bad link these days. So, unlike 15 years ago where you could pay a couple of hundred quid for some backlinks and be appearing on page 1 the following month, you now need to earn those links.