PageRank is Google’s way of determining a website’s worth based on the number of incoming links it has. Essentially, Google counts the number of links pointing to the site and interprets it as confidence votes. Simply put, the more votes for a site, the worthier the site is in the eyes of Google.
During the years that the web was emerging, numerous sites that have industry-specific content were continuously being added to the web daily. Web surfers or searchers had very few tools to locate these sites which they knew existed but had no idea on how they can be accessed. The birth of Yahoo provided some relief as it organized its directory listing by classifying each site it discovered and likewise embedded a search engine in its site. This started the use of keywords existing in the database for site searching. Other search engines followed suit with the search trend and relied heavily on Meta tags to classify the relevance of a website based on keywords found in the tags.
Everything seemed to work out just fine until site owners and webmasters realized the potential of embedding industry specific keyword phrases in their Meta tags and other site codes to manipulate higher rankings in search results. Search engines started getting cluttered with sites that spammed their content with the abuse of relevant keywords. Most had the keywords but had poor content. The credibility and relevance of search engines were being challenged so they had to think of a way to offer a more refined output to users.
Google saw the problem which conventional search engines had to face in this situation. It recognized the fact that as long as the control of relevance remained with webmasters, the ranking results would continue to be contaminated with the presence of high ranking sites that artificially inflate their keyword relevance. By the very nature of the web, it is accepted that the web is based on hyperlinks where a site is largely measured by its linkage to prominent sites and the number of links it has. There is the assumption that a site is good and important if more sites link to it.
The Google founders, Sergey Brin and Larry Page took this logic further when they formulated a search engine algorithm that shifted the ranking weight to off-page factors. They came up with a formula called the PageRank where the algorithm would count the number of sites that link to a page and assign it an importance score on a scale of 1-10. The Google scale is not linear but rather exponential in nature.
The PageRank algorithm which was named after its founder, Larry Page, was deployed with the launch of Google in 1998. The successful result enabled Google to surpass its competition due to the superior and relevant results it was able to serve using their formula that was difficult to manipulate. The new algorithm helped in providing authentic and quality information while presenting a challenge to site owners and webmasters who cheat their way to top rank. Google’s PageRank is considered one of the primary off-page factors that influence a page’s ranking in the search engine result pages. The PageRank value of any page can be checked by downloading the Google Toolbar.
PageRank is explained by Google in the following manner:
“PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page 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”. Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don’t match your query. So Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and examines all aspects of the page’s content (and the content of the pages linking to it) to determine if it’s a good match for your query.”
The exact algorithm of each search engine is a confidential matter. However, search engine analysts believe that ranking is a product of a combination of page relevance and PageRank. The search results of Google search are admittedly high in terms of relevance. This is largely responsible for the resounding success it is experiencing. Other major search engines have adapted this logic in some form with variations on the assigned importance of this value.
The Google Toolbar is downloaded for free and can be installed in the user’s Internet Explorer within minutes. It facilitates the display of the PageRank of each web page visited on a scale of 1-10. It does not display the PageRank of web pages that it has not indexed. The PageRank displayed by the Toolbar refers to individual pages and not to the site as a whole.
Most search engines place significant importance on link popularity in evaluating the importance of web pages ranking and indexing purposes. The system of Link Popularity is based on the number and quality of links connected to a website page. This is used in conjunction with the quality of sites that are linked to the website, the quality of content and the industry relevance to the site.
A webpage that links to one site passes a portion of its own PageRank value in the process. The higher the PageRank of the linking page, the higher the value passed. PageRank is divided over the total outgoing links of the linking page. In essence, a link from a PR10 webpage with 20 outgoing links represents more value than a link with a page of the same PageRank that has 100 outgoing links. Pursuing links from higher PR web pages with lesser number of total outgoing links should be prioritized.
One of the more critical aspects of search engine marketing is the building of link popularity. The manipulation of PageRank is neither easy nor recommended but PageRank can be enhanced by improving link popularity. A long term link building campaign should be undertaken to boost a site’s PageRank and consequently achieve a significant improvement in site ranking. Off-page factors continue to gain importance in ranking websites thus it has become necessary to actively boost such factors to favor the website. Exchanging links with sites falling under the same industry segment has become more open as webmasters finally realize the importance of link popularity and PageRank.