Blog Post

What is PageRank, Anyway?


By Madeline Schoeck

When a customer Googles your service or industry, what do they see? Is your company website on the first page of search results, or are you lost somewhere in the no man's land of back pages? More importantly, are you the first result a potential customer will see? Your answers to these questions can have a dramatic effect on the success of your business and say a lot about how you should be marketing yourself.

When the internet was first becoming a major part of daily life, companies large and small were all told the same thing: get a website. The logic went that as long as you could be found online, you would be able to connect with people who were looking for businesses like yours. However, as with most things, it wasn't quite so simple: dozens of your competitors had the same idea, and before long, you likely realized that your website was inexplicably mashed between two other companies, or worse, lost on page five of the search results. The new customers you hoped to attract likely never materialized. But how can you improve your search ranking and attract their attention? What were other companies doing differently that allowed them to rank higher?

Answering these questions and creating solutions are two major concerns of SEO specialists everywhere. There's a reason they call our field search engine optimization: we want to enhance your comprehension and use of search engine technology to help you better appeal to your customers. PageRank is one method of ranking search results.

How much PageRank matters now is not 100% clear. But let's start at the beginning:

What is PageRank?

PageRank is the brain child of Google's creators, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who invented the technology at Stanford University. The technology is believed to be named after Page, but also conveniently applies to the order in which search results are listed on a web page. Because most search engines at the time conducted searches by focusing on keyword density, this allowed many websites to game the results by repeating popular terms over and over. Page and Brin's system instead focused on a page's importance: in PageRank, this is determined by how often users link to that specific page. These links essentially count as votes of quality, signifying that the website has good content. Websites with high PageRank are also awarded a high degree of confidence in this system, meaning that when an "important" website links to a website, the page they linked to is believed to be high quality by extension and also receives a higher PageRank. And the higher PageRank, the closer a website is to the top search ranking.

But Wait, How Do I Increase My Website's Importance?

In the real world, you have to speak up to get the attention you want. Similarly, on the internet, one of the best ways to increase your rankings is to join the conversation: start producing high quality content by adding a blog to your website that answers common questions about your industry and services, or discusses news-worthy and relevant events. HubShout likes to do this by writing articles and other content, but we also create BuzzGraphics and Visual Assets that are easily understood and shared. If you can create an excellent, frequently updated website, users will notice and begin linking to your site. If you apply your strategy carefully, other websites may also link to your site. If someone links to you, take it as a sign that your website is doing what it should.

How Are Changes to Google's Algorithms Changing PageRank?

Recently, Google stopped announcing updates to their system, instead choosing to integrate them into the algorithms. This effectively makes them less noticeable and more difficult to analyze. However, the current system, Google Panda, is primarily focused on elevating high quality content and reducing the rankings of low quality sites. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of factors that Google considers when it analyzes quality, making it difficult to know how to improve your site and your ranking. However, these factors typically include trustworthiness, user interest, value, comprehension and comparisons to similar results.

PageRank Flaws

PageRank had some flaws from the beginning: for example, some websites participate in a tactic called link farming, in which sites created automated hyperlinks to every other site in the group. While this is an attempt to improve PageRank, it doesn't encourage further growth and can be recognized fairly easily by most modern internet users. As a result, the best thing a website can do to improve their search ranking is to increase their quality and do their best to earn organic links.

PageRank of Today

According to this Google support page: You can use PageRank to see a page's importance, which Google calculates based on things like the number of links leading to that page. Pages with higher PageRank are more likely to appear at the top of Google search results. BUT, the last time Google updated Toolbar PageRank was December 2013. In a Google hangout, Google’s John Mueller said: "We will probably not going to be updating PageRank going forward, at least in the Toolbar PageRank." SO, since Google's no longer updating PageRank in the toolbar, do you think PageRank counts for anything? Let us know in the comments.