Marketing February 19, 2016 Last updated September 18th, 2018 598 Reads share

How to Improve Your Site’s PageRank

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Google makes a ton of money from their advertising business, but the reason people go to the site in the first place is to find information.

PageRank

In the days before Google, the primary method for finding websites was through directories. Owners would submit their sites to the directories for evaluation. If they were accepted, they got listed and were searchable on the directory’s website. Yahoo was the most popular of these directories. Later, Altavista came along and used webcrawling technology to find far more pages than Yahoo could find as well as their own ranking algorithm to help people search the database of links.

But Altavista’s search capabilities had problems. While the number of pages was much larger than any directory, it was difficult to assess which pages actually had content that was truly relevant to what the user was searching for. That was the problem that PageRank tried to solve.

PageRank is the name of the algorithm that Google’s founders developed while at Stanford. The core idea is that every link to another website is like a vote for the usefulness of that website. If more sites link back to a particular page, then more people must like that page. Therefore, it is more popular and deserves to be ranked higher.

However, not every page has an equal amount of voting power, and that’s where PageRank quickly gets tricky. Let’s start with a single webpage with no links from or to it. That page will have some basic amount of PageRank. If that page links to another one, then it passes a large amount of that PageRank to the other site, though it will always retain some of it for itself. If our original web page linked to two sites, then the amount of passable PageRank was split between the two sites. This isn’t quite true today but for the purpose of the example, it’s easier to think about it this way.

Where it gets tricky is when one of the linked sites links back to the original site. Let’s say site A and site B have a link back to each other. The amount of PageRank B passes back to A is dependent upon the amount of PageRank A passes to B. Until that is determined, it’s unknown how much PageRank may pass to site C, and so on. One of the reasons Google needs so much processing power for search queries is because it has to track all of these links and how much PageRank each one has as a result.

When the calculations are finished, Google can measure the relative popularity of all linked web pages against one another. When a search query is broken down into keywords, Google takes the subset of sites in its database relative to that keyword and checks the PageRank of those sites. That helps it determine how to rank the sites. These days there are many other subfactors that go into exactly how Google ranks sites thanks to changes to the Internet (such as social media) and from people who figured out how to cheat the algorithm.

Why is this Important?

In Moz’s latest survey of SEO factor rankings, domain-level and page-level linking are the two most highly-rated factors in improving the ranking of a page on a search engine result, even above proper keyword selection. While keyword selection does help Google decide which keywords relate to the site, it is PageRank (and many other smaller factors) that decide how high to push a page on a search engine results page.

PageRank is the reason why backlinks are so valued in SEO strategies. It is also why SEO practitioners are eager to get links from sites with high PageRanks, why they really love guest posting as a strategy, and why social media links are also highly prized. Every quality link means more PageRank gets pushed to their pages.

SEO professionals should never forget these basic facts behind how Google ranks their sites. Too many professionals chase after the latest theoretical improvement to their search engine rankings that they neglect the fundamentals. Proper keyword placement within a web page and a solid quality link strategy are the keys to good SEO. All the rest is gravy.

How to Improve PageRank

If you look at the basic PageRank algorithm, it would seem like the best strategy would be just to get as many links as possible, but PageRank has been improved quite a lot in the nearly-20 years since it was developed. One of the ways that it has been improved is by measuring the relevance, trust, and authority of backlinks to alter how PageRank is delivered. These all go back to Google’s mission of organizing the world’s information properly.

Relevance means that your backlinks come from sites that are about the same topic as your site or are closely related. Say you want to promote your new video game. If your site is linked to from video game review sites or video game magazine sites, that tells Google that your site may truly be about your video game and will bump you up. If your video game site is receiving links from spammy article directories or crochet sites, that’s going to pull your PageRank down.

Authority links are links that come from authority sites. This can be roughly correlated with sites that have high PageRank, but it’s not an exact fit. Basically, an authority site is a site that many other sites link to. Wikipedia is an excellent example. Most of Wikipedia’s links are internal to itself, and many other people link to Wikipedia from all over the web. Thus, it has a very high authority. Likewise, if you study your niche well you can identify sites that are linked to by many others. Targeting those sites for links will improve authority.

Finally, there is trust. Trust is probably the trickiest thing to measure. Methods of measuring trust developed when it was discovered that savvy black hat SEO practitioners were figuring out ways to trick the search engines into pushing their pages higher. It is theorized that Google, Bing, and other search engines keep a core list of trusted websites that do not participate in spam or link manipulation. There may even be a built-in ranking system similar to PageRank just on site trust. Getting links from trusted sites would show the engines that you’re not trying to purchase links or link to low-quality sites simply to get a higher PageRank.

Unfortunately, there is no clear way of measuring these factors besides shooting for sites with higher PageRank or using specialized tools like the ones Moz provides. Your best bet is to use a tool to pull your link profile and look at each link with human eyes.

All SEO professionals should understand the fundamentals of the art. You may not need to know all the math behind PageRank, but you should know how PageRank works so you can understand backlinks and how they are evaluated, as well as how you can improve the PageRank on your site by sourcing high-quality links that are relevant, authoritative, and trustworthy.

Images: ”Pagerank Blocks Referring to Page Ranking Optimization  /Shutterstock.com

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Nick Jakubowski

Nick Jakubowski

I am the digital marketing manager for Adficient.com where we focus on helping websites build visibility within search engines. A graduate of Arizona State University, I have been working in the field of search marketing for the past 8 years.

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