Get Free Quote
« Why the Coming Google... | Blog home | Which Social Media... »
June 3, 2016

What Is Google PageRank, How Is It Earned & Does It Matter in 2016?

  • Print Friendly

When a user enters a search query, the search engine’s number one goal is to return results that are high-quality, relevant and able to best give them what they want. One of the 200+ factors Google takes into consideration to determine which webpages best fit the bill is PageRank.

What Is PageRank?

PageRank (PR) is a calculation, famously invented by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, which evaluates the quality and quantity of links to a webpage to determine a relative score of that page’s importance and authority on a 0 to 10 scale.

how can backlinks help or hurtThe handful of PageRank 10 domains, including USA.gov, Twitter.com and Adobe Reader Download, have the highest volume of inbound links of any sites on the web.

The top sites set the bar, so to speak, and the 10-point scale plummets exponentially down from there.

PageRank 5 websites have a good number of inbound links, PR 3 and PR 4 sites have a fair amount, and brand new websites without any inbound links pointing to them start at PageRank 0.

NOTE: You may be curious what your site’s or your competitor’s PR score is. But Google no longer reveals the PageRank score for websites. It used to display at the top of web browsers right in the Google Toolbar, but no more. And PR data is no longer available to developers through APIs, either. Even though it’s now hidden from public view, however, PageRank remains an important ingredient in Google’s secret ranking algorithms.

Since Google wants to return page one results that are high quality, relevant, and trustworthy, it may return webpages with better PageRank scores higher up in the SERPs, although PageRank is only one of many ranking factors taken into consideration.

Since PageRank is only one factor in the Google ranking algorithm, it’s important to remember that a high PageRank does not guarantee high rankings — but it can significantly help.

What Is “Link Juice” and What Are PageRank “Points”?

When Site A links to your web page, Google sees this as Site A endorsing, or casting a vote for, your page. Google takes into consideration all of these link votes (i.e., the website’s link profile) to draw conclusions about the relevance and significance of individual webpages and your website as a whole. This is the basic concept behind PageRank.

When a website links to your site, or when you link internally from one of your pages to another, the link passes PageRank points. This passing of PageRank points is also commonly called “link juice” or “link equity” transfer.

The amount of link juice passed depends on two things: the number of PageRank points of the webpage housing the link, and the total number of links on the webpage that are passing PageRank. It’s worth noting here that while Google will give every website a public-facing PageRank score that is between 1 and 10, the “points” each page accumulates from the link juice passed by high-value inbound links can — and do — significantly surpass ten. For instance, webpages on the most powerful and significant websites can pass link juice points in the hundreds or thousands. To keep the rating system concise, Google uses a lot of math to correlate very large (and very small) PageRank values with a neat and clean 0 to 10 rating scale.

How Link Juice Is Passed

Think of it this way: Every webpage has a limited amount of link juice it can pass, and the top of that limit is the total PageRank points that page has accrued. So, a webpage with 20 accrued PageRank points cannot pass more than 20 points of link juice per page.

If a page with 20 PageRank points links to one other page, that one link will transfer the full amount of link juice to that one other webpage. But if a page with 20 PageRank points links to five webpages (internal or external), each link will transfer only one-fifth of the link juice.

Google applies a decay value to every pass, so the actual numbers will be a little less than our diagram shows below. But to explain the PageRank concept simply, the formula is PR points divided by number of on-page links, or in this case, 20 divided by 5:

PageRank_flow

Visualize it: This diagram shows what it looks like when a webpage with 20 PageRank points links out to five other webpages that, accordingly, each receive approximately four PageRank points.

What if you want to link to several resources to aid user experience, but you have a strategic reason to withhold passing PageRank to those pages?

You can tell Google not to pass PageRank by amending some links with a rel=”nofollow” attribute. A nofollowed link is not crawled by the search engines, and no PageRank or anchor text signals are transferred.

However, Google still sees nofollowed links as part of the total number of links on the page. The PageRank value available to pass through the remaining, followed links is thus reduced.

So for example, if you have a web page with 100 PR points that has four links on it, and three of those links have rel=”nofollow” tags, the one link that doesn’t have rel=”nofollow” will probably still pass only one-fourth, or 25 points, of link juice. (Find out when nofollow is essential below.)

Transferring PageRank/Link Juice with Internal Linking

You can help Google see pages of your website as subject matter authorities by linking to your own important pages from related articles.

For instance, if you have an article called “How To Do Keyword Research,” you can help reinforce to Google the relevance of this page for the subject/phrase “keyword research” by linking from an article reviewing a keyword research tool to your How To Do Keyword Research article. This linking strategy is part of effective siloing, which helps clarify your main website themes.

When Nofollow Is Essential

Adding rel=”nofollow” to a link may not conserve PageRank in the way SEOs once used it — to sculpt the flow of PR value through a site (aka “link sculpting”). Still, nofollow is essential for certain types of links:

  • Paid links and ads
  • Links that would dilute your subject relevance
  • Links to untrustworthy pages

Paid-for links and ads on your site MUST have a nofollow attribute (see Google’s policy on nofollow). If you have paid links that are left followed, the search engines might suspect you are trying to manipulate search results and slap your site with a ranking penalty. Google’s Penguin algorithm eats manipulative paid links for lunch, so stay off the menu by adding nofollow attributes where applicable.

Secondly, nofollow is also essential on links to off-topic pages, whether they’re internal or external to your site. You want to prevent search engines from misunderstanding what your pages are about. Linking relevant pages together reinforces your topic relevance. So to keep your topic silos clear, strategic use of the nofollow attribute can be applied when linking off-topic pages together.

A third case Google gives for using nofollow is for untrustworthy sites. Of course, you wouldn’t want to pass PageRank to a sketchy site.

A word of caution: Now that you understand basically how PageRank works, we don’t want to give you the wrong idea. It’s not true that the more links you have, the better off you are.

In today’s world, QUALITY is more important than quantity. Google penalties have caused many website owners to not only stop link building, but start link pruning instead. Poor quality links (i.e., links from spammy or off-topic sites) are like poison and can kill your search engine rankings. Only links from quality sites, and pages that are relevant to your website, will appear natural and not be subject to penalty. So never try to buy or solicit links — earn them naturally or not at all.

Want to know more? Learn more about link pruningthe action you take when links from low quality pages are giving Google the wrong idea about your website.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2013, but is updated to reflect the latest SEO understanding of Google PageRank.

  • Print Friendly




35 responses to “What Is Google PageRank, How Is It Earned & Does It Matter in 2016?”

  1. Vishal writes:

    The entire write up of page rank is worth reading but after February 2013, google has not updated the page rank. So I think , google is moving in another direction ie., social seo marketing and slowly eradicating the page rank concept.

    Just my two cents,

  2. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Vishal,

    I think Google will always be working to discern and deliver “quality, trustworthy” content and I think analyzing inbound links as endorsements is a solid tool the SE won’t be sunsetting anytime soon. Why would they? If the president of the United States links to your page that is undoubtedly an endorsement that tells Google you’re a legitimate trusted source. I know that is an extreme example, but I think it illustrates the principals of a linking-as-endorsement model well.

    That said, I do agree that the uprise of social signals as a more prominent ranking factor is on the horizon. I am not sure that social signals will replace a linking-as-endorsement model like PageRank; I think, rather, that social signals will accompany it. Reinforce it. Give Google alternative/additional linking-as-endorsement resources.

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Brett Welker writes:

    Thanks for the post Chelsea! I think Google is starting to move further away from PageRank but I do agree that a higher amoount of links doesn’t necessarily mean a higher rank. I’ve seen many try to shortcut the system and end up spending weeks undoing these “shortcuts.” I wonder how much weight PageRank still holds today, considering the algorithms Google continues to put out there to provide more relevant search results.

  4. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Hi, Brett!

    Totally agree — more does not always equal better. Google takes a sort of ‘Birds of a Feather’ approach when analyzing inbound links, so it’s really all about associating yourself (via inbound links) with websites Google deems high quality and trustworthy so that Google deems YOUR web page high quality and trustworthy. As you mentioned, trying to cut corners, buy links, do one-for-one trades, or otherwise game/manipulate the system never works. The algorithm is too smart.

    Now, how much weight does PageRank carry? Like most every other part of the algorithm, it’s questionable. If we listed all the ranking factors, I don’t suspect it would be in the top 5, but it’s important to remember that the key to ranking well is to be the LESS IMPERFECT than your competition. IE: To have more of the right things that send the right signals in the right places so that Google sees you as a better, more relevant, candidate for the top three on page one. If you and your competitor both have optimized (on-page and technically) for the same keyword phrase perfectly, PR could be the deal breaker that pushes your blue link an inch up.

  5. ROEMIN writes:

    I totally agree with you. Now Google keeps updating in algorithm strategies so in present situation everyone should have a good quality site, quality content. Content is quality and should be fresh on your website and also it should be related to the topic. It will help you in your ranking.

  6. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Just a related note in passing: On October 6, 2013 Matt Cutts (Google’s head of search spam) said Google PageRank Toolbar won’t see an update before 2014. He also published this helpful video that talks more in depth about how he (and Google) define PageRank, and how your site’s internal linking structure (IE: Your siloing structure) can directly affect PageRank transfer. Here’s a link to the video: http://youtu.be/M7glS_ehpGY.

  7. Rahid writes:

    Dear Vishal, Google always in working. Some days ago, google act upon those sites Which have illegal data. So kept it in your mind, Google always in working.

    Thank You..

  8. michi12 writes:

    yes what would you suggest to .. how should we then build backlinks to?

  9. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Michi,

    As I was telling Norman above, these days what we’ve come to call content marketing is really a big part of “link building.” You can’t buy links, and “you link to me I’ll link to you” requests often land on deaf ears. Its really all about creating high quality content (videos, images, written blog posts) that appeals to the needs/wants of your target market, and then naturally earning inbound links from sources that truly find what you have to offer worth referencing.

  10. Norman writes:

    I am still concerned about my site because, It doesn’t appear to have any change in rank. It is about 4 months old. Can you tell me how long before I would see any change in ranking? I know my niche is very high competition. It would help in being about to see some light at the end of the tunnel.

  11. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Hi, Norman! PageRank is an indicator of authority and trust, and inbound links are a large factor in PageRank score. That said, it makes sense that you may not be seeing any significant increases in your PageRank after only four months; A four-month old website is still a wee lad! PageRank is a score you will see slowly increase over time as your website begins to make its mark on the industry and external websites begin to reference (or otherwise link to) your Web pages.

    There’s no way to speed up the process. To encourage your PageRank to grow, keep making quality content that others will want to link to. You may also consider participating regularly in social media communities to get the word out about the new content you are creating. (Social media participation itself won’t help your PageRank but it will help other humans know your content exists, which can help inspire an increase in natural inbound linking.)

    Make sense?

  12. Robin Thebs writes:

    Nice article.
    With recent change of google re: PR, things done properly seems to get good return.
    One point I would like to mention here is about Guest Blogging in relevant and high PR site does help a lot. I personally have seen some amazing result courtesy guest blogging, it can be a good link building strategy too.

  13. Chelsea Adams writes:

    Agree, Robin. When done right, gust blogging can help increase your PR by increasing the number of high-quality inbound links that point to your website. That said — make sure you never get too wrapped up in guest blogging just to acquire links. Google frowns upon that.

  14. Rich White writes:

    The actual PageRank score going away does not change anything. If you’re in the world of SEO and as long as you know Google still values internal and external links in the form of authority, industry relevance, local relevance for some, quality, quantity, do-follow, no-follow and overall trust, then you’ll continue to stay afloat.

  15. Nidhi Shah writes:

    Very useful information on Pagerank. As well all know that PR is no longer into existence and it has no value now. But there are other factors which Google is considering to give weight age to the sites. As we all know that Google is always bringing new updates, so we have to wait and see what new updates will be there from Google.

  16. Paula Allen writes:

    Nidhi Shah: You’ve drawn the wrong conclusion.

    As Rich White also said in the comments, just because PR scores are no longer visible doesn’t mean PageRank is a thing of the past. It still matters a lot. PR remains one of Google’s 200+ ranking factors. You need to receive links from quality, on-topic web pages and then properly manage that PR through your website through siloing. These are powerful things you can do to boost your pages’ relevance in search.

  17. Bharat writes:

    What are the ways to earn natural links?? Please suggest some of them.

  18. Mansi Rana writes:

    Thanks for sharing this valuable post!

    Most of the people trying to make fool Google’s algorithm by building high quantities of links this is the reason Google stop showing page rank in toolbar but still PR is working in back-end as I think.

  19. Nathan writes:

    But do PR no more exist? Are you sure that it is one of the ranking factor still? How it could be ranking factor when Google remove it?

  20. Paula Allen writes:

    Nathan: The comment by Mansi Rana helps answer your question. The fact is, the PageRank scores that were visible in the Google Toolbar hadn’t been updated in a long time (2+ YEARS), so they were probably getting more and more out-of-date anyway. The main reason Google would make them disappear, though, is that Google wants website owners to focus on the user and on quality content, not on trying to game the system with links.

    Links still matter as part of the algorithmic secret sauce. The influence of a site’s link profile is plain to see in its search engine rankings, whether for better or worse, and changes in that link profile cause noticeable movement up or down the SERP. An SEO’s emphasis today should be on attracting links to quality content naturally, not building them en masse. (For more on proper link building today, see http://bit.ly/1XIm3vf )

  21. nandu web writes:

    Nice article and informative!!Thank you for sharing this post..

  22. Mike chrest writes:

    is this really something i need to focus on? Or just another metric?

  23. Peter Pero writes:

    Pagerank is no more. Current era is for user intent, quality content and natural links..thats what Google is meant for.

  24. Marfani Group writes:

    Great Post, I am agree with you. currently Google keeps change in algorithmic program methods thus in gift state of affairs everybody ought to have an honest quality website, quality content. Content is quality {and ought to|and will|and may} be contemporary on your web site and conjointly it should be associated with the subject. it’ll assist you in your ranking.

  25. Raaj Paatkar writes:

    Google has already got rid of PageRank in March 2016. As disclosing such metrics always lead to manipulation of SERPs by spammers, Google will never reveal such info in the future.

  26. mustakin sarker writes:

    Nice information you have describe here,
    we are amwebcreation doing web design development service in Bangladesh, for our own source we have search this information in google and find your post, it’s really helpful for us, thanks for sharing.
    I have bookmarked you blog for future post.

  27. Matthew Haeck writes:

    I (for one) am glad that Google decided to scrap the “PageRank” concept. This is certainly useful info nonetheless – Thanks for your work!!

  28. Garima writes:

    Absolutely true ,Quality matters rather then quantity.So high quality backlinks are of good use.FOCUS ON QUALITY WHILE CREATING LINKS,THAT WHAT I ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND.

  29. Andrew Broadbent writes:

    Hi Chelsea,

    Great article and writing in general. My company just published a 5,000 word Keyword targeting best practices guide for PPC and SEO, and we linked to your article “10 Reasons You Should Use Google Trends for More Than Just Keyword Research”. http://vabulous.com/keyword-research-targeting-for-ppc-and-seo-guide/ I would love if you checked it out and possibly shared it if you like it.

  30. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks for reading, Andrew. Indeed, keyword research is a big project, ever evolving with new tools. Cheers.

  31. Desislava writes:

    Although Google killed PageRank, you can still see the last records with this PR checker – http://pr.eyedomain.com/

  32. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Thanks for the tool tip, Des. :)

  33. Mark writes:

    Very cool and easy description of the topic here. This pagerank could sometimes seem very difficult to learn. Although I think the days for looking for high pagerank pages has long gone.

    Thanks again

  34. Ridhi writes:

    The backlinks are both useful and informative. Thank you…

  35. Harpreet Kumar writes:

    impressive article on page rank sir. its an essential part of a blog. High page rank shows the quality of a blog

Leave a reply



Get Started
Learn SEO

Subscribe to Blog Updates

Get email notifications when we publish new blog posts, usually two to three times a week.

  

a monthly digest keeping digital marketers in the know with SEO, SEM, social media and content marketing hot topics, live events, corporate shuffles, and deserved kudos.

We respect your privacy and never share your email address

Free Executives Guide To SEO
By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. AcceptDo Not Accept
css.php