Google Page Rank Update – Should You Care?

a.k.a. Google Page Rank Explained!

Google updated Page Rank recently and some people are crowing while others are crying.

It’s possible you’re reading this and you have NO IDEA what Page Rank is or why it’s important.  So I’ve written this to serve as a primer on Google Page Rank.   This is just a top line overview and should not be confused with an interview with Matt Cutts.  <grin>

This is the “Geek to English” translation version of the topic:

What is Page Rank and why should you care?

Page Rank is, quite simply,  a numerical measurement of what Google thinks of your website. Page Rank values range from 0 – 10, with 10 being the best and 0 being the worst.

Google has a complex way of computing this value and that method is constantly being “tweaked” in an effort to “improve” the quality of the evaluation.

It’s important to note that Page Rank is just one of the criteria Google uses to determine when and where to display your entries results when users search.  While it is ONE of many factors, it is important to note that Page Rank is one of the very important factors.

In order to TRULY understand Page Rank, you must first understand the THINKING behind the creation of Page Rank.

First things first.  You should know that Google defines their “customer” as those who search – so providing quality content to those who use Google to search is their prime directive.   Google’s biggest challenge is to define the “symptoms” of “quality” content.

Remember, Google has gotten huge because when people use Google for search, they usually find EXACTLY what they’re seeking.  If you’re not looking for porn, it’s not likely you’ll find it in in an “innocent” search on Google.  That was not the case in 10 years ago, when the web was still “new”.

The programs used by Google to index the web are just that – programs which run on machines.  Machines aren’t good at making value judgements – which at one time put search engines at a SEVERE disadvantage when it came to delivering pages people wanted to see when they searched!

Years and years ago, Yahoo tried to get around this issue by indexing the web using HUMAN BEINGS.  Dmoz kept fighting that fight longer than Yahoo did, but once Google “cracked the code” and was able to deliver quality search results without human beings involvement – well, that was the beginning of the end of the human edited directories.

The way Google achieved this accomplishment  was to define the “symptoms” of “quality” content.  One of the “symptoms” Google uses to determine quality content is the number of other sites that link to the website in question.  The powers that be at Google decided a long time ago that quality content naturally attracts incoming links – just like great research is defined in part by the number of times it is cited in other research.

In the beginning, if you went to Google and typed in “widgets” Google would search through it’s index looking for sites about widgets.  (This is horribly oversimplified and ignores the supplemental index – I know, I know – this is a PRIMER not an advanced study!)

When Google’s programs go through the sites in their index, they have more than one page on the subject of widgets.  In some cases, they have BILLIONS of pages on a certain subject.  The next question is how to decide WHICH pages are displayed first.  In the beginning, Google assumed that if 200 websites are linking to Page A which is about widgets but 4000 websites were linking to Page B which is also about widgets, then Page B obviously has “better” content.  See how easy that “rule”  makes it for a mindless robot to “figure out” which page is “better”?

It didn’t take smart internet marketers long to figure a way to game that Google Rule.  They simply created link farms which were websites devoted to exchanging links.  Google responded by labeling such websites as “bad neighborhoods”.

Remember, Google’s GOAL is to provide the BEST content for people who search – they aren’t interested in how your site ranks within their index.   So Google is constantly trying to provide quality search content for their customers.  (Remember, if you’re wanting to get your site in front of the tens of thousands of eyeballs Google delivers in an hourly basis – you’re NOT defined as their customer!)

What once was a game of “who can get the most incoming links” has turned into a game of “who can get the most QUALITY incoming links”.

In a nutshell – in today’s world –

  • an incoming link from a PR 1 site isn’t “worth” as much as an incoming link from a PR 7 site.
  • an incoming link from a  site on a related topic is “worth” more than one from an unrelated topic.
  • reciprocal links aren’t worth as much as one way links.
  • .edu links are hard to game, so they’re worth more.

It makes sense if you see it through the eyes of Google.  Remember, you must be “wearing” the glasses that focus all of your attention upon providing the BEST information for people who search.

I promised in the title of this post insight as to whether you should care about your website’s PR rank. So here it goes – If your business lives and dies by search engine traffic, then YES you should care about your website’s PR rank.

You should care PASSIONATELY about your website’s Page Rank and do EVERYTHING in your power to increase it.  Those types of businesses would be one that rely upon AdSense and other advertising for revenue.

A GREAT way to increase your blog’s PR is to guest post on other people’s blogs.

You’ll be gaining incoming links from related sites, which is what Google wants to see.

However, if you’re using other methods to promote your business both on and offline, then a plunge in Page Rank probably won’t ruin your business.

I’ll admit, it stings to see a PR3 where there was once a PR5.   Fortunately, my Page Rank doesn’t determine my success any more than my Alexa ranking does.  It’s just a number – one that rises and falls on Google’s whims.

So, do you care what your Page Rank is with Google?  Why?