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Google PR - PageRank FAQs

 12:59 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

There seem to be a lot of questions around WW that suggest some people aren't familiar with PR and how it works. I've put this thread together in an attempt to answer questions that would save new members posting basic PR questions. Hope it's useful to them.

What is Page Rank (PR)?

This is Google's take:

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's 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.

More... [google.com]

How can I check my PR?

If you install the Google Toolbar (available here [google.com]) you will see a green indicator in your Internet Explorer toolbar showing you the PR of the page. Hovering over the green bar will give you a number which is the page's PR. If you don't have the toolbar you can still check an individual page's PR using many tools [google.com] on the internet. There are also toolbars for Firefox users, like this example [pagerankstatus.mozdev.org].

How does page rank affect your listing in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)?

It doesn't.
[*see note at bottom] There was a time when higher page rank pages were more likely to feature ahead of lower PR pages but that is not the case anymore as a few seaches will demonstrate. There are a lot of other factors that affect where your page is displayed in the results. Google states that it does not recommend webmasters exchange links to increase their PR. Google sees that as trying to "game" their search engine. It is generally accepted that exchanging/buying links purely for PR is a waste of time (and, in fact, can have detrimental effects).

What detrimental effects will I face for buying PR?

Sites with higher PR often make money by selling links on their high PR pages. If Google is aware that they are selling PR rather than just selling ad space (don't ask me how Google can tell the difference or if, indeed, they can) Google may penalise both the seller and buyer. This can take the form of lowering where you appear in the results but may not necessarily result in a downgrade of the PR you see in the toolbar.

I'd still like to improve the Page Rank of my site?

First, sites don't have PR, pages do. That's why it's possible for an internal page to have a higher PR than the home page. The way a page gets PR is from links to it and that's the only way of improving PR. IBLs (incoming backlinks) from high PR pages can give you more PR than links from low PR pages. There is one other factor at play. The PR they "give" is spread over the number of outgoing links on the pages. You may get more PR benefit from a PR3 page with only two outbound links than a PR7 page with hundreds of outbound links.

What links do I need to get to take my homepage to PR6

There isn't a quick answer to that. One link from a good PR7 page (or indeed a high PR6 page) could give you a PR6. OTOH, you may need hundreds of links from PR3 and 4 pages to get to a PR6. By the same measure a link from a PR3 page that subsequently rises to a PR7 will rise in value as the "giving" page's PR keeps improving.

I've added a lot of IBLs but I don't see my PR changing/my PR has dropped

There are several reasons why you may not be seeing the result. First, a PR5 ranges all the way from a PR5.00001 to a PR5.99999. You could have improved from a 5.0 to a 5.9 and you'll have no way of knowing it from the PR toolbar. Second, the value of a PR5 itself could have changed. So, even if you were on a PR5.9, added a lot in IBLs, and still didn't make it to a 6.0 it could be because the scale has changed and, though you are still at 5.9 the 5.9 is more valuable than it was before. Third, the value of the pages that are linking to you would have likely changed themselves so the PR they are giving you probably changed.

How often does the PR change?

This could vary widely. It may be a month or six months before Google revise the PR across all the pages they've indexed. One thing you can be sure off: When Google revises PR there'll be at least one thread here about it. :)

Will they inform me when they revise PR?


Help, I've lost all PR!

Before panic sets in check whether you are grey barred or white barred. If the toolbar shows white for the page it's not been barred and your PR will probably come back. Note also that Google sees http://www.example.com/widget.htm, http://www.example.com/widget.html, and http://example.com/widget.htm as three different pages. If you have links coming to all three then your incoming PR is being shared by those three pages.

Why is my PR more in the Google directory than it is on the toolbar?

The Google directory uses a different scale to the toolbar.

It was easy to get from a PR4 to a PR5 but it's taking much longer to get to a PR6, why's that?

The PR scale is not linear, it's logarithmic [dictionary.reference.com] i.e. moving from a PR9 to a PR10 make look like a one point increase and require the same amount of effort as going from PR1 to PR2 but that's not the case. It is thousands of times more difficult. The exact log scale used is unknown but there has been speculation here that it could be around "5".

How can I retain PR on my site and prevent it from going to other sites?

There are various ways people try to "horde" PR. They use javascript or a cgi when they are linking to outside pages in the hope that Google won't see these as links and therefore not take any PR away from the site. That is misguided. As a study of current search results show pages that appear high in the results sometimes have a lot of outgoing links and are ranked high in SERPs because of that. So, yes, it may improve your PR if you shield/mask outgoing links but that will likely be at the expense of losing you some Google traffic.

If PR is virtually useless from the point of view of Google traffic then why did you ramble on for so long and cover all those point?

PR still has value to some. People selling sites may get a higher price as not all buyers realise that PR has very little value. Webmasters selling text links on their sites can get more money for the ads they sell. There are other such uses for higher PR. For example, it is believed that sites with higher PR pages get indexed more often.

So if PR doesn't determine how I rank then what does?

That's the million dollar question. :) Nobody knows for sure except Google themselves. But if you spend enough time browsing here - and filtering the noise - you may get a better idea of what works and what doesn't.

Any other questions we should have here?

< Note: this particular assertion has proven to be an overstatement
of the situation. PR does affect ranking, but it is only one of many factors.
- Tedster
- Jan 8, 2007 >

[edited by: tedster at 1:24 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2010]



 2:14 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Excellent Info for the newbie crew! That should save tons of useless posts stating the same things over, and over, and over....:)


 4:17 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thank you for this very informative post :)


 4:22 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great contribution Macro. I wish I could be so active.


 4:28 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Where do you find the time?;)


 4:52 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks Macro! Everything the newbie wanted to know about Google but was afraid to ask because it would make him look like, well, a newbie.


 4:53 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

How does page rank affect your listing in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)?

It doesn't.

I must disagree. Here are the things I think are tripping you up:

1. PR is more important for low-money searches. Do some searches for obscure animals or medieval Spanish history (to use an example Brin once used) and you'll quickly see the effect. It's only in the money searches--where Google has to fight a tidal-wave of fake links--that they deemphasize PR. Not surprisingly, these searches aren't sorted by PR and they have a lot of junk in them.

2. Google is not required to make the PR displayed in the toolbar agree completely with their internal system. Indeed, they have a positive *incentive* to make them disagree--to fool link sellers and buyers and even to make people think PR is dead. Cleary Google does more now than just apply their original published algorithm, but IMHO their efforts seek to fix the problems with PR manipulation, not to turn away from it.

Otherwise, good post. It will be nice to have something to point people to.


 4:54 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Very nice reading Marco. I've passed it on to a very interested Dutch audience :)

Any other questions we should have here?

Perhaps you could spend a few lines on anchor text as this is so much associated with links and PR and many people mistake the efects of anchor text the effect of PR?


 5:17 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post Macro...bookmarked.


 5:21 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

suidas, it sounds logical that Google would have more need to obfuscate PR issues for the more competitive terms. But, from a quick search or two that I did, it seems to also extend to very uncompetitive terms. For the term "medieval Spanish history" itself I'm getting 3s and 4s ahead of sixes. In fact, #2 is a PR0. But, yes, anything is possible with Google :)

About point 2 - we have no proof that they are intentionally warping tPR (toolbar PR) but yes, I agree, it looks like that :) and that may well be true. The tPR could be completely different to an aPR (algo PR) if they are running two concurrent PR systems.

HitProf, good point. Anchor text does not, of course, affect the PR itself but can affect your ranking in SERPs. Too much AT, too little AT and not diverse enough AT can all work against you.

For those new to it anchor text of the first link in my original post was the word "More...". Links pointing to you saying "click here" are considered less useful than links using your product name as the AT.

[edited by: Macro at 5:25 pm (utc) on Feb. 15, 2005]


 5:22 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great stuff Macro - at last we now have something we can simply link to rather than going over the same old ground again and again.

Many thanks.

On HitProfs point about Anchor text, I've usually taken the line with people (and I'm talking about current google) of advising them to concentrate more on their anchor-text inbounds, explaining that an increase in PR is a natural side effect of those inbound links. In other words - get the anchor text inbounds (concentrate on rank) and PR will follow as a natural consequence, rather than concentrating on PR because ranking will not follow as a natural consqeuence.



 5:38 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Any other questions we should have here?

Redirects. 302/301 you set up on your own, and IBL from redirecting sites.

If PR is virtually useless from the point of view of Google traffic then why did you ramble on for so long and cover all those point?

You should add as one reason the webmaster's ego (which should not be underestimated).


 5:42 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

How does page rank affect your listing in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)?

It doesn't.

This statement is a bit too much of an absolute, so I would disagree with this as well, unless you are referring to toolbar PR.

If local rank is a factor in Google's ranking algo, then PR is still very much important. It just may depend on the sources of a page's page rank.

A good thread on this by Claus is here, [webmasterworld.com...] -- (Google's 2 rankings).

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 5:57 pm (utc) on June 1, 2008]
[edit reason] fixed link to Google's 2 rankings thread [/edit]


 5:55 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Thanks, Macro.


an indicator of an individual page's value

has always bothered me. Value to who?


 6:31 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Execellent Marco, great for newbies and now maybe the toolbar watchers will understand a bit better when they see their pr go up but listings remain the same.


 6:51 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

suidas, it sounds logical that Google would have more need to obfuscate PR issues for the more competitive terms. But, from a quick search or two that I did, it seems to also extend to very uncompetitive terms. For the term "medieval Spanish history" itself I'm getting 3s and 4s ahead of sixes. In fact, #2 is a PR0.

Well, I have to say that I find the results wholly explained by differences in keyword focus, best seen and maybe most importantly in the title tags. Where pages seem to under-perform for their PR, I see problems in those. For example, the sixth entry is a PR6, higher than the 4s and 5s above it in the SERPs. But the the page is "about" Medieval history in Iberia. You and me of course, know that Medieval Iberian history is largely co-extensive with Spainish, but Google hasn't learned that yet. So, it does well for "Medieval" and "history," and has the word "Spanish" a few times, but Google seems unsure if that makes it a top page for "Spanish Medieval History."

That said, I'm going to think on the perfect test, and get back to you.

Oh, I forgot. The PR0 page at #2 is an Amazon page. Clearly, the PR0 is presentational, not real! Some suggestions: (1) it's new, (2) Google doesn't show PR on deep, dynamic pages, (3) the displayed PR is also the *passed* PR, ie., you can't get a free ride on Amazon's high PR just by creating an Amazon linkmania page that also lists to your homepage....


 7:03 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

"How does page rank affect your listing in SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages)?

It doesn't."

The statement is beyond absurd.

Of course pagerank effects your ranking, just like your hub score, titles, and dozens of other things do too.

Please don't send newbies to read this thread as it not just false, but hurtful.


 7:04 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't PR also influence how frequently(and thoroughly?) googlebot spiders your site?


 11:08 pm on Feb 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Macro, thanks for taking the time to write out this thorough post. But like steveb, I have my doubts about your statement that PR no longer helps you rank well. I mean, Google was created because of PageRank.

From The PageRank Citation Ranking: Bringing Order to the Web [dbpubs.stanford.edu]
In order to measure the relative importance of web pages, we propose PageRank, a method for computing a ranking for every web page based on the graph of the web. Pagerank has applications in search, browsing, and traffic estimation....To test the utility of PageRank for search, we built a web search engine called Google.

Iím not claiming to have any kind of great knowledge about G and their algorithm. Itís just that to me, I donít see why they'd stop using PR as a part of their algo when itís what the whole search engine was based on in the first place. But I could be totally wrong...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but doesn't PR also influence how frequently(and thoroughly?) googlebot spiders your site?

Yes. At least according to all the sites I monitor.


 12:07 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Very thorough and informative post.

One question I have, though, is wheher or not it makes a difference if the site has a "categorized PR" or an "uncategorized PR"?


Two sites, both pr5 in the same field, one has been catgorized in DMOZ (say: Society: Politics: Anarchism) vs. one covering the same subject matter, but isn't categorized.

The category shows up in the PR Toolbar (or the equivalent workaround in FF or other browsers).

My initial guess, is that the "categorized" sites do slightly better, but don't have hard data to back it up.


 1:18 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Offpage links, that is other people linking TO YOU, have


Repeat after me -- only on page factors have detrimental effects, that is stuff that is under your control.

I can not, for example, go buy a link on JUNKYARD LINKS R US and point to all the folks above me in a SERP and get them booted.

For pretty obvious reasons.

Not only have various Googlers confirmed this, it is also pasted all over their website.

What upsets me about this is that Macro is a very very smart guy. I can only wonder if he is willfully posting this as mis-direction.


 1:40 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Offpage links, that is other people linking TO YOU, have

Respectfully disagree, strongly.

There are at least a handful of ways that other people linking to you can hurt you. That's not to say they are common or that most newbies (anyone) will encounter them.

I'm not here to take this thread off-T so i'll leave it at that.

There is almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your ranking or have your site removed from our index.


-that's not to say that this specifically addresses linking, but shows that factors outside your control have been recognized by Google as having the *possibility* of affecting your ranking.


 3:13 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Also of note, from:


Google's order of results is automatically determined by more than 100 factors, including our PageRank algorithm.


 9:02 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

I believe that PR is well down the list of the 100 or so factors that affect ranking, so you should not be fooled by the PR scare mongers, many of whom have made a career for themselves as "PR experts". They're always going to defend their position because their guru status dsepends on the uninformed believing the hype.

Good post, Macro!


 10:10 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have to agree with Blaze on this one. The research I have done and am currently doing on high money search terms is all dominated by (toolbar)PR 7 + sites... it's undeniable....


 10:42 am on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

blaze, you give me more credit than I'm due. :) I'm no SEO expert and, in fact, hardly SEO my sites. I very rarely frequent the Google forum (or SEO discussions) here on WW. There are many here who know far, far more than I'll ever do on the subject. And, if you've been following my posts you'd know that I'm not into SEO.

But, yes, I see your point that there could be an agenda behind the "PR doesn't affect rankings" stand. Playing sceptic for a moment - there are some, like fom2001uk has pointed out, who have a career based around PR or whose business relies on selling links. It wouldn't be in their interest to support a theory that PR doesn't affect rankings. Staying in sceptic mode I'm struggling to find a potential benefit anyone is likely to derive from taking the opposite stance.

Hopefully newer members will all learn that there could be a hidden agenda behind almost any post. And, that the only thing they can rely completely on is their own observation. SERPs is a particularly good way of verifying the PR point. Simply do a lot of searches on varied terms in different industries. A little more research on PR may be worth doing before you run those tests on SERPs (you'd need to bear in mind things like the fact that tPR is a representation of a page's PR at the last update whenever that was, and the current tPR could be different). Then draw your own conclusions or, if it's not clear enough for a "conclusion", get your own feel for how much PR matters.

Is it worth discussing whether PR does or doesn't make a difference in SERPs? Sure, all discussion is good and it's definitely worth its own thread. Feel free to link to it from here. This page was done to serve as a quick and simple guide to PR for members newer to WM and to hopefully raise the signal ratio in other threads. It was made in the same spirit as other "info" posts I've made like The basics of Adsense Stats [webmasterworld.com].


 4:01 pm on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Killing debate isn't good cricket in forum land.


 5:31 pm on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

great post.. i definitley agree with Suidas though.. there are so many factors google uses, but PR definitely has a good amount of weight. I think most webmasters can vouch for the fact that their traffic and SERPs increase as their incoming links do. And it is the obscure word combos that benefit most.. I think google must have different methods for more common words.. does anyone agree? i suspect even that google goes as far as logging what pages searchers stay at for common keywords, and using that as a factor..


 5:40 pm on Feb 16, 2005 (gmt 0)

Macro: Perhaps you should have said "in my opinion" as your post does sound as if you are stating facts?


 5:40 am on Feb 17, 2005 (gmt 0)

Valuable contribution, Macro -- if for no other reason than to spark a good discussion of the issue. It's that kind of post, as well as the counterpoints, that makes WW so valuable and interesting.

This 45 message thread spans 2 pages: 45 ( [1] 2 > >
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