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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.
[edited by: tedster at 1:24 am (utc) on Apr 3, 2010]
But, sure there's mileage in a discussion about whether PR matters for SERPs. And, sure, I'd be interested in any tests anyone has to determine if indeed PR is worth chasing and what part it plays, if any, in determining SERPs. Or even a discussion about how we could possibly construct such a test. You can't learn much with a closed mind :)
However, if we're going to have a meaty academic debate - complete with links to papers on latest advances in SE technologies - we should really do it in the type of thread that this one was designed to help i.e. a serious discussion thread for the advanced SEOs among us. Maybe someone who feels that PR still matters can start one.
Does PR affect or not affect SERPs? My summary was: it doesn't. That's the short answer for anybody new enough to PR to not know what the toolbar is. (I qualified that by saying it used to pretty much be all SERPs was about but that there are a "lot of other factors" now). At present I feel PR is either small enough a consideration to be ignored altogether or, even worse, a possible red herring so Google can spot the SEOs who chase it.
I have to try to correct you here.
For those who didn't and even those who did read the original paper, let me repeat that PR was not only "one of hundreds factors" involved, but the very final and decisive factor in determining SERP.
Simply put: SERP=Internal Page Value * PR factor
Please try to read this carefully, I didn't say PR number. There has been a lot of PR talk around with many "pro's" having no clue about the PR's simple role in SERPs.
It is hard to believe they (Google)would ever abandon the very basics of their successful algorithm to start something completely new.
Instead, what we have been witnessing is another switch in their SERP results with regard to PR.
Based on their VIP principles, it seems they adopted home page PR or FQDN (domain address) PR value in their calculations (or at least anything before subdirectories, thus possibly including subdomains).
Whether they combine it with the page PR to calculate final PR factor, is irrelevant here, but home page PR has almost sure became a part of it.
In your example "medieval spanish history" (w/o quotes) on the 7th place (from here) is "www.encyclopedia.com/ search.asp?target=@DOCKEYWORDS..." which indeed shows PR0 (could be partially because of asp script, never mind), but if you check the PR for "www.encyclopedia.com" , the things are a bit more clear.
For the rest, you made a nice article.
Otherwise, this would be a very trivial way to take out your competitors.
Just set up a bunch of obvious PR 0 websites (we probably all have them kicking around) that are so obviously black hat SEO and then start linking to your competitors.
I'm not saying that high PR websites can help (I think they can, but I have no real proof) but I know, and this has been confirmed time and time again, that it can't HURT.
Except your wallet, maybe, for wasting all that money..
As nuevojefe says: Off page links can take you out of SERPs but discussing it would take this thread off-course. Besides, there's no real point in creating a post teaching more people how they can take competitors out. There's too much of that already.
It's really nice to see such a thorough discussion here. My name is Serge Bond, I am a search engine analyst at Web CEO (an SEO software company). We have done extensive research to find out if pagerank influences site rankings. In short, it doesn't. We haven't found any strong corellation here. If you are interested, I can share the details here.
In the interview, she confirms that the Page Rank numbers reported to the website owner through Webmaster Tools are more up-to-date than the data reported in the Toolbar. She notes that you can only see your own data in your Webmaster Tools account, not research the competition.
[edited by: tedster at 5:00 am (utc) on Dec. 11, 2006]
The best way to figure out what works is to simply analyze a few pages, it's right there in black and white, no mystery at all.