Many seem to think a large part of SEO is Google PageRank, or PR. This is one factor that Google uses to show the importance of a website, and it helps prove authority to visitors as well as those looking to buy the site. Because the PR of a website is so easy to find and easy to understand, it has quickly become one of the top indicators for searches and companies alike to evaluate a website. After all, if Google deems the website quality, it must be, right?

The answer is usually yes. However, there are quite often exceptions to this theory. First, it’s important to understand how PR works and how the number is calculated.

How PageRank is Calculated 

Although many have come to think of PageRank as a way to rank webpages, it actually refers to one of Google’s co-founders, Larry Page. Page, with the help of others, created this algorithm in order to help analyze a website and determine the influence of that site. This algorithm looks at many different aspects of a website:

  • The backlinks that the site has earned; thus proving that other websites find that website’s information important enough to reference.
  • The domain extension of the site (.gov, .edu, .biz, etc.) as well as the sites that are linking back to that site.
  • Navigation and design of the website.
  • The number of spam links and duplicate content on the website.

There are also quite a few other factors that go into the algorithm, but these are some of the aspects that hold the most weight. You can visit WebWorkshop to see real numbers that explain how the algorithm works.

PageRank was one of the first ways that sites could measure influence, so it’s no secret that people have clung onto this number one thru ten.

Changes Made to the PageRank Algorithm

Understanding PageRank is also about understanding the changes that have been made to the algorithm since PR was created in 1996. Google comes out with algorithm changes that they label “Panda” and “Penguin.” In general, Panda algorithm changes occur as a way to add something to the algorithm, such as factoring in a new factor or putting more weight on an already existing factor. Penguin updates, on the other hand, is usually launched as a new way for the algorithm to combat spam.

These updates quite often cause sites to gain or lose PR clout.

Why PageRank Isn’t Everything

As you can see, there are ways to gain a great PR while not offering the greatest content or layout for readers. In other words, it’s easy for a website to figure out what the algorithm wants, and then give it to them. There are two ways this happens:

  • Fake Links – Websites are still using black hat SEO tactics to try and trick the Google bots, primarily through fake linking. A website can try and buy links or hide links on a webpage that offer zero value to a reader. Although many of the updates have worked hard to stop these kinds of practices, there are still many out there that haven’t been caught.
  • Individual Webpages – Each individual webpage has a PR number associated with it, which then brings up some confusion over the influence of the overall website. Sometimes you will find one webpage with a PR 2 while the website homepage is marked as a PR 5; thus bringing about ambiguity.

For this reason, the algorithm is continually changing and new updates are always surfacing. In fact, the last two months we saw 86 Google algorithm updates. With so many changes being made, is the number really worth it for a company to consider? Or is it best to read the content and make your own analysis?