PageRank - What is it and is it Really Important?
By David Nicolosi
Before we begin, let's take a look at the very definition of PageRank as provided by the good folks at Google. PageRank is defined as:
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."
What this means is that PageRank acts as a balloting system. Hyperlinks that point to your website from another website are casting a "vote" of support for your site. The more hyperlinks pointing to your website, the more "votes" of support you have, the higher your site PageRank will be.
The question often asked "Is PageRank really all that important?". The answer to this question is widely debated and often a hot topic in forums. The answer to this question is "YES" PageRank is important! In fact, it may be more important than many so-called "experts" would lead you to believe.
The Truth About PageRank
PageRank is a term that you'll often find associated with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The fact is, PageRank and SEO have very little in common. A website with a high PageRank value may very well be completely off the radar of any organic searches in Google. On the same token, a website with low PageRank can be ranked in the top 10 of Google Searches. For this reason some "experts" believe that PageRank has little to no value as it does not directly reflect in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Although that may be true, their thoughts that PageRank isn't important are very misguided and inaccurate and could result in lost revenue for their clients.
Let's look at this with a theoretical example. Let's assume that everyone in this giant world of ours has been born with two very different degrees of color perception. One-half sees the color of the sky as red and the other half sees the color of the sky as blue. No matter how much the blue sky population tries to convince the red sky population that the sky is REALLY blue, the red sky population insist the sky is REALLY red. Now, are the red sky people wrong in their belief that the sky is red? Their perception that the sky is red is their reality, just as the blue sky population's perception that the sky is blue is their reality. There is no convincing one side or the other of their beliefs. Of course, this is just a silly example to show a point (after all, everyone knows the sky is really pink). What it really comes down to is perception and that is exactly why PageRank is important! Many users and webmasters perceive PageRank as a measuring stick that indicates the strength and popularity of any given website. Perception is reality and that little green bar hanging out in your Google toolbar feeds that perception.
Turning Perception Into Profit
Joe user comes upon your site while searching a specific piece of information or product. He doesn't find exactly what he wants but he finds your site pleasant to look at and finds some useful information. He then looks up at his Google toolbar and sees your site has a PageRank (PR) of 0. Joe user is somewhat tech-savvy but not a hard-core techie and not someone that readily keeps up with technology, but he's read enough Google marketing propaganda to know that the little green bar in his Google browser is telling him something about this site. It's telling him "this site is not a popular site!". Joe user decides not to bookmark the site based on his perception that it's not popular. Instead he moves on to a competitors website. Joe user is probably in the minority of users and may not even have a clue what the PR number is really telling him. What he's doing is perceiving it as measuring stick that tells him about a website's quality and popularity. Joe is a casualty of the "PageRank Effect" and a potential sale gone by the way side. The goal of any good website is to convert as many visitors into sales as possible. For that reason alone PageRank should be considered important.
Would You Take Financial Advice From A Bum?
The market of your website will be a huge factor in determining how your PageRank value will be interpreted. If your website is designed to sell SEO services to clients and you have a PR0, how do you think that will come across to users? Your average user will not understand that PR0 has no bearing on the quality of your service yet they will use that value against you. Let's look at a real-world example using the Free Links Direct service. Like every new site, Free Links Direct hit the market with a PR0. They engaged in a strong marketing campaign and saw a fair number of sign-ups, but their support team received a very LARGE volume of emails with a similar theme: "If your an SEO company, how come you have a PageRank of 0? How can I trust you to increase my rankings when you yourself can't increase yours?" Even though Free Links Direct was (and still is) a Free SEO service, there was a hesitation by a large number of webmasters to sign-up solely based on the PageRank value. When Google finally updated PageRank for websites (typically happens every 100 days) Free Links Direct shot up from PR0 to PR5 literally overnight. The result? Sign-ups increased by a rate of almost 2 times and the emails about PR virtually disappeared, much to the delight of the support team. The moral? Know your market and understand your PageRank may (and probably will) have an impact on your business.
Want To Trade Links? Not So Fast!
Link exchanges are an important aspect of SEO. One of the main factors in determining a website placement in the search results is the number of links pointing to it. Even though reciprocating links (website A links to B and B links back to A) are not weighted as heavily as one-way links (website A links to B and B does not link back), they are still important to your link campaign strategy. Webmasters with high PR websites are unlikely to link exchange with websites that have no or low PR. What this does is put you behind the eight ball. Webmasters with higher PR values will continue to link exchange with other high PR sites and you'll find your site lagging behind. One way to prove this theory is to contact the webmaster of a high PR ranking website (ex: PR6 or higher) and request a link exchange with your low PR website. Most likely you won't even get a response back, and if you do it will be the webmaster declining your exchange request.
Sell That Link Space!
Did you know webmasters are willing to pay as much as $100 or more PER MONTH for you to link to them? There is a strong demand in the link market for one-way links. Take a look at the online casino gambling community. Many webmasters are paying hundreds of dollars month over month just to have other gambling related websites link to their own. It's a huge market that you can capitalize on, but NOT if you have a website with little to no PR. If you have a low PR website you might as well forget about selling your link space. The real money will come to those with high PR sites. The higher your PR, the more valuable your link space becomes, and the more money you'll make. Let's assume you have space for 10 links on your home page and you have a PR8. You can expect to fetch up to $100 or more per link each month with a PR8 website. That's a recurring $1000 every month just to link to other websites! You'll be surprised by the amount of revenue you can generate through advertising dollars. If you ignore PR, you'll be loosing out on this potential gold mine.
The benefits of a high PageRank website far outweigh any negatives. In fact, one can say there really are NO negatives in having a website with a high PageRank value. It will create a better perception of your website, lead to potentially more sales and more links, and will allow you to gain revenue through marketing dollars that you never would have achieved with a low ranking website. So, the next time someone tells you "PageRank is NOT important" just nod in agreement. There is no point in trying to change their mind on something they are convinced of. After all, PageRank is mostly about perception and we very well know perception is greater than reality.