PageRank™ is a way of rating a specific Web page on a Web site, on a scale of 0 through 10. Google assigns a PageRank to every page, and it’s a measure of how important that page is in their index. The more important a Web page (and it’s PAGE specific, not site specific), the higher the PageRank value. PageRank is essentially a voting system. If you have links coming into your site from other places, each of those links is a “vote”. It’s assumed that if you have more links, then you’re more important.

But there’s a HUGE caveat with that: Links aren’t all the same of course, and not all will help you with your PageRank. If you’re interested, there’s an extremely complicated formula on Wikipedia for calculating your PageRank (henceforth abbreviated “PR”). I frankly just don’t care.

Google gives us a much more convenient way of seeing what our PR is by looking in the Google Toolbar. There’s a nice little green bar graph that shows you on a scale of 0 to 10, what that page’s PR is.

Google Toolbar showing PageRank of 6 out of 10 bar graph

Google Toolbar showing PageRank of 6 out of 10 bar graph

Improving Your PageRank

In a very basic nutshell, the more links you have coming to your Web page, you will increase the number of “votes” you have. This will help to improve the “importance” score that Google assigns to your page. If a Web site that has a high PR links to your site, you “inherit” a little of the PR from them. It’s a logarithmic scale, so a single link from a PR5 page is worth more than 10 links from a PR1 site. I like to think of it as standing in their “glow”. The higher their PR, the more “glow” there is to share with you. And the brighter the “glow”, the more difficult it is to get a link from them.

But as with everything in life, it just ain’t that easy! As we talked about before, a link isn’t the same as a link, which isn’t as same as a link.

The Nofollow Tag and How It Affects PageRank

If you have a link from one page that has a high PR on your site to another with a lower PR, you’ll pass some of that PR along to the other page. If you put too many links from a high PR page, to many others, you’ll “dilute” the PR points that are being passed along, and therefore it won’t be as effective as you’d hoped. So Google invented the “nofollow” tag for your links so you can tell Google not to pass along that PR. Your link text might look like:

<a href="" target="_self" rel="nofollow">link text goes here</a>

The “nofollow” tag tells Google that the link is there, but you don’t want the PR to be passed along. That way you can “sculpt” your PR and make it go where you want it to go without worrying about too much dilution.

However, according to Matt Cutts not long ago, Google changed the rules last year about how they count the “nofollow” tag, so it does continue to dilute your PR even though it’s not passing it along to the next page.

Further, note that a lot of the “big boys” out there automatically add the “nofollow” tags to all outgoing links:

  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • WordPress comments
  • Etc.

So guess what? Those links don’t help you! Look at the code on those pages, and they all have the “nofollow” tag.

In the article above, Matt Cutts is quoted as saying, “The notion of ‘PageRank sculpting’ has always been a second- or third-order recommendation for us. I would recommend the first-order things to pay attention to are 1) making great content that will attract links in the first place, and 2) choosing a site architecture that makes your site usable/crawlable for humans and search engines alike.”

PageRank Is Only One Piece of the Equation

When building your Web content, links, and all the on-page and off-page SEO factors, PR in reality is only one small piece of the equation that Google uses to give you whatever position your page has in the search engine results pages (SERPs). Chasing high PR is fine, but may not be your best bet on getting high positions on the SERPs.

What we teach in our SEO classes is to spend a little bit of time to build good links from PR5 or higher sites if you can, but just don’t sweat it. Send out great news releases from (PR7) or other news sites, write articles for places like Evan Carmichael, or create a blog. All of this will help you in the long run, rather than chasing the elusive high PR link!

Links are vital to your Web site, and building proper external links as well as an internal linking strategy is very important. If you can build some PageRank with it, cool. If the PR value is a little lower, that’s OK too. Just don’t worry about it too much, because you really have much larger sticks in your toolbox to get your Web site to show up on Google.