What Is Google PageRank?

Google PageRank evaluates and scores your page’s external and internal links, and is one of Google’s oldest and well-known ranking algorithms.

What Is Google PageRank And How Does It Work?

The PageRank algorithm is a link analysis program that evaluates the links on (and backlinks to) a page as a part of Google’s search ranking factors. The goal of PageRank’s evaluations is to push not only the most relevant but the most authoritative pages on a given subject to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). PageRank is not the same as your SERP rank; rather the PageRank algorithm influences your SERP position via ranking factors.

One of Google’s most well-known algorithms, PageRank plays a big part in search ranking. PageRank assigns a numerical value to a webpage based on a qualitative evaluation of the page’s backlinks in relation to other factors. This evaluation is one of the determining factors for the page’s position on the SERP. PageRank has undergone a lot of changes since it was first instituted in 1998, which in turn has vastly changed the way pages can and do rank. 

A History of PageRank 

Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the co-founders of Google, created PageRank at Stanford University in 1996. In 1998, after the founding of Google Inc., Page and Brin utilized the first prototype of PageRank in their new search engine in an effort to organize searched content. The prototype of PageRank operated on a simple principle; if a page had a large number of backlinks, then it must be an authority on the subject. Links had never been so important for SERP rankings. PageRank was such a powerful and needed organizational system for online information that, within a decade of its inception, Google became one of the most popular search engines on the web.


While Google’s PageRank was revolutionary to searcher experience, this didn’t mean there weren’t problems. The PageRank toolbar publicly showed any page’s rank on a zero-to-10 scale. Why was this problematic? Because with this visual, sites could buy and sell links using their PageRank, not their content quality, as a determining factor.

The way that links were sold during this early time was another way that site owners could manipulate the PageRank. Black hat SEO tactics included link gaming and auctions, where site owners bought and sold backlines based solely on the PageRank toolbar. Where Google had wanted to give searchers and burgeoning SEO professionals a way of measuring and displaying the quality and authority of the sites that they were on, they had instead made a get-rich-quick scheme for site owners that didn’t rely on content quality. So, the PageRank toolbar disappeared, and with the help of other algorithm updates — such as the Penguin Update — PageRank began evaluating links based more on an inquisitorial basis rather than a solely numerical one.

How Does PageRank Work?

As mentioned above, PageRank focuses on link analysis as a core ranking signal for Google. But what does that analysis look like? The short answer is no one outside Google knows exactly how PageRank works. However, there are factors that we know directly influence it — such as the treatment of backlinks and internal linking. 

Backlinks

Crawling, understanding, and assessing backlinks is PageRank’s number one priority. Not only is the quality of your page important, but the authority and quality of the page you are receiving links from is equally as important in PageRank’s assessment. Having a high amount of quality backlinks is one way to raise your PageRank. Another way is receiving links from a page that is considered a “recognized authority” — such as a government or health organization page. 

Internal Linking

When it comes to internal links, PageRank is concerned with two main features; placement and function. Anchor text, the text used to create a hyperlink within content, is important to PageRank as it signals what keywords the linked page is hoping to rank for, and can be used to inform the semantic relationships between the linked pages. This context allows the algorithm to be more accurate with its evaluation and understanding of the meaning, purpose, and relationship between linked pages and the words they contain. Using links to support site navigation can also improve your PageRank score, as user experience is one of Google’s key ranking factors across the board.

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Practices for Quality Linking

Link building, both internally across native content, and externally with other sites is an imperative skill for improving your PageRank. Below are some practices that can boost your link building:

  • Demonstrate Quality — One of Google’s favorite pieces of advice for ranking well is to create good content. And in all honesty, they’re not wrong. The best link building is between sites that can have a symbiotic relationship, outside of ranking. Demonstrating authority, uniqueness, and quality can make your site a competitive link builder. 
  • Stay Relevant — Having relevant and timely links in your content is important, because it affects what Google calls your EAT signals. EAT is an acronym that stands for expertise, authority, and trustworthiness. There are billions of posts on the internet, but as we all know, not every post is worthwhile. Making sure the information you’re endorsing is timely, relevant to your core audience or argument, and from an expert or authoritative source that a modern audience can trust is not only a good way to improve your link building, but your content quality as well.
  • Remember the Human Element — When we talk about PageRank and Google algorithms, we can often get lost in the idea that coding and ranking signals and strategic content are the only things that matter. But behind a lot of the websites we want to build links to is a person, or a group of people, who experience a lot of the same frustrations and goals as you. Remember when you’re link building, you’re forming a relationship between yourself and another site owner, not yourself and an algorithm.

What Does PageRank Mean For Me?

When it comes to knowing what to do with PageRank, it’s important to remember that PageRank is a great term to understand, but it is not the only factor that goes into your SERP ranking. When you boil it down, PageRank is about your link building ability, and consistently prioritizing the creation of high-quality linkable content. PageRank is just one of the ranking algorithms at work for Google, so if you’re interested in tracking your rank, you’ll want to audit more than just your PageRank to get a better picture of your search position.

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