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Revisiting PageRank Lunacy

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Over at ClickZ, Mike Grehan's What Price PageRank? column looks at how people continue to be obsessed by PageRank and how the idea that PR scores mean nothing may freak out some in the PageRank economy that revolves around the Google Toolbar's PR meter.

Just how obsessed was underscored at the end of May, when despite it being a holiday weekend in the US and UK, forums were hit with many posts about the PR meter going down temporarily.

Yeah, people obsess over that stupid meter. I try to wean newbies away from this when I do my Intro To Search Engine Marketing talk at our SES shows.

I have a section on link building where I discuss the Google Toolbar and PageRank. I start out by saying that the PageRank score is basically unimportant and then run through a number of reasons why...

  • Are all the links on the page getting the same share?
  • Are some links discounted?
  • What's the context of the link, the words in the anchor text?
  • Did you check for nofollow tags on the links?
  • Are the links in the navigational elements or elsewhere?
  • Are they run of site links?

I speed up faster and faster listing various things to consider and end with a reiteration that because you don't know the exact answers to many of these questions, judging a page purely on its PageRank score is a waste of time.

In fact, I was stunned when I first started hearing of people deciding whether they wanted to get a link based on Google PageRank values back around 2002, as opposed to just getting good links period. I covered this obsession in my Google Sued Over PageRank Decrease article from back then.

That article included The Golden Rules Of Link Building, which I've since broken out into their own page. I think they are still useful for the new person pondering what to do when it comes to links, buying links and freaking out over the PR meter.

See also Google PageRank, Meet Yahoo Web Rank! that looks more at why PageRank doesn't win out over all. And if all the talk about wanting "authority" links and worries over "bad neighborhoods" freak you out, forget those as well.

What's a link you want? The search engines will tell you. As I've written virtually unchanged from around 1997:

By building links, you can help improve how well your pages do in link analysis systems. The key is understanding that link analysis is not about "popularity." In other words, it's not an issue of getting lots of links from anywhere. Instead, you want links from good web pages that are related to the topics you want to be found for.

Here's the simple means to find those good links. Go to the major search engines. Search for your target keywords. Look at the pages that appear in the top results. Now visit those pages and ask the site owners if they will link to you. Not everyone will, especially sites that are extremely competitive with you. However, there will be non-competitive sites that will link to you -- especially if you offer to link back.

Why is this system good? By searching for your target keywords, you'll find the pages that the search engines themselves are telling you are good, as evidenced by the fact that they rank well. Hence, links from these pages are more important -- and important for the terms you are interested in -- than links from other pages. In addition, if these pages are top ranked, then they are likely to be receiving many visitors. Thus, if you can gain links from them, you might receive some visitors who initially go to those pages.

Need more take-me-by-the-hand advice? Link Analysis And Link Building for Search Engine Watch members provides that.


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