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Google PageRank isn't the Same as Ranking in Google

Mark Jackson
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It's happened more than once. A prospect calls me to discuss the possibility of having my company handle their SEO efforts, and then tells me that their goal is to "increase their Google PageRank from a 4 to a 6."

First, for those of you who are not aware of Google PageRank, let me share this Wikipedia definition with you:

PageRank is a link analysis algorithm that assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinked set of documents, such as the World Wide Web, with the purpose of "measuring" its relative importance within the set. The algorithm may be applied to any collection of entities with reciprocal quotations and references. The numerical weight that it assigns to any given element E is also called the PageRank of E and denoted by PR(E). The name PageRank is a trademark of Google. The PageRank process has been patented (U.S. Patent 6,285,999). The patent is not assigned to Google but to Stanford University.

One point that isn't explained in the Wikipedia entry is that PageRank is actually named after Larry Page, one of the founders of Google: the word "Page" in the name has nothing to do with a "Web page."

OK. Back to the topic at hand. A company's SEO "goal" is to increase Google PageRank? Seriously?

Yeah. Seriously.

Google PageRank is one of many things to be considered for your SEO efforts. It may be a consideration as to how authoritative your Web site is, but it's not why your Web site will or won't rank in the Google search results.

As an example, I Googled "business software" (without the quotes). As of the writing of this column, here are the PageRanks of the top 10 sites in the search results:

  1. PageRank 6
  2. PageRank 7
  3. PageRank 4
  4. PageRank 6
  5. PageRank 6
  6. PageRank 6
  7. PageRank 5
  8. PageRank 8
  9. PageRank 8
  10. PageRank 8

As you can see, even a PageRank 8 does not get you a top ranking; in this case, it gets you ninth and 10th position in the search results. And a PageRank 4 page is ranked third. Furthermore, one of the PageRank 8 pages, Business Software Alliance, was ninth in the search results.

Google's PageRank number, the number we see in the Google Toolbar and through other online tools, doesn't have much to do with the actual search engine rankings. To check the search engine rankings for yourself, Aaron Wall has an add-on tool for the Firefox Web browser that lets you "analyze" the search results as you search. After installing Firefox, you can go to this page to get more information and to install the add-on.

Once you start the SEO for Firefox tool and perform a search, more data is automatically displayed under each search result. You can easily see useful data (other than PageRank) that might give you a clue as to why the Web page is showing up where it is in the search results.

There are at least 100 or more factors that make up the Google algorithm -- and most likely a lot more than that. As you can see from the "business software" search at Google, a higher PageRank number doesn't necessarily mean better rankings.


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