How does PageRank play into natural search rankings and what does PageRank really mean?
Todd D. Malicoat
There is a big difference between ToolBar PageRank (TBPR), and Actual PageRank. Actual PageRank is what SEOs refer to as "link juice," "authority," or other similar terms. PageRank is only as good as the phrases you're ranking for. You can be a TBPR 7 and not actually pass authority to others or rank for things of much importance. I'll take rankings over pretty green pixels any day of the week. For more resources, click here.
The definition of PageRank is best understood by reading what the inventors of it said it is. Now, as to the role PageRank plays with search rankings, there are two very separate and distinct PageRank measures. There's the Google Toolbar PageRank, which is the green bar chart widget we all have at the top of our browser window, and there's the private PageRank values assigned by Google and used in whatever way it uses them for ranking pages. Nobody outside Google can say with full confidence what and how either of them really
work, but it doesn't stop folks from trying.
PageRank is exclusive to Google and is part of its overall ranking algorithm. It's not a primary algorithm, nor does it exclusively power Google's ranking. It's part of the overall process Google uses to determine the quality of a given web page. Google provides a visual representation of PageRank for a URL through it's Google Toolbar, but we know (from Google) this is merely a representation and doesn't accurately portray the internal PageRank Google uses in its ranking algorithm.
There is a very good discussion on PageRank by Google engineer Matt Cutts here.
PageRank is simply a raw measure of links across the web, taken into a graph that ranks pages from most important to least and considers votes/links from more important pages to have more weight and value than those from less important pages. While the underlying concept of PageRank is still very much alive (links as votes, metrics for establishing more important vs. less important pages, etc.), the green pixels in the Google toolbar are a very rough estimation that's often massively out of date (since it's only updated once every 3-6 months) and occasionally deliberately misleading.
PageRank is an algorithm designed to measure a page's relative importance on the internet by analyzing the links pointed to it. PageRank is specific to Google, but each major engine has similar methods of determining a page's link authority. The important thing to remember is that PageRank is only one of many factors that go into ranking a page, and many times high-quality content on lower PageRank sites will outrank their higher PageRank counterparts. The same is true when acquiring links. Focus more on high-quality, relevant content and not on the page's PageRank score.
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