Page Rank – What it is, What it isn’t, How to get it

Page Rank Myths Exploded – What it is, What it isn’t, How to get it.

by Dave Curtis on 03/12/2010

Is page rank important?

I used to think that page rank didn’t mean a hill of beans, what matters is SERPs (Search Engine Return Pages) for the terms and phrases optimized for. After all, if I could get my clients onto page one in Google in one of the top three spots, why worry about page rank? From there I’d move on to getting more traffic and sales conversions.

The news on this page is nothing earth shattering to even somewhat seasoned SEOs, but if you’re wondering about how page rank works or if you’re just starting out in SEO then this may provide you with some interesting insights.

Page rank does count in determining how thoroughly Google will index a large site, e.g. how many of the site’s full range of pages and categories will be indexed. A page rank of 10 means anything and everything – a page rank of 0 means approximately some unknown small limit. The real question is “how does a site get page rank? What qualifies a site, in Google’s eyes, for an increase in page rank?” (I’ll get to that after what page rank isn’t)

First, what popular myths involving page rank are exposed as false by the research on this page:

  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon content
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon keywords
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon domain name
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon site age*
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon number of pages on a site
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon how often the site content is updated
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon when it is set to expire
  • Page Rank doesn’t rely upon the amount of traffic to a site.

What I’m going to show you below is how page rank actually is achieved based on several pieces of key supporting evidence offered as proof.

I can sum it up in one sentence:

Page Rank is all about inbound links.

Here’s proof:

http://www.lisabarone.com (a WordPress Blog) had a Page Rank of 4 as of Dec. 30, 2009 when I conducted my research. [Update late 2010, the site no longer so I have removed the active link to that site]

Page Rank 4

Page Rank 4

It has just one page and it clearly states “Oh, hey. You found me. At some point I may put content here. Just not today.”

The rest of the page is the standard default WordPress text (except for where to find Lisa Barone on Twitter, on Outspoken Media, and a Twitter RSS plugin… but otherwise unchanged since April 16, 2008, just as it is on hundreds of other WordPress sites that have never been updated.

Just one page, no content, and last updated April 6th, 2008 (over 1 1/2 years without an update)

It also has outbound links, but they are nofollow, so even though Google now treats nofollows a bit differently it doesn’t matter.

One thing that I want to make special not of is the Twitter Updates plugin on the page. That plugin is not helpful for ranking, but I have found one that is.**

As evidenced by HubSpot.com’s Website Grader, Google hasn’t been to the site to index it in a while, and the last crawl date isn’t available:

Google shows no real reason to crawl the site or even index any pages according to HubSpot.com

What the site DOES have is somewhere between 16 and 24 backlinks from some rather hefty sites (seen here: http://www.alexa.com/site/linksin/lisabarone.com )

Alexa shows 16 backlinks:

Website Grader shows 23 backlinks:

Hubspot shows 23 inbound links.

…and Microsoft-Watch.org shows 24 links according to Yahoo:

Microsoft-Watch.org shows 24 backlinks in Yahoo!

So – Page Rank isn’t content. It isn’t number of documents in the site (or a LSI [Lateral Semantic Indexing] / LDA [Latent Dirichlet Allocation] – Sorry Rand Fishkin – it LDA may be correlated with page rank somewhere else, but in this example LDA has nothing to do with Lisa’s page rank.), it isn’t domain age (this site was registered in 2007 and this data was gathered in 2009 – the web site was set to expire in 2 months, so domain age less than 3 years)

LisaBarone.com was registered in 2007

it isn’t anything else but inbound links. Alexa doesn’t even show any appreciable traffic going to the site.  What’s more, the site is set to expire in just a few months – one of the known SEO influencer’s. According to Domain Dossier (above) and HubSpot’s analysis (below):

Domain Age2 years, 9 months, 17 days
Time To Expiration2 months, 13 days

…and so what’s left? Let’s run a check:

  • Content?
  • Keywords?
  • Domain name?
  • Site age?
  • Number of pages?
  • How often the site content is updated?
  • When it is set to expire?
  • The amount of traffic to a site? (Compete and Alexa showed only baseline levels)

The domain for this website is set to expire in less than a year (March 13, 2010 ).

Note: All HubSpot data on Lisabarone.com can be seen here: http://websitegrader.com/site/www.lisabarone.com.

Marketing score of 54

Hubspot quickly provides a lot of important information gathered from various sources. As Lisa hasn’t done anything with her site for a while outside of set it up and add a Twitter Feed to it, it makes for a near perfect “page rank myth” laboratory example.

From what I know of Lisa Barone (who once worked with Bruce Clay, one of the nation’s top SEO firms, and who is now working with Rae Hoffman, North America’s most famous and best qualified Internet Marketer and expert in Affiliate Marketing and SEO) once she finally does decide to pay attention to expanding this blog she will most certainly have a very worthwhile site.

If you’re doing SEO on a site, and have a lot of pages, Page Rank (Read “Get Backlinks”) is important.

While a PR 4 isn’t the greatest in the world, it certainly is above what most well optimized sites that show up on page one in Google have. I personally like HubSpot for checking out my site (or any new site I build) – anything I can do to get a higher score somewhere is probably good – but it’s not as required as good backlinks from strong websites that are related to whatever niche you want your site to belong to.

So what exactly is page rank?

The most current (Oct 19, 2010) thought is that pagerank is what allows more pages of your site to be indexed. If you have a 1,000 page site but a page rank of 1, it’s highly unlikely your site is fully indexed to return each page’s results in the search engine return pages. Thus for smaller sites lower page rank may not be so bad – it’s when your site becomes a bit heftier that you need more of it. That’s putting it very simply, but in essence that’s the value of page rank.

Take a look at any page one results in Google and measure the page rank of each page that shows up. Some of the higher pages are from lower page rank sites than the ones beneath them in the search engine results. So it’s the data on the page that’s being returned based on how good the content is perceived to be by Google’s algorithm – but only because those pages have been indexed.

So what does Matt Cutts have to say?

Finally, even though this video is primarily about how Google measures domain age Matt Cutts of Google has this to say regarding number and quality of backlinks in determining rank. He’s quite specific in the last few sentences of this video when he says “It’s mostly the quality of your content (quite obviously, based on the above evidence, this is not true) AND THE SORT OF LINKS THAT YOU GET AS A RESULT OF THE QUALITY OF YOUR CONTENT THAT DETERMINE HOW WELL YOU’RE GOING TO RANK IN THE SEARCH ENGINES.” (3:00 to 3:10)

* Domain age and site age are two different things. Depending upon what the SEO is looking to do, either or both can play a role and either or both (domain age and site age) can be important – but that’s for another case study.

** There is a Twitter plugin for WordPress called Twitter Widget Pro that integrates keywords on your pages with your tweets which Google then finds and indexes.

Integrated Twitter feed keywords with WordPress on-page text.

Twitter Widget Pro by Aaron D. Campbell


This is a nice way to vary dynamic keyword content throughout your blog / site and by judiciously re-tweeting keyword rich comments you can easily have your site show up for many of your industry’s newly trending and / or most consistent keywords.