I’ve had a few questions brought to me regarding a blog post on the relevance of PageRank.
After reading the post, I would like Mike Volpe from HubSpot to answer one simple question. I will offer a free link on one of my sites. One is a PageRank 8 and the other is a Page Rank 2. The question is: Which site will you pick to get a link from? The answer is obvious.
PageRank is absolutely relevant. Is it a precision timely measure? Absolutely not. Is it a relevant indicator? Absolutely yes. Should it be tracked? Definitely. Just because something is hard to do doesn’t mean you can quit doing it. Just because it is harder to track and correlate PR changes with content changes, or link acquisition, due to the update lag or the exponential scale of PR, doesn’t mean that directional changes in PR aren’t worthwhile to track.
Google let the cat out of the bag when they originally released the PageRank bar and they can’t get it back in. Since then, they’ve tried to convince people to ignore it like they are the Wizard of Oz: ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.’ They try to make it harder to track by lagging the updates and adjusting the exponential scale every six months or so to try to discourage people from calculating its true value and relevance.
The true issue with PageRank is how to communicate its value to clients. PageRank is a measure and a directional indicator that we can use to get an idea of the potential performance or value of a page.
PageRank is a ranking factor not the ranking factor. Although PageRank is an indicator of rankability, other factors in the algorithm can become more relevant than PR for a particular query.
Here comes the word problem:
If Car A goes 60MPH, and Car B goes 61MPH, and both leave at the same time to drive 1 mile, which one arrives first? Given the data presented it would seem that Car B would arrive first. However, the data not presented was that Car A is a Porsche 911 Turbo that does 0 to 60 in 3.4 seconds and Car B is a 1984 Yugo that does 0 to 60 in just over 5 minutes. ;-) If the distance was greater, then the MPH would become more of a factor and the Yugo could eventually move into the Number 1 position. Without knowing all of the factors, the MPH is still a good potential indicator of the outcome, but how much of a factor is not entirely known. Link Text, Link Volume, Site and Page Topic, Short Term Index, Big Brand Boost, etc. are all potential factors that could overwhelm a good PageRank.
Let’s take a look at one of the (Hubspot) website’s keywords — ‘marketing resources’. You can see that you basically need a PR 5 or above to be in the Top 10.
Rank PageRank Reg. Year Domain
1 3 2003 http://www.marketingresources.com/
2 6 1999 http://www.marketingprofs.com/
3 6 1999 http://marketing.about.com/
4 4 1997 http://marketingresource.com/tips/
5 5 1995 http://www.resource.com/
6 5 2009 http://www.marketingsource.com/
7 7 1998 http://www.knowthis.com/
8 5 2005 http://www.hubspot.com/marketing-resources/
9 3 1996 http://www.mrlweb.com/
10 7 2001 http://www.agmrc.org/
‘What about the PR3s and PR4?’, you say. Well, looking at #1 with a PR3, you can see that the Keyword is the domain name which means that the inbound link text, when just the domain is used, will include the Keyword where the same links to ‘marketingprofs.com’ and ‘marketing.about.com’ would not. ‘MarketingResources.com’ is naturally going to have more link text with the keyword than anything else in the Top 10 on a per-link percentage basis. Now looking at #4. Again, the keyword (or the singular version of it) is in the domain name which will naturally create more inbound links with the near broad match of the Keyword text.
‘O.K. So how does that explain #9 (mrlweb.com) with a PR3?’ you say. MRL stands for ‘Marketing Resources Ltd.’ which brings up another ranking parameter besides the natural inbound link text of the company’s name. Both #1 and #9 are registered Corporations with multiple physical addresses and they have been in existence for ~20+ years. Both of these most likely are gaining benefit from Google’s ‘Big Brand’ update which gives preference to longstanding and/or brick and mortar companies. Considering that Domain Registration Year is a factor in the ‘Big Brand’ update, #9 with a PR3 and #4 with a PR4 (the 2nd and 3rd lowest PRs in the Top 10) are the 2nd and 3rd oldest domains in the Top 10.
A blog post with a PageRank of 0 could get a short term index boost and rank for a couple minutes, days, or weeks before it drops out. But that’s not a long-term strategy. Nor is it something that is predictably reproducible or maintainable across hundreds or thousands of keywords that a web site may want to rank for in order to drive convertible traffic, and not necessarily just traffic volume.
The reason why PageRank is relevant is that it is something you can track and that you have to ability to affect. You can’t change the Created Date on your Domain Registration. You can’t prevent other sites from getting a short term index boost. You can’t change the fact that a brick and mortar competitor has been a registered corporation filing 10Q’s for 20 years. You can’t stop Google from adjusting their sliding scale and changing everyone’s PageRank. You can, however, improve your PageRank over time through architecture improvements, content improvements, and targeted link acquisition that will give your site and pages better long-term rankability. Or, you could submit an XML sitemap to Google, get your site crawled, and not worry about your irrelevant PageRank. Then you can sit with a PageRank NR, 0 or 1 and have a site that is indexable but not rankable and track your highly relevant but non-existent traffic.