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August 5, 2013

PageRank: Is It Still Important?

Since the advent of search engines, businesses have always strived to be top dog. From a PageRank perspective, this meant scoring the highest number possible, achieved through the art of link building. As time has progressed, the world of SEO and PageRank have become increasingly complex; so much so, some of the factors are no longer as crucial to your business’s success. PageRank lands somewhere in the middle – it’s still important, but it probably won’t make or break you. That’s good news to the masses of companies who have watched their PageRanks take a tumble, especially as the rules have changed.

So why exactly do PageRanks decline, and is it worth the effort in maintaining a high score?

PageRank Definition

Since PageRank is an often misunderstood concept, let’s start by clearly defining what this computation reveals. PageRank is how Google weighs your site’s authority, and it’s determined by evaluating who and what you link to, and who links back. The higher the score, the more credible Google views your site to be.

Consider a popular website like the New York Times. If an article on the site links back to your content, you’ve just been gifted PageRank gold. Since NYT has considerable clout in the eyes of Google, a link to you is a veritable endorsement. Your outbound links are also factored into the final score.

Sites with high PageRanks therefore have the power to pass along what’s called “link juice” to smaller dotcoms. It’s obvious, then, that gaining links from popular websites is, and has been, a critical SEO strategy.

How do you determine your PageRank? Any of the myriad of SEO toolbar plugins will calculate your current rank in an instant. You can also compare your ranking against your competitors in search results to give more context and meaning to your current score.

It’s All About Authority

PageRank is clearly a game of link building. Yet since this is just one small piece of your overall SEO success, never make the mistake of putting all of your eggs in the PageRank basket. There are many cases of sites with solid PageRank that would never call themselves successful. Yet failure to consider PageRank can certainly thwart your efforts too.

Why? At its core, PageRank deals with authority, but it only measures this in terms of the inbound and outbound links you display. Authority is a much bigger issue. If you incorporate this broad-based thinking into your SEO strategy, however, you’re much more poised for marketing success.

Establishing authority can certainly start with link building. If you’ve got a bundle of high profile sites sending you traffic, that’s never a bad thing. But carry the focus on authority into every aspect of your content marketing. This is where many companies fail; they’re so focused on PageRank, they miss the big picture. Every piece of content you publish should ooze authority. You should position yourself as a bona fide expert in your industry, and publish a plethora of media strategies to illustrate this know-how. While creating quality articles and videos may not boost your PageRank, it will affect your overall authority, and that’s far more important.

Why Page Ranks Have Lost Their Luster

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see how the formula for determining PageRank can easily be compromised. A link from a high ranking site does not mean the associated content is user-friendly or valuable in any way, and many have attempted to beat the system by gaining a decent PageRank without quality content to back them up. The emphasis on this score has therefore diminished, but again, don’t count PageRank out – just don’t consider it the Holy Grail.

Facts About Your Declining Page Rank

Since the overall PageRank score certainly does affect a site’s SERPs, many business owners panic when they watch their numbers tumble. And tumble they do, quite often, even over a short period of time.

Why? Declines usually relate to the company you keep in the land of linking. Whoever maintains your link relationships absolutely must stay on top of the connections on a very regular basis. If you link to a site today, as an example, it may be in good standing. But if tomorrow Google dings the site for any blackhat practice, you are in turn penalized for your connection. The links on the sites you link to are also important to study and factor in. A link to a site from your own URL is an endorsement of everything they represent – if they’re linking to questionable content, you are considered liable by Google. As you can see, this is a tangled web indeed.

Additionally, PageRank very commonly declines as Google learns more about the content a site contains. It’s normal to achieve a higher PageRank score out of the gate; then, as Google’s algorithm indexes all the relevant signals, your PageRank may slightly or severely decline, but only because Google is attempting to even out their original optimism. The lesson here is to allow your PageRank for a given piece of content to stabilize over time; don’t bank on the initial score, or you may be in for a disappointment.

Why You Should Still Care About Page Rank

PageRank alone won’t create an insanely popular site. But it does affect your overall search engine rankings, and those are obviously the big boon of SEO efforts.

Think of it this way – if you and a competitor’s site each have a beautiful, user-friendly site full of relevant content, gorgeous graphics, and excellent on-site SEO, a higher PageRank can help you win the race. So by all means, keep your eye on the PageRank prize, but don’t raise your stress levels when your scores naturally lower and normalize.

Have you seen dramatic shifts in your PageRank? If so, how did it affect your overall success? Is PageRank something you still care about?

Digital producer, game designer, Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs, Tina Courtney-Brown has been shaping online businesses since 1996. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, social networks and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and true cooking diva. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.