Google PageRank was once the be all end all of SEO. This algorithm was designed to find the websites that matter and rank them accordingly on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). This was the first algorithm used by Google and is the best known because of it.
When it comes to Google PageRank now, there are two schools of thought: it still matters, or it’s dead. Confusing enough for you? It gets better. Here are some of the arguments for and against Google PageRank today, and why it still matters (or doesn’t) to digital marketers.
The Evolution of Google PageRank
Google PageRank was got its title from the conveniently named co-founder of Google, Larry Page. In association with co-founder Sergey Brin, Page implemented the PageRank algorithm to measure how many incoming links there are on a website to create a rough estimate of which pages have authority over others. In a nutshell, the more links there are, the more people must find the data relevant.
The first worldwide consumer experience with PageRank was when the Google search engine was launched in 1998. Thus, the proprietary eponym “Google it!” was born. In its heyday, Google PageRank was publically displayed via the Google toolbar. Digital marketers and consumers alike could use this scaled display to evaluate their rankings on Google, which quickly became an obsession leading to unethical practices to abuse the system.
The Arguments Against Google PageRank
Google finally killed the PageRank toolbar in 2016 after leaving Pandora’s box open for nearly two decades. The main argument against Google PageRank is that it brought out the predators who were looking to make a quick buck selling links and faking a positive PageRank as well as shifted the focus from creating quality content to aiming for quantity. After all, if you could spend a day putting out 20 low-quality articles rife with links rather than producing one high-quality article in the same amount of time, why wouldn’t you?
The business of buying and selling links for a PageRank boost detracted from the original goals of Google’s toolbar notification, which were to inform consumers when they were on a high-quality, relevant, and safe site. As such, spammy sites and scam artists were ranking high because of the unethical practices they followed. As such, most people were happy to see PageRank go.
The Arguments for Google PageRank
There are two contradicting adages that apply to the disappearance of the Google PageRank toolbar. One being, “out of sight, out of mind” and the other being, “you can’t unring a bell.” While Google PageRank is no longer a publicly used visual aid, it’s common knowledge that link building has a lot of merit when it comes to SEO.
Over the years, Google has put more algorithms in place to counteract mindless link building farms that value quantity over quality. Metrics like your website’s bounce rate, time spent on a page, clicks, page views, and conversions all indirectly assess the quality of your site and content. The lack of visual guide makes it less likely for consumers to be tricked into visiting a low-quality website.
The main argument for Google PageRank is that just because it’s no longer publicly visible, doesn’t mean it is inexistent. If the algorithm still applies– which it does– why hide it? Google has also implemented systems that can detect if you have hundreds of spammy links leading to your work, rather than quality backlinks (whether paid or not). If it detects this issue, you will quickly find yourself missing from the SERP, no matter how high you ranked beforehand.
Boosting Your PageRank the Right Way
There are numerous ways to improve your SEO and perception by the overall Google PageRank algorithm without abusing the system and subjecting yourself to penalization from the Google bots. Here are some of the common ones used:
Nofollow Links and Page Sculpting
Google introduced nofollow links as a way to link to other websites without sharing a piece of the rating pie. When a nofollow link is used during a citation or reference, Google will do exactly as the name implies when crawling over your data: it will not follow the link.
Many sites opt to use the nofollow links for internal content as well as external. In doing so, they are able to direct search engine results and change the ranking hierarchy of their pages so that only the ones with the potential to convert customers will show on the SERP. In doing so, they still have internal links to decrease their bounce rate with, but drive traffic where it matters.
If you choose to use backlinks to boost your SEO– and you should, as it’s still the prime metric– do so with quality and care. Ensure the websites that are linking to you are not spammy and low-risk. The content that links to you should be naturally worded, not a list of links that will inevitably get penalized by Google.
Commenting on blogs and websites with your link is still an effective way to boost your rankings, so long as you are doing it in person without the use of bots. Bots will be detected and shut down faster than you can say “PageRank.”
Implied links are a relatively new aspect of PageRank which Google is keeping close to the vest. Instead of just direct links, having your business name mentioned in an article is counted as an implied link. There is also a buzz about the tone of the site being assessed to determine if your site is being referenced with a positive, negative, or neutral tone. When crafting your own content, there are many online tools you can use to assess the overall tone of the piece.
While the controversy and hubbub regarding PageRank have died down, the concept behind the algorithm is still important and plays directly into your SEO. Rather than relying on a toolbar, use your Google analytics and keyword optimization tools to create high-quality content that supports organic traffic. When looking at link building opportunities, target high-quality websites and content that will improve your ratings overall.