A lot of times clients will e-mail us with concerns about their under-performing or suddenly dropping Google Pagerank, and wonder if it means that their website’s search engine rankings are suffering as a result.
How important is Google Pagerank to a client or webmaster when it comes to SEO?
Well, it’s actually not as important as you may think.
Your website’s Google Pagerank will not give you much of an accurate indication of how your website ranks on search engines for desirable keywords. A website’s Google Pagerank is based more on the number of inbound links that particular website has, and how many pages of content are on the website. The same can be said for individual pages on a website as well.
And, if you’d like to (try to) understand the technical equation behind how Google Pagerank is calculated, here’s a pretty good explanation. To summarize it: the more quality inbound links and pages of content (which should also have inbound links), the higher the Google Pagerank.
So you’re probably now saying to yourself, “well isn’t that what SEO is? Building links and adding content?”
To an extent, yes, but there is a lot more of a strategy involved than just building links and adding content, and the question at hand is “does a website’s Google Pagerank directly relate to it’s search engine rankings (for particular keywords)?”
No, and here are a few reasons why.
1. Anchor Text Variations
The MOST IMPORTANT aspect of SEO…. more important than a website’s on-page optimization like page titles, meta descriptions, and URL structures, more important that how many links a website has, more important than any other factor related to SEO, is the anchor text of the inbound links a website has.
You could have 5,000 PR5 links coming into a website, but if the anchor text of all of those links are “click here” or “visit our website”, while you may have built up a respectable Google Pagerank, this has nothing to do with how your website ranks on search engines for your preferred keywords because you’re only helping your website rank for “click here” and “visit our website”.
Is it possible that the website still ranks well for keywords like “California personal injury attorney” and “Los Angeles accident lawyer”? Maybe, but it would have a LOT better chance obtaining top rankings if the anchor text of those inbound links were keywords that are within the SEO strategy.
2. Internal Pages
We say this all of the time: don’t focus all of your attention on your website’s home page. You don’t want your home page to rank for every search term that you can think of because it can hurt your conversion efforts.
If you’re a search engine user looking for an auto accident attorney, and you did a Google search for “California auto accident lawyer”, are you more likely to click on and spend on a website in the results if it’s a broad home page with multiple practice areas, or are you more likely to visit a result dedicated to you’re actual search: auto accidents?
Well, the first reason we gave as to why Google Pagerank isn’t directly related to search engine ranking, the anchor text of inbound links for the website’s home page, can be applied to the internal pages on your website as well.
Just because your practice area and other internal website pages have a high or low Google Pagerank, it doesn’t mean that it does or does not perform well on search engines from an SEO standpoint.
We’ve seen practice area pages on other attorneys’ websites with Pageranks of 3/10 (which is pretty good for an internal page), but those pages still struggled to obtain search engine rankings for their desired keywords because the person(s) who performed the link building to those pages had no idea how important anchor text or relevancy (see below) was, and were instead more concerned with obtaining links from websites with high Google Pageranks.
We’ve also seen web pages with lower Google Pageranks, but because the links coming into thos epages were from relevant sources and because the anchor text of those links were directly related with the keywords in ther SEO strategy, those pages ranked better on search engines than those with higher Pageranks.
3. It’s good to have links from websites with high PR, right?
Not so fast.
If you’re a lawyer or you’re involved in legal web marketing in any way, you’ve likely received an e-mail at some point from someone requesting a link exchange. Most of the time, the main selling point of these e-mails is the Google Pagerank of the website that your site will be linked from.
When I first started in SEO a few years back, I realized the importance of link building and thought that the more websites with high Pageranks that I obtained links from, the better my clients would rank.
Then I got to thinking… “hmm, the website’s home page has a Google Pagerank of 5/10, but most of these links are coming from internal pages on the websites, which have low or zero Pagerank. So does it depend on the Pagerank of the home page or internal page?”
Good question, grasshopper. The answer is both, but if the internal page has a high Google Pagerank (which isn’t typical), that is a lot more effective. But, they also need to be relevant links, which means that the pages that your site is linked from shouldn’t also have links to a jet ski rental website in Barbados and a website selling knock-off Nike shoes.
Also, search engines (Google, specifically) take into account what “neighborhood” these links are coming from. This can also be related to something called a “footprint”. This is the most overlooked aspect of SEO.
You probably already know that one-way links are more valuable than two-way or reciprocal links. Well, there are also three-way links, four-way links, five-way links, and so on, and you may not even be aware of them.
Let’s say you hired a website design company to launch your website. This design company specializes in medical malpractice attorneys and, to increase the search engine rankings of their clients, they have a page on every client’s site that links to and from each client.
Also, on the bottom of your website, there is a footer with that particular design company’s info or logo which links back to their website.
When Google’s spiders crawl the design company’s website, your website, and the websites who are clients of the design company (all of which are linking to your website), they are able to establish (because of the “footprint” left between all of the sites) that all of these sites are in the same neighborhood, and the “juice” of these inbound links, regardless of the websites’ Google Pageranks, is lower because this neighborhood has been identified.
This is why, sometimes, you’ll receive link requests (most of the time from SEO consultants or firms) asking you to link to one site, and in return you’ll receive a link from a completely different website. They’re trying to establish one-way links and hide the footprint, but even then it’s hard for the webmasters and SEO companies to cover all of their tracks.
So Google PageRank is Useless To Me?
Not exactly, but your website’s Google Pagerank doesn’t give an accurate indication of how your website performs on search engines.
You should still monitor your website’s Pagerank to make sure it doesn’t experience any dramatic and sudden drops because then you know you have a problem.
You should also still pay attention to the Pagerank of websites you are trying to obtain links from, just make sure you look into the other variables involved which are mentioned above.
You should also monitor the Google Pagerank of your competitors just so you have a general idea of how they are seen, for the most part, in the eyes of Google. But, once again, just because they have a high or low Google Pagerank, it’s not an accurate indication of how well they do on organic search engine results.
The best way for you to know how well your site performs on search engines is to monitor the actual rankings themselves. However, you have probably realized by now that performing searches on your own aren’t always as accurate because the search engines are pulling from your brower’s history and know that you’ve visited certain sites in the past.…