Digital Marketing

Explaining the Google Search Page Rank algorithm briefly

Let us take a step back in time and look at the fact that Page Rank was the chief SEO metric everyone was buzzing about. Those who have been working in the industry for quite some time, they know the excitement that was brought about whenever PageRank received an update. It even had its own toolbar.

With luck, any marketer’s/company’s/digital marketing team’s recent efforts would have delivered a rise in their PageRank score, knowing that Google was now viewing the website in a more authoritative view than it previously did.

A rise in the PageRank score was once a real demonstrator that the SEO strategy (and the link building strategy in particular) worked quite well. However, fast forward to today, and PageRank is hardly mentioned anywhere.

But It is not because the algorithm is no longer important, it is just because it is no longer a metric that faces the public. When SEO professionals can no longer be able to measure something, then they stop talking about it.

Now let us now learn more about Google PageRank Algorithm, and why it is important this year.

PageRank – What is it?

PageRank is a web page ranking system. Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin developed it at Stanford University. Yes, the algorithm is all about links. The higher the PageRank of any link, the more authoritative it is. 

The higher a link’s PageRank, the more authoritative it was. Experts simplified the algorithm to describe it as a way for a webpage’s importance to be measured through analysis of quantity and quality of the links pointing to it.

About the PageRank’s score

Without much surprise, PageRank is a complex algorithm that assigns a score of importance to a web page. But as far as the daily SEO is concerned, PageRank was a linear representation of a logarithmic scale between 0 and 10 which was displayed on its toolbar.

A PageRank score of zero typically represents a low-quality website. While on the other hand, a score of 10 would represent those websites that are quite authoritative.

What is the key to understanding PageRank scores especially in the context that it uses a logarithmic scale? 

Explained in simple terms, a logarithmic scale is a way of displaying numerical data over a broad range of values in a compressed manner. Usually, the largest numbers in the data are hundreds or even thousands of times larger than the smallest numbers.

A brief history of the Google PageRank algorithm

The first ever PageRank patent was filed on September 1, 1998. It became the original algorithm that Google used for calculating the importance of a web page and for its ranking too. 

In short, Google was formed on the basis of Sergey Brin’s idea that information on the web can be ranked based on a web page’s link’s popularity. Meaning, the more links point to a page, the higher it will rank.

Page Rank algorithm

The search engine of Google has two important features that help it produce results of high quality and precision. What it does first is that it uses the web’s link structure to calculate each web page’s quality ranking. Such ranking is known as PageRank. Secondly, Google utilizes links to improve search results.

PageRank Algorithm is what made Google the unique search engine it is today.

The PageRank toolbar

Google introduced the toolbar that we all now come to remember as the way in which any company could see their website’s PageRank score, and that of their competitors as well. As a consequence, a lot of SEO professionals began focusing solely on PageRank as a metric for improving rankings.

This was driven usually by a simple understanding of the algorithm itself that a web page with the highest number of links should have the highest ranking.

A simple explanation of this approach was made by numerous professionals in the early 2000s. They explained that their goal was to get as many links as possible from web pages with as high a PageRank as possible.

This then began to show that PageRank was getting manipulated, with money being used to change hands for links. This became known to a lot of people as Link farming. Fast track almost 15 years later, Google would stop updating this toolbar. In 2016, the tech giant completely retired the PageRank algorithm.

This however does not mean that Google stopped using PageRank as part of the algorithm. All it did is it stopped making it a public-facing metric.

How PageRank works?

PageRank is indeed a fascinating algorithm. Each SEO and link building professional should understand it in-depth to provide context to the reason why links still remain among Google’s top three ranking factors.

When the patent was first filed and Google’s early algorithm developed, it was based around the theory that a link from one website to another worked as a vote of authority and trust. Therefore, the more links point towards a page, the more it should be trusted and hence lead to a higher ranking.

However, as defined in the original definition, PageRank extends this idea not by just counting the links from all pages equally, but also by normalizing by the amount of links present on a page.

A link is not just a straight vote. The authority of a page is taken into consideration. A link from a PageRank page number 6 is hence a more authoritative vote than that from a PageRank page number 2. Moreover, this flow of ranking mechanism between the pages analyzed was sometimes referred to as ‘link juice.’

Here are the calculations of PageRank

Assuming Page A has pages T1….Tn which point to it (citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. That parameter is often set to 0.85. Also, the variable C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is as under:

PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + …. + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

It should be noted that the PageRanks form a probability distribution over web pages, hence the sum of all pages’ PageRanks will be one.

In simple terms, this means that the PageRank of Page B is calculated by multiplying the PageRank of Page A by 0.85. This is known as the ‘dampening factor.’ If Page B gets links to Page C, it hence receives approximately 85% of B’s PageRank and almost 73% of Page A’s.

If a web page has no links pointing to it, it does not begin with a 0 PageRank, but rather, 0.15. Yet, things become more complex when there is more than one external link on a page.

What are the factors that influence PageRank and which are the ones that still matter today?

There were (and are) factors that influenced PageRank. It is an understood fact that not all links were created equal, especially in terms of PageRank because they pass. Now let us have a look at some of the factors that can and have been able to influence PageRank.

Here are the factors that are counted:

  • Anchor text.
  • The likelihood of the link being clicked.
  • Internal links.
  • Nofollow links.

For which reasons did Google retired the PageRank Toolbar

SEO professionals became quite obsessed with Page Rank, and it quickly became an SEO tactic which was receiving the most focus, even more than creation of worthwhile content and a solid user experience (client document portal).

The problem lay in publicly sharing PageRank scores. It made it easy for SEO professionals to manipulate the scoring, along with influencing other factors, like anchor text, nofollow as well as the reasonable surfer model.

SEO professionals knew how they can use PageRank to rank their websites higher, and they took an unfair advantage of all this.

Examining all this from Google’s perspective, the public-facing PageRank toolbar was the problem. Without it, there was no accurate measurement mechanism of a web page’s authority by official means.

These professionals hence made wrong use of the algorithm and used it to manipulate rankings. Google was hence left with no other choice than to retire the toolbar in 2016.

Does PageRank still matter this time?

Surprisingly, Page Rank still matters today. Though that toolbar is no longer present, the once convenience toolbar that gave companies, marketing teams and professionals a web page’s PageRank score, this doesn’t mean that it is not being used today (sales prospecting methods). 

In 2017, Google executive Gary Illyes confirmed on social media platform Twitter that the company was still using PageRank.

PageRank did not go away that easily. Understanding its mechanisms helps SEO professionals understand SEO and a way to improve their trade. This is why each SEO executive must read Googles original paper.

Those who are wondering if a replacement for it exists, Google has not officially released a new version of the toolbar. Yet, PageRank is still being used by Google. But SEO professionals cannot measure website rankings with just one tool. A wide array of SEO tools and platforms are present and each has its own authority metrics.

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