Common Misconceptions: PageRank

I’ve been spending quite a lot of time recently on the Google Webmaster forum reading through issues that people are having.

I like being able to help people who are struggling with their sites and also learn new information from the other people posting on there.

However, there is one theme that keeps on coming up that makes my heart sink.


That magic formula that Larry Page developed which determines the popularity of a page based on the pages linking to it

Just today I have seen 5 questions from people asking why their PageRank has not updated after doing xyz to their site.

The PageRank that you or I see when we go onto a site, whether on the little green bar on the Google Toolbar or through an SEO add on, is NOT the same as the PageRank that Google use in their algorithm.

What we see is ‘nominal PageRank’; it is only updated about 4 times a year and is based on whole numbers from 0-10. Actual PageRank is constantly updated and is fractional (e.g. 5.3).

PageRank has become a focus for many people in the industry, (both experts and novices) because it is tangible. However, would you be happy with a PageRank of 7 but no new business coming in? I really hope the answer is no.

It is much better to focus your time and energy on getting that new business. Online, that will mean getting to the top of the search engines. Yes having a good PageRank can help, but if you have a great site, with good SEO and strong, relevant links the chances are you will get where you need to. If, along the way the little green bar fills up some more, great!

Google sum this up very nicely on their webmaster FAQ’s:

“Q: My site’s PageRank has gone up / gone down / not changed in months!
A: Don’t worry. In fact, don’t bother thinking about it. We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner. If you’re looking for metrics, we’d encourage you to check out Analytics, think about conversion rates, ROI (return on investment), relevancy, or other metrics that actually correlate to meaningful gains for your website or business.”

So there you have it. Yes PageRank is a ranking factor, but there are over 200 others as well. If people put as much thought and effort into those as they do PageRank, chances are they would be exactly where they wanted to be!