PageRank is a system for analyzing and comparing website links used by the Google search engine. A website’s Google PageRank (PR) is a numerical value from 1 to 10 which represents the quantity and quality of links pointing at it from other websites. Basically, Google is assigning a website a score out of 10 for its “link popularity”. No one outside of Google can explain precisely how PageRank is calculated, but it involves comparing a site’s inbound links, outbound links, and the in and outbound links of the sites it shares links with. PageRank (named after Google co-founder Larry Page), is one of several parts of Google’s search algorithm which determines what rises to the top of search query results. Websites with a higher PageRank score will often come up higher and more frequently in Google’s organic search results, though a high PR doesn’t necessarily mean high rankings – and it’s certainly possible to get to the top of the search results with a low PageRank.
The more high quality incoming links, the higher the PageRank number. For example, CNN.com has a PR of 10 and YouTube.com has a PR of 9. Every time someone’s blog links to a CNN news story, or a YouTube clip, it’s counted by Google as a positive “vote” for the site. Meaning it’s a positive affirmation that the website is valid and useful, and something Google would feel comfortable displaying as a search result. Hundreds of thousands of “votes” for CNN and YouTube earned them their high PR numbers. However, the biggest impact on a site’s PageRank score comes from links from other websites with high PR scores. So, a CNN or MSNBC (PR 8) story including a link to YouTube.com would have a bigger and more positive impact on YouTube’s page rank than hundreds (maybe even thousands) of links from low PR blogs. A link to a much more small time website, say, a small business with a PageRank of 4, from a big PR player like MSNBC would have the same big impact. Probably enough of an impact to increase the small business’s PageRank, while three dozen blog links may not even push it up by a hair.
If you have a website and are trying to increase the number of links pointing at it, PageRank is one of the things you should keep in mind when researching and networking. It’s certainly not the only factor to consider, but if all the links to your website are coming from websites with a PR of 1 or 2, you’ll find it hard to increase your own score. Many low quality links (like those from known Link Farms or Link Exchange programs) are filtered out by Google and not counted towards a site’s PR score. In fact, an over abundance of low or poor quality links can actually bring a website’s PageRank score down significantly. Quality far, far outweighs quantity within their page ranking system.
The easiest way to check a website’s PageRank is to install the Google Toolbar, which will display the PR of every site you visit. There are also a variety of online tools that will check a website’s page rank for you. A PageRank of zero usually means a website is fairly new and has not yet been fully evaluated, though it can mean the site in question is currently incurring some kind of penalty from Google and is being filtered out of search results.
All search engines use link popularity as part of their website ranking algorithms, but PageRank is exclusive to Google, so a high or low PR will have no effect on how well a website fares at Yahoo, Bing or any other search engine.
Learn more about Google PageRank and why it’s important to your website.