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Google PageRank is one of the oldest and most well-known algorithms of Google. It evaluates and scores your web page’s external and internal links and impacts your ranking position in the search engine results pages. So, let’s learn all about this algorithm and how it works.

What is Google PageRank?

The PageRank (PR) algorithm was created by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin in 1996. This algorithm ranks web pages in search results by evaluating the number and quality of links to a page. The Google Page Rank algorithm operates on the principle that pages that receive more high-quality links are deemed more important, resulting in a higher ranking position. 

When it comes to modern search engine optimization (SEO), PageRank is one of the algorithms comprising Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness (E-E-A-T). The purpose of this algorithm is to push the most relevant and authoritative page on a given subject to the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). It is important to note that PankRank is not the same as your SERP rank. 

Instead, the PageRank algorithm influences your SERP position via ranking factors. It assigns a numerical value to a webpage based on a qualitative evaluation of the page’s backlinks in relation to other ranking page factors. This factor plays a critical role in determining a page’s position on the SERP. 

The Flaw in the PageRank Formula

The Page Rank formula, a fundamental component of Google’s search ranking algorithm, has long been hailed for its effectiveness in assessing webpage importance and relevance. However, upon closer examination, a critical flaw in the original formulation was uncovered, raising questions about its accuracy and applicability. 

Outlined in the original paper published in 1997, the PageRank formula was presented as:

PR(A) = (1 – d) + D (PR(T1)/C(T1) + … + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))

where, 

  • PR(A) represents the PageRank score of page A which is being evaluated. 
  • (1-d) denotes the damping factor where its value represents the probability that a user continues browsing by following links on the current page rather than jumping to a random page. This factor simulates the likelihood of user behavior in web navigation.  
  • D represents the damping value. 
  • PR(T1), PR(T2), …, PR(Tn) refers to the PageRank scores of the pages linking to page A (T1, T2, …, Tn). These are the contributing pages that pass authority to page A through their respective backlinks.
  • C(T1), C(T2), …, C(Tn) signifies the number of outbound links present on each of the pages (T1, T2, …, Tn) linking to page A. This component represents the total number of links present on each contributing page, influencing the distribution of PageRank authority passed to page A. 

This formula aimed to establish a probability distribution representing the likelihood of landing on any given webpage. The intention was for the sum of PageRank values for all web pages to equal 1, reflecting the comprehensive nature of the analysis. However, upon rigorous examination, a significant discrepancy emerged between the theoretical framework and practical application of the formula. 

A crucial oversight in the original formulation became apparent during analysis. While the formula accounted for a damping factor (denoted as d), intended to simulate user behavior while browsing the web, it failed to achieve the desired outcome of summing up to 1. The miscalculation stemmed from the assumption that each page would have a minimum PageRank of 0.15 (1-d), leading to an inevitable overestimation of the total probability.

To address this discrepancy, adjustments to the formula were proposed. Specifically, it was suggested that the initial component (1-d) be divided by the total number of pages on the internet. This modification aimed to ensure that the formula adhered to the intended probability distribution, thereby yielding accurate results. The refined formula can be expressed as:

PageRank for a page = (0.15/number of pages on the internet) + 0.85 (a portion of the PageRank of each linking page split across its outbound links) 

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By Implementing this adjustment, the PageRank formula can effectively account for the complexities of web connectivity and user behavior, leading to more precise evaluations of webpage importance and relevance. 

A Brief History of PageRank

After the establishment of Google Inc. in 1998, the Google co-founders integrated the prototype into their new search engine in an endeavor to organize searched content. The initial version of Page Rank operated on a straightforward principle that if a page had a substantial number of backlinks, it was deemed an authority on the subject. 

Links had never before held such significance for SERP rankings. Page Rank served as a potent and necessary organizational system for online information that, within a decade of its inception, propelled Google to become one of the most popular search engines on the web. While Google’s PageRank revolutionized the search experience, it was not without its challenges. 

  • Link Spam

The PageRank toolbar publicly displayed a page’s rank on a scale of 0 to 10. However, this proved to be problematic since sites could engage in buying and selling links based on their PageRank. This would shift the focus on the quality of their content, as a determining factor. The sale of links during this early period was another avenue through which site owners could manipulate PageRank. Black hat SEO strategies included link manipulation and auctions, where site owners bought and sold backlinks based solely on the PageRank toolbar. 

  • Nofollow

On January 18, 2005, Google in collaboration with major search engines, introduced the rel=“nofollow” attribute to combat spam. The nofollow attribute aimed to deter the abuse of links in blog comments, trackbacks, and referee lists by ensuring that such links did not contribute to the ranking of linked websites. Despite its effectiveness in curbing comment spam, SEO practitioners found ways to exploit the nofollow attribute, leading to the emergence of practices like PageRank sculpting. 

  • Algorithms Targeting Link Spam

Google intended to provide searchers and emerging SEO professionals with a means of measuring and displaying the quality and authority of the sites they visited. However, they inadvertently created a get-rich-quick scheme for site owners that did not focus on creating quality content. Consequently, the Google Page Rank toolbar was withdrawn in 2016, and with the assistance of other algorithm updates- such as the Penguin Update on April 24, 2012- PageRank began to evaluate links more on an investigative basis rather than solely on a numerical one. 

During the release of Penguin 4.0 on September 23, 2016, Google adopted a more nuanced approach to handling link spam. Instead of penalizing websites, Penguin 4.0 focused on devaluing spam links, thereby minimizing the impact on affected sites. Google continued to refine its strategies for combating link spam, culminating in the first launch of the Link Spam Update on July 26th, 2021. 

This update represented a significant evolution in Google’s approach to addressing unnatural links. Furthermore, a subsequent Link Spam Update on December 14, 2022, introduced the utilization of an AI-based detection system named SpamBrain to identify and neutralize the value of unnatural links more effectively. 

Therefore, through these algorithmic advancements and initiatives, Google aims to uphold the integrity of search results and provide users with more accurate and relevant information while thwarting the efforts of manipulative SEO practices. 

How Does PageRank Work?

PageRank, a cornerstone of Google’s ranking algorithm, primarily relies on link analysis to determine the relevance of authority of web pages. While the intricacies of PageRank remain undisclosed Google uses features to determine page ranking, particularly concerning backlinks and internal linking strategies that influence its calculations. 

  • Backlink Assessment

At the core of PageRank lies the evaluation of backlinks, encompassing the crawling, understanding, and evaluation of incoming links. Beyond the quality of the linked page itself, PageRank scrutinizes the authority and credibility of the linking source. 

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Acquiring a multitude of high-quality backlinks is pivotal for enhancing PageRank. Furthermore, links from recognized authoritative sources, such as government or health organization pages, carry substantial weight in PageRank’s assessment.  

  • Internal Link Optimization

Internal linking strategies play a vital role in PageRank’s evaluation process. It focuses on two key aspects: placements and functionality. The anchor text used in internal links holds significant importance as it not only indicates the targeted keywords but also aids in establishing semantic relationships between interconnected pages. 

This contextual information enables PageRank to refine its understanding of the interconnected web of content and its relevance to user queries. Additionally, employing internal links for seamless site navigation enhances user experience. It is considered a critical factor in Google’s broader ranking criteria. 

  • Other Factors that Impact PageRank

While PageRank’s fundamental principles are understood, its inner workings remain shrouded in mystery. Beyond backlinks and internal linking, various other factors likely contribute to PageRank calculations. These may include user engagement metrics, content quality, and the overall authority of a website. 

As Google continues to refine its algorithms, webmasters must prioritize comprehensive optimization strategies that encompass all facets of PageRank’s evaluation criteria to enhance their visibility and ranking on search engine results pages (SERPs).

How Does PageRank Flow Between Pages?

If a page starts with a value of 5 and 10 links out, then every page it links to is given 0.5 PageRank (less than the damping factor). This mechanism enables the distribution of PageRank across various pages throughout the internet with each iteration. As new pages come onto the internet, they initially possess minimal PageRank. But as other pages start linking to these pages, their PageRank increases over time. 

How Has Google PageRank Changed Over the Years?

The original iteration of PageRank ceased usage in 2006, as indicated by a former Google employee. It was replaced with another algorithm that offered comparable outcomes while significantly reducing the computational resources. This replacement algorithm, which Google still refers to as PageRank, demonstrates a more efficient computational process. 

Despite minor differences, both algorithms adhere to an O(N log N) complexity, with the replacement algorithm featuring a smaller constant on the log N factor. This enhancement became crucial as the web expanded from a few million to over 150 billion pages. 

  • Refinement in Link Valuation

Contrary to the initial approach of uniformly distributing PageRank among all links on a page, contemporary algorithms assign varying importance to different links. Speculation suggests a shift from a random surfer model to a reasonable surfer model, where links with a higher likelihood of being clicked carry more weight.

  • Recognition and Disregard of Links

Various mechanisms have been implemented to disregard the influence of specific links. Notable strategies include the introduction of attributes like nofollow, UGC, and sponsored attributes, alongside algorithms like Penguin and the disavow tool. Moreover, Google disregards links on pages blocked by robots.txt, preventing their inclusion in the crawling process. 

  • Consolidation of Links

Google employs a canonicalization system to determine the primary version of a page for indexing purposes. Canonical link elements, introduced in 2009, enable users to specify their preferred version. While redirects were previously considered to retain PageRank value, the current system ensures no loss of the PageRank through redirects. 

  • Unraveling the Noindex Dilemma

The treatment of links on pages marked as noindex remains somewhat ambiguous. Conflicting statements from Google experts add to the complexity. While some suggest that such pages eventually cease to pass any value through links, others propose that Googlebot continues to discover and follow links as they remain accessible. 

Through these refinements and adaptations, Google continues to enhance the efficiency and accuracy of its ranking algorithms, ensuring users receive the most relevant and reliable search results. 

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Is PageRank Still Used?

Since the public access from the PageRank toolbar was removed in 2016, Google’s PageRank remains somewhat elusive to the general public. However, indications suggest that PageRank continues to play a critical role in Google’s search algorithms. While not directly available to users, Yandex’s (the predominant search engine in Russia) inclusion of PageRank as a factor in its search engine indicates its ongoing relevance in the digital landscape. 

The original iteration of PageRank has been replaced with a more efficient algorithm within Google. However, the fundamental concept remains integral to understanding the ranking of web pages. Despite potential alterations and advancements in Google’s algorithm, PageRank likely still underpins various components of the search engine’s infrastructure. 

How to Check PageRank?

Currently, there is no direct method for individuals to access their PageRank through Google. However, URL Rating (UR) serves as a viable alternative metric, offering insights into a page’s link profile strength on a scale of 0 to 100. 

Like PageRank, UR considers both internal and external links, providing a comprehensive assessment of a page’s authority. While UR presents similarities to PageRank, it does have its limitations, such as disregarding certain links and nofollow attributes. This divergence underscores the importance of understanding that UR may not perfectly align with Google’s PageRank calculation. Despite this disparity, leveraging UR can offer valuable insights into a page’s link profile, guiding link-building strategies effectively. 

How to Improve Your PageRank?

Improving your PageRank revolves around optimizing your link profile. Here are some of the effective ways in which you can boost your PageRank:

  • Redirect Broken Pages

Implementing redirects for outdated or broken pages on your website is crucial. By redirecting old pages to relevant or new ones, you can reclaim lost signals like PageRank. This strategy not only ensures a seamless user experience but also consolidates the authority of your website. Investing time in proper redirects can yield significant improvements in PageRank, as existing links pointing to broken pages can be redirected to actively contribute to your site’s authority. 

  • Focus on Internal Linking

While backlinks are vital, internal links offer a valuable opportunity to optimize your PageRank within your control. Strategically place internal links across your website to direct traffic to essential pages. Consider linking to pages that are central to your objectives or offer high-value content. By structuring your internal linking effectively, you can channel PageRank to priority pages and enhance their visibility in search engine results. 

  • Conduct Quality Backlinking

Acquiring backlinks from reputable external sources is another effective strategy for augmenting PageRank. Actively seek opportunities to secure quality backlinks from relevant websites within your industry or niche. Engage in outreach efforts, guest blogging, or partnerships to attract authoritative external links to your site. Emphasize the quality and relevance of backlinks rather than focusing solely on quality. Each high-quality backlinks serve as a vote of confidence in your website’s authority, contributing positively to your PageRank. 

By implementing these strategies, you can enhance your website Page Rank and strengthen the overall authority of your website. Prioritize the optimization of your link profile, both internally and externally, to maximize your PageRank potential and improve your visibility in search engine rankings. 

Conclusion 

Thus, despite the evolution of PageRank, the enduring importance of quality backlinks in influencing search engine rankings remains clear. While the specifics of PageRank’s current iteration may not be fully disclosed, the fundamental role of backlinks in ensuring search result relevance persists. Google’s consistent reliance on backlink relevance underscores their enduring significance in delivering accurate and pertinent search results. As such, optimizing link profiles remains a crucial aspect of effective SEO strategies for maintaining visibility and authority online.