Why Page Rank is not useful

I’ve been writing a few threads on an SEO forum over at sitepoint and other places recently and trying to dispel the myth that Page Rank is not as useful as most people think.

When I optimize a website and its pages for search terms it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy when I check the logs and see that I am getting a large percentage of my traffic from search engines and more importantly from the search terms that I have optimized my pages for.

Google Page Rank is pretty stinky!

I also like to see my site in the top 10 on a SERP for a phrase I am optimizing for.

Unfortunately, I don’t see Google apply a page rank to my sites and pages that reflect my top positioning for the core terms.

  • If I have a site about “blue widgets”, let’s state the following assumptions:
  • the site has the domain blue-widgets.com or bluewidgets.com.
  • the site has a moderate volume of traffic, nothing to write home about.
  • the site is on page one of Google for the term “blue widgets”
  • the site is #1 for the term “blue widgets” since it is a niche site with no real competition
  • 90% of my traffic is from search engines
  • 80% of the traffic from search engines are from key terms and phrases that I have optimized for, including “blue widgets

I have optimized many sites for myself and for others that fit this framework. What I am finding is that the traffic may me low to moderate in volume but the product or information is being received well, users are clicking on related adverts and everything is looking good with regards to visitors coming to the site because they searched for the right phrases that my site provides information on.

Then Google applies its Page Rank. I get my first Page Rank allocation after a few months. My traffic is growing and the traffic is good and related to what I am discussing/advertising/selling/ranting about. I get a PR of 3, woooot!!! The next 6 months I get upgraded to Page Rank 4, wow! All that hard work and now I have PR of 4! Then what? My site is making a lot of money from the targeted ads I am using and from Adsense. I am the #1 authority on “blue widgets” globally so I decide to make more localized results and pages for specific countries and hope that my PR grows!

After a year it is still a 4, maybe I’ll get lucky and hit a PR of 5. What next? I can go to advertisers and say, “hey I have a Page Rank of 5 and ummm, I am top of Google for “blue widgets” which is what you sell, oh, and my traffic is growing!” I wonder why they would care about Page Rank in that sentence? It is ultimately useless if you’re getting the targeted traffic from the terms you optimize for.

When you download a browser or when you get a new computer with Internet Exploder pre-installed on a Windows PC (or Safari on a Mac), the lil green bar that represents Page Rank, is it there? Or do you have to download the Google search bar?

I love seeing highly ranked pages based on PR that have garbage content. If you see any, please drop a comment in here.

5 Replies to “Why Page Rank is not useful”

  1. I think Page Rank should be considered on a relative scale. You may be the top blue widget distributor, but if blue widgets are a niche market you're just never going to get a Page Rank of 9 like we have for http://www.case.edu. Your small company site, no matter how wonderful, just won't have the breadth of content that draws inbound links the way a large university or corporate site would.

    That's O.K. though because you're not competing with Case, you're only competing with other Blue Widget folks. In that category perhaps 4 is considered very high. My blog, which is a bit over 3 years old now has a rank of 6. I host it on the Case blog server, so I gain benefit from the association with the university. Also as I've created more content there is more to link to and many of my readers have been kind enough to Stumble or link to my pages. But even if I were to blog every day, and if each of those entries was brilliant, I still don't think I'd come close to a 9.

    p.s. I downloaded the Google Toolbar to get the Pagerank to show up in my browser.

  2. Heidi, thanks for the comments. I get a lot of value from people's opinions when I actually try to write a critical post.

    I imagine I should have noted that obtaining high PR is not usually possible with niche sites. To quote Google:

    “In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves “important” weigh more heavily and help to make other pages “important”.”

    I guess if you don't have a globally popular site then you won't get that inbound link thing happening, however, your site still may be the authority on “Blue Widgets” and thus shouldn't Google at least acknowledge it? I don't know, just asking questions. For me, being top in the search engines for key phrases is more important to me than that horrid little green bar 🙂

    BTW. I don't know if this is a localized thing but I'm seeing case.edu as having 8/10 PR.

  3. The horrid green little bar is a marketing tool. Period.

    There are is the Algorithmic PageRank (which has no upper limit) and the marketing PageRank (which is the 0-10).

    Any further investigation of it having relevance beyond CPM based advertising sales is moot. Have a read:

    http://infolab.stanford.edu/~backrub/google.html

    Also keep in mind Case Western University is classed on an EDU IP block which will also be considered of high quality (much easier to attain that magical 0-10) as opposed to a Commercial site.

    Have a great long weekend.

  4. Yeah, we've had this conversation a few times on MSN. I've been writing on forums about the relative uselessness of PR. Enjoy the long weekend. What is there to do on BC day?

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