How Google PageRank Impacts Page Importance

Woman biting pen looking at laptop
Peter Cade/Photodisc/Getty Images

PageRank is what Google uses to determine the importance of a web page. It's one of many factors used to determine which pages appear in search results. PageRank is also sometimes referred to by the slang term "Google juice."

The History of PageRank

PageRank was developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford. In fact the name. PageRank is a likely play on Larry Page's name. At the time that Page and Brin met, early search engines typically linked to pages that had the highest keyword density, which meant people could game the system by repeating the same phrase over and over to attract higher search page results. Sometimes web designers would even put hidden text on pages to repeat phrases. 

What Does It Measure?

PageRank attempts to measure a web page's importance.

Page and Brin's theory is that the most important pages on the Internet are the pages with the most links leading to them. PageRank thinks of links as votes, where a page linking to another page is casting a vote. The idea comes from academia, where citation counts are used to find the importance of researchers and research. The more often a particular paper is cited by other papers, the more important that paper is deemed. 

This makes sense because people do tend to link to relevant content, and pages with more links to them are usually better resources than pages that nobody links. At the time it was developed, it was revolutionary. 

PageRank doesn't stop at link popularity. It also looks at the importance of the page that contains the link. Pages with higher PageRank have more weight in "voting" with their links than pages with lower PageRank. It also looks at the number of links on the page casting the "vote." Pages with more links have less weight.

This also makes a certain amount of sense. Pages that are important are probably better authorities in leading web surfers to better sources, and pages that have more links are likely to be less discriminating on where they're linking.

How Important Is It?

PageRank is one of many factors that determine where your web page appears in search result ranking, but if all other factors are equal, PageRank could potentially have a significant impact on your Google rankings.

Are There Flaws in the Ranking?

There are certainly flaws in PageRank. Now that people know the secrets to obtain a higher PageRank, the data can be manipulated. Google Bombs are a classic example of PageRank manipulation and one for which Google has taken precautionary measures in their ranking formula. 

"Link farming" is another method people attempt to use to manipulate PageRank. Link farming is the practice of linking without thought of the relevance of the pages being linked, and it is often automated. If you've ever run into a web page that was nothing but a collection of random links to other websites, you may have run into a link farm.

Google has adapted its calculations to filter off possible link farms. This is one reason why submitting your website to directories with low or no PageRank may be a bad idea.

If you find your website linked in a link farm, don't panic. In most cases, this has no effect at all on your ranking. You can't control who links to you, anyway. Just don't link back to link farms and don't submit your site to them intentionally.

How Can I See PageRank?

PageRank is measured on a scale of one to ten and assigned to individual pages within a website, not the entire website. Very few pages have a PageRank of 10, especially as the number of pages on the Internet increases.

How Can I Increase My PageRank?

If you'd like to increase your PageRank, you need to have "backlinks," or other people linking to your website. The best way to increase your PageRank is to have quality content that other people want to link.