I thought it was all over that the message had finally gotten through to even the most stubborn digital point fan boy. PageRank does not equate to search engine rankings, yet some still remain unconvinced what’s scary is some of the FUD coming out to prove the link. Fantomaster posted about HTML4SEO latest study which proves the existence of a link between PageRank and rankings(PDF) based on thousands of SEO audits.
I could pick them to bits for not actually providing any methodology or showing how they determined rankings etc but I’m not going to because on the whole I agree with their findings but not the conclusion being drawn in some circles that this is proof PageRank has any effect on the SERPs
I want to make this simple,
One (and note the word one) of the major factors in determining PageRank as defined by Google is the number and quality of inbound links to the site.
One (and again note the word one) of the factors of ranking a site is the number of inbound links and its relationship with the page.
PageRank and Search engine rankings therefore have at least one common factor, this does not mean that PageRank effects the search engine rankings it means that they have something in common and as such you will see at least some correlation.
Or to put it even more simply
We share much of the same DNA as a pig with only a few changes yet you couldn’t say that the pig has a direct effect on humans (we do eat them and rear them so perhaps not a perfect analogy) I could go on, having a common factor does not imply a direct relationship.
So it has no direct effect on rankings but it does to visitors!
I really have heard this from a “Google expert” the question I always ask is how? How does Page Rank effect your visitor numbers and the answer is it doesn’t because it is not an it! PageRank is a metric a score to help Google and others to rate a site nothing more. Sure people have come to rely on it, as a means of identifying a “quality” site from another but none of this relates to traffic. Indeed when Andy Beard had his PageRank reduced by Google for “selling links” he has actually seen an increase in traffic (with no major change from search traffic) through the publicity.
Most bloggers gain their traffic from 3 sources, inbound links, search engines and social media – none of these traffic sources have a reliance on PageRank. The one where PR may make a difference is the inbound links, not because the traffic from such links will be reduced but some webmasters refuse to link to low PR sites because they are worried that Google will reduce their own PR if they do!
PR is all about linking to other high PR sites
The key to increase your PageRanks is to only accept links from high PR sites is another common statement. Again there is a simple question to be asked how do all those PR7,8,9 sites manage to keep there rankings when they are always being linked to and indeed themselves link to low PR sites?
Hey I want the stats
I thought so, you’re becoming cynical this is good, so lets look at a small sample of sites which have been monitored for 6 months,
|Tim Nash SEO Blog*|
|Shipping Charges UK|
|All About Asking|
*Tim Nash SEO Blog is a little unfair on here as it has had a 301 from .me.uk to .co.uk after a probable penalty.
Out of the further 60 sites checked, most (65%) gained 1 or more PageRank positions, while traffic was down by approximately 1.2% of the sites checked, the average ranking for their 3 primary keywords changed by approximately 0.2 of a position.
These are not staggering statistics – it shows apart from anything else that I need to stop writing blog posts and start promoting some of these sites, but it also shows that within my small sample there is some correlation between rankings and traffic. The static sites which tend to not have social media sites passing them traffic see the most notable correlation between ranking and traffic. You will note however while most sites gained a PageRank position this did not correlate to a boost in the rankings indeed in some cases the opposite.
Is PageRank useless?
I think it’s important now to separate the green bar which is what people talk about when discussing PageRank and the original algorithm which once upon a time had some impact on the SERPs. In recent month we have seen numerous sites hit with penalties and more people talking and linking to these sites then hot dinners, people like Rob Watts, Andy Beard indeed Andy is keeping a list which appears to be growing. These sites provide quality content all of whom are still ranking well and have no overall reduction in long tail or primary keyword searches. So having their PageRank cut is hardly a major penalty but a useful scare tactic. It is I presume easier to modify a green bar manually then to manually throw a spanner into one of the most complex algorithms on the planet to affect rankings.
PageRank is being used as a weapon or punishment tool why then are we still as webmasters using it as a metrics? Why are people still whining or even looking at it. A recent discussion I had with a blogger who had his PR dropped and was worried it would effect his new business venture because people would see it as some sort of stigma. The presumption was people care, I don’t go round looking at sites PR (unless I’m writing a blog entry on the subject) do you?
The question should therefore not be is PageRank useless but is it a precursor to something more? Again many bloggers have watched what happened to John Chow (who still doesn’t rank for his name) and are wondering if their PageRank drop a warning of worse to come?
To sum up
PageRank is nothing but a metric, as one of it sources it uses inbound links, Web site rankings also use inbound links as one of their sources. This means that there should be a relationship between increased PageRank and better rankings, it does not mean PageRank effects the search engine results. I also have a metric called RFSSTRW which is a simple way for me to rate bad sites it uses inbound links as one of its sources.The key it has no more or less involvement with the ranking of sites then PageRank does!
Final thoughts: Chicken or the Egg
I will leave you with one final question; How did the first PageRank 10 site get its PageRank, if as it’s believed sites must have links from sites with a higher PageRank? I will leave you to sort out this little problem in your head while I go and deal with my declining rankings.
Quick Update – I thought I would link to two conflicting stories about PR0 sites, these guys both lost all their PageRank as a punishment, one has seen no change in their traffic, the other a significant drop. Is this proof of a link or simply more proof that PageRank has nothing to do with rankings, so without further ado Big Foot Marketing Story & Gather Success blog story.