Friday, 6 November 2009

Pagerank is Dead! Or Is It?

If there's one aspect of SEO that causes countless arguments and pointless slanging matches it's the subject of Pagerank. I guess if you are reading this you are looking for a definitive answer on whether or not Pagerank really is dead, well read on.

The latest Pagerank talking shop started with Google's announcement about removing Pagerank from Google Webmaster Tools. This has been wrongly interpreted as Google no longer using Pagerank to measure the importance of pages. In Google's own words;

"PageRank Technology: PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results."

So where does most of the confusion surrounding Pagerank come from? In my experience people cite the simple fact that in a SERP it's common to see a Pagerank 5 page below a Pagerank 3 page, for example. So is this evidence that Pagerank doesn't mean anything? Yeah sure, in the same way that a Porsche 911 beating a Range Rover around a race track is proof that in all situations the Porsche is a better car.

Pagerank is ONE metric of many used by Google when ranking pages for a search. How important a metric is anybody's guess, Google won't tell you and nobody outside Google, and probably most people inside Google, don't know the answer.

So let's look at some examples:

Search Phrase - Car Insurance
Phrase Match Volume* - 3,550,000
Top Ten Results Pagerank** - 6,6,5,5,6,5,5,4,4,5

Search Phrase - Cheap Flights
Phrase Match Volume* - 5,000,000
Top Ten Results Pagerank** - 6,6,5,8,7,6,5,6,6,4

Search Phrase - City Break
Phrase Match Volume* - 74,000
Top Ten Results Pagerank** - 5,5,5,4,5,3,5,4,5,4

Search Phrase - Web Design Software
Phrase Match Volume* - 22,200
Top Ten Results Pagerank** - 9,4,9,5,4,4,5,4,4,4

As discussed above these results show low Pagerank pages performing better than high Pagerank pages. But does this mean Pagerank is dead? Not from where I'm sitting. It suggests to me that some pages Google doesn't regard as highly as others in absolute terms have both content and a link profile that suggests they match the search criteria. It's that simple.

By removing the Pagepank measure from WMT I think Google are suggesting website owners stop obsessing about Pagerank and perhaps even more importantly stop buying links from high Pagerank sites.

Of course, all the above is speculation, as is everyone else's mutterings on the subject but to me it makes more sense than declaring Pagerank is dead. Pagerank is central to Google's whole reason for being, it's always been misinterpreted and Google are trying to address this.

*Google Keyword Tool, UK results - **Google UK search engine

More in this category: General SEO, SEO Basics