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PageRank Uncovered: Google's PageRank System
by Jerry West
Updated July 15, 2010
By now, nearly everyone has heard of Google, touted as the cleanest and best search engine on the planet. How they got there was pure genius, as they arrived there with nothing more than simplicity.
They ignored Meta Tags, hidden text, spamming techniques, etc. You couldn't trick Google with techniques that worked on other search engines like AltaVista and HotBot years ago. Even today, tricks that work easily with Yahoo! and Bing don't work with Google. What was visible on your page was what Google indexed. Their results were pure. There was no chance of typing in "investment advice" and getting a porn site.
People loved that.
Google literally pillaged the search engine community of market share. Left in its wake were Infoseek, Excite, Lycos, HotBot and AltaVista. Search engines that once dominated the industry now combine for a fraction of the market.
How can you get traffic from Google? It's simple: hard work. Okay, it's not so simple, but certainly achievable. While increasing your PageRank is just one of the 100+ criteria Google uses to rank sites in their search results, our testing has concluded that without it, you cannot consistently compete for the popular keywords that will catapult your business past your competition. These are the keywords that will bring your site the highly qualified traffic you need to turn a profit. These keywords are often referred to as "above the threshold."
Keywords "below the threshold" are ones that are very specific and do not carry the weight of hundreds or thousands of queries per day. Keywords "below the threshold" are those with which you can usually achieve top rankings with just on-page optimization techniques. What you are after is the top listings for the heavy-weights, the keywords that dazzle your clients, your bosses, or your prospects.
Since Google is constantly updating their algorithms, people want to know what they can do in order to increase their PageRank. Following is a step-by-step breakdown demomstrating how to achieve a higher PageRank in Google.
First of all, you need a few tools at your disposal:
Alexa - We don't advocate their toolbar any longer due to the amount of spyware associated with it. But the research tool is a MUST for any owner of a website. For every site you plug input, Alexa informs you of web traffic ranking, the contact information, and provides reviews.
Google Toolbar - Afte you acquire it, you will wonder how you lived without this toolbar. You can search Google anytime and the added tools will boost your effectiveness online. The Google Toolbar will inform you of the PageRank of every page on the web. This is information you cannot live without. It allows you to see the "little green bar" (PageRank) for every page you visit.
I will break down both of these tools throughout this article and demonstate how to use them effectively.
What is PageRank? PageRank is Google's method of ranking individual web pages. Google looks at the pages that link to your page and how they rank in terms of importance. Specifically, pages that have links from important, high quality pages, receive a higher PageRank. Google combines PageRank with sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages, which are both important and relevant to your search. For more information, see Google's explanation of PageRank.
The PageRank system is a numerical grade from 0-10. There have been terrific articles written in the past on how to estimate and compute PageRank, and they can be confusing to some. So, for a simplistic breakdown, think of PageRank in terms of point value. The following numbers are gereralized; they are simply used to visualize the process:
From this example, the values increase exponentially for each level of PageRank. This is very similar to the reality. It is approximately ten times as difficult to climb to the next "rung" in the PageRank ladder.
Two Big Mistakes Made By Webmasters:
- Looking at the PageRank data and making decisions based upon "what the toolbar" shows. The information displayed on the toolbar is old. How old? The average is 3-5 months. Never make a decision on a potential linking opportunity by what the "green bar" says.
- When requesting links, the Webmaster looks at the PageRank of the home page. She decides, "They have a PageRank of 5. Not bad, I'll request a link." But, the link isn't going on the home page. Instead it goes on a "links page" that has a PageRank of 0. This link is probably worthless in terms of increasing your PageRank.
When determining value of a link, you must go to the page where your link will occur. If that page has a PageRank of 5, write down "100". This is the "value" of the page. The value of that page is then shared with every link on the page including any graphics that serve as links (i.e. banners). Count up the number of links on the page. If there are 20 links, you divide 100 by 20 to get a value of 5 per link. If it takes 1,000 points to reach a PageRank of 6, you would need 200 of these types of links to achieve that level.
However, had that page been a PageRank of 5 but with the number of links being 10, instead of 20, each link would be worth 10 points instead of 5. It would take just 100 of these links to achieve a PageRank of 6 instead of 200. See the difference? It is called quality. This is why link farms, web rings, etc. are worthless. The PageRank value becomes diluted. Also, participating in these types of programs does not benefit the web community; they are done for no other reason than to artificially inflate your PageRank.
The engineers at Google are smart; they have in the past, and will in the future, penalize for poor ethics. Updates Florida and Jagger are evidence of that fact.
What is the best way to increase your PageRank? By getting links of high quality - ones that are also deeply indexed by Google, well designed, maintained and popular. You see, you don't want a momentarily popular site to link to you, you want one that will be around for a long time - so your site will receive continuing benefits.
While not required for higher PageRank, some of the best links to your site will come from "theme sites". In other words, sites that are similar in focus to yours. A theme site also is one that has links to other sites of a parallel industry. For example, I am going camping this weekend. I did a search in Google on "camping gear." One of the results was Avid Outdoors. I will use them as an example in this article.
To become a "theme site" they will want links not from other camping gear sites, since those are competitors, but from camping destinations, fly-fishing destinations, dehydrated food suppliers, etc. If I am in the market for a weekend fly-fishing trip, it is very probable that I would also be interested in upgrading my camping equipment too.
Pulling traffic to your site through Google does take work, but the rewards will be well worth the effort. I will list the steps briefly and then I will expand the discussion using a real-life example.
1. Review your site content and design completely.
2. Verify that all of your links work.
3. Build a site map.
4. Submit your site to the Yahoo! directory.
5. Submit your site to the Open Directory Project.
6. Create a "resource" page on your site.
7. Begin your research.
8. "Perform theme based" site research.
9. "Do competition based" site research.
10. Run affiliate based site research.
11. Compare your lists.
12. Seek out other sources for links.
13. Send emails and/or make phone calls.
14. Follow up, follow up, and follow up some more.
Example site referenced: AvidOutdoors.com
- Review your site completely. Website
managers should have their entire site reviewed top
to bottom by the sales staff who make suggestions.
After all, they are the driving force behind your
market share. What helps them sell in the field will
help you sell more on the web. If you are a sole
owner of your site, read all of your content out
loud. Have two or more associates review your content.
What sounds fine to you may not make sense to another.
Test your site on a modem connection. Is it fast? Are there long waits for
pages to download? Now is the time to streamline your site. In reviewing
our example site, it could use some improvement. It takes over 35 seconds
to load on a standard 56k modem connection, which is very poor. It's no wonder;
they have graphics that are not properly optimized. The standard load time
is 20 seconds or less. By optimizing their graphics, they could get to a
load time of 18 seconds. Most graphic programs today offer graphic compression. There are pages that are "under construction" and
the navigation on the left is difficult to read on some screen resolutions.
They could greatly benefit from a redesign with properly optimized graphics.
- Verify all of your links. Don't
just verify links internally. Check the external links
as well. There are link checkers built into programs
like DreamWeaver. There are also link checkers available
on the web. All links are valid when performing an
audit on our example site.
- Build a site map. The
site map should list every page on your site that
you want indexed. Make sure you have a text link
at the bottom of your Home Page to your site map.
Google will spider your home page, hit this site
map and index every page listed. By doing a site
map, you are ensuring your entire site will be indexed.
Plus, Google loves site maps ... it makes GoogleBot's
job so much easier and faster.
There is no Site Map for our example site. We recommend using Site
Map Pro to quickly, and accurately build a Site Map for your site.
It is also highly recommended that you create an XML feed to use and submit an
XML Site Map to Google.
- Submit your site to Yahoo! ($299.00
annual fee). In seven (7) business days your site
will be reviewed and either accepted or rejected
by the Yahoo! editor. See our Yahoo!
Tip Sheet for getting a successful listing. Going
to Yahoo! and typing in "avidoutdoors.com" and
searching displays the site in the #1 position. You
will notice a "Category" listing and "Camping
Gear and Equipment" displaying. This is referring
to the site's Yahoo! directory listing.
Since Yahoo! is not pulling their primary search results from their directory,
why should you submit your site and pay $299.00 per year? There have been
numerous articles against submitting your site to Yahoo! until they change
their criteria back. I disagree. Why? Yahoo! is not just the #1 portal on
the Internet, they are the #1 site in terms of traffic. Why would you not
want your site listed on the best portal in cyber-space? Also, being listed
in Yahoo! brings an often "un-published benefit" that will be discussed
- Get listed with the Open
Directory Project (DMOZ). Since
AOL switched from DMOZ to Google for their
search results a couple years ago, DMOZ is no longer
vital as a source for solid traffic. Instead,
look at them to boost your quality link popularity.
DMOZ is humanly built, just like Yahoo!. Unlike Yahoo!, DMOZ is free a submition. You can
be listed in up to two categories
for your site: a general category and a local
Google has openly stated that they are more interested in directories that
are actually used, and with the rapid drop of DMOZ traffic since 2004; there
are wide-spread concerns over the future of DMOZ. However, since they are
still pulling from DMOZ, and DMOZ is still in the top 300 sites, it is important
to get your site listed.
One major complaint is the "staleness" of DMOZ, as the directory
is not updated frequently.
If you have a submission pending inclusion, check to see if your site is
- Create a "resources" page
on your site. The term "links" has
been overused in my opinion and I am suggesting
using the term "resources" instead.
It is on this page instead of doing traditional and spammy looking link exchanges
with other webmasters, you do full page recommendations of their products or services. I also suggest that you
organize this "Resources" section into different
categories to keep the number of links per page
at 30 or fewer. Also, be very particular about where you
acquire your links. You should only accept quality sites as
you will benefit long-term.
- Begin your research. My
suggestion is to use a spreadsheet. You will need
three: one for your theme page research, one for
your competition research and one for your affiliate
research. If you use Excel, you can create three
separate tabs. You want columns to cover the following:
Company Name, URL, Alexa Ranking, PageRank, Yahoo!
inclusion, DMOZ inclusion, Google links, Quality
of the Site (eye appeal), Link Request Date, Link
Approval Date, Last Verified and Comments.
- Theme-based site research. Perform
searches in Google for search terms that show results
of sites which relate to your theme, but who are
not direct competitors. You want to establish a list
of at least 50 web sites that would be viable for
you to request a link from. Remember, these sites
are NOT competitors. Use your Google Toolbar
to ensure they have a good PageRank (5/10 or above)
and use Alexa to ensure they receive decent traffic.
We would recommend you bypass any site that is ranked
beyond 500,000 in Alexa.
In our example site, let's go to Google and type in "camping food ".
The #4 listing is Mountain House. Clicking on the listing takes us to the
site. The Alexa Toolbar tells us that the site is ranked #428,443 and the
site has been online for over four years (Site Info). Hovering your mouse
pointer over the PageRank on the Google Toolbar informs us that the PageRank
is 6/10. This is a site that we will put into our spreadsheet. They would
not only be a perfect link opportunity, but this is a great resource for
potential customers. So we will put them in both the Theme and Affiliate
spreadsheets. You will continue in this fashion until you have at least 50
Wait! Do not leave the site so fast. On your Alexa Toolbar, click "Related
Links". The two sections you want to review are, "People who visit
this page also visit" and "Other sites that link to...".
These two sections will give you sites that are similar and that link to
their site. This will speed up your research. Next is determining their listing
in Yahoo!, DMOZ, and checking the number of links in Google.
- Competition-based site
research. Again you will use Google as
your search engine. This time you will input
searches using your direct keywords. Note: If
you already know your competition, start with
visiting their sites and then expand your list
with searches in Google and using the Alexa toolbar.
Competition research is a little different as
you are focusing on who can realistically compete
with you. If you are a small business that sells
general merchandise, Sears is NOT your
competitor! Just the same way that McDonalds'
competition is not the Ma-and-Pa burger stand.
It is Burger King, Wendy's, etc. Just because
this is the Internet does not mean you can compete
with the "Big Boys." Be realistic in
Continuing our example, type "camping equipment" in Google. Check
out the sites one by one, beginning with the ones listed first in the search
results below the Sponsored Links. Look at the URLs in the description of
the search result. If your market is specific to your country, do not click
on any results that are from other countries. Also, avoid web sites, which
are not worth your time (i.e. GEOCities, Yahoo! Stores, AOL, etc.) as they
can be gone tomorrow. Plus, sites that are a secondary domain (i.e. www.aol.com/bobsgifts/)
have the traffic and link information for the parent domain, not the sub
domain. In this case it would report aol.com, not bobsgifts. Avoid these
sites as well.
Going back to our example, the first listing is REI's site. REI is far above
our example site in terms of quality, price, and availability. An example
of a competitor would be result #3, A Happy Camper. This site ranks #559,962
in Alexa, but also has a 6/10 PageRank. Far better than the 4/10 PageRank
of our example site. On the Google Toolbar click on "Page Info" and
then choose "Backward Links". This will show you exactly who is
linking to this site - just 240 sites. This means, that with a PageRank of
6/10 and a low number of links, the links are high quality. We just found
a "diamond in the rough". This is a great addition to your spreadsheet,
and by reviewing each of these sites, and contacting each site for a link
exchange, you will allow the owner of Camping Gear Equipment to increase their
Internet exposure and their PageRank in the process.
- Affiliate-based site research. This
is done while you are doing your competition research.
When you find affiliates of your competition, you
want to contact them so they become YOUR affiliates.
It's that simple. By taking away an affiliate from
your competition, you double the damage to your competitor,
as you are increasing your affiliate base by one
and taking one affiliate away from your competition.
You want at least 50 quality affiliates to contact.
The best way to sway an affiliate is by telephone. Don't bother sending them
an email. Pick up the phone and give them a concise three-minute pitch on why
doing business with you will increase their revenue. Affiliates are drawn
by money and nothing else. Remember that.
- Compare your lists. Make
sure you don't have duplicate sites. For example,
it wouldn't be very professional if you contacted
the same company twice, once for a link, and once
to become an affiliate. To be successful, it is vital
for you to be both consistent and professional.
- Other sources. If
you have suppliers, Michael Campbell suggests getting
your "upstream" and "downstream" suppliers
to link to you. Of course, you should link to
them. This will form a strong "theme" base
for your business. If you are a wholesaler, list
your top ten retailers as a reward to them. Advertising
agencies and print shops can link to their customers
and vice versa.
Look for vertical
engines and directories in your topic areas. Look for popular sites. One
or two authoritative sites as a link will be more beneficial than 1,000 irrelevant
links. Turn to searchengineguide.com or beaucoup.com for
a listing of vertical engines and directories.
Unpublished Yahoo! Tip: Do not discount the number of webmasters contacting
your for link requests. This is where a listing in Yahoo! is beneficial.
Webmasters seem to use Yahoo! more than any other portal as a means for finding
sites with which to link. Getting a listing in Yahoo! makes increasing your PageRank
- Send emails. Contact
the Webmaster of each site. Custom craft your
message and make your request (link exchange or affiliate
offer). If appropriate, it may be more productive
to pick up the phone and start dialing. Never send
out mass email no matter how much time you might
think it will save you. It is poor ethics. You have
probably received a few dozen already ... "Hi,
I found your site while surfing my favorite search
engine Yahoo! and wanted to ask you to exchange links
with us." Your initial thought is, "You've
never been to my site!" You don't want the same
reaction to your email, so custom write each request.
- Follow up, follow up, and
follow up some more. Keep good records. Make sure
the link requests follow through. Many webmasters
will agree to exchange links but they never post
your link. We suggest doing the above at least
every 30 days. This will ensure that your site
has quality links, they are up to date and they
match your theme. With quality link partners,
solid affiliates and good customer service, this should
become your most profitable year!
Google Traffic Tips and more can be read throughout this site.
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Final note: If your site deals in internet marketing, search engine optimization, web design, ecommerce, etc. contact us as a link exchange would be highly beneficial.
Michael Campbell is the author of Nothing but Net and one of the most well respected experts in the field. His Internet Marketing Secrets is subscribed to by our firm.
© 2003-2012, WebMarketingNow.com
Jerry West is the Director of Internet Marketing for WebMarketingNow. He has been consulting on the web since 1996 and has assisted hundreds of companies gain an upper-hand over their competition. Visit www.webmarketingnow.com/ for the latest in marketing tips that are tested and proven.
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