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Home > Tips > Google Tips > Google Pagerank Uncovered

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:

PageRank Value
4 10
5 100
6 1,000

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Make sense?

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.

Detailed breakdown.
Example site referenced: AvidOutdoors.com

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 later.
  5. 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 category.

    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 listed.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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 theme sites.

    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.
  9. 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 your views.

    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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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 easier.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.

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© 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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