From Page Rank To Relevance (Part II)

Part I of this article discussed the situation with search engines that gave rise to the coming of page rank. Let’s pick up the story with what is page rank.

What Is Page Rank

Page rank commonly referred to as PR is a measure off how web pages and websites link to each other. The basic concept is that every link on the web is considered a vote for another web page. If a lot of other web pages and websites vote for your site then your site must be pretty important. Essentially it’s one big internet popularity contest and is actually a pretty good idea. Chances are if you’re searching for a cell phone you’re more likely wanting to see the web pages of a large cell phone supplier or a larger site with reviews on various cell phones as opposed to your neighbor’s web page complaining about his newest cell phone.

More web sites would naturally linking to websites with more and better information increasing the page rank of those sites. The more their page rank grew the greater the chance they would come up first in the search engine result pages.

Additionally a vote from a page that had a higher page rank was considered a more important vote than a vote from a page with a lower page rank. (all web pages are equal, but some web pages are more equal than others – bonus points for recognizing my paraphrase of this literary quote)

Taking the voting one step further any given web page would have a page rank and it could give a certain amount of voting points to as many web pages as it wanted however it only had a certain number of voting points and it could them all away to one web page or split them equally among five pages.

The actual page rank calculation is much more complex than my simplified description. If you’d like to read more about how PR is calculated I’ll direct you to The Google Page Rank Algorithm and How It Works by Ian Rogers, complete with mathematical formulas and diagrams or The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine the paper Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page wrote which led to the original idea for Google.

Webmasters everywhere have for years been trying to get as many links to their sites as possible ideally on web pages with high PR and even more ideally on high PR web pages that only linked to them thus gaining the maximum voting points they could from the web page. And for a time this was exactly the way to rise to the top of Google. Remember page rank is a Google phenomena.

While there were always other things about a web page the Google algorithm measures like the actual content of the page, PR took was weighted very heavily in the algorithm.

Again the idea is a good one and much harder to manipulate than meta tags. Higher PR sites tended not to be so quick to just give out links to anyone and it would take an extremely large number of low PR links to raise your own page rank above a certain level.

So if the idea was so good then why isn’t PR important anymore?

Why PR Lost Importance

Yes the idea was good and while harder to manipulate not impossible. For years webmasters and search engine optimization specialists have been exchanging ideas and techniques to artificially improve the page rank of any given web page.

There have been theories how you could raise the PR of your site by the way you set up the navigation on your own site. Links farms were created for the sole means of transferring page rank between websites. If you had managed to get a high page rank for your site you could sell links to other sites or artificially inflate the page rank of your other sites. While it tool a lot of links from low PR sites to improve your page rank and single link from a high PR sites could do wonders.

The voting Google sought had gotten out of control. Sites weren’t really casting a vote for another as a quality site when they linked to it they were just trying to increase the PR of the other site.

Google’s main task along with all other search engines is to return the most relevant results to your search query. The way links were being given out the results were getting just as irrelevant as when people manipulated meta tags.

So Google worked on tweaking it’s algorithm and along came ‘link relevance’ which is where the current state of link building resides.

I’ll finish the story in Part III with the rise of relevance in link building, beginning with a real world example of relevance and then moving into relevance as it relates to link.

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2 comments

  1. Looking forward to part 3. It’s all coming together…

    One thing you mentioned that had never occured to me:

    “Remember page rank is a Google phenomena.”

    Oh yeah… lol. What about MSN and Yahoo? Perhaps this would be one of the many reasons that some sites will list well on MSN and Y! but not Goo?

    Standing by for part III :)

  2. Part III is all ready for you. Yep page rank is something that has only applied to Google. Yahoo and MSN may have something equivalent behind the scenes and probably do, but page rank is only used by Google. Glad you’re enjoying my story. Hopefully part III won’t disappoint.

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