From Page Rank To Relevance (Part III)

In Part II of this article I described what page rank is and also why it fell out of favor. I ended by mentioning relevance so let’s pick things up here with a real world example of what relevance is and then discuss relevance in terms of linking.

An Example Of Real World Relevance

No matter what you may think of him it’s clear Bill Gates is a very intelligent man. He’s also a very famous and even popular man. You might say if he were a website he had a very high PR, probably the highest PR of anyone on the planet. (The owner of Microsoft would just love me associating him with something belonging so closely to Google wouldn’t he)

Now being such an intelligent man it only stands to reason that if Bill Gates recommends something or someone you might want to listen. There’s a good chance what he’s recommending has a lot of quality.

But let’s say you’re trying to fix a pipe in your sink. Would you call Bill Gates (assuming he’s taking your calls) and ask him what’s the best way to go about fixing your sink? Probably not. You’ll probably ask someone with some plumbing experience. As smart as Bill Gates may be I have no idea if he knows the first thing about plumbing. You might call or visit your local hardware store or call a plumber for advice. You might even ask your father-in-law since you know he’s always working on the pipes in his own house.

Any of those sources is probably going to help you fix your sink better than Bill Gates will. Bill Gates might be smarter than any of those other people you ask and he’s certainly going to be more well known. So if Bill Gates has the higher PR why is the information you’re getting from your father-in-law with the low PR better.

The reason is because your father-in-law with the plumbing experience has more relevant information about how to fix the pipes in your sink than Bill gates, which brings us to relevant links.

Relevance In Link Building

Keep in mind that the goal of search engines has been to present the most relevant results to your query. If you search for pipe fitters a website from your local hardware store about plumbing is going to provide more useful and relevant information than any page on the Microsoft site even though most of the Microsoft pages will probably have a higher PR than any of the pages on the local hardware store site. So which site’s vote should be more important if you type ‘pipe fitters’ into a search engine.

Google still considers links from other sites as votes and still considers those votes important. The difference is in how Google determines which votes are more important and which to take into greater account when deciding which pages to return to your search. The answer is that the relevant link is more important. The weight of page rank in the overall algorithm has been reduced in favor of more weight given to the relevance of the link.

You can chase page rank all you want and try your hardest to get links from high PR sites. And truth be told there is still some weight to page rank, but only within the context of relevancy. If two sites have equal relevance the higher page rank will count a little more, but a relevant page with low page rank is going to help your site get listed more than a high PR site that is irrelevant to the content of your website. So go ahead and chase PR as much as you want.

I’ll look to get links from sites relevant to mine. If I’m a photographer I’ll look to get links from the sites of photography magazines or other photographers. I’ll look to get links in articles written about photography and photographers. I’ll look to get my photographs reviewed with links back to my site. I’ll look for relevant links and not worry about the page rank of the site giving me that link.

Download a free sample from my book, Design Fundamentals.

2 comments

  1. I enjoyed the article and have to admit I use directory sites where I can list in a sub-directory with other sites of relevance that have descriptions semantically similar to the subject I’m promoting.
    Cheers,
    Ian

  2. Thanks Ian. I think the last year has only shown that relevance is playing an ever increasing part in how links are weighted. Same for semantics. There’s still a long way to go for search engines to get where they want, but it’s clearly the direction they’re moving.

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