One of the metrics that many SEOs seem to obsess about is ‘Page rank’, often shortened to “PR” and it’s a number that has managed to gain an almost mythical status amongst the Internet marketing set. You can view the “PR” value of your site and indeed any of the pages on your site by installing a toolbar in Chrome or Firefox which tells you the rank of any page you visit.
But what does this even mean?
Well the number ranges from zero to ten with ten being the highest you can possibly reach but it’s not quite as clear cut as that. It’s generally accepted (i.e. Google doesn’t really tell us the whole truth) that there are fractions of PR so you could potentially have a PR of 3.9, but there’s no way of knowing.
Also, the increase in numbers is exponential, that is it’s harder to get from three to four than from two to three, much harder.
How does a website get PR?
There’s a big Wikipedia article on this so I’ll let you go and read that if you like, but in general the idea is that whenever a website links to another site, it ‘leaks’ a little bit of page rank. In effect, it’s sending ‘link juice’ to the site it’s linking to.
The more juice you get from other websites, the higher regard your site will have in the eyes of Google.
This flow of juice around the web is part of the whole Google algorithm and it used to be regarded as a very important part, although it has been played down a lot lately by many people, including Matt Cutts, the head of the Google Anti-Spam team. Indeed, the PR that is shown to end users like us hasn’t been updated for ten months and so many were proclaiming it as a dead metric, but now it’s back.
PR Update sends everyone in a spin
It has to be remembered that there are essentially two different versions of Page rank. The first is the one Google uses and it’s fairly safe to assume that this changes constantly as Google trawls the web and analyses pages. The second, however, is the front-facing database that we see in the toolbar and it’s this that has been updated. What this means is that it doesn’t matter at all what your PR is showing as now, it’s been that for ages, it’s just that Google is only now telling you.
The only really newsworthy thing about this whole update is that it happened at all.
What is PR useful for then?
If you’re performing any kind of SEO then you’ll likely find that the sort of blogs that you want to go and post on will have a PR of some value. If you find yourself looking at ten blogs and you’ve only got time to write for two of them, then the PR value is a good thing to look at as it gives you a good idea of which are the best two blogs to use. You want to get the best bang for your buck so writing a good article for a good website that’s highly regarded is the best way to spend your time.
However, there was also another use for PR in the selling of Domains. You see, many companies and individuals make a good living out of selling domains that have a high PR. They’re seen as very valuable to SEO and people are willing to spend a lot of money on a domain that has a high value in the hope they can squirt some of that value to their own websites.
The thing is, some domains that have been showing a high PR for some time may be totally worthless as they’ve not had any good content on them for months. Google’s internal data will have taken account of this, but the “toolbar” PR as shown to us will still be showing it as very high. The domain sellers will play on this fact and could be selling essentially worthless domains for premium prices.
Now the PR has been updated, we at least have a window of a couple of months where we can assess the true value of a domain.
Should we be bothered?
PR is only one of many different indicators of SEO value and in the whole it’s not worth expending too much time worrying about it. If your site has dropped in PR then it doesn’t mean it’s dropped in ranking, it just means that you’re not passing on quite as much juice as you used to.
Do you need to worry? Well not really. A very low PR site can outrank a very high PR site simply based on the amount and quality of content it has and PR is no real indicator of general ranking.
In my own work, I use PR as an indicator of the trustworthiness of any sites I’m considering using for backlinks, but in the whole, I don’t let it dictate what and how I carry out my day-to-day marketing duties and neither should you.