Google PageRank is one of the many factors that Google uses to determine the search rank of a particular page for a keyword or phrase. But does PageRank really matter when it comes to determining a site or page’s ranking in search results any more? There are so many factors involved in search rankings, it’s really difficult to say with any certainty. Google themselves have come out and said they’ve devalued the PageRank importance in calculating the importance of a site or content page. They’ve even removed the PageRank display from Google Webmaster Tools.
Has PageRank Gone the Way of the Meta Keyword?
Back in simpler times of the interwebs, all webmasters had to do to get their site ranked higher in search results was to stuff as many keywords into the pages as possible. Google’s (appropriate) response of this abuse was to completely (or nearly) devalue meta keywords. While having meta tags with your keywords likely doesn’t hurt, it likely doesn’t really help much either. Is the Google PageRanking going the way of the meta keyword tag in that having a higher rank won’t hurt you but it won’t necessarily help you either?
The fact is there are many other factors that come before pagerank in determining where a page is located in search results. Search rankings can be very fluid, especially in highly-competitive keywords. It’s not uncommon for pages to fall off the top 10 (first page) one day only to return the next day or a few days later.
To illustrate, I’ve been tracking my site’s rankings in various keywords for quite a few weeks now. One keyword I get a fair amount of my traffic from (my bread & butter, if you please) is ‘single dad’. For the most part, the top 5 rankings of the keyword single dad are pretty stable. #1 is almost always www.singledad.com, #2 is almost always danoah.com, etc. I’ve ranked as high as #6 and as low as off the charts (500+). Below is a graph plotting my ranking trend over the past 2 months or so. Notice the instability in the beginning and the relative stability as of the last month. Please note the spikes in ranking do not appear to correlate to any (known) Google pagerank update.
Conclusion on PageRank & Search Rank
Clearly there are a lot of factors involved in determining the ranking of a site or page – many of them aren’t under the direct control of the webmaster. The conclusion to draw is really still undetermined. PageRank likely influences search rankings in some fashion, but what we must keep in mind is that the PageRank number we know is actually retro-spective. Meaning, PageRank is continually being calculated by Google behind the scenes. Every few months they ‘publish’ those rankings to the public. That published number remains static (to the public) until the next publish date. In other words, my PR may be 4 (published) but very likely would be different than that in Google’s behind the scenes continual calculation. The behind the scenes PR is what is actually used to influence search result rankings. Many thanks to Josepf on Twitter for this reminder!
What do you think? How much does pagerank matter in Google’s determination of a page’s location in search results? Have you noticed your PR trending one way and your search rankings (and/or traffic) trending in the opposite?