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At Beanstalk Search Engine Optimization we know that knowledge is power. That's the reason we started this Internet marketing blog back in 2005. We know that the better informed our visitors are, the better the decisions they will make for their websites and their online businesses. We hope you enjoy your stay and find the news, tips and ideas contained within this blog useful.


October 24, 2007

The PageRank Debate Continues Over At Sphinn

Yesterday I published a rant about PageRank. The post picked up some steam and was well read on Sphinn. And then there was Halfdeck. For those of you who read my subsequent post you’ll know that Halfdeck is a Sphinner who whole-heartedly disagrees with my stand on the issue of PageRank.

After he read my reply he posted again as did Jill Whalen. As I don’t allow comments in the Beanstalk blog (this is simply because I don’t have time to moderate them) I’ll post their replies here as well as mine to their comments. Their comments will be in blockquotes:

Jill:

PageRank is indeed very important to Google still. It’s unfortunate that toolbar PageRank has nothing to do with actual PageRank though. I think that’s why debates such as this one will continue to occur.

I have great respect for Jill as does the majority of the SEO community but I still have to disagree. PageRank is a factor, certainly more important than some but it is not, as Halfdeck notes, the equivalent to SEO that gravity is to human life.

Halfdeck:

“At the time of this posting there are PageRank 3′s beating out PageRank 7′s.”

That is one of the weakest arguments against PageRank ever invented.

There are also sites that have no keywords in the title outranking sites with keywords in the TITLE element. So from that let’s conclude that keywords in the TITLE doesn’t matter.

I would say that titles are a factor among many. My response to your comment was based on your assertion that PageRank was to SEO what gravity is to humans. I said in my initial post that PageRank has weight, just not as much weight as it’s getting credit for and certainly not what we’re chasing after.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe;=off≷=us&q;=seo&btnG;=Search

keyword: [SEO]
Wikipedia.org TITLE: “Search engine optimization”
Spanish Wikipedia TITLE: “Posicionamiento en buscadores – Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre”

http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl;=en&safe;=off≷=us&q;=ice+cream&btnG;=Search

keyword: [ice cream]
haagen-dazs.com TITLE: “Häagen-Dazs®”
bluebell.com TITLE: “MyOrganization: Home page”

So its official then. Keywords in TITLE doesn’t matter.

That’s right. PageRank is the gravity after all, do titles even matter?

Actually I view titles as more important than PageRank. About equal from an SEO standpoint but more important in that a clickable title will get, well, clicked on more in the SERPs. But IT’S STILL JUST A FACTOR AMONG MANY!!!

I think this is perhaps what’s being overlooked from my initial post. At no point did I say that PageRank was irrelevant. What I said is the the average person tends to give it too much importance (comparing it to gravity for example). It is a factor and it does carry weight but there are other factors and a low PageRank site can beat out higher PageRank sites if they “win” in the other factors.

“Really? Then why does Wikipedia (PR7 page) rank #1 and SEOMoz (PR7 page) rank #10 for “seo”?”

As I wrote somewhere else, the phenomenon of wikipedia ranking for just about anything and everything under the sun, in my opinion, is largely due to high link trust (most inbounds to Wikipedia are editorial, unpaid for, unreciprocated, many from trustworthy sources), sheer link power (just about every page has high TBPR due to millions of backlinks), relevant on-page content, laser-targetted anchor text on 99% of all backlinks, and internal, contextual anchor text.

“What? I have no idea what this means. A site with a PageRank 2 can have 100,000 pages in the index if the owners or contributers are very very busy people.”

There, you just exposed your lack of understanding about PageRank.

A TBPR 2 site can create 100,000 pages of content, but you will not see 100,000 in the MAIN INDEX. They will sink into the supplemental bin. That should be common knowledge by now.

Admittedly you caught me here. I didn’t catch the word “main” in the initial post HOWEVER I would argue that it’s not PageRank that’s doing it, it’s trust. Unfortunately we could go on that debate for the next week-and-a-half and not come to a conclusion as it would be your opinion against mine and unless someone from over at Google wants to step in and let us know ;) it will just be one person against another.

Read the blog links at the top of this page if you want to go beyond repeating what’s been said 1,000 of times already:

http://www.seo4fun.com/notes/supplementals.html

“Well I suppose that’s it then. I suppose it’s time to call up Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, Neil Patel, Jill Whalen and all the other SEO’s who contributed to SEOmoz’s “Google Search Engine Ranking Factors” list and let them know that their work was for naught.”

Oh?

I recommend you reading Dan Thies recent posts. Or read Rand Fishkin’s
http://www.seomoz.org/blog/my-personal-opinion-90-of-the-rankings-equation-lies-in-these-4-factors

Where he lists “PageRank or link weight or link power” as one of the top 4 ranking factors. If you’re the type of SEO to base your opinion on “expert” opinion, there you have it.

I’d seen Rand’s previously but thanks for the other links. Rand is combining all the factors of link weighting into something called PageRank. If we reflect back to the beginning (my initial post)it might be a good time to split my reply in two. This is because there really are two conversations going on, one based on the intial article and one based on what the topic has become.

The initial argument based on the first post:

My intial arguement was based on people who email us/call us asking and obsessing about PageRank (why theirs isn’t higher, what we’ll do to increase it, etc.) This is obviously a discussion about toolbar PageRank. I don’t think any of us has had to deal with questions about why a site’s PageRank isn’t higher where they weren’t referring to the toolbar PageRank. It would be funny if we did though. “I know the green bar shows my PageRank is a 4 but I know it’s really a 5. I don’t care what the toolbar shows, what will it take to get a PR 7?”

What the argument has become:
The argument has now become how much PageRank influences results, and we’re not talking about toolbar PageRank. One thing I would like to know is if you’re counting PageRank as something other than what the toolbar shows when updates are happening (i.e. when there’s isn’t internal updating going on affecting results based on factors we can’t see) or if you’re actually referring to the toolbar PageRank when it’s accurate (i.e. right after an update).

If you’re referring to the toolbar PageRank (when accurate) then I am going to continue to disagree with you and will continue to maintain that PageRank is nothing more than a factor among others. That said, from some of the links and examples
you’ve given it appears you may be referring to PageRank as something more than in which case this conversation has gone off on a major tangent. As shoudl be clear from my initial post, I am referring to the visually displayed PageRank that appears in the toolbar when the toolbar is updated.

“At the time of this posting there are PageRank 3′s beating out PageRank 7′s.”

One last thing.

Internal PageRank is a floating number, not a number between 0-10. Matt Cutts has confirmed that in several posts. PageRank is a probability metric, or a number that describes chance: 0~100%, or a number between 0-1.

If your website was the only website that existed on the web, then the chance of someone landing on your website is 100% or 1.

If there were only two pages on the web, linking to each other, the chance of you landing on one of those pages is 50%, or .5.

The sum of all PageRanks of all webpages add up to 1. Therefore, the internal PageRanks of a page is really really tiny, something like .000000000000002000195010.

Of course Google can modify that for ease of computation, but we are still dealing with alot of digits.

So what is TBPR? Some believe that they are exponents of an unknown base.

base^TBPR = internal PageRank.

For example:

10^0 = 1
10^1 = 10
10^2 = 100
10^3 = 1000
10^4 = 10000
10^5 = 100000
10^6 = 1000000
10^7 = 10000000
10^8 = 100000000
10^9 = 1000000000
10^10 = 10000000000

We don’t know the base. We don’t know the actual PageRank. We only see the exponent (0-10). Obviously, that’s just theory. But it does help you see there’s a big difference between TBPR and internal PageRank.

A good illustration. But this discussion started with clients obsession about PageRank. By necessity this has to be the toolbar PageRank. You’re example is good and I’m certainly not going to get into a technical debate when I’m willing to say that you’re theories are easily as good as mine on the exact internal calculations HOWEVER this discussion isn’t about how it’s calculated, it’s about it’s value. I don’t care if I have a PageRank 11 out of 10, it where my site appears in the SERPs that I care about and, as you point out above, titles also count. I would assert that so does content, so does internal linking, so does the physical structure of the site, so does the anchor text of incoming links, so does the trusted nature of the sites linking to you, so does …

PageRank is not gravity, be it toolbar PageRank or internal PageRank. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a factor – more important than some, less important than others.

If you truely understood that, you would never talk about a “PageRank 3″ URL outranking anything, because:

1) There’s no such thing as a PageRank 3 page
2) You are clearly implying you know the PageRank of a page displaying TBPRX – you don’t.

See notes above and first post. This started as a post about the toolbar PageRank !!!

SEO news blog post by @ 11:44 am

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