Google's PageRank Algorithm Explained cover image

Google’s PageRank Algorithm, Explained

As anyone involved in the world of marketing will tell you, a website’s Google PageRank is one of the highest determining factors to affect traffic, engagement, and in many cases, revenue. But what was once a hierarchical structure that could make or break a company’s online success has consistently been altered throughout the years. 
woman looking at pagerank analytics programs

From pay-to-play spammers who utilized early SEO strategies to boost rankings for bunk websites to mere outdated Internet searching policies catching up to them, Google’s PageRank algorithms have continuously evolved over time, but still persist as a necessary virtual resource to comprehend and benefit from.

Let’s take a look at the history and evolution of Google’s revolutionary PageRank algorithm, as well as examine how it works, what’s changed, and why it still matters.

The History of PageRank 

It’s nearly impossible for most people to recall the landscape of the Internet prior to Y2K, let alone envision an era where Google didn’t completely control the web.

But the story of Google’s PageRank begins in simpler online times, when Google was still in its infancy, trying to set itself apart from the rest of the search engine pack.

Google created the initial PageRank algorithm in 1998, and it performed two primary functions: assessing link structures on websites to determine its quality rating, and utilising those link structures to enhance the site’s search results.

Both these functions were revolutionary in the ways search engines at the time determined what order websites would appear in their result pages, as gauging word prefixes, ranking by overall traffic, and annual inclusion fees were still the predominant methods of categorizing search results. 

original Google logoGoogle then launched its Internet browser toolbar in 2000, that featured a PageRank score assessed to your website, as well as your competitors. That 0-10 scale would become the object of obsession for marketing and SEO strategists throughout the ensuing decades.

While Google’s PageRank algorithm continued to evolve throughout the 2000s, it’s primary function of assessing search engine results through link structures began to become its Achilles heel. Marketers interpreted Google’s PageRank algorithm as simply the more links a website had, the higher its ranking would be, which ultimately was the result of spammers flooding Google with link farms, or website groups that all hyperlink to one another in order to manipulate SEO rankings.

Learn more about the basics of search through our post, What Is SEO?

Over time, Google grew hip to these deceitful practices, and by 2016, Google had officially retired its PageRank toolbar as a public means to gauge a website’s search engine rankings.

However, Google has continued to tweak its PageRank algorithm to better fit today’s search engine results requisite, and the algorithm persists as an undeniable factor in determining and assessing a website’s visibility. 

How It Works Now 

While links are still an essential element for Google’s PageRank algorithm, a website’s content has become a primary source of evaluation for determining search engine results.

Think of PageRank as an Internet ‘judge’ whose job is to determine the ‘morality’ of a page by appraising the quality and quantity of other pages that link back to it. Let’s break down what PageRank’s algorithm does into three components: 

  • Count the number of outbound links associated with a site’s linking pages
  • Measure quality and quantity of any associated inbound linking pages 
  • Assess the PageRank of all linking pages involved 

It’s important to take a ‘quality’ over ‘quantity’ approach with your website’s inbound and outbound linking pages.

For example, let’s say you have three pages: Page 1, Page 2, and Page 3. Page 3 has one outbound link from Page 1 and one outbound link from Page 2. Page 1 has a stronger PageRanking than Page 2, but has less outbound links than Page 2. All of this data is calculated by the PageRanking algorithm to determine the PageRank of Page 3.

Again, it’s not necessarily the ‘quantity’ of links that strengthen a page’s PageRank as it is the ‘quality’. So if an article is linked to higher PageRanked pages, the higher that article’s PageRank will be, and vice versa. 

Learn more through Google's How Search Algorithms Work page.

How To Boost Your Google PageRank

Again, a webpage’s Google PageRank is how you obtain higher traffic and earn search engine credibility. Navigating your way through the online link matrix to help increase your Google PageRank depends heavily on incorporating quality SEO and keyword research.

It’s crucial to comb through your landing pages’ content to determine if any keywords need to be updated to reflect on current trending keywords with higher search volume. The more dated content is, the less relevancy it will have in the eyes of Google’s PageRank algorithm. 

Getting your content out there as much as possible is another redeeming quality for the PageRank algorithm. Your approach to content outreach reflects on how often you share content through social media platforms, collaborating with like minded media and blog partners, and monitoring the quality of outbound links you’re including in your pages.

To put it simply, the more time and effort you invest into increasing the accessibility of your pages or content, the more likely other websites will link back to your site, hence boosting your Google PageRank.

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