PageRank, or PR, is one of the most misunderstood metrics in the measurement of your website’s success.
What PageRank Is
PageRank is a whole number between 0 and 10 (i.e. PR0, PR3, etc.), with the most popular pages having a PageRank of 10, the least having a rank of 0. The ranking reflects a page’s popularity, primarily based on the number of links to it and the rank of those sites linking to it. (Words used in text links, the size of the page itself, the page’s content and words used in headlines, number of outbound links etc. are said to factor in as well) This rank is per page, not the entire site. So your site’s main page usually has a much higher rank than any other page or post on your site.
You can read the detailed history and description of PageRank, look at diagrams and calculations of Google’s PageRank Algorithm, but the basic premise is that PageRank is roughly based upon the quantity and quality of inbound links.
What Can PR Do? What Can You Do With PR?
Like Alexa, PageRank remains a popular or useful measuring device primarily because it’s free. It’s available to anyone, and can be used when calculating and negotiating ad rates, etc., and it can be one (of many) ways to calculate your site’s growth. You can check your site’s PR here. (It should be noted that the Goggle Toolbar PageRank value displayed is not the actual value Google uses;for some reason there is a lag in the Toolbar reflecting the actual rank information.)
Many people confuse PageRank with SEO. While the two are related in the sense that a page with higher PR is weighted higher in search engine algorithms (and, in cases of text links, the words in the link itself may help with higher search return placement or SERP), and webmasters and bloggers try to manipulate or “beat” the system, they are not synonymous.
People who were once banking on PR and those who financially speculate on SEO are now complaining and making predictions about PR.
They complain about the difficulty in trying to increase PR today compared to “back in the day.” But Google has always acknowledged the mathematical fact that increases in the number of websites and webpages (including blogs and blog posts) decreases the approximation of PageRank, creates resistance to climbing higher in rank. This is why older sites, even established sites that are no longer active, benefit from their age — even if they no longer receive new links in to them. So the explosive growth of blogs alone has created more friction in the uphill push for higher PageRank.
Others believe that PageRank, or at least the public sharing of the value, is going to be discontinued. The fact that PageRank is not included in Google’s Chrome browser confirms their suspicions. But Google has made a concerted effort to downplay RageRank. “[J]ust because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner,” pushing Google Analytics instead.
The Bottom Line
The truth is, the easy days of PR have been over for awhile now, but ignoring the importance of links to your site is done to the detriment of your own site. Not simply in terms of PR, but in terms of discovery by new readers.
Links coming into your site are votes of confidence and recommendations from other bloggers and websites. This was the basic principal behind PageRank, after all.
But perhaps even more importantly, links are access to your site. Every link is an open door. So even if you don’t use PR to monitor your site’s popularity, you should focus on getting links to your site.