New PageRank Formula May Change Your SEO Priorities

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cc licensed flickr photo shared by toprankonlinemarketing

The vast majority of website owners seem to be obsessed with PageRank. It was one of the heaviest ranking factors in the original Google algorithm, and the fame persists. I must admit that I also find it hard to ignore the single most visible feedback figure presented by Google.

Google has been worried about all the unnatural link spam that results from this. They emphasized that they used about 200 ranking factors, and that webmasters were better off focusing on creating valuable content and improving their conversion rates.

Yet no-one seemed to listen much. PageRank was bought, stolen and begged for in every possible way. So now Google seems to work extra factors into PageRank value itself. This is very logical: if webmasters are so focused on achieving high PageRank, why not make link quality a part of  the formula?

New Google’s patent hints at a new PageRank formula

On May 11, 2010 a patent was granted to Google for “Ranking documents based on user behavior and/or feature data”. Bill Slawski wrote a great post about it, so I won’t go into too much detail here, just give you a brief summary.

There is one key difference the new patent suggests. Previously, each link on a page passed the same amount of authority to the target page. Now, every link is weighted according to how likely a “reasonable surfer” would be to click on that link. To estimate that, Google considers a number of factors, which boil down to 2 main categories:

  • link visibility (placement and appearance)
  • link relevance

So, you can say goodbye to small text links in page footers, forum and blog comments, stuffed sidebars, link exchange pages and other similar link spammer paradise areas. They didn’t bring much PageRank juice before, now they will hardly bring any at all. To pass PageRank, the link now has to achieve the same thing as to get the click: stand out prominently from the rest of the page, and be relevant.

Why I believe PageRank formula is really changing?

I have recently launched a new blog on web tracking. Having some experience with online promotion, I started building links for it. Here is what I did:

  • submitted the blog to several directories
  • submitted about 10 articles to article directories
  • used signature links in a few forums and blogs
  • submitted links to several social bookmarking sites

I also have a small personal site,, which I don’t promote in any meaningful way. It has PageRank 2, with 5 links visible in Yahoo tool and 14 links in Google Webmaster Tools. So I added a few links from that one too, as it had some relevant content.

Overall, in a month I was able to get about 130 links indexed in Yahoo Site Explorer and 240 links indexed in Google Webmaster Tools for my new blog. I was generally pleased with the result, watching the site starting to rank on a few keywords, and waiting to see the toolbar PageRank update, just for the fun of it. I was expecting to see a PageRank 2 or 3 with those links.

How surprised I was when finally a few pages got their PageRank, and it turned out to be… Zero! Not even one. Nevermind that I saw a few sites with similar or worse link profiles have a better rank, take that small personal site that I mentioned for example.

I started digging around for a possible explanation. I noticed other webmasters observing similar effects. And then, I found the post by Bill Slawski and this new Google patent. Now this all seems to fit together perfectly.

The link building techniques that I used worked well several years ago. And they still produce some results, just not as good as they used to. Now I figure this could be because of the change in PageRank formula.

What does this mean for you and your blog?

With this possible change in PageRank algorithm, is it time to change your link building habits? Google tries to follow the real user behavior and real traffic patterns, so you should focus on these even more. In a way, Google has just made your job easier. Now you can focus on live visitors and assume that Google will try to use the same hints.

As an added bonus, you will decrease your dependency on Google. There is no way to be wrong here – if you build great click-through traffic sources with natural linking, you win regardless of Google’s policies.

So I suggest you to scale down these link building methods in favor of others:

  • Forum posting and blog commenting. It has plenty of benefits, but don’t do that in hopes of increasing your PageRank.
  • Social bookmarking. Same as above, share what you think is valuable. You can get some click-through traffic, but don’t expect any PageRank.
  • Article submission. Don’t go for the numbers, submit to top directories to get traffic, syndication and recognition.
  • Bulk directory submission. It’s probably not worth your time and money any more.
  • Bulk link exchange. This is explicitly discouraged by Google now, and can get you banned from their search results.

I don’t mean you should stop doing all of the above. Remember about link diversity, both for SEO and traffic building reasons. Get some extra links if that’s easy, but focus on high quality links in your strategy. I believe any extra one-way links can’t hurt you, otherwise it would be too easy for competitors to bomb each other with bad links.

Now, some quality link building methods to scale up:

  • Guest blogging. It’s the most reliable way to get a quality context link on a reputable, relevant blog.
  • Link baiting. While it is hard to create a successful link bait, one success can pay for several failures.
  • Press releases. With some effort and some luck, you can get a quality link from big media.
  • Joint ventures. Get to know people and discuss how you can do business together. Be creative.
  • Building communities. Create a resource that attracts a targeted community, and they will link to you.

As you may notice, the methods that bring the highest quality links are also the ones which are widely used by the bloggers, and which can benefit a lot from their already high social activity. So as a blogger, you should probably welcome the change, and hope that the Internet will become a better place for everyone, with less spam and clutter.

And listen to the advice from Google. Pay less attention to PageRank and more attention to your content, traffic and conversion rates.

As someone who took a start in Internet marketing back in 2002, I have some nostalgia for the days of easy SEO. But I welcome the new world of quality links and fair rankings (well, Google, good luck with that!) If everyone has to play by the same fair rules, I am happy to join and take the extra effort.

There may be no new PageRank formula in reality. Maybe the data in my case study can be explained by pages with too many links per page, or temporary glitches when ranking new pages. Still, even if the PageRank value itself will not change, the new Google patent clearly outlines their priorities in ranking. You should seriously consider introducing the suggested changes to your link building strategy. Especially considering that it will bring you more traffic regardless of Google, possibly reducing your dependency on their free search results.

Val Danylchuk
Val Danylchuk is the author of Web Tracking Guide - an easy, step-by-step tutorial on tracking and maximizing your online profits.
Val Danylchuk

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  • This is insightful, thanks. So what you are saying is that commenting on this blog is not going to help my pagerank. You are probably right. The google “secret sauce” is getting better and better and weeding out those of us who play SEO games. I guess the only real strategy is create great content that people link to.

    • You’re right, commenting here will not help your PageRank, especially given that the signature links are nofollow. However, this still gives you the exposure and social opportunities.

      Creating great content is half of the solution, although you still need to promote it, even if only to start a viral spreading.

  • Thanks Val Danylchuk,

    Its really helpful article… Now should work on related link with clicks 🙂

  • Greatzafar

    Good one.

  • Ryan

    “Pay less attention to PageRank and more attention to your content, traffic and conversion rates.”

    We have taken this tact over the last year or so. The traffic we get is now converting 150% better and our bounce rate has dropped by 10%.

    A big win right? NO! Rankings have steadily dropped over this time as well. This month, year over year, organic Google traffic has dropped over 11%.

    I’m not saying your idea is wrong, I just don’t think now is the time. Maybe next year. For now more links from diverse domains is the traffic maker.

    • So, if I understand your figures correctly, with an 11% drop in SE traffic and a 150% increase in conversion rate, you still enjoy 0.89*2.50=2.225 or 122,5% more converted customers? I think that’s a great achievement, and that’s supposing that SEO is your only source of leads, so in reality it’s probably even better.

      I can see no reasons to be upset, unless SE traffic in itself is one of your primary business goals.

      • Ryan

        Regarding your reply… At this rate it is unsustainable. Eventually, my search engine traffic will fall to zero and conversion rates will not mean a thing. But yes, you’re right. For now we are seeing tripple digit revenue growth.

        My real point is that Google is currently VERY bad at determining website quality or it is a very insignificant part of the algo. I can say this because by all metrics my site has improved while rankings has decreased.

        Obviously this was not done in a vacuum and it’s possible that competitors above me have improved their site quality far more than myself but that’s unlikely.

      • Hi Ryan, thanks for sharing more of your experience.

        I understand your concerns, but I believe you’re on the right path. Of course you should not forfeit all your SEO efforts completely. You need to split the resources. Now that you know how valuable is a good conversion rate, you can
        pay more attention to it, while keeping an eye on your rankings not to let them drop dramatically.

        And I don’t think you risk your SE traffic dropping to zero. Of course it may be lower than when you devoted 100% of resources to it, but it doesn’t have to decline further. And an 11% drop over a course of year may actually be within a margin of random variation. Not saying you shouldn’t pay attention, of course.

  • I’ve always been a big fan of guest posting to achieve relevant backlinks. I’m glad to see that it appears first on your list of best things to do for quality back links.

    • Thank you, it’s nice to know you also like it. I find that aside from SEO benefits, guest posting also attracts a lot of direct traffic and helps in building relationships.

  • I’m sick of the SEO games. It’s nice to know that Google is playing it straight more and more. Thanks for the great article.

    • Google would love to play straight, the problem is, that basically requires a human-level AI with Google-level scalability and performance. So they have to use some more practical but less perfect tricks until a better technology becomes available.

      And as someone who also doesn’t like the SEO game much, I can suggest to ignore the large part of it. Cover the basic things that have the highest impact on rankings, like proper title tags, headlines, descriptions, URLs, link text and external links, and then focus on building value for your visitors and optimizing your conversion rates. Building more traffic in other ways except SEO is also a good idea.

  • I’m sick of the SEO games. It’s nice to know that Google is playing it straight more and more. Thanks for the great article.

  • I’m seeing strange results.. In June 2010 I started a niche affiliate blog and built some links in the traditional way, mixed in with some quality links and was pretty careful with anchor text rotation etc… In 4 weeks I hit No: 3 for my main keyword, then the site was hit with a filter/-999penalty (sandbox perhaps..) and every few weeks it pops back onto the front page and then a few days later back on page 100…

    Strange thing is, the backlink profile for my site has plenty of high quality links, like industry news sites and very high quality blogs and the top 3 results for my keywords have hundreds of profile links, SB links, forum spam, comment spam…

    Plus… in the latest Pagerank update, I stayed at PR0… Strange…

    • It’s a bit frustrating that Google does not announce the reasons or even a fact of applying a penalty, so you are left with your guesses. But they probably have to keep it this way, otherwise it would be too easy to reverse-engineer their algorithm and game the system.

      Good luck with getting your rankings back on a permanent basis!

  • Nothing really new under the sun of california – It’s been a long time that I am promoting Quality links more than quantity of links. Anyway nice to here it from other people

    • You wouldn’t believe how many people argue for quantity over quality. It’s just too easy and tempting to massively spam links with software and cheap outsourcing. So every little piece of evidence for the value of quality links is worth a lot to establish good linking practices for everyone.

  • Great article I wonder if there is a optimal colour for links (I guess at default blue) it does make sense though. As a web designers putting a style of ‘text decoration none’ may look nice, but could be damaging the page / site. Will have to do a test on that.

    • Yes, removing text decoration completely should probably decrease the link value. I admire your idea to run an actual test to be sure.

  • Dude. First of all: PageRank? Really? You care about PR? Oh dear.

    Secondly: what you say about linkbuilding methods is nothing new. You’re basically saying exactly what has been known in the SEO industry for a few years. Nothing has changed, no new insights, no great revelation about how Google values links.

    Great if you want to share basic SEO knowledge with the masses, but please don’t try to wrap it up as something new and different. It really isn’t.

    • Hi Barry, thanks for your comment.

      Yes I know PageRank is not as heavy a factor as it used to be. I mention that it’s overrated both at the beginning and the end of the article. Yet it’s still a factor, and a lot of people still care, so it’s worth a post. Let’s be honest, you also didn’t say “Duh” and move on when you saw the title, you proceeded to read the post.

      What’s new in this article, in case you missed it, is that the changes suggested by the recently granted patent seem to be confirmed with the latest PR update. I know I provide only very limited anecdotal evidence, but other people seem to observe similar effects, too.

      I didn’t claim to reveal any new SEO insights previously unknown to humanity, I just humbly suggested reviewing the priorities.

      And finally, if there’s nothing new here for you, then great, you are up to speed. Apparently, not all other readers are in the same position, so please don’t judge the value of the article only by your personal benefit.

      • At first I fully intended to go ‘Duh’ leave this post be. But this is SEJ and I’m used to seeing quality stuff on here. Outdated tripe to educate beginning SEOs who obviously don’t understand the basics shouldn’t be what SEJ is about – but maybe I’m mistaken about that.

        Oh and a word of advice: you might want to leave the interpretation of search engine patents to veteran experts like Bill Slawski and David Harry. I don’t think you have the required experience to properly come to grips with what a patent means and how it can relate to what we see in the wild.

      • I agree. Linking strategies should be recommended based on their merits, not based on a metric that has been meaningless for years.

      • Oh I am stewing on it… U even catch WHICH patent it was Barry? he he… can U say ‘Reasonable Surfer’? Oh man… zigged when he/they shoulda zagged methinks.

      • I love the post, Val, and I am far not a newbie to SEO. Thanks for providing value and Ann, thanks for publishing it!

      • Thanks for your support, Ana. As dazlindonna suggested, there may be another explanation for the effect I observed, PageRank being months behind even on update. I mentioned there could be other explanations in my last paragraph, too.

        I still believe bringing Google’s “Reasonable Surfer” model to more readers is useful, and discarding this article simply because “OMG PageRank is dead”, like some of my critiques here, is short-sighted.

    • Thejspot

      Barry, I don’t think we read the same article. This was about Google changing the PR algorithm not about “new methods for link building”. Then he goes on to talk about the impact that this will have on people who still think PR is a top priority. To those people he was speaking about changing their link building methods. I don’t think you understood the article.

      • Oh I got the article – I just don’t think a blog like SEJ should be wasting space by publishing stuff that might have been worthwhile 3 years ago.

      • Well, this is obviously not true. A post with so many retweets and LinkedIn shares is definitely beneficial for both SEJ and many of its readers.

      • Seriously? You think tweets & shares are an indication of a post’s merits (versus critical comments as you seem to have gathered plenty of)?

        In that case I can point you to some great tips from Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian on how to live your life.

      • This is obviously not the ultimate measure and goal in itself, but it’s an indication that you are ignoring a lot of other people’s opinions with broad judgements like this.

        There is a delicate balance for each publication between keeping both the advanced and beginner-level readers happy. There are hot proponents on each side. When they get too excited about it, they start off-topic flames and call each other names like “elitists” and “populists”.

        I think that practice is boring and counter-productive, so I suggest we do not go into that ancient dispute. Let’s add more informative and constructive comments instead.

      • As the one who decided to use this article for SEJ (and am sure about this decision), I want to make things clear:

        Arguing about new / not new in SEO is as old as SEO itself. We’ve seen it enough at Sphinn… Now, we are editorial blog but we let readers decide what they like. And readers obviously like this article.

        Now, PR is old and people should really stop caring about it, But they still do. Let’s at least remind them that there are better ways to “earn” high pagerank than buying links and submitting to directories…

      • “And readers obviously like this article.” You sure about that Ann? How many Disqus thumbs-down has the article received? Do you generally get this many negative comments on an article (which imho is a much better indication of a post’s quality than the lazy Likes and RTs that people tend to do blindly anyway)?

        I like SEJ and read your stuff regularly, which is why I felt the need to point out this muck when it appeared here. SEJ can and should do better than this.

      • I see 4 or 5 people complaining it in not new advice (which I don’t think is a good argument because I seldom see anything new (and even useful) posted on really powerful SEO blogs). I see no one saying what is written is basically wrong. And I see many people commenting that it has turned useful to them.

        I hope the post may turn inspiring (if not new).

        And again, “new” is a weak point because who really wants to re-invent the bicycle here? We see one and the same advice from blog to blog: create great content and earn links, create great content and learn links…

        I don’t see too many Disqus thumb-downs (I see some thumb-ups though). Am I looking in the wrong dorection?

      • Well said. Good things have its own rank in this world without any advertisements.

      • Train wrecks and burning schools full of children get a lot of viewers too, just not something I want to be “known” for..

  • meh… you just need to change your site structure so your juicy links come higher in the code irrespective of the visual appearance of the site.

    • Yes, link prominence is one of the factors. However, you’ll find a dozen or two other factors in Google’s patent (a linked article by Bill Slawski describes it in a human-readable form).

      And the problem is, with link building, you are often concerned about other people’s sites rather than yours, so you cannot really just change the site structure.

  • So using your math, a few days work and I get a PR 2? So in 10 days (let’s say 2 weeks) for good measure I could get a PR 10? Get Real!

    PR is literally hardly ever updated, and very few people (who matter) care about it. Thumbs down 🙁

    • PR 2 used to be pretty easy to achieve, and my other site received it with only 5 random links and no promotion efforts. That’s why I expected at least something similar for the site where I actually did some link building.

      And PR math does not work the way you described. The scale is logarithmic. PR3 is worth X times more than PR2, PR4 is again worth X times more than PR3, and so on. X used to be somewhere around 5 a few years ago, now it’s probably higher. I think Google adjusts X (the logarithm base) so that a few sites with the highest internal linear PR values are always displayed as PR10.

      To go from PR2 to PR10 you would need at least 390,625 (5^8) times more efforts, not 5 times more as you suggested.

  • It’s a true summary of the changes that been made over time. But, it’s nothing new as many already pointed out. I don’t see it as a change that you have to adapt to though.

    • Thanks for your comment, it’s nice to hear that you find this to be a true summary. And while it may be nothing new for you, it’s new for a lot of people. Check the poll results I shared in my recent article here about link building. A lot of people seem to be focused on forum posting, blog commenting and social bookmarking as their primary link building tools. Those people may need to reconsider their priorities and add some higher quality links to their mix. That’s what I meant.

  • Insightful? Confirmation bias, that’s what is.

    • Do you mean that people call this article insightful only because it confirms their views? But what other measure do they have? Maybe I’m just being slow at this late hour, but I’m not sure I get your point.

      Just to make it clear, I do not claim to be particularly insightful. On the contrary, I had to do a lot of catch-up learning in SEO lately, I just like to share my findings in the process. Turns out they are useful to many people, although of course there are experts who are well aware of everything I write, and then some. If you are one of those experts, please consider sharing additional advice that could be useful for someone reading this article.

  • Good to know. You must pay attention to these things if you want to promote your sites to their best.

  • google is trying to turn the SEO industry more into a marketing industry. valuable useful content to go up the ranks, rather than a strict formula of link building.

    its more hit or miss now for site owners depending on how they play their cards.

    • Well, it’s not exactly anything radically new in Google strategy. They are inherently secondary to the web, although webmasters tend to forget that. In an ideal world, webmasters would link to each other naturally, and Google would stand aside and provide a search service based on the data and links. The problem is, their service is so popular, it makes more sense to some webmasters to game the system rather than build real value.

  • With the recent update to page rank I’ve noticed some crazy results with no noticeable patterns. Some sites staying at PR0 and some going straight to PR2. I just keep working on a wide spread of link building methods and concentrate on getting the best ROI for my clients.

    • I also think that a widely diversified link building strategy is your best bet. There doesn’t seem to be enough transparency in Google ranking algorithm to find some single sure-fire solution to link building. Which would probably be bad for Google results, so they have valid reasons to keep it this way.

      • I don’t live in the USA or Europe and SERP is totally different in my part of the world. I see that Google is going “local” so the argument about SERP has taken on a new meaning i.e. SERP in which location. I am surprised that people are not thinking about location targeting (IP address)
        Maybe it is because many of the people who post about these things are only targeting their own country and only reading what their own countrymen are saying.
        BTW. Thanks for the article. It was fun seeing the reactions.

      • I see a lot of articles in all SEO-related sites about local search and optimization, I’m surprised you suggest people are not thinking about it. I didn’t mention it in my article because it was just not related to the particular subject matter.

      • Glad to know I am not the only one thinking about it 本

      • Chris K

        Instead of referring to PageRank, 99% of the time one can simply refer to rankings. For example, I don’t care what PR a page is that I want to acquire a link from–all I care about is “how does it rank for it’s main keyword” and “how many links to page, and links to root domain?” If those two criteria are met (and of course others check out okay too, like the historty of the site and if they sell paid links etc.) then I’m 100% comfortable in the link. If I site is legit and ranks, there’s no reason to doubt it’s link passing ability. It may not have a nice number or green graphic on it, but it works for me and it will work for you.

      • Your suggested approach looks very practical and reasonable to me, I use something similar. Toolbar pagerank is useless because it is not updated frequently enough.

  • Hm, well, first of all, what you see in the toolbar is old data. It’s the PR that existed for a site at some time in the past. Since you’ve only recently started your site, it’s just as likely that the snapshot of the PR is before your site gained any actual pagerank. The snapshots are often from many months previous.

    • Thank you, this can explain my observations. I thought if the PR value was only recently assigned (it was N/A previously) then it must be fresh. Does Google routinely assign outdated values even on PR updates? Why would they do that?

      • Yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying. Google routinely assigns outdated values on PR updates, on purpose. To thwart seos and link sales, presumably. Whatever the reason, it’s the way it’s been for a long time. You are looking at the score from some time in the past – even when updated.

      • Thanks for the reference! Matt’s words indeed sound like the toolbar PageRank may be somewhat lagging even right after the update. Well, one more reason to care less about it. However, a lot of webmasters still measure a site’s worthiness by its home page PR, no matter how lagging or meaningless it is for SEO purposes.

  • aleksandr

    Спасибо за статью! Я из Russia

  • Commenting here will not help your Page Rank 😛 haha
    Informative post but for beginners. I think we should think any thing else in SEO industry because Page Rank and Quality Links is now a Stone Age game there are lot of new things to do.

    • They may be not exactly new concepts, but there are new developments about them. Also, the beginners need to be reminded sometimes about covering all the basics before proceeding with more advanced techniques. These basics mean a lot for search rankings.

  • Sean Green

    I am not sure if someone pointed this out but it seems that sites that are not a year old didn’t receive a pagerank value. I am working on about 10 sites and 6 of them are under a year old and none of them received PR despite having some very high PR links. On the other hand all 4 sites over a year old were assign a page rank value.

    Everyone I have talked experience the same thing I did.

    • For what it’s worth, I have a blog which was launched two months ago, on a new domain, and it was assigned PR 0.

      • Sean Green

        I think this is because of the new way google assigns pagerank. It appears they are not assigning it to domains that are not a year old.

  • WOW! Val i am becoming the fan of yours… and i hate you at the same moment 😉 you are actually helping the link builders to design their strategies according to the priorities set by Google now all left is to find of the Blogs, contacts and ideas related to your niche…

    I think how Google is progressing the old fashion link building will find their way home..

    Great Article!!

  • Anonymous

    Old news, like Barry said…but I did agree with Anne’s rationale for accepting the posting. Old news aint news at all….so I didn’t even read same yesterday….just glossed over same and thought “gee, if I was new to SEO this might mean a teensy bit…” but after 11 years this is pretty much just filler….tho perhaps some astute readers may have picked up Bill & David’s mentions and then googled for their sites to learn more…that at least is a good thing here….

    @Barry, I’d maybe think that you should post URLs to some of your own items that most of us SEO practitioners read religiously, for this @Val to read and to learn….

    And PR? dead and buried, eh!


    • @Jim, I don’t think I should be using comments in SEJ to promote my own stuff. My name here links to my twitter account which in turn links to my own blog, so if people want to read my stuff they know where to find me. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        @Barry, sure I guess I buy that…but hey, sure seems like some folks NEED to spend more time a-learning afore they go a-posting, eh!



      • Jim, if you were referring to me, then rest assured that I did my fair share of learning, and continue it daily. Thank you for your thoughtfulness.

    • OMG, are people seriously still writing about PageRank? Maybe we can throw some meta tags into the conversation. While we are at it, I want to break out my old Farrah Fawcett poster and leave my mom a “surprise” under the bed, too.

      Agreed, very old news. It is funny to me that somebody recently mentioned the PageRank of my blog and my first thought was as nostalgic as my Atari 2600.

      I have not even looked at the “Green Fairy” of PageRank in half a decade. If you are doing the things you should be doing, people will love your stuff enough to link to it. If it is relevant content for a given search, on a reasonably decent website, and other people crave it, the site will rank well. Isn’t that a whole lot easier to than waiting for Google to give you a number?

      • Anonymous

        @Mark…wow! a 2600! cool, my own was either a monstrous box the size of a house up at Univ of Waterloo where I played star trek on a dumb terminal back in 1969 or my very own Sinclair ZX80 at I think around $100 via mailorder from the UK! Oh, when it cleared customs here in Canada, the folks there wrote “unknown device” on the outside of the box and charged me $5 as they checked off it was a radio….wooT!

      • Gosh Jim, I you may be even older than I thought. It brings back memories of my old Commodore 64 and Tandy 1000 days. Oh, and of course there was Oregon Trail on the old Apple II, which was certainly fascinating.

      • I liked Farrah Fawcett and I used to be in love with Wonder Woman in my teens but I had to give it up!

      • Farrah and Wonder Woman caused a lot of young boys to risk going blind. I am sure glad my mom was wrong about what causes blindness, because those two gals could have rendered me completely worthless in my later racing career!

      • I think that someone knew what we were thinking in those earlier days and built the website “Wonder Woman Online” which is a Page Rank 4 website. If anyone wants to send wonder woman gifts to older men they can always browse through the rich content relevant pages. Maybe in a few weeks, someone looking for Wonder Woman might also end up here – LOL!

    • Thanks for your comment, Jim, it’s nice to hear you don’t judge the placement of this post here as harshly as Barry does.

      I’m not sure why the knowledgeable people like you and Barry like it so much to declare PageRank as dead. Yes, it is only one of about 200 ranking factors now, but it still has a relatively heavy weight, which can be easily tested by publishing similar articles on two websites where they would get different PR. Then see which one ranks higher.

      Maybe it’s the “in” or cool thing to say today, or maybe you are just tired of all the noise about PageRank. Some people really give it too much credit today. I am not one of them. My article did not promote PageRank as a primary SEO target. On the contrary, it stated that it is overrated. However, there are still webmasters who care a lot about it, for bragging rights or whatnot, and for them, my article may provide some hints for better link building.

    • Hehehe… well Jim, methinks the author shoulda done a little hunting BEFORE posting this. But have no fear, I shall certainly be giving more than a few resources in any response I end up writing on this one. ;0) – prolly SEOBS worthy actually.

      • I’ll be honored, sir! I enjoy SEOBS occasionally, although I don’t follow it on a regular basis.

        I have no problem if you post a sound rebuttal and I look like a fool for writing this article. I’m curious to learn some truth that we might find in the process of discussing it.

        Keep in mind that I’m in no way posing as an SEO expert here, just sharing what I learned, observed, and a possible explanation for what I see.

  • Anonymous

    Old news, like Barry said…but I did agree with Anne’s rationale for accepting the posting. Old news aint news at all….so I didn’t even read same yesterday….just glossed over same and thought “gee, if I was new to SEO this might mean a teensy bit…” but after 11 years this is pretty much just filler….tho perhaps some astute readers may have picked up Bill & David’s mentions and then googled for their sites to learn more…that at least is a good thing here….

    @Barry, I’d maybe think that you should post URLs to some of your own items that most of us SEO practitioners read religiously, for this @Val to read and to learn….

    And PR? dead and buried, eh!


  • I see in SEJ’s AboutUs page that they specialize in the sharing of knowledge as well as news. I read your piece and am pleased to have enough grace to say thanks for your efforts (which are offered to me free), regardless of whether I benefited.

    • Thanks for your support. My few opponents in this comments page have a few valid points, but I think overall their energy could have been spent better.

  • Francineider

    I think this post was interesting and useful.
    Not because it talks about PageRank, but because it talks about the value of links.

    So, is it common knowledge that the position of a link has influence on its weight? Is it common knowledge that this (otherwise debatable) theory has been put on patent by Google? Have all SEOs in the World read Slawsky post?

    I learned something from the post.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks for your kind words! I’m glad you found it useful.

  • You can not discount “small links in the footer” because with css and positioning, it is impossible for Google to know where these links are placed on the page. I could put my footer at the top of my document and then position it at the bottom of the display with css. Is Google deciphering css now?

    • Ryan

      You’re telling me they designed a world class browser but they can’t figure out where something actually is on a webpage. Give me a break.

  • I like how he mentions his link building tactics. Sometimes you think the pros know something you don’t. Which is why I was surprised to see him using the same link building techniques as me.

    • Don’t assume that I am some enlightened “pro” just because I got published on SEJ. 🙂

      Anyway, a lot of techniques are used by both pro SEOs and amateurs. If it’s effective then why not use it?

  • So this means that blog commenting is not going to work any more.Though I always prefer Article Marketing,I am not sure how much effect it is going to make with these new set of factors coming in.

    • Links from article marketing may be of a slightly higher quality than comment sigs, but you need to be careful not to get affected by the duplicate content filters, which have become even more strict recently. At least for the articles you publish on your own site, try to make sure each one is unique.

  • Yeah, the new PageRank algorithm has some pretty surprising results. I built a popular health and fitness blog back in May of last year. It has a ton of useful content (over 380 articles) and around 20k backlinks by Yahoo. Many of the links are from quality sites including plenty from writing guest posts. I was expecting the home page to hit about a PR 4 or maybe 5 if I was lucky. Turns out, the home page was given a PR of 1.

    • I was surprised by seeing that as well. I’ve watched how your blog has been growing and was curious to see which PR it would be assigned. When the update was rolled out, yours was one of the few new sites I checked and was a bit shocked.

      Mere curiosity… but still weird…

      I expected MBG to increase PR as well as it has grown a lot since the last update but the PR remained the same… go figure!

    • I guess you are talking about HiveHealthMedia. This is strange indeed. The most likely explanation is probably what dazzlindonna suggested. Maybe even after the update, what you see is the value from several months ago.

  • Oh, one other thing I noticed is that one of the frequent top commentators with Commentluv had around 9k Yahoo backlinks on her blog–nearly all from comments on do follow blogs. Her home page PR stayed at zero with the last PR update this year. Turns out that Commentluv might be worthless for passing Google juice.

    • Yes, blog comment links should be pretty weak even with the original formula. There are probably 100+ links on a typical blog post page, so one link hardly passes much juice. And if Google actually distinguishes between link types in PageRank calculations, then it is completely worthless.

      I considered using CommentLuv as a comments magnet, but the moderation overhead stops me. It attracts spammers more than anyone, and it puts you under the risk of Google’s “bad neighborhood” penalty.

  • wow! i missed the discussion well i guess a very well researched and well written article by Val… sorry Barry but i am a reader and i find it useful…

  • The information he provide is not a new one. But, he gave some valuable information.

    • I brought this up because I thought I had a new evidence. Now, that may or may not be the case, but bringing that patent and Bill’s great article on it to more readers is still a good thing, I believe.

  • I believe that SEO has so many advantages. Through this, it is easier to gain more traffic and have increased internet exposure. One can’t really deny the benefits of it.

  • Seems I need to change my link building strategy completely to a new one. I use blog commenting and forum posting for link building and it gives me good result in terms of traffic. But it didn’t add any advantage to my PR. So, I am moving to the new and reliable methods you have discussed here. Anyway, thanks for your advice.

    • Oops, I have accidentally posted a reply to you in a separate thread. Please see below, it has your name in it. Thanks again!

  • Thanks for your feedback, Satish,

    I think you don’t really have to completely give up your old methods, especially if they bring good traffic as you said. The best solution is probably a mix of different link building methods. Some for quantity and some for quality. Some for traffic and some for PageRank. In reality, each method will contribute a little to both. And the balance may move with future changes in Google ranking algorithms. Having a lot of links from various sources pointing to your site is good in any case.

    Good luck with your link building!

  • Anonymous

    Val, this is a good piece of info, but we have been hearing this since last one year, but the new page rank system hasn’t been launched yet, do you have any idea when this will be available, i was reading Matt Cutts blog he also shared the same concept but was not very clear about the launch, ha also said ‘Very Soon’

    • Hi Jeff, I don’t have any insider info on this. I thought some of my ranking data could be evidence for the change already happening, but as dazzlindonna pointed out, a more likely explanation is that toolbar PR data is lagging even after the update.

      I think even if Google did not incorporate some parts of their “Reasonable Surfer” model directly into PageRank yet, it would make sense for them to do so in future. That would direct the energy of the many webmasters who care a lot about PageRank to better link building methods.

  • Thank you for your revealing… Google is changing but PageRank remains important.

    • You’re welcome. And it’s nice to see people realize that the old known ranking factors are still important. It is better than this attitude: “Meta tags are dead, go for keyword density! Keyword density is dead, go for PageRank! PageRank is dead, go for anchor text! Anchor text is dead, go for social media (or whatever other Next Big Thing)!” I believe there is no single silver bullet in SEO or online promotion in general, you need to combine several techniques to be successful.

  • So, Now, we can start new era of build link. Instead for page rank, The usual link building should be considered as marketing strategy from now on.

    • I would avoid loud phrases like “new era”, but yes, I believe today you can feel safer than before if you forget about PageRank and build quality links for the sake of reader’s benefit and click-through traffic.

  • Anonymous

    Hello Val,

    It is a very good post with lot of insight and reading first comments I am little amazed. Well! I am not new to SEO anymore, but this post helped me to stay on things I was doing. One more thing to mention here starting Feb 1st Google has deployed new algorithm. It is the right time to go ahead and build a better spam free internet. Great post!! keep it up

    • Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you like it. I guess it’s normal to have a few negative comments, you can’t please everyone. I think I understand their reasons, although I would not make such a big issue of this.

      • Val,

        You’re a very smart person, so I was surprised to read how flawed the article really is.

        If you would take the time to get out of your ego, you’d grasp the negative comments from some of the best minds in our industry are communicating that your article is based on flawed concepts. Whether you’ve garnered lots of tweets and positive comments is irrelevant to the question of whether the article is factual or not.

      • You’re right, Alan, I guess I got too defensive replying to some comments here. I can see the reasoning behind that critique, and I do realize that my core hypothesis in this article turned out to be incorrect. Maybe I or someone else will do a follow-up post about this to get things straight. I am discussing this with David Harry, who wrote his own version of rebuttal at SEOBS.

  • I have personally met SEOs who disregard PR almost completely publicly or in talking, and yet look at it while building links (may be even in private to check their site progress). Yes, PR is not as heavy – we all know that, but its still gives a time saving quick overview in some important tasks in what we do.
    Anything that Google patents for its Pagerank is worth digging into. Good post!

    • Yes, I also notice some hypocrisy about it every once in a while.

      Thank you for your support!

  • Agreed, I am also seeing less effect on a large number of exact anchor text links for the keyword you are targeting. This is obviously still a large factor, although I think a diversified, balanced natural looking link profile is becoming more and more important.

  • There’s a bigger issue in this article. It’s not just about old news being relevant. It’s about flawed logic, used as a premise to guide others in how they might perform their work, and slapping “new” on the title to make it appear to be something people should focus more on.

    The very fact that some believe this article is good for newcomers just makes it worse. Just because some concepts presented in the article have merit, i.e. “So, you can say goodbye to small text links in page footers, forum and blog comments, stuffed sidebars, link exchange pages and other similar link spammer paradise areas.” does not justify the condoning of this article.

    • Hi Alan, thanks for your opinion.

      I’m not sure if it counts as flawed logic when you suggest an explanation for some effect and it turns out wrong. Maybe a failed hypothesis would be a more suitable term. Others have already corrected me, and I acknowledge my mistake. Maybe I need to write an update to make things clear, I’m considering that.

  • Great analysis and spot on update about what Google is seeing these days. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    • Turns out it was not exactly spot on, as my toolbar PageRank update is more likely explained by simple lagging on Google’s part. See what dazzlindonna wrote in another comment.

      I still think it is good that more people learned about Google’s “Reasonable Surfer” model, and may consider building links with more quality in mind as a result.

      It’s my pleasure sharing my findings with you, even if some of my assumptions turn out to be incorrect.

  • old piece of news… with some fresh arguments 😀

  • Fatima, if you knew what confirmation bias was about and you realized how flawed this article is (now admitted by Val in a good follow up article – kudos!), then you’d understand the brevity of my comment.

    Regarding confirmation bias: Val had an idea and found confirmation in an article written by a credible author, which made him believe this idea of his was true. However, Bill Slawski’s article doesn’t confirm Vals idea, Val just thought it did, because that’s how our brain (often) works when we have a preconceived notion. We seek confirmation and it’s easy to be mislead.

  • It looks to me like google is penalizing average links age and possibly volume with a decaying log type function. They’ve patented using link age. It makes alot of sense in a way. I had a site at pagerank 4 forever and started a major linking campaign and got penalized.

  • Unless the PR is 3+, it is not worth much in my opinion.

    Social bookmarks are great, but will it help with the rankings… haven’t seen that yet.