Google is updating its PageRank. This site has jumped from a Google PageRank (PR) of zero to a PR3. But does this change in PageRank mean anything?
PageRank is a numeric value that Google assigns to web pages based on its perceived importance. Traditionally, Google PageRank was determined purely on the number of links that a page had from external sites. However, as the Google algorithm evolved in recent years, the significance of PageRank has lost its luster in the SEO community.
At one point in search engine optimization, SERPs could be influenced by the relative value that a page was perceived to have. The higher the ranking in a search, the more traffic, the more traffic, the more conversions and then something happened – webmasters discovered they could manipulate their SERP ranking through questionable linking practices. Google countered by promoting the NoFollow tag on links and by penalizing sites for such practices and by adjusting how their search algorithm ranks pages.
One of the sites that I have developed has shown what would be considered a considerable drop in Google PageRank. One site dropped from a Google PageRank (PR) value of 3, to a PR1. Am I upset about this drop? Not at all. The site in question has actually done better than I had expected. It was an online dating site that I converted to a dating and relationship blog. I was expecting a drop in PageRank and I am not disappointed. This is something that means very little to me.
Here’s why the drop in PageRank means little to me. When the site in question was operating as an online dating site, it was receiving on average 20 unique visitors per day, regardless of how well it was promoted, advertised or linked. It had days where traffic would jump from 20 visitors a day to 100 visitors a day, then go for several days without any visitors. The online dating niche was extremely difficult to make gains.
At the beginning of March, I converted this site into dating and relationship blog. There has been an average of 60 visitors a day to this site – a whopping 200 percent increase in traffic. It went from 195 unique visitors in February 2009 to 727 unique visitors in March 2009. This increase without any link building or without any additional SEO. I intentionally stopped link building and SEO to give Google an opportunity to do it’s thing with this site.
Where has the additional traffic come from?
With the site gradually developing into a content rich site, 91 percent of the search engine traffic comes from Google. Some referrals are accounting for a fair bit of traffic. However, the bounce rate for that traffic is quite significant. I’ve also noticed a significant drop in the backlinks to the site. This is to be expected given the sites linking thought they were linking to a dating site. From careful analysis of the traffic sources, it appears to be coming from organic searches thus the 91 percent of the search engine traffic being from Google. Again, this is to be expected given the site has transformed into a blog site with content.
Webmasters chasing trophy PageRank have either lost focus. Increasing traffic from relevant sources is what webmasters should strive for, not PageRank. If you don’t believe me, just think about what happened to John Chow. As a pro blogger, John Chow got penalized in Google for an aggressive “make money online” link building campaign, where any who reviewed his blog with the text make money online would receive a link back. Google decided that this was unethical link building practices, penalized his site and he lost considerable ranking. Yet, John Chow’s revenue from his blog increased and his traffic numbers went up!
Why did this happen? Simple, the Google penalty and loss of ranking meant nothing because John Chow’s traffic numbers continued to increase and the fact he was one of the first big name bloggers to be penalized by Google, his blog became more popular. Google banning John Chow increased his traffic as multiple blogs and sites covered the controversial deindexing. Google contributed to creating the John Chow Dot Com brand.
While I am not condoning questionable linking practices, the point made is that you don’t have to rank well in Google if you can generate traffic from other sources. Chasing PageRank is counter productive because you can build traffic from other sources. Chasing PageRank is counter productive because you can be using the time to write content.
PageRank will provide some indication as to how well your link building is progressing, but it will not give you an accurate reflection of how well your site ranks in the search engines. Novice webmasters would assume that a site with a PR6 would rank higher than a site with PR4 for the same keyword phrase because of the misconception that PageRank is an indication of the relative importance of the site. Yet the number 2 site for the search term “Ford Truck” is at the time of this writing a PR4 site and the number 3 ranked site has a PR6. In fact, I have seen the site that currently ranks number 2 even at times outrank Ford Motor Company which has a PR8.
Bottom Line, webmasters should concentrate on building their sites, developing unique content and promoting their sites effectively. Traffic can come from many different sources and once a site has established a reputation as being an authority in a given niche, it will consistently rank higher in the SERPS. Remember as well, that Google has many other search indicators that it uses to determine importance of a site.