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How Does Google PageRank Work?

Posted By: Johan Hedin About the author

Nobody really knows how Google PageRank works. Everybody uses it, but nobody has the faintest idea how it functions. It's a mystery. However, in terms of algorithms, Google PageRank is most likely the most important one ever created for the worldwide web. With millions of pages developed every day and billions of existing pages as of the moment, scouring the web for good content is a lot more complicated... mind-bogglingly so... than one might think. PageRank is one of the determining factors that Google uses to sift through potential SERP entries every time, which helps ensure that every search is clean and efficient.

Decades of Development since the Early Days of the Web

In the early days, search engines ranked results based on how many search terms were found on a given page. On the other hand, Yahoo... the leader of web portals back in the day... was a web directory instead of a search engine. In contrast, Google... particularly its PageRank algorithm... was developed to analyze a page's "relevance" by its relationships between websites.  To be more specific, PageRank determined a website's relevance by the importance and number of pages that linked back to the original site instead of how many pages contained a certain search item.

This was what Sergey Brin and Larry Page (two Stanford PhD students) had in mind when they developed this "research project" in 1996 for their studies in Stanford University in California. Since then, PageRank has evolved into something that even baffles modern SEO experts. Sure, they have a vague idea of how PageRank works and what factors has an impact on it in terms of SEO, but they don't know everything about it in light of Google's daily efforts to update and redevelop it to suit the ever-changing needs of the information superhighway.

What Is PageRank and How Does It Work?

At any rate, the main purpose of PageRank is to determine a given page's importance or relevance, which naturally reflects a webpage's placement (i.e., "page rank") in the search engine results page (SERP). PagRank hasn't really changed much in terms of its goals since its inception and development from 1996 onwards. How it does what it does is a bit more ambiguous, even downright subjective. PageRank evaluates two things: How many websites link back to a webpage and the quality of the sites linking to it. Usually, the more high quality a link is... for example, renowned websites like MayoClinic.com or CNN.com are linking back to you... the better your page ranking is to a given SERP. However, what PageRank isn't about is the measurement of the topical relevance of a website.

PageRank instead has more to do with the "approximation" of the quality of a webpage, which can be determined solely by what the algorithm considers as "quality" in the first place. In regards to how it really works, there are several theories. For example, it's theorized that the core PageRank algorithm shares its established page rank across all outbound links. In other words, if you have a webpage with a page rank of eight on the SERP and it had one link on it, the site linked to your site will get a fair amount of page rank value because you're the reputable site that's giving the other site credibility by linking back to it. However, if you have 100 links on your page, only a fraction of your page rank "cred" will go to each individual link.

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