In an effort to find out why I lost PageRank I have created a definitive guide to the world of PR (not the public relations type, although this post is for you guys )
On this page you will find everything you need to know about:
- What Google PageRank is
- How to get more of it.
- How to Keep it once you have it, and most importantly -
- Actionable Methods you can take right now to Stop it leaking from your site.
So on with the
JUNE 29th 2011. A Quick UPDATE
Google Pagerank has just been updated and it looks like they enjoyed this post immensely. PR3 on this page AND a PR3 on the homepage (among many others)
Clearly the steps I took in this post helped immensely and give more weight to why you should read this post and action accordingly!
Google Recently updated its Pagerank and I was honestly expecting (or hoping) to move to a PageRank of 3. Not only did this not happen – I actually went the other way, and as of Feb11th 2011 AlexWhalley.com has gone from a PR2 to a PR1 website. (not happy Jan)
Why The Face indeed.
Before I can even begin to try and understand what I did or didn’t do to earn this demotion I need to understand a little more about what PageRank actually is.
How was Pagerank Born?
PageRank was created by Lawrence ‘Larry’ Page , who also happened to be the guy who created Google too.
In order to understand how PageRank works, I think it best to share with you how it was born…
After enrolling for a Ph.D. program in computer science at Stanford University, Larry Page was in search of a dissertation theme and considered exploring the mathematical properties of the World Wide Web, understanding its link structure as a huge graph. His supervisor Terry Winograd encouraged him to pursue this idea, which Page later recalled as “the best advice I ever got”. Page then focused on the problem of finding out which web pages link to a given page, considering the number and nature of such backlinks to be valuable information about that page (with the role of citations in academic publishing in mind). In his research project, nicknamed “BackRub”, he was soon joined by Sergey Brin, a fellow Stanford Ph.D. student.
John Battelle, co-founder of Wired magazine, wrote of Page that he had reasoned that the “entire Web was loosely based on the premise of citation – after all, what is a link but a citation? If he could devise a method to count and qualify each backlink on the Web, as Page puts it ‘the Web would become a more valuable place’.” Battelle further described how Page and Brin began working together on the project:
- “At the time Page conceived of BackRub, the Web comprised an estimated 10 million documents, with an untold number of links between them. The computing resources required to crawl such a beast were well beyond the usual bounds of a student project. Unaware of exactly what he was getting into, Page began building out his crawler.
To convert the backlink data gathered by BackRub’s web crawler into a measure of importance for a given web page, Sergey Brin (the Co Founder of Google) and Page developed the PageRank algorithm, and realized that it could be used to build a search engine far superior to existing ones. It relied on a new kind of technology that analyzed the relevance of the back links that connected one Web page to another.
In August 1996, the initial version of Google was made available, still on the Stanford University Web site.
In 1998, Brin and Page founded Google, Inc. Page ran Google as co-president along with Brin until 2001 when they hired Eric Schmidt as Chairman and CEO of Google. In January 2011 Google announced that Page would replace Schmidt as CEO in April the same year. Both Page and Brin earn an annual compensation of one dollar. On April 4, 2011, Page will officially become the chief executive officer of Google, while Schmidt steps down to become executive chairman.
Pretty cool huh?
Not only do I find this fascinating, I think it answers the question of what PageRank actually is. The first thing of note is that PageRank has nothing to do with a website Page and everything to do with a ‘let’s name it after Larry’ Page. Why they could not have named it after Brin and made life easy for everyone is beyond me, but I do think they did it on purpose. Sure, PR relates to the page in question, but the PageRank that we have come to know and cherish so much is actually representative of your site as a whole.
What Exactly is Pagerank then?
PageRank is a numeric value that represents how important a page is on the web. Google figures that when one page links to another page, it is effectively casting a vote for the other page. The more votes that are cast for a page, the more important the page must be. Also, the importance of the page that is casting the vote determines how important the vote itself is.
So basically, the more votes (links) you have coming in, and the higher the relevance and authority of that link – the better your own PageRank gets. I would refer to the algorithm on the left but I had trouble returning the variables on k, and the associative properties of x are not congruent with the cartesian coordinates represented by P above. I therefore CLEARLY do not want to make an idiot of myself. Besides, the first answer I got was actually ‘Green’ so I figured I did something wrong.
- Consistently Relevant Content.
Content is the backbone of an authority site, and only through continuous publication of unique quality content that stays consistent to the niche or subject can you hope to increase your PR.
- Incoming Links – based on Relevance and Authority
The more links you have pointing to your site from relevant and high ranking sites the better your own PageRank Gets.
- Internal Linking – based on relevance and anchor text.
A website has a maximum amount of PageRank that is distributed between its pages by internal links. The more pages you create – the more PageRank you can potentially have, and this is optimized and strengthened by internally linking any or all applicable pages to each other with the relevant anchor text.
- Outbound Links – based on relevance and authority
It is a crucial part of good SEO practice to make a habit of linking out to authority sites and relevant pages at least once every few posts as this helps to increase your rank for whatever keyphrases you are talking about and hyperlinking – but this is not necessarily so good for your overall PageRank. Outbound links are a drain on a site’s total PageRank. They Leak PageRank, and so it’s always good practice to make sure the site you are linking to has a higher PR than you and/or is relevant.
Factors that Cause You To Lose Pagerank.
Although Outgoing Links are a necessary part of Good SEO and in turn, increased PageRank – there are two elements to this factor that started setting off alarm bells in my head.
To Increase SEO (and therefore Pagerank) an outgoing link has to meet two criteria:
- Relevant Content on the page being linked to.
- High PR, or at least an authority site. (By authority I mean a page that is either on a High PR site or a page/site that is clearly busy (traffic and conversation wise)
What does this mean for AlexWhalley.com?
With 130 or so posts and over 5500 comments, to say I have a quiet blog is an understatement, but it seems to have come at a cost.
If Non Relevant and low quality outbound links are a drain on your overall Pagerank, then the 3400 or so comments that are not mine are clearly having an effect, so drastic action is required.
As of the 23rd February 2011 Alexwhalley.com is a no-follow comments blog . Keyword Luv has also been removed as this is just adding insult to injury if I leave it there.
I truly believe that every single person who comments on this site does so because of the engaging content and thriving conversation that it generates. I do not think removing the follow attribute will effect my number of comments and the way in which this community engages because, well for one thing – I’m only a PR1 now!!
I will leave this set to no follow until the next Pagerank update. Only then will I know if it has had an effect at all? Remember though, I’m still a do follow blog – so if you really want that backlink, send me a guest post!
Two Many Websites Trying To Rank.
Were you aware that in the eyes of Google you potentially have two identical websites?
As far as the Search Engines are concerned, http://alexwhalley.com and http://www.alexwhalley.com are two different sites! If I don’t fix this then the following occurs:
- I risk having pages on one version of the site or the other deindexed because of duplicate content issues
- If I am linked to by other bloggers, then depending on whether they are a ‘www’ person or a non www person, the link could go to either site.
- I lose the total control of how many backlinks point to my site basically, because I have two of them.
But there is a way to fix this. It’s called URL normalization (or URL canonicalization) but considering that I almost got my tongue caught around my inner ear trying to say that second one, I’ll just stick with normalization thanks!
Ana Hoffman actually posted a how to guide for fixing this, but in her effort to keep things as non technical as possible for her readers, she confused the hell out of me!
Each to their own I suppose – so if my process below confuses you, check out Ana’s post – because it will definitely be for you then. WWW vs non-WWW: Why You Should Put All Your Links in One Basket
If however you refuse to do anything unless the exact technical specifications have been laid out and all the facts have been presented, then Chris Burns of BurnSEO has a post for you.
Chris has written a detailed post where you will find a more technical explanation of how to make your sites canonically correct at How to Make your Site Canonical Friendly
Now I am not techie at all but this is one process that even I could manage, so allow me to show you how to ‘Put All Your Links in One Basket’ (thanks Ana )
*whether you choose to go with the WWW version or the non WWW version is completely up to you.
How to Redirect your WWW and non WWW addresses
It’s called a 301 Redirect and it’s really easy.
Simple log into your HOSTing account (CPanel) and look for something like this: (I am with HostGator, FYI)
When you click on this, the very first Redirect option that greets you is a (Permanent)301. This is the one you want.
The screenshot below is exactly what you would do if you wanted to redirect your site from www to non www, which is the format I prefer.
The Options below the address field include various redirection options, but the first one (www. Redirection: ) is the one you will pick – regardless of which way you are redirecting things.
The other options are more for when you want to redirect one site to another and control whether the www goes there too.
The Wild Card Redirect is…strange to say the least, but not as strange as the warning the preceeds it:
Checking the Wild Card Redirect Box will redirect all files within a directory to the same filename in the redirected directory.
Huh??! I think Dr Suess wrote that one.
So what Now?
Now that you have redirected your site and merged your two versions into one, there is nothing more you need to worry about. From this point forward, regardless of whether someone links to you through www.yourdomain or http://yourdomain – only the one site you specified above will ever receive the link and the recognition that goes with it.
Your 404’s are not Re-Directing Either
We all know the dreaded 404 Error, the one you get when the page you click on is simply not there.
If you are not keeping track of your error links and not redirecting known 404 pages, you are quite simply leaving PageRank Juice on the table.
I see this happen way too often when bloggers go back and change their post titles for better SEO, but inadvertently change the Permalink too. Result – a big fat 404 and no love from Google for that.
What’s worse is that link could have been one you took ages to earn, and is sitting there keyword optimised and everything.
A Great Plugin, which I only found today and installed earlier is called ‘Redirection’ (available Here: http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/redirection/
This plugin actually enables you to do 301 redirections from within wordpress, keep track of your 404 error pages, and then of course set 301 redirections on them as well.
What this means in English (in case I lost you at 123456 etc) is that you can keep your PR by redirecting all bad links to good pages instead
Your Ping List is Terrible
The Reason Google loves your WordPress blog so much is because it has the ability to notify (via a PING) the search Engines everytime you make a change or add content.
The Settings for this are located in your Writing settings (at the very bottom under Update Services) in your Admin Panel and one of two mistakes can happen:
You have only the one ping service that WordPress gave you by default.
You probably didnt even know it was there (maybe)- so when you create a post it is not being crawled and indexed by the search engines first. You want the page content indexed first, but by the time your RSS feed has gone through, chances are that is what will get indexed instead! This is not helping your Pagerank people.
You have too many Ping services listed, and the Search Engines now hate you!
Many of the Ping services have inbuilt notifiers that will then ping other services. If you have hundreds of ping services listed and they all double up and ping each other the same information every time you publish something, pretty soon the Search Engines just assume you are Spam and do not give you the credit you deserve.
Here is my personal Ping Service List, and although extensive, it has never had me banned from any service or search engine. (Feel free to CTRL A – CTRL C it over to your Writing Settings page )
You’re not listed in DMOZ
Okay this one is harder than it sounds. DMOZ is the open source directory… the biggest in fact. More so than Google.
Getting listed in DMOZ is the equivelent of a PR Guarantee. Why? The DMOZ directory is run by real people so the content there is ONLY PURE AWESOMENESS.
When should you apply for a DMOZ listing? When you’re blog starts seeing some traffic, comments, and decent posts… it’s probably a good time to submit. Remember that REAL live people edit each submission… you’ve got to impress someone, not just meet some mathematical criterion. By Getting your site listed in DMOZ you are almost guaranteed to avoid being sandboxed, losing Pagerank or being deindexed.
Good luck finding an applicable category that is still accepting submissions though
What has all this taught me?
Nothing, my brain hurts, and I somehow managed to turn the notes I have been taking into a swan – and I don’t even know Origami!
I have however made a few small changes to the blog, including the implementing of the 301 Redirect, the removal of the follow attribute from the comments, and multiple attempts to get my site listed in DMOZ. One thing I have not looked at is how much all of this actually matters anyway.
Does Pagerank Even Matter?
After all of this, and after whinging and moaning to my wife about it (who just looks at me like I have syphilis) I should actually be asking the most important question, and that is whether Pagerank even matters, or at least how much bearing it has on things.
First and foremost, in the Blogosphere that we inhabit, social media and community rules – so to a large point Pagerank really doesnt matter.
I linked to Ana Hoffman’s post earlier, and she is the perfect example of why PR does not matter. Her Blog – Traffic Generation Cafe, which still has a PR of 0(??!) sees more than 10,000 unique visitors a month and has an Alexa Ranking of under 15,000! Check out some of her Internet Marketing Tools while you are there.
I don’t know about you, but I’d rather that than a good PR anyday!
If you own a blog that has a high PR then you literally halve the amount of necessary backlinks to get your pages ranked. A High Pagerank is like a pat on the back from the President. If Google thinks your OK then EVERYONE thinks your OK. Simple as that.
*A Great tool I recently found for finding High PR backlinks from your competition is Backlink Profit Monster. Read my Full Review Here. Backlink Profit Monster Review
Pagerank is an important aspect that provides you with the authority needed to really make a difference in your niche, but it is also only one factor in a sea of variables and traffic sources. The power of social media, community and general engagement can NEVER be underestimated, so get out there and share the love. If you want to increase or keep your Pagerank then it’s simple:
Follow the advice of this post and just ‘be aware’ of what Google is looking for, but continue to blog and market as you have always done.
Remember that the community around you is something tangible, the algorithm … yeah I’m thinking not.
What Do You Think? (post is 2982 words long so you MUST be thinking something )