Although I’m no search engine expert, I’m naturally interested in “how all this stuff works.” That’s why I’ve never owned any gadget I’ve never taken apart (iPhone, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro included!) and why I’ve recently become interested in how the Internet search and referral world works. I’m not interested in being a search engine optimization (SEO) expert, but it’s amazing just watching the gears turn.
Well, a big gear turned again today as Google recalculated their calculated PageRank values for just about every domain and page on the Internet. This is only the third PageRank refresh of 2009, and it’s likely to shake up the standings of every Google search.
How It Works
Rehashing my previous post, which pointed out the perils Google faces in a world full of real-time links and nofollow tags, PageRank is one of the cornerstones on which the search giant relies. Simply put, every page gets a rank on a scale of 0 to 10 based on the number and quality of links pointing to it. Google also seems to rank whole domains this way, using the domain’s rank to weight the scores of pages contained there. Top-ranked sites like Wikipedia (PR 8 ) show up much higher in the Google search results pages than lower-ranked ones like fosketts.net (PR 5).
It certainly surprised me to learn that PageRank isn’t continually updated. In fact, it’s only recalculated every few months! The January refresh bumped my blog from PR 4 to PR 5, driving literally 1,000 more daily visitors my way! The calculation must take some serious horsepower, too, since Google doesn’t include the latest pages. Today’s refresh appears to stop at content from May 6, suggesting that it took the big brains in Mountain View three full weeks to complete their computations!
What It Means
You should care about your sites’ PageRank if you’re at all interested in attracting visitors. As I mentioned, a single-digit PageRank bump drove thousands of visitors to my blog in January, prompting my curiosity about this critical number. I’m not obsessive about it, but it is interesting to watch how PageRank affects site referrals. This is especially important for new sites, like my Enterprise Storage Strategies blog or Gestalt IT, since their readership expands rapidly as PageRank climbs upward.
If you use WordPress, you can add a plugin like SlaptiGooglePR, which displays the overall site PageRank in the Admin Dashboard. It also includes the PageRank of individual pages to the Posts and Pages lists (which is how I knew which days were included in the calculation!)
At the end of the day, PageRank isn’t the most critical part of the Internet. But like a self-winding automatic watch, it’s really interesting to learn how Google does what it does, returning relevant links as if by magic.
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Update: Google again recalculated PageRank on June 24, incorporating pages through the middle of June 16. They’re getting faster!