Recently, I started working to try to revive an old blog of mine that I haven’t done much with in the past year or so. I started looking to put in a new look with a shiny new theme for WordPress and a few other bells and whistles. I also cleaned up some of the old blog posts and looked at the PageRank of the website overall.

Wait? The PageRank is a 2.8?

As I said, one of the things I started to do was to look at the PageRank, which according to Open Site Explorer is a 2.8 and according to Google remains a 2. Now if I didn’t know a blessed thing about how search engine optimization works and was instead like some of the customers who drop by our site with questions, I’d be scratching my head.
I’d be asking myself why I have either a PR2 or a PR3 and so little traffic. After all, every non SEO professional has heard of page rank and thinks it’s super important. It must be considering that so many places offer you “high PR” backlinks, right? Of course, that’s totally not the case and never has been. Let’s see how this works.

What Is PageRank Anyway?

For those who are confused or just want a quick refresher course, PageRank was created by Larry Page of Google (nothing to do with the web page BTW). It’s an algorithm by which websites are ranked as to how important they should be considered. Google’s home page and Facebook are amongst the handful of PR10 sites on the web. The vast, vast majority of web pages are PR0 or PR N/A.
Now, contrary to popular belief, links from those PR0 sites are not worthless. They’re not as valuable as links from higher PR sites but higher PR on your own site doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get more traffic. To understand why, let’s look at my high school SEO analogy.

The High School SEO Analogy

Longtime readers of this blog likely are familiar with this but for those who are new or who don’t remember anymore, I once wrote a very long explanation of how SEO works by comparing it to high school. In essence, back when you were in high school, your goal was to try to become popular. Well, one of your goals anyway.
To get popular, there are several ways to do it. One of them is to jump the gun and make a connection with someone who is already popular. So for example, you might date the head cheerleader or the captain of the football team in order to get yourself noticed. Of course, that assumes that the head cheerleader or the captain of the football knows you exist and actually wants to date you.
The alternative is to build yourself up slowly by spreading yourself around and talking to lots of different people. Be helpful and friendly but also understand the social structure of your high school so that you don’t become friends only with the ‘losers.’
football team
In essence, SEO is largely the same kind of thing. You could get a link from a really high PR website and that would improve your chances of getting noticed by Google. However, you could also get links from lots of lesser sites and then end up with a similar ranking.

The Catch

Now here’s the catch: Google doesn’t work in such a simplistic way when they do their rankings. Neither does Bing or any of the other search engines. In point of fact, Google actually uses something like 200 different indicators to decide whether or not a website is worthwhile. Thus just because a site has a high page rank doesn’t mean that it’s worth getting a link there.

Relevant Links Matter More

Now I’m not saying PR is worthless. If you get a relevant link from a high PR website, you will see a nice bump from it. However, simply placing a link on a random site which happens to have a high PageRank won’t do much for you because Google doesn’t just count the high page rank when it decides where to place you in the SERPs.
Okay, but what about high PR on your own site? That should count for something right? You’d think it would but it means less today than it once did. Once again, Google and the other search engines look at dozens of different signals to decide where to place you in the search engine results pages. PR is one of a great many factors.
Thus my blog, which retains a high page rank by dint of still having lots of links pointing to it from other high PageRank sites doesn’t get much Google love just for that. In fact, it gets almost none.
Now, once I start building fresh content on the site and putting in new and fresh relevant links, the higher PR may help somewhat in factoring how high I’ll go in the rankings. However, that in and of itself doesn’t mean that my site is going to rank higher.

So is PageRank Worthless?

Yes and no. If all you do is focus on building your PageRank, it’s going to be pretty worthless in and of itself. That alone will not get you the results that you want and need. On the other hand, if you get a high PageRank, it can help you to build your website in other ways and ultimately get the rankings in the SERPs that you want.
Going back to our high school analogy for a moment, let’s say that your brother was really, really popular in your high school and he just graduated last year. That popularity will in part transfer to you because of the fact that you were related to him. However, without lots of effort on your own to maintain your popularity, you’ll always be “That guy’s sister” instead of being popular in your own right.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is this: If you want to get results from SEO, don’t worry about whether or not your PageRank goes up. It’s just one of a great many factors that Google looks at and it’s not even the most important factor anymore. So focus more on how much your traffic has increased and how high you are in the SERPs rather than how high your PageRank has gone and you’ll be much happier and get better results.