What is page ranking?

In simple terms, page ranking is a measure of the number of links going to each page: it measures your page’s popularity amongst the internet community. The page rank of every webpage appears on the new Google toolbar as a mark out of ten (you can download it from http://toolbar.google.com).

Why is it important?

Page ranking is one of the measures used by search engines to determine a page’s importance. It goes towards calculating how high up in an engine’s listing your webpage appears.

According to the GVU Users survey, search engines now account for over 85% of all new visitors to a web site. As any expert in search engine optimisation (SEO) will tell you, most internet users don’t look past their first page of results unless they absolutely have to, so the higher your website appears in the list, the better.

How is it calculated?

Each of the ‘big four’ search engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves) calculates page ranking in a slightly different way, using complex formulae and algorithms.

The page rank (PR) of each page depends on the page rank of the pages linking to it. But the PR of those pages depends on the PR of the ones linking to them and so on, which plunges ranking-conscious website owners into a never-ending pit of despair.

Suffice it to say that Search Engine calculations do make provisions for this, but we won’t go into all that now for fear of turning this into a maths lecture. In practical terms, this is pretty much all you need to know:

  • You won’t help your page rank much by listing external links. Incoming links from other websites are much more useful – and if you can establish a link exchange, so much the better.
  • Incoming links from big sites with good rankings are infinitely better than ones from small sites.
  • Try to link to and from sites that will be relevant to your users.
  • Don’t go over the top: Search engines will only get suspicious if you fill pages with links, and they might refuse to list them.