Google PageRank, Not Just About Links Comments80 Comments

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Check out my new guide for starting a blog to learn how to go about properly creating your own blog.

Well after a brief hiatus from the blogging tips, this series started back up last week. I guess I hadn’t even planned it since I ended up double posting that day.

So I’m back posting another blogging tip this week and I’m pretty sure I don’t have anything else scheduled today. Maybe I’ll even keep this series going into the new year.

If this post helps you or you think other bloggers might benefit, it would be appreciated if you could link to this post or share it on social media. A big part of the blogging community revolves around helping each other.

Check out some of the previous posts from this series:

This week I’ve got a post especially for anyone who has been watching their Google PageRank but has been struggling to make any headway.

Google PageRank Is About More Than Just Backlinks

Earlier this month Google PageRank updated their toolbar PageRank as they do every 3 months…or really whenever they feel like doing it. Then every stat-obsessed webmaster or blogger rejoices as their PR improves or swears at their computer as their PR doesn’t increase.

In the past it used to be just simply a matter of getting enough backlinks from PR3+ pages. It didn’t matter how bad your site was. The toolbar PR was nothing more than a measure of how good your backlink profile was.

I admit I haven’t been paying much attention to PageRank in the last couple years, but at some point the PageRank algorithm shifted to judge more than just a website’s backlinks. A website could keep building more and more links without seeing their PageRank improve.

What I Noticed About Google PageRank

When PR updated this month a good blogger friend of mine was completely stumped about why his PR was stuck. While his peers were seeing their PR improve, he had been at the same PR for 3 updates.

Knowing how much marketing he did, I thought it was a little strange that he still hadn’t improved. I tried to justify it with theories about timing of building links or simply not enough high PR links. It still didn’t seem to make sense though, especially seeing other blogs leapfrog him.

So I happened to dig into the quality of his html code and other onpage problems such as broken links. First I checked the W3C validation of his blog to see if there were any validation errors. There were quite a few errors, which I began suspecting may be preventing the Google bot from properly crawling his blog.

Then I checked his blog for broken links using Xenu. There were a number of broken links, including a large number produced by a banner rotation plugin he was using.

The real confirmation came when he checked his Google Webmaster Tools account and found that Google was crawling very few of his pages each day. Clearly there was some onpage issue that the Google bot didn’t like.

Since this went against what I had previously known about PR I was quite intrigued. Next I checked some other blogs that were stuck below PR3. Not surprisingly they pretty much all had validation errors. I’m sure that if I had checked their blog for broken links, it would find a bunch.

So now it seems that Google takes into consideration onpage issues when calculating PageRank. That or their PageRank bot is particularly sensitive to pages with faulty html code.

What To Do If Your PageRank Is Stuck

If you are sitting at PR4 or PR5 and aren’t making headway with improving your PageRank, you shouldn’t worry. At those levels it takes a ton of new links to progress.

If you are below PR3 and not making progress, it could very well signal that you have onpage issues that need to be cleaned up. Download Xenu and try checking your blog for W3C validation errors.

The tricky part is actually fixing those problems. The broken links are easy enough since they are either in actual posts or in comments. You can search either of those sections in your wordpress dashboard. You might have to remove the http:// from your searches though.

The W3C validation errors aren’t so easy. If you’re technically savvy, you could dig through your various blog template files and hack your way through fixing those issues. Personally I can’t always fix all of those problems myself when I attempt that. I often resort to hiring a cheap programmer to lend a hand. There are various forums and freelance boards that could be used to find help.

Why You Should Care About Google Toolbar PageRank

There are many people in the online world who insist that the toolbar PageRank doesn’t matter. Ironically that is often because they can’t make any progress themselves.

The reason it’s so important is because it is a direct sign that you are doing things right in Google’s eyes. They have a separate hidden PageRank score that is constantly updating, but it is believed to be partly based on some of the same factors. So if you want Google search traffic, do what you can to make them happy.

Then there is the monetization side of things. Many advertisers specifically advertise on sites based on their PageRank. The higher your PageRank, the more you can charge those advertisers for ads. Those advertisers are usually buying those links to help their own search rankings. Beware that such ads are frowned upon by Google and can get you in trouble with Google if you get caught. Many bloggers do take that risk though.

An indirect benefit is that there are some web directories or blogger lists that are sorted by PageRank. The higher your PageRank, the better the link you get from those sites. This in turn helps your search engine rankings more.

What are your thoughts on Google PageRank? Is it important to you? Do you think you might be stuck due to onpage issues? If you need some guidance there, feel free to reach out to me and I can point you in the right direction.

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This entry was posted in Blogging, and tagged , , Comments80 Comments
By : Jeremy Biberdorf | 21 Nov 2012
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80 thoughts on “Google PageRank, Not Just About Links

  1. Greg@ClubThrifty

    We have been fortunate enough to have gotten a pretty high PR from the first time we were updated. Luckily, we stayed in the same place. It seems that it has definitely helped us as we have tried to increase our presence and build our blog.

    This reminds me that I need to check our webmaster tools. I haven’t done that for a while :)

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Yes it seems that you guys got off to a really good start. Sometimes it is just bad luck with having an older version of a wordpress theme or using buggy plugins. I do agree that a high PR helps a lot since other bloggers and advertisers can plainly see that they have something to gain by dealing with you.

      Reply
    2. Josh @ Live Well Simply

      Yep, Webmaster Tools is the life blood of any blogger worth his salt. However it is a little disconcerting knowing that Google controls your blogs ‘existence’ so to speak in terms of visibility online.

      Reply
      1. Jeremy

        I wouldn’t go so far as to say GWT is worth that much. Sure there is some useful stuff in there, but Google could really be providing so much more help. Still I do periodically check in there.

        Reply
  2. Jason @ WorkSaveLive

    I’d like to say that I was really annoyed when you tried blaming my lack of PR increase on link timing and comment activity. Frankly, I was heated when you said that…I just sat at my screen and said ‘that’s bullshit.’ LOL

    I really hope you’re onto something though. It makes sense as Google is crawling all of 3% of my site, but I’m still skeptical until I see it change and the PR move off of 2. We’ve fixed nearly everything else so if the code isn’t the problem, then I just suck at running a site. :)

    Thanks for all of your help as always! Glad I paid you to run that SEO report!

    Reply
    1. Jacob @ iheartbudgets

      I was baffled as well on your PR, Jason. Looking forward to the next update, as if this was the issue, I know you’ll get a HUGE bump! If not, I’m knocking on Google’s door myself and being all “YO, WHADDUP WIT DAT?!”

      Reply
      1. Jeremy

        Jason I can almost guarantee that you’ll jump up to PR4 if you can clean up all the onpage issues. With all the marketing you’ve done, the onpage issues really seem to be the only thing holding you back. Sorry for always blaming it on link issues :) In the past PR was nothing more than a ranking of your backlinks. It obviously isn’t anymore. And no problem helping with the SEO report. Now I feel bad that I was forced to put that off for so long.

        Reply
        1. Justin @ The Family Finances

          Jason, if you don’t mind me asking, who did you use to fix the on-page issues? Jeremy pointed out to me that I have a ton of those on my site as well, and I’d like to get them fixed.

          Jeremy, do you think the coding problems would get fixed by paying for a premium wordpress theme? I’ve been thinking about paying for a new site layout anyway, rather than using the free theme I’ve been using. Just curious.

          Reply
          1. Jeremy

            A premium theme may very well clear up some errors….if the errors are in the theme itself. Oftentimes there are problems in specific plugins too. Even a premium theme may have bugs though. Just by paying for a theme, it doesn’t guarantee that it is perfect.

            Reply
      1. Jeremy

        I was surprised you were stuck at PR2 for a while too Michelle. Since it jumped up to PR4 after getting a new wordpress theme, I think that had a lot to do with it.

        Reply
  3. John S @ Frugal Rules

    I am with Greg and thankful to have been given a good score with my initial PR update. It does matter to me because I do want to take advantage of monetizing. I finally was just able to get Webmaster Tools working, so I am learning as much as I can about that. I am a big stats guy and I could just tell that my wife sighed just a little bit when I discovered all I could find out using it. :)

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      It is a pretty powerful tool since it is giving you direct feedback about stuff that Google is saying they don’t like. With SEO there is often a lot of ambiguity and theories, but when Google tells you something is wrong, you better jump through their hoops.

      Reply
  4. TB at BlueCollarWorkman.com

    I was at pagerank 1 for so long that I just stopped thinking about it *shrug* People were stopping by and that was good enough for me. But then I recently jumped to 2 whcih was awesome and now I’m interested in jumping to 3! (get an inch of success and now I want a mile, lol). Thanks for the W3C tip, although it sucks that fixing problems is hard when you find them. I can definitely fix broken links though.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      With the W3C validation errors, it’s just a matter of finding a trustworthy programmer that fits within your budget. You can try posting a job on elance.com or ask around on other forums. There is a particular forum I use, but I am wary to suggest it publicly since there are a lot of scammers on there that you have to know how to avoid.

      Reply
  5. CF

    We got a boost with the last update, so hooray! I know we could still put more effort into it. I’ll have to look at some of those suggestions, my php has been improving lately so might actually be able to make some changes.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I wonder how much your new wordpress theme has to do with that. Your old one might have had some validation issues. It’s tough to say though since you guys seem to be putting more into the blog the last while. Keep that up and fix any onpage problems and you should be able to get to PR3 by the next update.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No problem Chris. It is the kind of thing that people wouldn’t really check unless someone else told them it could be an issue. With what I’ve been seeing though, I am quite convinced that onpage problems could very well affect PR.

      Reply
  6. Liquid

    I think PR is important to me because I want my blog to be higher up on the page when people search for related keywords. I don’t know if there will ever be day when another company will replace Google as the dominant search engine, but for now looking favorable to Google is my plan :D Thanks a lot for telling me about those tools earlier. Hopefully now that my links and HTML5 code is cleaned up a bit I can look forward to a PR bump next time around :0)

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      The thing is, even if another search engine were to somehow topple Google, they would still likely be looking at a lot of the same factors. So by keeping on search engine happy, you are usually helping your rankings across them all. Really it looks like Facebook is the only site that could realistically make a run at Google unless Windows cellphones get really popular.

      Reply
  7. DC @ Young Adult Money

    Jeremy – I appreciate you reaching out to me about this very issue. While you may think I’m lazy since I haven’t acted on it yet :P I do plan on getting around to cleaning up my page, and I also think page rank is important. In fact, I may work on it this afternoon or sometime this weekend.

    Thanks for sharing these tips with everyone, I think it’s something that gets forgotten about by people like me who frantically try to get the basics done but haven’t gotten around to doing some of the deep-cleaning and checks that will help my site advance.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No I wouldn’t consider any blogger lazy. If you were, you would never take the initiative to start with a blog and stick with it. It is pretty easy to get caught up in all the normal day to day stuff like posting and commenting. So it’s understandable if the technical cleanup is often forgotten about or put off until later. Really, we all benefit if each other’s blogs’ PR improves since a lot of us are linking to each other.

      Reply
        1. Jeremy

          It’s a big reason why I bother with these blogging tips posts. The better each of us does, the better we all do. It just makes sense to share what we’ve learned.

          Reply
  8. Debt RoundUp

    Nice post Jeremy. Pagerank is something that people go crazy over. There are many cases where you won’t get some people to guest post unless you have a certain PR or you advertisers won’t pay as much. It is the same as the alexa rank.

    I am glad you brought up the code validation. I always do this with my sites and try to fix as much as possible. My site does have some validation issues, but they are all related to how twitter, facebook, and google + create their buttons. I am still trying to find a way to get around those errors.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Those external plugin/widget errors can be tricky dealing with. Sometimes it’s a matter of using a completely different plugin. Some errors are probably fine though. A site doesn’t have to be squeaky clean, but there are likely errors that cause much bigger problems.

      Reply
  9. Joe Cassandra

    Thanks for the tips Jeremy! I’m still learning all about BIg-bad Google, and definitely have a lot to look forward to get to that 1st PR1, it’ll be a celebration when it happens! In 2 weeks I jumped from rank 4.8M to 2.8M, so I must be doing something right so far.

    Alot more work to do! Cheers Jeremy!

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Watching the alexa rank drop early on is pretty exciting. Eventually you get to a point where progress just slows right down on that front. Really though, PR is much more important, but it is tougher to aim for since it updates so infrequently. I’m sure if you keep up your marketing work, you’ll get some PR love in the next update. I’d make sure there are no onpage issues before then.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Personally I’m all for trying to manipulate things. With SEO, you’re going to get extremely slow progress if you don’t go out of your way to jump through hoops. Sure you can ignore those hoops, but ultimately that may limit growth.

      Reply
  10. Jacob @ iheartbudgets

    Thanks again, Jeremy! I just jumped to PR3, but am going to run an analysis to see what kind of errors I have going on. I may be looking at an SEO analysis in the future, as my traffic hasn’t really increased much over the last month… :)

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Good idea to look into this stuff even if your toolbar PR has improved. Any onpage issues could still be hurting your search rankings without affecting PR. And feel free to e-mail me sometime if you’re interested in doing an SEO analysis.

      Reply
  11. Edward

    I did have to change to a .com a week after both the PR and mozRank updates, so I’m going to be stuck at N/A for a while.

    I just checked the validator again. I had gotten most everything fixed last time when I hired your service, but now I’m showing over 20 errors in the header and then an irrecoverable error in the sidebar. Gah! Guess I know how I’m spending my Thanksgiving break.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      lol sounds like a fun break. You do definitely need to check those kinds of things when making big changes on your site. It sucks that you’ll be stuck at PR N/A for now. Hopefully you can recover enough of your old links to ensure a good PR jump on the next update.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Yes I do recommend looking into this soon. I glanced at your w3c validation and I see some rather major validation problems. I could see google limiting the crawling of your blog with those kinds of errors.

      Reply
  12. Sicorra@TacklingOurDebt

    While I agree that W3C Validation is very important, I am not sure if it will make a huge difference.

    I too checked several blogs and for example, Pauline has a blog http://reachfinancialindependence.com/ with 199 errors and she has a PR of 3, and John at http://www.frugalrules.com/ has 64 errors and a PR of 4.

    It is great to try to figure out how Google does their assessments, but very few people actually know for sure. So while we can all try different things with our blogs to make the PR increase sometimes it is better to just spend your time writing search engine friendly posts and networking more often.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I’m pretty sure a lot depends on how severe the errors are. It is nothing to do with the number of errors or warnings. A blog could have hundreds of minor errors and it might not affect anything.

      It is not the ultimate PR fix for every blog or website, but there do seem to be a number in the financial blogging community who are affected by this.

      You’re right that people don’t know the entire PageRank algorithm, but I have noticed pretty solid proof of this situation. It is pretty pointless to spend time writing search engine friendly posts if our blogs have technical problems that prevent us from getting search engine rankings with those posts.

      It’s ironic that you are so negative about this when it seems that your blog is suffering from this very problem.

      Reply
  13. John

    Jeremy, awesome tips! I’m def going to get with Todd and look at xenu and w3c. We’re at PR2 after 6 months and wonder if we got some of those errors holding us back. We also don’t have the google PR toolbar. Might be time to look into that.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      It very well could be a big part of the problem. It seems relatively easy for a blog to get to PR3, but there is definitely something holding back certain blogs. After analyzing a lot of PR1-2 blogs, it does seem to come back to onpage issues.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Since you got to PR3, those errors may be rather minor issues. I’d have to look into it further, but it may prevent you from getting to PR4. Even if it’s not, you should be cleaning up those errors to ensure proper browser compatibility and no signs of poor quality control.

      Reply
  14. Canadian Budget Binder

    Thanks Jeremy for these post I really enjoy learning and you seem to make sound easy enough the way you write your posts. My PR went up this round but I’m hoping once I get a premium theme and move my site that it continues to make gains although I don’t know what to expect. Cheers Mate. Mr.CBB

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Sounds like you’re in the same situation as SavvyScot. A premium theme might help, but you can also pay a cheap programmer to fix errors. The particular cases I was examining were PR1-2 blogs that weren’t making headway. My guess is that after that it is more about links, but there is the possibility that onpage problems could still hinder you.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Looks like your code doesn’t have many problems, but I’d still try to fix the issues. If you view the source code in firefox, it uses red font for some bigger problems.

      Reply
  15. My Money Design

    Long live the blogger tips series! Thanks for bringing this series back Jeremy!

    And at what a good time! I’m stuck at PR2 and I know I’ve got lots of programming issues and link problems (thanks for your email). I think I’ve got a few people in mind that could fix the programming issues; I’ll have to spend a little to make it happen. I’ll be honest – I tried using Xenu and didn’t know how to interpret the results or what to do with them. Also, where in Webmaster tools do you find out how many pages Google is crawling?

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      For Google Webmaster Tools, check Health > Crawl Stats. A healthy blog should be getting hundreds or even thousands of pages crawled each day. If there is a really big problem you might be getting less than 50 pages crawled per day.

      With Xenu, just watch for any pages that don’t show a 200 status code. If you check those urls, most of them won’t load.

      Let me know if you need help finding someone cheap to help fix your onpage problems.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Do keep in mind that it takes progressively more links to gain PR as you improve. The jump to PR4 is where it starts to get a bit more difficult. Your homepage doesn’t have many errors, but it’s tough to say which ones Google has more problems with.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No problem FF. Google does seem to care more about quality control type issues these days. So if there is anything extra we can do to get on their good side, it’s definitely worth looking into.

      Reply
  16. Jennifer Lynn @ Broke-Ass Mommy

    I don’t understand PR and how it may be calculated, but fortunately my site rank steadily has been increasing. The technical aspect is the stuff I rarely consider (and I probably should pay more attention to it, sigh.) Thanks for demystifying things a bit, Jeremy. I’ll be back to read through all of these comments in greater detail.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I think you’re going to be a bit shocked when you check the validation of your blog….108 errors :S
      Amid that many errors there’s a good chance that some of them are limiting your progress.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      PR3 is pretty good progress, but I wonder how many PR3 finance blogs are being held back by ignoring onpage issues. I’d think it is more of a problem with PR1-2 blogs, but PR3 blogs might be held back too.

      Reply
  17. Geoff

    I don’t think there’s any question, most webmasters like a decent PR for their sites/blogs. It’s seen as a vote of confidence by others, including Google. I agree with your point about W3C validation errors, they might have a negative impact on PR if they are serious enough I guess. Some are easier to fix than others though.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Yep…some are super easy to fix while others require decent html knowledge to find a workaround. If the errors are bad enough that your crawl rate is affected, I am pretty sure it would have a negative impact on your PR.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      I had considered it, but I’d rather not be competing against a whole bunch of SEO pros who know enough about SEO to be in that niche. Plus I don’t think it’s as profitable as finance blogging.

      Reply
  18. Money Soldiers

    Hi, Jeremy. I find page rank very strange. I have been blogging for less than 2 months and my page rank jumped from 0 to 3. From webmasters tool, I see that I have 1,620 links coming from only one website. Is that even ligitimate? Google and I must be really the best of friends. You mentioned that Google does not like purchased links. I recently joined text link ads where I sell links. When my links are bought, I plan to make them NoFollow. Do you think Google will frown at me when it sees purchased links even if I make them NoFollow?
    PS: I have been frequently visiting your blog in anticipation of my guest post to be published. I hope my article is still in queue. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Nice work on the early PR jump Arnel. It sounds like you have a sitewide link on that site which probably played a big role in getting your blog to PR3 already.

      As for text link ads, I don’t think the advertisers would be happy with nofollow links. You might even be violating the Text Link Ads rules by doing that. Technically Google is unlikely to be able to find those links on their own unless one of those advertisers gets reported. It’s not something you should openly talk about online though. If you were to sell nofollow links, Google should have no problem with it at all.

      And yes your guest post is still in the queue but there are several posts in line before you. The post is in my drafts folder and I have your e-mail in a special folder.

      Reply
  19. Patti

    I have Xenu and I use it for checking for broken links, but hadn’t made the step of using it for checking for WC3 errors. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fix most of what it finds on my own .. is there really such a thing as a cheap programmer? Lol. At any rate sweeping over my sites and fixing issues just raises the quality of the site itself and seems like it should make it run cleaner and faster. Thanks for the insight and the nudge in the right direction. It is greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      No Xenu doesn’t check for W3C validation errors, but above there is a link to the site that does that. There is definitely such thing as a cheap programmer, but maybe no such thing as a cheap North American based programmer. A lot of the low priced programmers I use are overseas in countries like India and Pakistan.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Google PR doesn’t depend much on amount of content. Really, you can get a decent PR with 1 page website. It mostly comes down to links, but onpage issues can hold you back.

      Reply
  20. Gen Y Finance Journey

    Thank you so much for this! I’m still pretty new to all this, and I never would have known to check for validation errors. Turns out I had quite a few of them, but I was able to fix all of them by myself in about 20 minutes.

    Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Nice job fixing all of those so quickly. Sometimes they really are that easy, but it’s something that shouldn’t be overlooked. You don’t want to send signals to Google that you are not paying attention to quality control.

      Reply
    1. Jeremy

      Ouch that’s a lot of errors to clean up. With that many I’d make it a high priority to fix them all. Google likely wouldn’t like for a site to be that full of errors.

      Reply
  21. Halle@LifeLock

    I think PageRank is important. I know that some people think that Google doesn’t pay that much attention to it anymore. They point to examples where pages with a very low PageRank outrank pages that have a higher PageRank.

    However I think that much of the time when that happens, it’s because the other factors that are being considered outweigh that specific one.

    Reply

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