As you can see, PageRank is basically a score given to your site that rates its overall popularity. Now, a high PageRank does not always translate into a high ranking, but it does play a part. For instance, if your website is as optimized as your competition's site, but yours has a higher PageRank, you will likely rank above the site you are competing with. PageRank helps build a foundation for success just as proper on-page optimization does.
To improve your PageRank, you should try to get inbound links from other sites that already have a high PageRank. While you could go get hundreds of links from sites with a PageRank of zero, they will not count as much as a few good links from PageRank 5 or higher sites.
PageRank, a Little History
PageRank is a concept named after Google co-founder, Larry Page that takes into account a website's number and type of inbound links to better determine its value. PageRank is what set Google apart from the competition when it first entered the search industry, and a huge factor in Google's success. The concept is simple, yet one that no other search engine had considered at the time of its inception. At the time, search engines mainly ranked pages based on how many times the keyword search query appeared in the website's content. This led to a great deal of spam, in which website owners stuffed keywords throughout their content as much as possible, just to rank. Sergey Brin and Larry Page sought to improve search results and get rid of spam, which is where PageRank came in. They theorized that a website's worth is determined by how many other websites are willing to link to it. They viewed these links as votes, and those votes translated into an overall score: PageRank.
Getting High PageRank Inbound Links: The Fine Print
To improve your own PageRank, you need these metaphorical votes. Beyond learning how to get an inbound link, there are some basic facts that you should know before starting your link campaign. For instance, to get high PageRank inbound links, you must first know your own PageRank score as well as the score of the sites you want to get links from. Google has two different versions of the PageRank score: Toolbar PageRank and Actual PageRank. Unfortunately, there is no insight into Actual PageRank, because Google keeps this information under lock and key. Toolbar PageRank, on the other hand, is customer facing PageRank, which is usually a good indicator of your Actual PageRank. Toolbar PageRank is not up-to-date, as it usually lags a few months behind. Think of this as you would your credit score, which uses the same methods. The credit score that you see today, is based on activity from a few months ago, and often your lenders will see a slightly different score than what you see.
Finding your Toolbar PageRank is not hard. If you are a FireFox user, you can simply install the Google Toolbar, which gives you a meter at the top of your browser that shows the Toolbar PageRank score for each unique URL you visit. There are also many websites, like PRChecker.info, that let you type in a URL, hit submit, and the Toolbar PageRank will then be displayed.
Beyond knowing where to find your PageRank score, and that of others, you should also know how PageRank flows throughout a website rather than just the home page. This is because every unique URL has a unique PageRank. As such, if the home page of a website has a high PageRank, that does not mean that the internal pages of that site will have the same score. Each page is treated as a unique entity so make sure you are getting links from a high PageRank page, not just a high PageRank site.
Next, you have to make sure that your link is followed. A few years ago, Google and other search engines implemented the nofollow tag. This tag is appended to a link and tells Google not to pass PageRank to the page being linked to. This tag was created mainly to combat link and comment spam, as many people wanting links started commenting in forums and blogs while adding links to their comments. Most Wordpress blogs, like this one for instance, do not follow links in comments. This prevents people from spamming the blog, which would require a great deal of oversight when approving comments. We do, on the other hand, follow links in our posts. This is because, if we are going to talk about a website enough to link to them, then they deserve recognition, so we want Google to follow our links to them. If you find a rel="nofollow" attribute between the <a> tags of a link, then that means the link is not followed and PageRank is not being passed to it.
As noted in the infographic above, another thing to consider is the number of outbound links on a given page that is linking to you. If you receive a link from a PageRank 6 page, but that page also links out to other pages or sites, then that PageRank (link juice) will be split between all of the links. So, in the most simple of terms, if this PageRank 6 page has 3 outbound links, then you would get approximately 2 points of link juice going to your site rather than all 6. Again, this is the most simple of terms, Google's algorithm is more complex than this.
Another thing to note is that having just one PageRank 6 inbound link does not automatically get you a PageRank 6 score. Just like the infographic shows above, PageRank is a popularity contest, and one vote will not equal a win. You need many links to start building your PageRank. The higher the PageRank score of the site linking to you, the better, but the more high PageRank links you get, the closer you'll be to success.
As you can see, there are some important facts about PageRank that you should take into consideration before starting your link campaign.
What is a High PageRank Score?
Now this is the ultimate question, and it's different for every industry. The PageRank scale is 0-10, with 0-2 being universally low scores for a website's home page. Internal pages with a PageRank 2 might not be that bad, as these pages may be harder to get links to. Sites that end in a .edu or .gov have the ability to achieve a high PageRank, because these are reputable sites in the eyes of Google. These sites can get as high as PageRank scores 7-9. Google and some .gov websites seem to be the only ones with a PageRank 10. Most .com's rest between a PageRank 3-7. Determine a minimum PageRank score that you can live with. You can do this by reviewing the PageRank scores of your competition to see what they have achieved, and try to get at least 1 point higher.
Getting Links to Improve Your PageRank
At this point, you probably see that PageRank is a very important factor in your overall success running an online store. Getting inbound links takes quite some time. Next week, in Part 5 of this series, I will discuss a variety of ways you can get inbound links to your online store. Until then, start by requesting links from partner sites, blogs you write for, and sites that you have a direct contact with.
Quick Tip: Part 2 of this series discussed how to find profit driving keywords for your online store. If you have identified some high priority keywords that you want to rank for, try to keep them in the anchor text of your link.
Posts in this Series
Part 1: Choosing an SEO Firm To Drive Traffic to Your Online Store
Part 2: Finding Profit Driving Keywords to Optimize Your Online Store
Part 3: Optimizing Your Online Storefront for Search Engines
Part 4: Understanding PageRank to Optimize Your Online Store
Part 5: 13 Ecommerce Link Building Tactics for Your Online Store