PageRank is one of those mysteries that may never be completely unraveled. Volumes have been written about it, but probably the only two people in the world who understand it completely are Larry Page and Sergey Brin. That’s because it was their brainchild.
PageRank actually started as part of a research project that Page and Brin were working on at Stanford University. The project involved creating a new search engine that ranked pages in a democratic fashion with a few weights and measures thrown in for accuracy. Hence, the term.
(What else would you call a ranking system for web pages that was developed by Larry Page?) The interesting thing about PageRank is that although Page and Brin conceived the idea and created the algorithm that arrives at a PageRank, it didn’t belong to them. Stanford University actually owned the patent on the PageRank algorithm until Google purchased the exclusive right to use the algorithm for 1.8 million shares of the company (which were sold in 2005 for $336 million).
PageRank is a method by which web pages are ranked in Google search results. A combination of factors create the actual rank of a web page. Google explains it this way:
‘‘PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the Web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page’s value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves ‘‘important’’ weigh more heavily and help to make other pages ‘‘important.’’’
In other words, it’s a mystery. A page that has more links (with equal votes) might rank lower than a page that has a single link that leads to a ‘‘more important’’ page. The lesson? Create pages for visitors, not for search engines.
That’s no longer the case. Don’t get me wrong. Keywords are still vitally important in web page ranking. However, they’re just one of dozens of elements that are taken into consideration, which is why a large portion of Part II of this book is dedicated to using keywords to your advantage. They do have value; and more important, keywords can cause damage if not used properly — but we’ll get to that.