If you plan to haggle over PageRank with me…goodbye.
That’s right, I have kicked the habit. The size of your PageRank doesn’t impress me any more. PageRank surely is still real, but an individual page’s PR can often shrink or grow so that neither you nor I can really know its real size.
- The Toolbar PageRank has always been at best an approximation.
- Pages that show with PR3 or PR4 in the Google Directory are now often showing PR0 (PR Shrinkage)
- Whole sites are now showing PR0, even while they continue to rank as well as when their pages showed PR3 – PR4.
- Increasingly link-pages or directory-style pages are showing PR0, sometimes after showing PR3 or PR4 just a week earlier.
- The gray bar used to mean a page was not cached in Google – a sure sign of a penalty or a brand new page. No longer. Many pages with PR are now displaying the gray bar.
- Toolbar PageRank is dead!
Until very recently, I was assuming that the Toolbar was only showing false negatives – that if a page showed PR4 it was a pretty good bet that the PR of that page is at least PR4. But recent observations have lead me to question this assumption, and perhaps I am jumping the gun, but I believe the toolbar is now showing false positives, too.
What I look for in a link exchange
Rather than PageRank, I look for a few other key items on the page where my client’s link will appear:
- Most importantly, I want to know the page is cached by Google. Not only is that absolutely vital for the link counting with Planet Earth’s most important search engine, but it is a fairly good indicator of whether other search engines and real human beings will find the page, too. Not cached? I won’t even look at any other factors. This is the show-stopper
- Is the page relevant to my topic? If not, it had better be superb in every other area.
- Is the page relevant (optimized) to my search phrases? Again, if not, it had better be superb in every other area.
- Is this page optimized for words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”? Why not just type “SLEAZE” in big bold letters across the top of the page? And don’t think the search engines can’t read words like “link exchange” or “reciprocal links”. This is another factor that comes pretty close to being a show-stopper, too.
- Is the page part of some automated link machine script? Let’s face it, you don’t want to send the search engines a message that, “Hey, I can’t get real links from real people who just love my site, so instead I found an automated script to keep me warm at night.” This is usually a show-stopper, too.
- Once I see that a page is cached and passes the four eyeball tests above, it’s time to get critical. The first thing I look for is a page that can easily be found. If the page is one of 50 categories in a directory whose main page is linked only from the home page, that’s not a very good sign. Two clicks deep, and sharing link-juice with 50 categories? I don’t think so.
- I also check that the page is not the last in a series of pages that link one from the other…that’s how many clicks deep from the home page? Never go to dance with someone if she’ll make you stand in line to dance.
- I like a page that is either directly linked to from the home page or is linked to from a page that is in the sitewide template. From an internal linking perspective, this tells the search engines that the page actually counts. And you want your link to count.
- Of course, I also look at the quality of the website overall. Is this a website that likely carries a lot of trust value? Does it rank well for similar search terms to the ones I am targeting? Is the link directory full of all sorts of totally unrelated categories, perhaps some of them even unsavory? If this website sleeps around too much, be careful what you might catch.
- Is the page a content page? I can forgive a number of other items for a genuine link in the midst of a page of text.
- Is my link last on a page with 500 links? I really prefer pages with 50 or fewer links, but if there are more, I am fine with having our link added near the top of the list, but not at the bottom.
Tell me you have a high-trust website and a linking page that is well linked internally, relevant to my search phrases and clean from the flotsam that shouts out “sleaze”. But don’t tell me your page has bigger PageRank than mine. It’s not the size that counts; it’s how you use it.Written by David Leonhardt
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