I have a small business and I am trying to increase my Google PageRank on one of my pages in particular. I currently have 4/10 or sometimes 3/10 and I recently submitted a piece of software to 350 or more software archives. Most if not all of these download sites link to the page. Is this a significant amount of links? What should I expect my PageRank to become after this?

Also, if there is anything else I should be doing, please let me know.


David M.

Jill's Response

My initial response to David was simply, "Why do you care about your PageRank?"

Apparently, Google recently updated the toolbar PageRank on tons of pages and it has put people back in PageRank mania mode. Our forum is full of threads on it, with everyone all in a tizzy. I'd say this is as good a time as any to revisit my "PageRank Mania" article. I've edited it to address today's PageRank concerns. Enjoy! - Jill

PageRank Mania Revisited

Every day there are numerous forum posts asking how to increase PageRank, and every day I and the other moderators ask the posters the same questions:

Why do you link to the sites you link to? Is it because they're useful and informative and might be worthwhile to your site visitors? Or is it because you hope you'll get a reciprocal link, which just might boost your PageRank? Perhaps it's some combination of these things, or other reasons altogether.

Everyone likes having links to their site; that is a given. When they're from appropriate sites, inbound links often bring a lot of high-quality traffic. In fact, the Web was founded on the practice of linking, which is why it's called the "Web." Without linking, I guess it would be just a list. Welcome to the World Wide List. Doesn't have a very good ring to it now, does it?

As soon as people realized that search engines such as Google were placing an emphasis on who's linking to whom in their ranking algorithms, all hell broke loose as far as I'm concerned. I'll never forget the feeling of dread I felt when I read the first post in I-Search many, many years ago that went something like, "Hey...I've got a great idea! Since the search engines are counting the number of links to sites in their ranking algorithms, why don't we all link our sites to each other?" Whoohoo! Witness the birth of the link farm.

It didn't take "savvy" Webmasters long to realize that they could create whole bunches of sites for one company, and link them all together to *artificially* inflate their link popularity. If there's a way to trick the engines, you betcha plenty of people will figure out how to do it. But this is old news.

Google's done its best to put a stop to this sort of manipulation. Many sites that belonged to old-time link farms found their PageRank scores disappearing and their backward links vanishing. Without any real links, rankings in the search results are difficult if not impossible to obtain.

For awhile, link farms became a thing of the past. However, the latest craze is to buy "text ads" on any and all sites, regardless of the relevancy of the content. In many cases this works beautifully because it's pretty difficult for Google to figure out the difference between a true link that is a vote for a site and a paid-for ad that is simply there to manipulate PageRank. However, even this house of cards is starting to fall. We're starting to see many of the sites that were successfully selling text-based link ads suddenly not passing any PageRank to the sites they link to. I heartily applaud Google for their efforts on this. I do wish they could move a bit faster though, as it's still working on most sites that use this technique.

Unfortunately, the spammers have again ruined things for regular old Webmasters who just want to do the right thing. People are completely confused and dazed as to the best way to obtain links to their sites. Suddenly, there's a mad scramble to try to figure out "safe" linking procedures. Everyone is scared to link or get linked to because of the fear of penalization. More and more people are asking what the criteria are to safely link sites together.

The answer is simple -- don't buy or trade links with irrelevant sites just for the PageRank value and don't build bunches of sites for the sole purpose of linking them together.

That said, if you already own multiple sites (that weren't created for the purpose of link popularity), of course you can link them together if it makes sense to do so from a usability perspective. In other words, if it adds value to the user to have a link from one of your sites to another of your sites, then of course you should do it. That's what linking is all about. And no, you don't have to pretend that the sites all have different owners by placing them on different servers and obtaining different IP addresses. You only need to do that if you have something to hide, which of course you don't. The search engines understand that regular, normal businesses often have numerous Websites.

I refuse to believe that Google or any other search engine is looking for ways to make fewer sites show up in their search results. They're not interested in banning sites that provide great information. They *are* interested in maintaining the integrity of their search results, however. Therefore, I suggest you don't ruin an otherwise great site by attempting to trick the search engines. You may not get caught today; you may not even get caught tomorrow. Heck, you may never get caught. But if you do, you'll have to start over from scratch in order to redeem yourself.

Sadly, it appears that PageRank is often the driving factor in how and why people link to each other, and that is just plain wrong. When a site owner refuses to link to a great site that might be useful to their visitors simply because it's only a PR3 or 2 or even zero, then we've got a huge problem. To me, links are not a commodity to be bought, sold and traded, even though I realize that they most definitely are being used this way. I link to other sites and discussions when it's appropriate to do so, and not with the caveat that I get a link back. If it's helpful, it's helpful whether or not they link back to my site.

Like I always say, search engine optimization is all about making your site the best it can be. When we become so consumed by what sites we can and can't link to, or even whether we can link at all, then we're not making our site the best it can be. We're letting other factors dictate our site content, and that's just not right.

June 14, 2004

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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