Hot on the heels of releasing a few secrets about how it decides if a piece of content is shortlisted as being ‘good’ or ‘bad’, Google has reconfirmed that PageRank is not the be all and end all that it once was and issued some useful pointers for webmasters seeking more meaningful metrics.
Two years after Google analyst Susan Moskwa stated in a forum post that PageRank really isn’t that important despite being one of the most accessible ranking signals (and possibly the figure most often quoted by website owners desperate to give their SEO a kick start). The search engine has suggested a few other avenues worth pursuing.
PageRank is probably one of the most famous of all Google’s ranking innovations and forms part of day-to-day conversations and online marketing reports in offices up and down the country. Particularly for those small business owners looking for an explanation as to why their site is / isn’t ranking well, PageRank is a comfortingly familiar metric to turn to.
Although a number of considerations go into assigning a PageRank to a page, Google plays most of them close to its chest. What it has said is that the figure (which can be anything from 0 to 10) is a measurement of the value of links pointing back to that page. We also know that PageRank can be passed on, which is why many link builders chasing good quality links will target pages with a higher PageRank than their own, in the hope of picking up some of the power of the referring page.
As part of its continuing push for better quality sites, better quality content and a better user experience, Google’s technology overview lists relevance as the number one thing on its list of key search ingredients. Speaking on its Google Webmaster Blog, Susan Moskwa suggests that although relevance is more important, it isn’t as easily quantifiable so most continue to fixate on the Google Toolbar box rather than trying to determine if their site is relevant to the search query they want to rank for. She has also reminded website owners that PageRank is, at best, updated once or twice or year so focusing on PageRank as a measure of success means you’re behind the times when it comes to how Google really sees your site.
So, with PageRank discredited as a truly useful ranking signal, what other metrics are worth focusing on?
1. Conversion Rate: The conversion rate logged by your site is an obvious place to start. It is the single most important metric related to your website and online marketing activity. It’s possible to have more than one conversion goal. For example, if you do both PPC advertising and SEO, you’ll want different conversion rate data for each activity to monitor effectiveness, so you may have a number of conversion rates to grapple with overall. If you use Google Analytics, these are fairly easy to calculate if you use the goals function. You may also want to track different kinds of conversions over and above a site visitor completing a check out process. Examples include signing up for your newsletter, requesting a call back, completing a contact form to request an estimate or even liking your Facebook page.
For the rest of the items to consider in “life after PageRank,” see Part 2, which will be posted tomorrow.