Will Google stop counting backlinks

Google: We are still using PageRank after 18 years.

Google announced that after 18 years, PageRank is still being used to rank web pages for search results.

Not surprisingly, but still exciting, since discussions on this ranking criterion have been ongoing in the SEO scene since the pagerank toolbar was deactivated. While one side claims the pagerank is dead (and SEOs who argue that they stopped in the previous century), on the other hand, has been constantly suspected that Google only the update of the display is deactivated has, but the value continues to be an integral part of the ranking algorithm.

Thanks to the PageRank factor, Google once mastered the rise to number 1 on the search engine podium. Albeit the evaluation of links in the network not a complete reinvention what, could google the Relevance of the search results significantly improve with their evaluation. Since the introduction of PageRank on Google, search engine users received more suitable results than other major search engines.

The toolbar PageRank used to be one of the most important SEO metrics. With its help one could very easily infer the effects of a backlink of a certain website on one's own rankings.

The scale ranged from 0 to 10. The rule was: the higher you were on the scale, the more difficult it became to reach the next level. Since March 2016, Google has officially stopped providing PageRank data to the outside world. Previously, the ad had not been updated for several years.

The pagerank is still important

Even after 18 years, the key figure still plays a decisive role in the current ranking algorithm in many cases. This statement comes from Google itself. Gary Illyes (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) confirmed this in a post on Twitter and spoke about the topic at a conference in Singapore some time ago. In it he stated that PageRank still plays an important role in the algorithmHowever, the exact value of a website is no longer made available to the public.

In this post we want to be in 2019

  • indicate the importance of PageRank,
  • explain exactly how it works,
  • discuss why Google is hiding the value of PageRank from the public today and
  • show which metrics can be used to infer the PageRank of a page these days.

How is the Google PageRank defined?

The PageRank (short: PR) A website is a mathematical formula that rates a website based on the number and quality of incoming links (backlinks). This formula provides the “importance” that a website has in a network of different pages (here the Internet).

In 1997, Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page created PageRank as part of a research project at Stanford University.

The two researchers described their goal as follows:

"Our goal is to improve the quality of search engine results on the web."

Search engines have not always been as accurate as Google searches are today. The relevance of the search results left a lot to be desired in the early years and the search for the right website often required a lot of time for the user.

Sergey and Larry considered themselves the quality of a search engine not only in the largest possible index (as many listed websites as possible). Their approach was that relevant pages are pushed back in many cases by poor quality results.

The reinvention of PageRank should address this issue. By evaluating the external links that each website gets from the rest of the Internet, it should be the first time a valuable resource be tapped, which so far has received no attention.

The idea is based on the principle of recommendations in real life. A company that is often recommended does a good job and is recommended for interested parties.

Even with scientific publications, the "importance" is measured by the number of other publications that reference this work.

Sergey and Larry took up this idea and developed a so-called link graph from the data sets freely available on the Internet from all websites.

The discovery of the two was so groundbreaking that it became a crucial pillar in the Google algorithm and is still used by Google to this day.

How the PageRank algorithm works

The following is the actual formula, as mentioned in the original 1997 publication:

Let us assume that website A has inbound links T1 ... Tn. The parameter d is defined as the damping factor. Its value is between 0 and 1 and is initially set to 0.85. C (A) indicates how many outbound links page A has. The PageRank of page A is calculated as follows:

PR (A) = (1 - d) + d (PR (T1) / C (T1) +… + PR (Tn) / C (Tn))

Confusing? Let's take a simplified look at how it works.

Google uses the following 3 factors to calculate the PageRank:

  • The number and quality of inbound links
  • All outbound links on a page
  • The PageRank of each linking website

Example: Our website (C) has 2 inbound links. One of them comes from website A and one from website B. Side A is stronger than Side B and also has fewer outbound links. This information is inserted into the formula and the PageRank is calculated. The following figure describes the process in a simplified manner.

The PageRank formula also contains a so-called damping factor. This simulates a real user who moves between different websites using link clicks. With every further link click the probability that a user will reach the target page decreases.

The likelihood that you will click a link and go to another website on the first website you view while on the web is relatively high. The likelihood that you will do this again on the 2nd website and then again on the 3rd website, drops sharply per visited website.

In each iteration, this behavior is taken into account by the damping factor in the PageRank formula.

If a website with a high PR such as spiegel.de (A) links to page B, page B links to page C and then links it to page D, then page D will not experience such a large PR increase as a result of this link would link page A directly to page D.

Now you might be wondering:

"How do we start with the calculation of the PageRank of page C - PR (C) - if we don't even know the PR of website A and B?"

Sounds like asking yourself the following question:

If Sergey gives half of his money to Larry, how much money does Larry have?

We cannot answer the question because we are missing an important piece of information. The number of money Sergey has at the beginning.

Sounds like a crude example, but it clearly illustrates the problem.

How does the PageRank algorithm start the calculation without even knowing a partial result?

The original document provides information:

"PageRank or PR (A) can be calculated using a simple iterative algorithm and corresponds to the principal eigenvector of the normalized link matrix of the web."

Sounds complicated and confusing?

What is meant is that the PageRank of a website can be calculated without knowing the absolute PageRank of the websites involved. So the calculation is not about absolute, but about relative values ​​of individual websites to the entire link graph (all websites on the Internet that are in the Google index).

Ian Rogers has described this in more detail in the following publication.

Why did Google stop publishing PageRank?

Google itself answered this question as follows:

As the internet and our understanding of the internet keep getting more complex, the toolbar's PageRank score as an isolated metric is no longer helpful to users. By withdrawing the PageRank display from the toolbar, users and webmasters are no longer confused.

However, in our opinion, there was a much more decisive factor in this decision: link spam!

Over the years, the metric PageRank had become a fixed metric when it came to assessing prices for backlinks. From that metric, a huge industry had grown into buying and selling high PR links.

If you are wondering how link sellers generated such “high PR links”, look back to 2005. At that time, backlinks were mainly set from the comments under blog posts on various websites. This posed a very big problem for Google. Links were used as a sign of a qualitative and trustworthy site. Via this high PR link, the Algorithm to be fooled.

SEOs ranked low-quality websites in the top positions on Google in order to generate sales.

The introduction of the nofollow attribute

In 2005, in cooperation with other major search engines, Google decided to the “nofollow” attribute to introduce. This attribute is attached to a link in the source code of the website and ensures that the link does not transmit PageRank. Blog operators could use this attribute to keep spammers away from their blog.

In the following you can read an excerpt from the official statement from Google on this topic:

If you are a blogger (or a blog reader) you are probably familiar with people trying to increase their website's search engine rankings by submitting linked blog comments such as “Visit our Discount Pharmasite”. This is known as comment spam. We don't like this and have tested a new tag that blocks this type of spam. If from now on Google sees the attribute (rel = “nofollow”) on hyperlinks, these links will not be considered when we classify websites in our search results.

Nowadays almost all CMS (Content Management Systems) use the “nofollow” attribute, when user-generated content is used.

When Google fixed this problem, however, it opened the door to an even more complicated SEO technique.

Influencing the PageRank flow

In the original calculation, the PageRank of a page was divided by the number of outbound links. So if a page had a PageRank of y and linked to 10 different domains, then it was transmitted via every link y / 10 of the PageRank.

If 9 of these 10 links are set to nofollow, then the PageRank transmission of these 9 links has been prevented. Instead, the full PageRank power suddenly flowed through the one link that was still dofollow, i.e. 10/10.

In the beginning, exactly the division outlined was applicable. As a result, webmasters chose the nofollow attribute on their site very carefully in order to use the flow of PageRank on their site and on linked sites as effectively as possible.

For example, if you had a subpage with PR7 on the website and wanted to strengthen a new subpage, you could link from the strong subpage to the new one and set all other links to nofollow. As a result, despite many (nofollow) links, the maximum number of PageRank transmitted.

In 2009, Google made a significant change here.

Example: You run a website with a subpage with “10 PR points” and 10 outgoing links. 5 of them are set to follow and 5 to nofollow. It used to be that the 5 follow links each passed on “2 PR points”. After the update, each of these follow links will transmit only "one PR point". This means that the PageRank has been distributed evenly to all outgoing links since the update, even though they are follow or nofollow. However, only the follow links transmit the PR.

We have outlined the change below:

Google made this change almost 10 years ago. We cannot therefore conclude that the flow of the PageRank is currently working as described. It is assumed that today many other factors, such as the position of the link (above the fold) and others, have a large influence on the flow of the PageRank.

However, nofollow links no longer help to smuggle more PageRank through individual links.

Google has gradually removed PageRank from the public

Shortly after the changes to the flow of PageRank in connection with follow and nofollow links were published, Google Removed all PageRank values ​​from Google Webmaster Tools.

Later in 2014, the company mainly spread the statement via John Müller (Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google) that webmasters should stop using PageRank as a criterion for evaluating websites. The stated reason: There hasn't been an update for over a year.

“I wouldn't use PageRank [..] as a metric. We posted the last updated PageRank more than a year ago (as far as I can remember) and have no plans to make any further updates. Think [..] and consider an appropriate metric. "

This adjustment by Google made it very difficult at times to continue trading with “high PR links”. Buyer could no longer use the PageRank to check how strong the seller's website really is.

Is there a sensitive alternative to Google PageRank?

So far, Google has not reintroduced PageRank and no outsider knows how it is calculated exactly.

However, there are some companies that have made it their business to develop their own metrics that are as close as possible to PageRank.

The three best known are:

  • Ahrefs URL Rating (UR)
  • Moz (Page Authority)
  • Majestic (Citationflow and Trustflow)

We mainly work with the URL rating from Ahrefs. Studies have shown this metric to be very consistent and provides a solid approximation for assessing Google's PageRank.

Definition: The URL rating describes on a scale from 1 to 100 how strong the backlink profile of a URL is.

Is the URL rating comparable to Google's PageRank?

The URL rating is calculated by Ahrefs in a process that is based on the original publication of Google PageRank. Nobody outside of Google knows how much this calculation has changed in the past few years.

The URL rating corresponds to the PageRank in the following properties:

  • Links between individual pages are counted.
  • The nofollow attribute is taken into account.
  • A damping factor is used during the calculation.
  • The Internet is crawled extensively (with a metric such as PageRank or URL rating, it is very important to have as much data as possible from the entire network)

Google has safe in the 21 years since the PageRank was published worked hard on the formula. Matt Cutts, then head of Google's web spam team, wrote in a blog post in 2009:

“Even when I joined the company in 2000, Google did a more complex link calculation than you would expect from classic PageRank publications. If you think that Google has stopped innovating in link analysis, this is a very adventurous assumption. While we still refer to it as PageRank, Google's ability to compute online reputation based on links has improved significantly over the years. ”

How does the URL rating differ from the PageRank?

In the past few years, Google has applied for a number of patents that are publicly available.

Bill Slawski is a leading expert on Google patents related to SEO and has more than 20 years of experience in the industry. He also emphasizes that it is not clear which factors from the published patents are used in the live algorithm and how these are weighted.

These facts alone make it impossible to describe how much the URL Rating (UR) differs from the Google PageRank. Even when it comes to questions that seem simple at first, such as the number of links a page receives from other domains, this is it According to Ahrefs, the answer is less clear than initially assumed.

The company addresses this question in the following figure:

In this case, the Ahrefs crawler counts 8 links that arrive on page B. In a discussion among SEOs, however, you will hear different numbers and how exactly Google evaluates the situation, only the company itself knows.

Then when it comes to how much PageRank is transmitted through each of these links, the question definitely takes a higher complexity.

Is the URL rating a suitable alternative to the Google KPI?

The key figure UR is currently well suited for assessing the PageRank of websites, as it is based on the original formula of the Google algorithm. We know, however, that the URL rating considers far fewer factors than the latest version of Google PageRank.

At ROCKET BACKLINKS, we use the metric to assess websites, but we often resort to a manual analysis of the backlinks that a website receives. We also recommend this procedure to our customers.

How do you increase the PageRank / URL rating of your pages?

Backlinks are the key to increasing the PageRank of your website. For example, we are linking to Ahrefs above from this article and thus strengthening the PR of this website.

But watch out: not every backlink is the same!

Google rates backlinks based on hundreds of factors.

Later in this article, we'd like to share a few useful hacks with you to get the most benefit from backlinking.

1. Build links from pages with a high UR

PageRank wants transmitted between subpages, not across domains. Therefore, a link from a strong subpage on an unknown domain is in most cases a lot more valuable to you than a link from a very strong domain, but there from a newly generated subpage without strong internal links.

2. Fix Broken Link error messages

Broken links are backlinks that are received on your site, but refer to incorrect content. Occasionally it happens that the URL of sub-pages is changed or that an action is taken offline again after a few weeks. When deleting the old URL, it is necessary to create a 301 redirect to the new subpage or to a similar subpage, since the transmitted PageRank will otherwise end up in “nothing” and be discarded.

Furthermore, backlinks not only increase the PageRank of the subpage they encounter. The PageRank of the subpage is distributed to other subpages via internal links. Do internal links lead to incorrect content such as deleted subpages, The entire PageRank is lost instead of being carried over.

It is therefore imperative that you fix all broken link errors on your website in order not to give away any PageRank.

3. Don't be fooled by metrics

PageRank or the URL rating are important metrics for assessing suitable options when building backlinks. However, that counts for Google also the topic relevance.

Imagine running a blog about cats and posting a post on how your cat's scratched seats on your Mercedes. In this post you link to a suitable product on the official Mercedes accessories website. Is this link irrelevant as it comes from a cat blog?

No. It is perfectly appropriate and relevant to the reader. Nevertheless, in the eyes of Google, it can transfer less PageRank than a link from a Mercedes Autoblog that has devoted a detailed article to a single vehicle model.

Many SEOs do not worry about the PageRank metric, as it is often labeled as old and outdated.

However, it makes perfect sense to look at the original PageRank formula when it comes to planning current SEO measures.

The PageRank is the reason that professional SEOs still invest so much time in building high-quality backlinks today.

Even if the PageRank is no longer published by Google today, all link building measures aim to increase it.

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