Why PageRank Doesn’t Matter Anymore (And What You Should Focus On Instead)

By Ana Hoffman
54 Comments

It’s amazing how many people ask me questions about Google PageRank on a regular basis.

The main concerns people tell me are –

Why doesn’t my site have higher PR – am I doing something wrong? How come such and such site has a high PR; their site sucks! How long does it take to acquire PR?

I completely understand where these bloggers are coming from. It IS nice to see that green bar show a hefty number. Good for bragging rights.

And that is DESPITE the fact that most of us know…

  1. Visible PageRank is only updated once in a blue moon. It used to be every three months or so; then only twice in 2010 (from what I recall) and only twice in 2011 so far.
  2. The PR that you in fact see for any given site might actually be higher than shown or, and this one is much worse for your link building, might’ve been lowered by Google for using spammy practices.

…I still find that most bloggers care way too much about their PageRank.

Let’s think about this for a second.

What do we really want our sites to do?

Make more money.

How do you get to your end goal?

By learning how to promote your blog to effectively draw in new readership, by providing stellar content to turn that new readership into returning visitors, email list opt-ins, business leads, etc.

Where’s your blog PageRank in all of this?

Theoretically, it only comes into play if you assume that a higher PageRank will result in higher search engine rankings, which will in turn bring in more SEO traffic, which will in turn… Well, you get the point.

However, that theory holds (almost) no water, considering that Google will rank a website with a lower PR over a site with a higher PR in a heartbeat if it finds the first site to be more relevant to the search query.

So…

If PageRank is not a good measure of your site’s true performance, then what is?

What Performance Metrics Should You Track?

We need to find a better way to determine how well our site is really doing and what we can do to make it produce better results than Google PageRank.

Fortunately, with the help of the free tools like Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools, we don’t have to go too far to find such performance-oriented metrics.

  1. Conversion rate
  2. Clickthrough rate (CTR)
  3. Bounce rate

1. Conversion Rate

This is a perfect metric that directly affects your end business goals.

Conversion” happens when a website visitor performs an action you’d like for them to take, like signing up for your email list, downloading your free report, clicking on your affiliate link, etc.

The better your traffic converts, the quicker you get to your bottom line.

As a matter of fact, allow me to be as bold as to state that –

Your traffic conversion is just as important (if not more important) than your traffic generation.

After all, what’s the point of spending your time and possibly money to bring more traffic to your site, if your traffic conversion is not set up properly and your visitors simply end up leaving your site?

The simplest way to track your traffic conversion is by setting up goals in your Google Analytics account and tracking them against all your traffic.

Here’s what a typical dashboard looks like:

google analytics dashboard screenshot

Now if I click on a drop-down menu located in the top-right corner under “Advanced Segments” and choose “Visits with Conversions” along with “All Visits” like this:

google anayliytics visits with conversion

… this is what I’ll see in the dashboard:

track conversions in google analytics

As you can see, even though the site gets lots of traffic, that traffic doesn’t convert all too well with that particular goal in mind.

Here are full instructions on how to set up goals in Google Analytics.

2. Clickthrough Rate

Just showing up in Google search results, even on the first page for a good keyword, never means that you’ll generate much traffic from it.

You still need to make sure that the search engine users actually CLICK ON your listing and come to your site. That’s what clickthrough rate (CTR) is all about.

Just like with traffic conversion, there’s no point in working hard on your SEO, if in the end you can’t get anyone to click through to your site.

The best way to improve your CTR is to examine your titles and descriptions (also called “snippets”) that show up in the search engine results.

Are they compelling? How do they measure up against your competitors listed around you? How relevant are they to the search?

To learn how to write better snippets, check out this post from the Google snippets team (yes, they have a whole team for that!).

To see if your site could use help in the title/snippet department, take a look at the Webmaster Tools HTML suggestions section. To find it in your Webmaster Tools, in the left-hand sidebar, go under Diagnostics ==> HTML Suggestions.

I can’t stress this enough: it doesn’t matter how well your site ranks for any number of keywords, if no one clicks on it.

3. Bounce Rate

Essentially, your bounce rate tracks the number of visitors who came to your site and then left in a hurry.

Not a good thing.

It’s measured in two different ways:

  1. The number of visitors who came to your site and never clicked over to a different page within your site.
  2. The amount of time a visitor spends on your site – usually anything under five seconds counts towards your bounce rate.

Your bounce rate is a good indicator of the QUALITY of traffic you are getting to your site and how targeted that traffic is.

High bounce rate translates into lower conversions; low bounce rate, alternatively, results in better conversions and getting to your business goals a lot sooner.

To learn everything you need to know about measuring, tracking, and decreasing it, check out my post on bounce rate.

Marketing Takeaway

And there you have it.

PageRank is just a number that looks pretty in your toolbar and might get you better blog sponsors.

Improving your conversion, clickthrough, and bounce rates, on the other hand, actually helps you achieve your business goals a whole lot faster.

Love it or hate it? Comment to show me that you’re alive!

traffic generation cafe

About Ana Hoffman

Traffic, traffic, traffic... Can't do without it, but don't know how to get it?
Ana does, and she freely shares her web traffic advice that doesn't suck on her Traffic Generation Cafe blog. And don't forget to pick up Ana's 7 Steps to Complete Search Engine Domination free SEO report while you are at it - stop hoping for more search engine traffic and go get it!

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54 Comments

  • You have made some great points here. I appreciate that you have highlighted what is really important and what and where to find that information. I did not know about the diagnostics tools. Thanks again!!

  • Great article. I am a newbie but this is very important information. I see a lot of IM’s and bloggers seem to obsess over page rank and they write so much about it that you think that this is the most important thing. However, I have heard the three things you mentioned explained a little and I understood that these are very important. I am glad I read this article because I now understand these three better and I will focus more on these then just page rank.

    • They write about it because so many bloggers are still willing to read it. LOL

  • Basically, we love an easy to see performance indicator rather than digging through CTR, bounce rate etc. That partly explains why PR is so popular…

  • Sid

    Ana,
    Great post and very informative. However, it would have been all the more awesome if you had provided some numbers. I know that is always a hard thing to do with so many factors/niches into consideration. For example, what kind of a bounce rate would be considered “good”, broadly.

  • Very well done article! The diagram shows the details very clearly. Thanks a lot for posting this informative article.

  • A very well composed post Ana. This is true people still pay a lot of attention towards their site PR as still i could read various questions about PR on forums. Novice SEOs/bloggers thinks that a good number on Green scale can fetch them a great amount of traffic. But as you have cleared traffic has nothing to do with PR. So rather than hitting their head on the wall for a good PR one should care about the metrics like conversion rate, bounce rate, etc. that really helps in measuring the site performance.

    • Absolutely, Daniel.

      My blog was PR0 for about a year; didn’t prevent it from growing as fast as it did.

  • Ana, Thanks for the presentation, great way to explain this to business owners, as it’s not just bloggers that worry about their PR, you also get general SMEs that ask the same question. Instead they should focus on what they do best, and like you said, aim to get their website to work for them, and build their bottom line, Well that’s the reason why they have got a website, to build awareness and to increase sales, so why not put the effort where it’s needed.

    Thanks for the article.

  • Informative post Ana!

    Though I don’t worry much about page rank and tend to stick to just Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools- but you sure make me sit up and take note of these other tools and ways that need to be looked into.

    Thanks so much for letting us know :)

  • I really insist on optimizing your title and description in the SERPs. One of my websites was ranking number one for a keyword and i noticed that i didn’t get the traffic that i expected when i did keyword research. After i compared my title and description against the second and third result, i noticed that theirs are more likely to get clicked. I immediately changed it by mentioning a discount on the title and the traffic almost tripled after Google changed my snippet (it takes a while for Google bot to return and index your page again). So bottom line, CTR is one of the most important factors that you should focus on.

    Thanks Ana,
    David Houssem

    • Very good point, David.

      It’s amazing how much difference such little adjustments can make.

  • Thanks Ana
    This stuff confuses me, but you’ve distilled it very well and only focused on three things. This unto itself is very valuable. Boiling down tracking and stats into simple and actionable steps would be a great product
    Cheers
    Mark

  • Ana,

    As always you have provided some great and very useful information. I love the examples that you give and how easy it is to understand the information that you are telling us. I wish you would do a post o setting up goals in google analytics, I have tired reading the googles docs and it made me decide not to even try it.

    Thanks again for another great post,
    Jenn

  • I definitely think PR isn’t all someone should consider either. It takes a lot of time to do SEO as well. My recommendation is usually to pay for targeted traffic. Usually much quicker and can possibly be better targeted for fast results. IE: banner ads, solo emails, etc.

    • Paying for traffic is nice, but it’s only as good as your wallet size.

  • PR is an old school way of thinking, and also if you want to be lazy, like you mention Ana CTR, Bounce rate and a number of other analytic stats. The key is taking the time to dig through your stats and understanding them.

  • Very awesome post. Really I’ve been thinking that page rank is a must.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • Thanks Ana, indeed you’re a generational eye opener. I appreciate your explicit explanation.

  • You’re right, it’s all about the numbers – you need to take the time to analyze your stats and what they mean. If visitors don’t convert or if you have a high bounce rate you need to find out why and fix it.

  • Your main point here is definitely valid, that there are lots of things that are more important that PR. But on the flip side, one could argue that even if the PR itself doesn’t matter, the reasons for it might. For example, having lots of quality inbound links is still an important thing.

    • I absolutely agree with your take on what drives our PR, Kyle – link building is still the cornerstone of successful rankings.

  • Sergei Romashkina

    Good lord…yet another self styled, would-be-guru internet marketer talking absolute nonsense about things they know little or nothing about. Why not start by reading, “In the Plex” by Steve Levy and then perhaps (as a former Google engineer based in the Mayakovskogo facility in St Petersburg, Russia) I’ll point you in the direction of a few doses of “Google reality.”

    Oh and to the usual bunch of sycophants, I say,

    “Sheep, beware the shepherd.”

    • Hmm… Is this comment the most you’ve ever written on the subject, comrade?

  • G’day Ana
    Not to sound like a cynic, but your title is complete rubbish. Page Rank matters more today (post Panda update) then ever before. Have you tested your own theory or just decided to make a catchy title?
    I can rank any site for any keyword with the usage of high PR pages. No article marketing, no RSS manipulation, no press release just good ol Page Rank JUICE (seo term)
    Any person complaining about PR or stating that its not important hasn’t got it!! Simple as that!!
    You make valid points about growth and success without having Page Rank, but you need to reconstruct your title because its laughable.

    • Hey Thomas, I came up with that title, and yes it was meant to be deliberately controversial and thus catchy.

      Misleading? – Perhaps, but it is relevant for the point that Ana is making, which is other variables matter a lot more than PR does for the average website owner.

  • I always thought that the Page Rank feature was over rated and never took much notice of it anyway.

    Building up backlinks and using the SEOpressor plugin for targeted keywords is what I prefer to focus on. And I agree that conversion rates and bounce rates are far more important to your profit margins than a page rank.

  • Great information the bounce rate in my opinion is huge. If you can target your traffic specifically it will make all the difference. Another great resource I like is http://financialbin.com/

  • I was one of those bloggers once before, but I now realize it would be best to focus on getting quality traffic more than anything else. If Google traffic was solely based off PR than a whole lotta bloggers would be not as successful.

    You make very compelling points on why and how PR is not a traffic result factor. I just find it funny because a lot of information online about PR says it will be your success in organic traffic.

  • Thanks for a good post. I didn’t even know what Google snippets were until I read it. Good info on using Google Analytics too. Seems like the best tools are the ones we frequently miss.

  • I agree with what you explained to us, Ana. My question is what measurements that we should use when we decide to exchange link, or guest blogging to another blogs? I read articles that said PR is matter when we want to do both.

  • I haven’t paid attention to PageRank for at least 3 or 4 years now. My page rank used to go up or down, but my traffic always kept going up, so I decided it wasn’t worth my time.

    I do find it humorous when somebody tells me I charge too much for advertising based on my page rank and I respond that they are welcome not to purchase from me.

  • Good stuff Ana. It’s true that Page rank takes time to be updated. Don’t focus on your PR but rather focus on making money and perhaps include SEO and SMM in your strategy.

  • your analysis is right on the money ana…too much time is wasted on metrics that either A) have no importance or B) greater perceived than actual value. Better to, as chris rempel puts it so well “build a deck.”

  • Great tips for a blogging newbie like myself, THANKS! ;)

    Kind Regards
    Mads

  • Glad to see you here, Ana. Not surprised, though. Discovered your blog about 2 weeks ago and knew instantly you were good. This post, and Yaro’s blog of course, are just what I need to lift my new blog.

  • Great post. In the last few years, it seems that page rank is irrelevant. In my experience, there is no correlation between PR and search engine rank, backlinks, traffic, etc., so why worry? I tend to look at Alexa rank when evaluating which blogs to collaborate with.

  • That’s a great article to read and it shows how really page rank is important but not vital. There are several ways instead to attract your readers and one really useful is Social Media Marketing. However, the main point to focus on is the conversion rate because you can even attract 1,000,000 readers to your site but if you don’t make 1 buck, all it doesn’t make sense for your business.

  • Think the thing with pagerank is that when starting out most new website owners think it is the holy grail once they find out about it, but over time learn it does not appear to make much difference to search position and hence traffic. As you allude to i would rather have 100 visitors a day for a search term converting at 10% than 500 converting at 1% and yet i still hear so many people only talking about visitor numbers and page rank.

  • [...] Why PageRank Doesn’t Matter Anymore (And What You Should Focus On Instead) (entrepreneurs-journey.com) [...]

  • I care about page rank the same as I care what people think about me personally. Everybody wants to be liked. I use my site to teach and to document my own way of making money. Someday the rank will really be important, but right now it is enough just to document my experiments.
    Still, I’ll be tuning up as I go. Thanks for your thoughts and your own experiments.

  • Ana,
    Very well researched article. My only question is that if PageRank and Alexa aren’t doing their job of updating regularly, is there anyone else doing it for them? Because we can always check our own performance, but how can we find out our competitor’s ranking?

  • hi, I am new here. your post stopped me from worrying my pagerank I did not really noticed that. you have 0 PR but still you are doing great. Thank you for sharing. I would also to ask your opinion about alexa ranking.

  • OK, goodness gracious. I see where you are coming from, but you still see so much false information out there regarding PR. Have to have your sites linked on a High PR site. So which is it? A combination of both PR and a quality business model and process?

    Isn’t Alexa owned by Amazon, seems a bit dodgy and incredulous to me.

  • I agree that it shouldn’t be important but if you wish to make money via sponsored posts then Page Rank is still INCREDIBLY important to the advertisers.

    And since I make most of my money this way I have to keep them happy. :)

  • I’ve found that new blog with lower pagerank often outsmart pages with higher PR.Google analytics has all the signals about the parameters that we need to concentrate on to get quality traffic.Thanks.

  • [...] their worth on vanity metrics like time on site, social media shares and views.  While there are plenty of articles on what you shouldn’t track, Ben Yoskovitz argues that perhaps we should break it down to one [...]

  • Hi Ana,
    Nice post, Just cleared my doubt by reading this article about page rank. Really pagerank doesn’t matter and alexa as well. Thanks for this post.
    Thanks,

  • I thought there would be some mention of Alexa, Quancast, and Comcast Rank. Someone else commented, it is the quick reference of rank that I was looking for.

  • Thanks Ana!
    Really Good topic for webmaster, site owners, developers as well as newbei particularly bounce CTR conversion rate for accurate Analysis Google Analytic. Three months gap for evaluation for PR is little delay. Other ranking like alexa though less accurate <100000 website but HAS much frequent update.

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