PageRank explained, without math (really)
Ian Lurie Sep 27 2010
Whenever I try to explain the concept of true Pagerank – not the fake number you see in the Google Toolbar – I find myself going into all sorts of metaphorical gymnastics. PageRank is like a tree… no, it’s like a fountain… no, wait, an electrical grid… or is it a squid…?
At long last, I’ve hit on a metaphor that works. It requires pipe, water, and some goldfish.
Stay with me…
Your web site is a pipe
Imagine your website is a pipe, carrying water from the bucket that is your home page to some happy goldfish that are at the bottom. PageRank is the water in the pipe.
Your home page concentrates most of the PageRank (water) because it typically gets the most links.
As long as enough water makes its way down the pipe, the fish are happy:
Links make holes in the pipe
Every link you place on a page is a hole in the pipe, diverting the water elsewhere. Those holes might be important – they aren’t necessarily bad. They might even be watering flowers or something. But if you’re the goldfish, you don’t care:
More holes means less water for you.
PageRank is a precious resource
The real lesson: PageRank is precious. Don’t waste it. You can steer PageRank around, just like you can pour water through pipes. Smart site architecture sends PageRank (authority) where you need it.
You want as much PageRank as possible flowing to your most important pages. The more links you have on every page of your site, the less of this resource you’ll have getting to those pages, and the less you can control it.
Links leak PageRank
If you’re a client, or a 10Things client, you’ve heard me say “you’re leaking pagerank” more than once. Now it should make a little sense. Links ‘leak’ Pagerank – they draw away some of the authority of a page, leaving less authority to ‘flow’ to other linked pages.
So link wisely, and consolidate links whenever possible. For example:
- Say you have a blog, and a monthly archive list on the right-hand side of every page that extends back to 2008. That’s almost 36 links on every page. Instead combine 2008 and 2009 into a single link for each year. Then list all posts for the relevant year on the target page. You just reduced 24 links to 2 links instead. That’s a lot of closed leaks.
So remember: Home page is a bucket. Like water, PageRank is a limited resource. You control the pipes. Be smart about it.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More