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Google Page Rank (or PR) is Google's assessment of the importance and popularity of a website based on the number and quality of inbound links from other websites on the World Wide Web.
Google PR is displayed as an option on the Google Toolbar, which can be downloaded and installed free of charge. The Google Toolbar is available for Internet Explorer and Firefox. You can also check the Google Page Rank of your website here.
We discuss how to improve Google Page Rank in this article and explore the most common reasons for a drop in website PR. We also explain how Page Rank fits into the latest Google ranking algorithm and its declining importance in mainstream SEO.
Over the last 12 months, Google have "raised the bar" when it comes to Page Rank values - meaning that to keep the same Page Rank value today a greater quantity of quality backlinks are needed.
In Google's eyes, a "quality backlink" is defined as a non reciprocal link (one way link) from a quality similar themed site, where the webpage containing the backlink to your site has a high indicated PR value with few other outbound links present on the page. Following Google's latest algorithm change which hit many reciprocal link pages, the highest quality backlinks will no longer be ones placed on "link or resource pages" but those added inside articles and embedded into website content of a relevant theme.
Sudden, unexpected loss of Page Rank - where the visible PR of a top level domain or internal web pages is suddenly lost (drop to PR0), from a previously high PR value of 4, 5 or 6 may indicate a Google penalty, or at the very least a serious reduction in inbound link strength.
In this specific case, read our Google penalties page for likely causes, help and advice concerning any sudden Page Rank reduction, including total loss of Page Rank. For a minor Google PR drop of 1 or 2 points from previous PR2, 3 or 4, continue reading this article for an explanation.
When a website Google Page Rank drop is suffered, start by checking your website backlinks using Yahoo Site Explorer to identify whether any trusted, high PR one way links to your site have been removed unexpectedly. If important high PR backlinks have been lost, contact the webmasters of those sites to see if they can be recovered. If there's been a Google PR update, it's also worth checking your competitor's Page Rank to see if they have suffered PR loss too. This helps to identify whether the problem is caused by a change in Google PR calculation algorithm, or whether it is caused by lost backlinks or Google discounted links to your website.
Loss of Google Page Rank (PR reduction) by one point (4 down to 3 for example) is only a problem when Google organic ranking is affected too and often the Toolbar PR value and website ranking are not directly interlinked. Nowadays, the Google Page Rank of any website as indicated by the Google Toolbar Page Rank value has little effect or relationship to overall website ranking factors. When a one point website Page Rank drop is suffered there is usually no immediate change in ranking.
Webmasters get rather hung up when it comes to Google Page Rank problems, when a Google toolbar PR reduction often has little effect on organic search ranking in the SERP.
As part of the Page Rank algorithm changes, Google has raised the number of backlinks needed to achieve high PR value (5 and above) and it has increasingly discounted the Page Rank boosting value of reciprocal links, site wide links and those from the same C class IP address and other low quality, low trust sources.
To elaborate, links from the same C Class IP address are generally hosted by the same ISP, so where significant numbers of website backlinks come from same C Class IP address or same website, such links will be discounted altogether or subject to significant link devaluation such that they may only achieve the equivalent value of just one backlink from the source. Consequently, having many backlinks from the same C Class IP range will offer little Google ranking benefit and PR improvement and may red-flag an attempt to spam the search engine causing Google ranking problems.
Loss of website Page Rank - down to PR0 from PR2 or 3 doesn't necessarily mean a Google penalty has been issued, it can be caused by lost backlinks to your website or by discounted backlinks which have recently been devalued by Google as part of an algorithm update.
Following the Google Big Daddy update in early 2006, thousands of low quality web pages with few backlinks were Google de-indexed which had a knock on effect on many websites which relied upon these sites for links. As a direct result, many domains suffered a drop in Page Rank, some even lost Google Page Rank altogether (PR0) whilst others became partially indexed, showing as Supplemental Pages (Results).
Even Google state that Page Rank value is somewhat cosmetic. To back this statement up, there are plenty of PR2 and PR3 websites which have recently lost Page Rank which still have better Google ranking than Page Rank 5 sites, sometimes due to the fact that they have better content relating to certain niche topics and more thematically revelant links, albeit on lower Page Rank pages.
There's no doubt that Google Trust has now become one of the biggest factors in Google ranking - much more important than visible Toolbar Page Rank in the latest Google algorithm.
Even Google state that Page Rank value is somewhat cosmetic. To back this statement up, there are plenty of PR2 and PR3 websites which have better Google ranking in their chosen field than Page Rank 5 sites, often due to the fact that they are deemed to have more relevant content relating to niche topics.
In other cases a PR3 page might rank higher in Google than a PR5 page in the organic search results because the PR3 website has higher Google trust or more relevant backlinks. Google trust can be lost by indulging in poor SEO practices and spam techniques or by excessive reciprocal link exchange with low quality and dissimilar theme web sites. To improve Google trust requires acquiring more backlinks from authority hub sites of a similar theme. These will be sites which already have a good Google ranking and often they are leader's in their particular field. You can't find out what your Google Trust Rank is, but you'll certainly notice ranking improvements when you achieve trusted status. New domains are at a particular disadvantage as they will inevitably start with zero trust and have to build it up over months and years.
You may still need to improve Google Page Rank, particularly to encourage Google to more fully index your site or to crawl it more frequently. Improving Page Rank means concentrating on building quality one way backlinks from relevant websites and to build greater content originality into your site to attract more natural links - sometimes known as link baiting. KSL consulting can advise you on the best SEO methodologies for improving Google ranking.