Nozak Consulting

What is PageRank?

Scott Emigh

When using a search engine, users want high quality returns on their query. Google has taken steps to ensure that users find links relevant to their needs with a specialized algorithm called PageRank.

PageRank is Google’s way to determine how to rank websites in search engine results. While other services have risen up since PageRank was created, PageRank was the first algorithm that Google used, and is the best-known algorithm of its kind. 

PageRank History

Back in 1996, the future founders of Google Inc., Sergey Brin and Larry Page, were attending Stanford University, and researching a way for a search engine to rank web information by link popularity.

In 1998, they published an essay describing what would end up becoming the Google search engine and PageRank (named after Larry Page).

When they formed Google Inc. not long later, PageRank served as the basis for creating a hierarchy of webpages.

With this algorithm, Brin and Page’s company became a powerhouse in the industry, and helped make Google one of the most well-known search engines available. Since its creation, Google found other ways to refine searches, but PageRank remained a part of the process.

What Does PageRank Do?

Google, understandably, keeps the most intricate processes of the algorithm secret, but they do provide some basic information of how it works.

In essence, PageRank examines how many inbound links (links to one’s website on someone else’s webpage) there are to a website to determine if the website is important. Notably, this is assuming that if others link to a webpage, then the webpage must be worthwhile to users’ interests. That, at least, serves as the basis, but this would be far too easy to exploit.

Fortunately, Google tries to keep PageRank up to date, and they put greater importance on inbound links form more important webpages.

Therefore, if a website had many inbound links from unimportant, it would not be ranked as highly as one that had fewer links from higher quality sources. Each inbound link is a sort of “vote,” and the algorithm uses an equation to determine if the “vote” comes from someone reputable.

This leads to an interesting question: how does Google determine that the websites with the inbound link to the other website are high-ranking? Effectively, PageRank uses a feedback loop, so it does not matter where they start, as the algorithm will continue to work its way through the websites until it has established their priority ranking.

Other factors do come into play for PageRank, such as keywords, however, backlinks remain the main force behind it. 


For a time, Google included the ability to look at one’s PageRank through Google Webmaster Tools. Notably, this was not always the most accurate, and as of October 15th, 2009, Google removed PageRank from Google Webmaster Tools.

Google believed that websites were putting too great a focus on PageRank, and warned them that they were going to deprecate it.

As time went on, Google continued to drop support for PageRank in the public sector, until April 15th, 2016 when PageRank was no longer viewable to the public through the Google Toolbar. PageRank, however, is still utilized by the company. 

Other Search Engine Ranking Services

While PageRank is no longer viewable by the public, there are other ways one can see how their webpage is ranked in a search engine.

For example, Moz, and SEO company, provides two such services: Page Authority and Domain Authority. While they work somewhat differently than PageRank, they still can provide information about one’s search engine rank.

Page Authority

Page Authority, or PA, can predict how high a specific webpage will appear in search results by generating a score based on a scale of one to one hundred. Like PageRank, it relies on a number of factors, including link counts, but also two of its own programs (MozRank and MozTrust).

The score itself is not concrete, rather it is comparative, so the score will be relevant only compared to other websites which appear in the specific search results.

To improve a webpage’s Page Authority, one would need to find high authority pages, and see if they will create a link back to the webpage in question. Moz warns that the score can sometimes fluctuate, but this is merely because they constantly update Page Authority. 

Domain Authority

Domain Authority, or DA, is very similar to Page Authority, although instead of scoring a particular webpage, DA scores domains and subdomains.

Domains and subdomains are broader, as a domain is a string that is used to define administrative authority on the Web, and a subdomain is a part of a larger domain.

Like PA, DA predicts a website’s rank on the search results based on a one to one hundred score. In this case, a good DA score can be determined by a high quantity of strong external links, but as is the case with PA, a DA score is entirely comparative.