Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Does Google PageRank Matter?

I got into the business of SEO and content in a rather magical way. I have never done well with corporate jobs, and the biggest problem that I ran into was that the organizations that I worked for all seemed to value mediocrity. The old school bullshit about how if you show up every day and work hard you will be rewarded is not the way it goes down. If you are especially sharp and hard working, you are invariably seen as a threat. So I found myself out of work in the summer of 2006, and I was looking really hard for a job.

I would scour Craig's List rather obsessively, and I sent out dozens of resumes without success. Things were getting scary for me financially, and I was feeling rather helpless and frustrated. I noticed that people who had jobs that included the responsibility of writing help wanted ads for their companies couldn't spell or use proper syntax. These were the same people who were, presumably, trashing my resume without consideration. The absurdity of it all led me to write a post (inappropriately) in the Help Wanted section of CL stating that employers actually valued mediocrity over excellence. It was apparently flagged and taken down in a matter of a couple of hours.

I essentially forgot about it, but a couple of weeks later I got an email from a guy who said he read that post, he liked it, and he had an open position. We connected over the phone and he hired me.

What his company did was sell backlinks. I didn't know anything about SEO, or about backlinks, previous to this. He had a network of a couple of thousand bloggers who would blog about his clients' products and link to them. My job was to review their work and make sure that they followed the guidelines. Through doing this, I gained a pretty thorough basic to intermediate understanding of blogging and some elements of SEO. As you might expect, I created my own blogs and made some money blogging in this manner as well. I had no idea that it was in any way unethical.

I learned about Google PageRank and the supposed fact that a link from a higher ranked site was more valuable, and that PR determined position in the SERPs. I really lusted after PageRank, because you could make more money with your blogs if they had higher PR. I just assumed that it was indeed true that PageRank determined SERP position.

Every quarter when PageRank would change, I read a lot of the comments that people were making concerning their sites and blogs. Many of them would say that their sites got the same or even more traffic after losing PageRank, so it really doesn't matter. I believed that they were telling the truth, but to me, it did indeed matter because of the perception. My posts were worth more if my PR was higher.

Since then, we all know that Google "declared war" on paid links and wiped away tons of PR. I have never thought that was fair, and all it really did was punish the little guy or woman in my estimation. But, it is what it is, and you have to adjust and move on.

I recently read a little "course" by an SEO named Christoph Cemper, and he repeatedly emphasized his belief that PageRank means nothing when it comes to SERPs. What matters is where you place for your terms, period, and you may find that it has nothing to do with PR. Your customers are probably not going to be running SEO tools displaying your PR or even know what PageRank is. If you show up near the top of the first page for your targeted terms, you are achieving your goal.

Cemper arrived at his conclusion by testing and real life experience, and he is very well endorsed, so I take his observations to heart. But this blog is a good example as well. I chose the URL "InternetContentProviders.net" because I wanted to place for that term. And though at the moment the blog has a PR of zero, it does place at #1 in Yahoo and Bing and #5 in Google for my top term, and it has an Alexa rank under 800,000 though it is just a few months old. And yes, Alexa is slanted toward SEO industry types, but...I sell web content. So my very solid Alexa ranking indicates that a high percentage of my traffic is coming from SEO/SEM savvy users running the Alexa toolbar.

The answer to the question of whether or not Google PageRank matters is probably yes and no. In the realm of perception it matters, and some sites with high PR do very well in the SERPs. But apparently, it is very possible to do well for your terms even if you don't have much PR. And Cemper contends that links from pages that place well for relevant terms are highly valued even if they don't have a lot of green in that bar.

So there's a little food for thought from the Content Dude. If you need a reliable content resource who has a sense of humor, give me a call at (706) 424-3450


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