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PageRank is just one factor in the collective algorithm Google uses when building search results pages
(SERPs). It is still possible that a page with a lower PageRank ranks above one with a higher PageRank
for a particular query. PageRank is also relevance agnostic, in that it measures overall popularity using
links, and not the subject shrouding them. Google currently also investigates the relevance of links when
calculating search rankings, therefore PageRank should not be the sole focus of a search engine marketer.
Building relevant links will naturally contribute to a higher PageRank. Furthermore, building too many
irrelevant links solely for the purpose of increasing PageRank may actually hurt the ranking of a site,
because Google attempts to detect and devalue irrelevant links that are presumably used to manipulate it.
PageRank is also widely regarded by users as a trust-building factor, because users will tend to perceive
sites with a high value as more reputable or authoritative. Indeed, this is what PageRank is designed to
indicate. This perception is encouraged by the fact that Google penalizes spam or irrelevant sites (or
individual pages) by reducing or zeroing their PageRank.
Google PageRank isn’t the only link-related ranking algorithm, but it is one of the most popular. Other
algorithms include:
?
The Hilltop algorithm (
http://www.cs.toronto.edu/~georgem/hilltop/
)
?
ExpertRank of Ask.com (
http://about.ask.com/en/docs/about/ask_technology.shtml
)
?
HITS (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HITS_algorithm
)
?
TrustRank (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TrustRank
)
A Word on Usability and Accessibility
Web site usability is defined as the ease of use exhibited by a web site. Web site accessibility addresses
the same concerns, but focuses on those users who have impairments such as limited vision or hearing.
The search engine marketer can analogize usability and accessibility as “user optimization.”
Having a web site that ranks well is paramount. But the search engine is only one of the consumers of
a web site’s contents, and your users must also appreciate your web site once they arrive. Developers
especially tend to ignore this factor, and they often cower in fear when they hear words like “usability”
and “accessibility.” Kim Krause Berg of
The Usability Effect
(
http://www.usabilityeffect.com
) sug-
gests an explanation:
“This is because, and they [developers] are not alone in this belief, they fear someone is about to put some
serious limitations on their work. Graphic artists often react the same way.”
As a hybrid developer and search engine marketer, you must have a wiser reaction. The implementation
of a web site must incorporate search engine optimization concerns, as well as usability and accessibility
concerns. Where interests conflict, a careful compromise must be struck. “User optimization” must not
be forgotten.
Sometimes search engine optimization and usability concerns coincide; other times they hopelessly clash.
Ultimately, your users will appreciate attention to usability and accessibility in the form of more conver-
sions. If you want more information on this subject, Steve Krug’s
Don’t Make Me Think, 2nd edition
(New
Riders Press, 2005) is a classic that covers these concepts in detail.
Prioritizing Web Usability
(New Riders
Press, 2006) by Jakob Nielsen and Hoa Loranger is also a great book, addressing the areas where usabil-
ity problems typically present themselves.
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Chapter 2: A Primer in Basic SEO
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