Written by Aaron Rains February 6th 2024

When a user types a query into a search engine, the search engine’s primary objective is to provide high-quality, relevant results that best meet the user’s needs. To determine which webpages are the best fit, Google considers hundreds of SEO factors, and one of them is PageRank.

What Is PageRank?

PageRank (PR) is a scoring system created by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. It evaluates the quality and quantity of links leading to a webpage to determine a relative score of that page’s importance and authority on a scale of 0 to 10. The few websites with a PageRank score of 10, such as USA.gov, Twitter.com, and Adobe Reader Download, have the highest number of inbound links of any website. The top sites set the standard, and the 10-point scale drops exponentially. Websites with a PageRank score of 5 have a good number of inbound links, while those with a score of 3 or 4 have a decent amount. New websites without any inbound links start at PageRank 0.

It is worth noting that Google no longer reveals the PageRank score for websites. Although it used to be displayed at the top of web browsers in the Google Toolbar, this is no longer true. Additionally, PR data is no longer available to developers through APIs. However, PageRank remains a crucial ingredient in Google’s secret ranking algorithms. Google aims to display high-quality, relevant, and trustworthy results on page one, so it may rank webpages with better PageRank scores higher in the SERPs. It is important to remember that a high PageRank score does not guarantee high rankings; it is only one factor Google uses. However, it can significantly help.

What Is “Link Juice”?

When another website links to your webpage, it is considered a vote of confidence. Google uses these votes to determine the relevance and significance of your webpage and website. This is the basic idea behind PageRank.

Whenever a website links to your site, your web page gains PageRank points, known as “link juice” or “link equity.” The amount of link juice that passes depends on two factors: the number of points of the webpage providing the link and the total number of links passing PageRank.

Google assigns a public-facing PageRank score between 1 and 10 to every website. However, the points that each page accumulates from high-value inbound links can exceed ten. Google uses mathematical calculations to correlate PageRank values with a clean and simple 0 to 10 rating scale.

How Link Juice Is Passed

Consider this scenario- every webpage has a limited amount of link juice it can pass, which is capped at the total PageRank points that the page has accumulated. For instance, a webpage with 20 accrued PageRank points can only pass up to 20 link juice points. 

20 PageRank points links to only one other page; that one link will transfer all the of the link juice to that one webpage. When a page with a PageRank of 20 links to five web pages, each link will only transfer one-fifth of the link juice.

Google applies a decay value to every pass so that the actual numbers will be less than those shown in the diagram. But to explain the PageRank concept, the formula is PR points divided by the number of on-page links, or in this case, 20 divided by 5. 

What if you want to link to various resources to help enhance user experience but don’t want to pass PageRank to those pages for strategic reasons? 

You can prevent Google from passing PageRank by adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to specific links. This tells the search engines not to crawl the link or transfer any PageRank or anchor text signals.

Google still considers nofollowed links as part of the total links on the page, reducing the PageRank value available to pass through the remaining followed links.

For instance, on a webpage with a 100 PR score and four links, if three links have rel=”nofollow” tags, the remaining link will only get 25% of the link juice.

Transferring PageRank Internal Linking

To help Google recognize the pages on your website as authoritative sources on specific subjects, you can link to your essential pages from related articles. For example, suppose you have written an article on “How To Do Keyword Research.” In that case, you can further establish its relevance to the subject/phrase “keyword research” by linking it to an article that reviews a keyword research tool. This linking strategy is known as effective siloing, which helps clarify your website’s central themes.

Nofollow Is Essential

Please remember the following information about adding rel= “nofollow” to links. This attribute may not work as it used to for SEO purposes, but it’s still essential for specific types of links:

1. Paid links and ads must have a nofollow attribute, as per Google’s policy on nofollow. This helps avoid potential search engine penalties due to suspicions of manipulative practices.

2. Links that could dilute the relevance of your website’s subject matter must also have a nofollow attribute. This applies to both internal and external links to off-topic pages.

3. Using nofollow is also necessary for untrustworthy websites to prevent passing PageRank to them.

It’s important to note that having more links does not necessarily mean better rankings. Quality is critical; links from poor-quality or spammy sites can harm your website’s ranking. Rather than buying or soliciting links, it’s best to focus on earning links naturally from relevant, high-quality sources.

Additionally, link pruning can help address the negative impact of low-quality links on your website’s reputation.