PageRank, The Emperor's Old Clothes

Article submitted by Erik M. Cunningham - March 3, 2006

Most search engine marketers have heard the analogy of PageRank and "The Emperor's New Clothes" before, and for good reason. Since Google's introduction of PageRank in 1998, novices and search engine marketing professionals alike have been falling all over themselves trying to up their rankings. But for what?

One major appeal of PageRank is that it offers people what they want, a hard-line measure of success. PR can be quantified which makes both marketers and their customers happy. "You did good. How good? I give you an 8 out of 10."

If you want to know how seriously Google takes its own valuation of PageRank, see Google's Pigeon Rank posted on April Fool's Day - 2002.

For years, Google has been telling the public that the best way for sites to achieve good results in their search engine marketing efforts is to focus on the site visitor. Basically, a site that offers informative content in an organized manner will succeed.

This same methodology applies to link building. Links on your website should offer visitors content that is useful, informative and related to the topics presented in your web pages. Letting a link algorithm determine the relevance of other web sites to yours is a disservice to your site visitors and your industry.

Don't be a Link Exchange PR-ude

Many legitimate link exchange requests are turned down solely on the basis of PageRank. This unfortunate occurrence results in the loss of potential web traffic and search engine marketing opportunities for both parties.

This is undoubtedly where PR followers will argue that exchanging links with a site with low PageRank will not help them. Speaking strictly in PR terms (though I'd rather not), consider that a site actively engaged in a legitimate reciprocal link building program will likely have the PageRank you desire in a matter of months. Also consider that Google can change their PageRank algorithm at any time, turning your PR value of 6 or 7 into a 2 or 3. Add to those factors the fact that people take PageRank so seriously, even Google pokes fun at it, and where does PR leave you?

My goal here isn't to belittle anyone's search engine marketing efforts. The purpose of this link building article is to encourage the open exchange of text links between legitimate (spam free) websites that offer related content to web users. The process is free and benefits all parties involved.

See my article, How to Spot a Link Exchange Email Spammer, to help you distinguish between legitimate and questionable link partners.


I hope this link building article offers useful information to webmasters, search engine marketers, PageRank supporters and opponents alike. My recommendation is that you select your link partners on the basis of their site content and not on the valuation of an algorithm that some researchers suggest Google doesn't even use.

With an open exchange of text links, you win, your link partners win and your website visitors win. I give this recommendation an IdeaRank of 10.