Traffic vs PageRank

Do more website visits improve Google PageRank?

In short, website visits don’t impact Google PageRank.

Let’s first understand what Google PageRank is:

PageRank is a link analysis algorithm, named after Larry Page and used by the Google Internet search engine, that assigns a numerical weighting to each element of a hyperlinked set of documents, such as the World Wide Web, with the purpose of “measuring” its relative importance within the set. The algorithm may be applied to any collection of entities with reciprocal quotations and references. The numerical weight that it assigns to any given element E is referred to as the PageRank of E and denoted by PR(E). – Wikipedia

You must also understand SERP:

A search engine results Page (SERP), is the listing of web pages returned by a search engine in response to a keyword query. The results normally include a list of web pages with titles, a link to the page, and a short description showing where the Keywords have matched content within the page. A SERP may refer to a single page of links returned, or to the set of all links returned for a search query. – Wikipedia

PageRank is available on the Google Toolbar, or many other toolbar add-ons or extensions. It’s public information.

Why do we care about Google PageRank?

It really depends on the individual. Google tells us to ignore it. You can find debates on the significance of it, or the irrelevance of it all over SEO web forums. Well, I am here to tell you, “I care about it very much.” I’ll stop caring about it when Google stops updating it altogether. I will stop caring about it when it’s no longer one of the 200 factors impacting the SERP rank of a web page. I will stop caring about it when I don’t rely on link buyers for income. I will stop caring about it when I don’t have dreams of selling my website/domain.

These are all factors that still today are reliant on PageRank (PR).

Traffic or PageRank (PR)?

That’s a loaded question, where I admit, I don’t have all the answers, but neither does anyone else, less Google secret agents. In my early days of blogging my goal was traffic. Let me rephrase that. My goal was money.

Side rant:

I can give you a complete list of other goals that sound more respective, but they all ultimately lead to money. My goal in life is to live a location independent lifestyle while traveling the world. How can I do that? By making money with my blogs. That’s the immediate goal associated with the blog. Money.

I thought traffic was the source of all money online. Not necessarily. Is it a big source? Yes, but not the only source. If you are selling text links, then PageRank is a mighty big source.

Link buyers are after sites with a strong PageRank. If your site grows in traffic, but lags behind in gaining PageRank, then your income from link buyers will remain low. SERP is impacted by inbound links from high PageRank sites. A link buyer’s goal is to find those sites with high PR and keyword relevancy.

Traffic vs. PageRank

In this example I show two of my travel blogs. One is 3.5yr old budget travel blog and the other is a 1yr old couples getaway blog. The couples getaway blog was built from an experienced blogger/SEO/WordPress guy, me. After 2 years of learning, I wanted to make an attempt to do it right from scratch. I didn’t know what I was doing when I built my first travel blog.

Couples Getaway Blog Traffic PR4

Google PageRank and Traffic

Averages 1,000 visits per month.

Budget Travel Blog Traffic PR4

Google PageRank and Traffic

Averages 17,000 visits per month

Both of these sites have a Google PageRank of 4.  (If you are wondering why the dramatic drop in traffic from the budget travel blog, you can blame Google Penguin.) So a site that has 1,000 visitors a month has the same PR4 as a site with 17,000 visitors per month.  Now let me reassure you that the budget travel blog has had a PR4 for over 2 years now.

Let’s compare the 2 sites side by side using the Open Site Explorer from SEOMoz. Moz PageRank equivalent ranks CoupleTravelTips.com higher. Overall, 2Backpackers.com will have a higher SERP ranking, but the PageRank (MozRank) crown goes to CoupleTravelTips.

SEO PageRank Tools

What did we learn about PageRank?

PageRank is not driven solely by traffic. It’s driven by many complex factors that include inbound link quality, SEO, internal linking structure, quality content and many others. Traffic, is obviously not a big driver based on this real world example.

If your goal is to focus on making money from link buyers quickly, then don’t focus on traffic, focus on SEO quality. Quality in this situation is about knowing what you are doing before you build your blog. I had that advantage when I started CoupleTravelTips.com. I didn’t have that advantage when I started 2Backpackers.com. You need to have a great grasp of on-site and off-site SEO, a good network to build quality links, focused keyword strategy and quality content.

Will I get rich this way?

No, absolutely not. Unless you want to aim for the lottery. That’s what this is. There are millions of sites built to sell links and it won’t make you rich unless you are lucky or have plenty of money up front to invest. I still believe the best way to build a quality blog that will earn you significant money over the long-term is to produce content people are searching to read, watch or listen to. Establish your brand, market your product/service, engage on social media and be real. It helps to have good SEO, but it’s more important to have good content. This is a long-term strategy that will build partnerships and open doors for you.

A blog is a tool to build an audience, what you do after that, will make or break you.

Remember, it’s against Google policy to sell links to game their search algorithms, but it’s not against the law.  Sell links at your own risk.

Disclosure: I am not legally qualified to provide financial or legal advice.  My intent is to provide my opinions and spur discussion.

About Jason Castellani

Senior Consultant for ATCS Inc. and Principal of Castellani Media LLC., a collection of blogs focused on providing unique content and entertainment. Began blogging after quitting my job and backpacking for 1 year with my wife. I became fascinated with the impact of social media and how social media marketing can help businesses grow. My goal is to continue building consulting services in an effort to remain digital nomads. @JasonCastellani

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2 Responses to Do more website visits improve Google PageRank?

  1. jeremy August 31, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Great idea for a post. I agree, money is the apple of my eye when it comes to blogging as well, I just call myself lucky that I get to write about what I want to (i.e. traveling), and I’m much more focused on PR than traffic, even though I want people to read my content because I truly spend the time to write good stuff or have quality, value-added guest posts.

    • Jason Castellani September 11, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

      And if you continue to write good posts, you won’t have issues. Google can typically recognize original content, but it’s up to your readers to comment and share on it. That’s where a good social media marketing strategy comes into play.

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