If you’ve ever stumbled in to the trenches of marketing communities like The Warrior Forum or Digital Point – and let’s face it, most of us have – you’ll have been greeted by thread after thread of newbies asking questions like “How do I improve my PageRank?” or “How do I get in to Alexa’s top 100,000?”
It has become popular geekspeak to dismiss both PageRank and Alexa as useless metrics from a prehistoric age. Neither are accurate depictions of your site’s success, so why bother paying attention to them? This advice typically comes from the same mob who insist on not providing support for IE because it’s the worst web browser, in their expert opinions.
I agree with the sentiment, but I completely disagree with their interpretation of what equals value on the web. In my opinion, Alexa and PageRank will be valuable metrics as long as paying advertisers continue to use them as guidelines for measuring their investments.
Google PageRank has to be one of the most misunderstood concepts on the web. If I check my junk mail right now, I’m guaranteed to find a whole bunch of sales pitches from so-called SEO professionals offering to improve my PageRank so that I can drive more traffic to my site. This evidence, right here, goes a long way to explaining why their shit lands in my junk box.
Toolbar PageRank is disconnected from the actual ranking algorithm that Google uses to place your pages in it’s search listings. They are not related, although they may share similar data. PageRank has developed a reputation as a useless metric. It’s the distant bastard cousin of the true ranking algorithm we’d all love to know.
However, PageRank can still add value to your website. There are swaths of advertisers with money to spend. Advertisers who will continue to place artificial value on PR. And if that’s the difference between your site attracting advertisers or not, wouldn’t you be a fool not to value your little green progress bar?
The Alexa rank is very similar. Most of us with our heads screwed on can appreciate how the data derived from Alexa is twisted at best, and complete bollocks at worst. But does this matter if advertisers are investing in what they believe to be one of the top 20,000 websites in America?
There’s a small but very active market for professional site-flippers who know exactly how these factors can be used as an advantage. I know one particular site-flipper who develops turnkey websites and massively inflates their value by playing to the perception.
He doesn’t bother with the chore of building a brand. No, that wouldn’t catch the eye. Instead he works meticulously to inflate PR, boost Alexa rank and improve a bunch of other key measurements that he knows the buyers are impressed by.
He banks a lot of money by simply knowing his market.
If you’re building a website from scratch with the intention of turning it in to an advertising machine, or flipping it for profit, look closely at what your market values – and then build it in that image.
PageRank and Alexa rankings are only useless metrics if you can’t find a way to sell them to the people who still care. I would never encourage somebody to base their marketing efforts purely around increasing these values. But to dismiss them as pointless is as dumb as not listening to what your customers are basing their purchases on.
In my opinion, your website is only as valuable as the money you make from it. If your primary income is through selling advertising space, you need to be speaking in the buyer’s language. This is something I stress time and time again. It doesn’t matter how much knowledge you’ve accumulated to tell them otherwise. Putting across the right image and ticking the right boxes is all you can do.
If the people buying ads are basing their decisions on search engine rankings, you need to rank well. If they’re basing their decisions on branding, you need to brand well. If they still cling to measuring scales like Alexa and PageRank, I hate to say it, but you need to consider them too.
I don’t want this to sound like a sweeping endorsement of PageRank and Alexa, because that’s the last message I’m trying to convey. I’d be about as popular as the guy petitioning equal rights for IE6. But I do believe that any measurement of a site’s value can be given a positive spin and used as bait to attract more advertisers. If this means agitating a few of the Google PR “myth debunkers”, then so be it.
We often confuse our webmaster ideology with real world practicality. What we know means precisely squat diddily compared to what the guy with the credit card in his hand thinks he knows.
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