## Saturday, August 05, 2006

### How much PageRank do we need to move up?

Here's the details. Why the values shown in the Google toolbar are not the actual PageRank figures. According to the equation, and to the creators of Google, the billions of pages on the web average out to a PageRank of 1.0 per page. So the total PageRank on the web is equal to the number of pages on the web * 1, which equals a lot of PageRank spread around the web.

The Google toolbar range is from 1 to 10. (They sometimes show 0, but that figure isn't believed to be a PageRank calculation result). What Google does is divide the full range of actual PageRanks on the web into 10 parts - each part is represented by a value as shown in the toolbar. So the toolbar values only show what part of the overall range a page's PageRank is in, and not the actual PageRank itself. The numbers in the toolbar are just labels.

Whether or not the overall range is divided into 10 equal parts is a matter for debate - Google aren't saying. But because it is much harder to move up a toolbar point at the higher end than it is at the lower end, many people (including me) believe that the divisions are based on a logarithmic scale, or something very similar, rather than the equal divisions of a linear scale.

Let's assume that it is a logarithmic, base 10 scale, and that it takes 10 properly linked new pages to move a site's important page up 1 toolbar point. It will take 100 new pages to move it up another point, 1000 new pages to move it up one more, 10,000 to the next, and so on. That's why moving up at the lower end is much easier that at the higher end.

In reality, the base is unlikely to be 10. Some people think it is around the 5 or 6 mark, and maybe even less. Even so, it still gets progressively harder to move up a toolbar point at the higher end of the scale.

Note that as the number of pages on the web increases, so does the total PageRank on the web, and as the total PageRank increases, the positions of the divisions in the overall scale must change. As a result, some pages drop a toolbar point for no 'apparent' reason. If the page's actual PageRank was only just above a division in the scale, the addition of new pages to the web would cause the division to move up slightly and the page would end up just below the division. Google's index is always increasing and they re-evaluate each of the pages on more or less a monthly basis. It's known as the "Google dance". When the dance is over, some pages will have dropped a toolbar point. A number of new pages might be all that is needed to get the point back after the next dance.

The toolbar value is a good indicator of a page's PageRank but it only indicates that a page is in a certain range of the overall scale. One PR5 page could be just above the PR5 division and another PR5 page could be just below the PR6 division - almost a whole division (toolbar point) between them.