If you’re an online artist and you’re interested in search engine optimization (SEO for short) you should probably also know a little bit about PageRank.
PageRank is simply a scale from 0 to 10 that shows how much “authority” your website has compared to other sites online. It was created by Google as a quick and easy way for webmasters to see how their sites were doing.
The higher your website is on that scale, the more authority it has, and the more likely your site is to appear the first page of Google when someone searches for the words and phrases that appear on your website.
It’s important to understand that having a PageRank of 5 (for example) does NOT mean that your website will appear in the 5th spot on the first page of Google. This is a common misconception.
Instead, a PageRank of 5 would be a strong indication that your website is a moderately well-recognized “authority” site—and in practical terms, if another website on your same topic has a PageRank of 4, your website would most likely appear before it in the search engine results.
Naturally, every website starts out with a PageRank of 0. Your website’s PageRank will build up from there once it begins to receive links from other sites around the web.
How to find your website’s PageRank
There are many online tools which allow you to check your PageRank. . . but the best way to keep tabs on your own website (and to see the PageRank of any site you visit) is to add the Google Toolbar to your web browser.
The Google Toolbar includes, among other things, a little green bar that indicates the PageRank of whatever website you’re currently on. If you use either Internet Explorer or Firefox as your web browser, you can download the Google Toolbar from their official site. Once the toolbar in installed, simply surf to the webpage you wish to check and note what the green bar says.
If you’re using another internet browser (such as Safari, Opera, or Netscape) I would highly recommend trying out the Firefox web browser instead, and then downloading the Google Toolbar. Not only is Firefox free, it is also a more secure, faster browser.
And by the way, you should also know that every single page on your website has it’s own PageRank—which means you can check the “authority” of your individual pages with the Google Toolbar in addition to your home page.
Understanding PageRank updates
Since PageRank is determined by how many websites are linking to you, your PageRank will actually be in a constant state of change. As more websites link to your site, your PageRank will increase. If a website removes their link to you, your PageRank will diminish.
However—Google only publishes it’s PageRank numbers every 3 months or so.
This means that if your website is less than 3 months old, your PageRank may appear to be a 0 when it’s actually higher than that. This is not a glitch; Google just doesn’t publish real-time information about PageRank.
Interestingly, when Google finally does update PageRank, you will NOT see a sudden change in where your website appears in the search results—even if your PageRank jumps from a 0 to a 3. Why? Because you’ve actually had the rank of 3 for a while already, and you just didn’t know it.
Improving your PageRank
PageRank is really all about links—so by linking to other art bloggers and art sites you increase your chances of gaining links back, thereby raising your “authority.”
If your site is a blog, or has a blog attached to it, you can publish good, helpful content, and you will most likely receive links because of that. As your site gains links and authority, your PageRank will increase to reflect that change.
In addition, if you own or manage multiple websites, blogs, or social networking pages (like a Facebook or Myspace page) you should make sure to link from those sites to your main art website. This, too, will help increase your site’s authority and PageRank.
Now, with all this talk of PageRank and authority it may be tempting to focus on just getting the highest PageRank possible for your website—but to be honest, I’d encourage you to NOT worry about it too much.
Instead, use PageRank as a reference tool to see how your website, or someone else’s website, is doing. Perhaps check out a site’s PageRank if you’re thinking about linking to them, and you want to know if it’s worth getting a link from them in return.
You might be surprised to find that a low-to-medium PageRank (a 3 for example) is often high enough to help you rank competitively for many terms on your site—as long as you use some search engine optimization techniques as well.
So put your effort into making a good website and using SEO techniques wherever possible. In the long run, that will do more good (and bring you more visitors) than if you just worked at increasing your PageRank alone.