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How Can You Discover a Page’s PageRank?

To discover a web page's PageRank, you could install the Google toolbar into your browser. If it’s not available for your browser, you might install a different toolbar — you can find various toolbars that provide PageRank in your browser’s add-ons library.

Each time you open a page, the toolbar will load the page’s PageRank. In the case of the Google toolbar, if the bar is all gray, the PageRank is 0. If it’s all green, the PageRank is 10. You can estimate PageRank simply by looking at the position of the green bar, or you can mouse-over the bar, and a pop-up appears with the PageRank.

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If the PageRank component isn't on your toolbar, click the Options button on the right of the bar and then select Options from the menu that appears. In the Toolbar Options dialog box, click the Privacy tab, click the Use PageRank check box, and then click the Save button.

If you don’t want to install a toolbar, you can still check PageRank. Search for the term pagerank tool to find various sites that allow you to enter a URL and get the PageRank.

It’s important to understand that as far as PageRank goes, zero is not zero, and ten is not ten. Although commonly referred to as PageRank, and even labeled as such, the PageRank value provided by PageRank tools and services is not the page’s actual PageRank.

It’s simply a number indicating the approximate position of the page on the PageRank range. Therefore, pages never have a PageRank of 0, even though most pages show 0 on the toolbar, and a page with a rank of, say, 2 might actually have a PageRank of 25 or 100.

The true PageRank scale is probably a logarithmic scale. Thus, the distance between PageRank 5 and 6 is much greater than the difference between 2 and 3. The consensus of opinion among people who like to obsess over such things is that PageRank is a logarithmic scale with a base of around 5 or 6; some people believe it’s more likely base 8, or perhaps higher.

Suppose for a moment that the base is actually 5. That means that a page with a PageRank of 0 shown on the toolbar may have an actual PageRank somewhere between a fraction of 1 and just under 5.

If the PageRank shown is 1, the page may have a rank between 5 and just under 25; if 2 is shown, the number may be between 25 and just under 125, and so on. A page with a rank of 9 or 10 shown on the toolbar most likely has a true PageRank in the millions. With base 5, for instance, the toolbar PageRank would represent a true PageRank.

Pure Conjecture — What Toolbar PageRank Would Represent if PageRank Were a Logarithmic Scale Using Base 5
Toolbar PageRank True PageRank
0 0–5
1 5–25
2 25–125
3 125–625
4 625–3,125
5 3,125–15,625
6 15,625–78,125
7 78,125–390,625
8 390,625–1,953,125
9 1,953,125–9,765,625
10 9,765,625–48,828,125

The maximum possible PageRank, and thus this scale, continually changes as Google recalculates PageRank. As pages are added to the index, the PageRank has to go up. Periodically, Google recalculates PageRank web-wide, and PageRank drops for many sites, perhaps most.

How can you be sure that the numbers on the toolbar are not the true PageRank? The PageRank algorithm simply couldn’t work on a scale of 1 to 10 on a web that contains billions of web pages; it just wouldn’t make sense.

Here are two important points to remember about PageRank values provided by these toolbars and services:

  • Two pages with the same PageRank may actually have a very different true PageRank. One may have a PageRank that is a quarter or a fifth of the other, perhaps less.

  • It gets progressively harder to push a page to the next PageRank on the toolbar. Getting a page to 1 or 2 is pretty easy, but to push it to 3 or 4 is much harder (though certainly possible). To push it to the higher levels is very difficult indeed — 8 or above is rare.

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