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How to use PageRank for ecommerce websites

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How to use PageRank for ecommerce websites


30-second summary:

  • The PageRank still exists and here’s a deeper look at how Google’s Reasonable Surfer Model plays a key role
  • A well thought linking strategy both internally and externally for your ecommerce site can amplify search visibility
  • Google expert, Susan Dolan and NOVOS’, Head of SEO, Daniel Cartland guide you ahead of the holiday season

PageRank is a patent Google introduced, which used links to help determine websites rankings in the SERPs. The algorithm was named after Google founder Larry Page.

The original patent has not been renewed and has since been updated by other algorithms, which work to achieve the same goal. However, by understanding the fundamental principles, we can better understand how to position our ecommerce sites to drive traffic and revenue.

PageRank key concepts

PageRank is passed between websites through links and can be distributed through a single website with internal links.

Some pages have a higher PageRank than others and thus can pass on more PageRank to pages they link to. When a page links to another, a dampening factor is applied. The original patent set this as 0.85 – so a page with a PageRank of one, linking to another page would pass 0.85 PageRank.

Key update: the Reasonable Surfer Model

Google’s Reasonable Surfer Model indicates that a link that is more likely to be clicked on will pass more PageRank than a link that is less likely to be clicked on. This is determined by a whole host of factors, including font size, color, and anchor text. However, the position of a link on a page is also something that we often have control over as SEOs and that we can, therefore, leverage.

Here is a simple, rather crude representation of how certain links will pass more/less PageRank based on the prominence of a link and how likely it is to be clicked on.

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Build external links through to key pages

As linking pages pass PageRank, it stands to reason that we want to generate backlinks to key pages that we want to rank. For most ecommerce sites, the pages that rank for the highest volume and most revenue-driving keywords are category pages.

Wherever possible, we should therefore look to use tactics that support link building through to the pages that drive revenue, which for most sites looks something like:

  • Category pages
  • Product pages
  • Homepage
  • Blog posts

This is obviously easier said than done. Practicing these tactics with an overall aim to drive PageRank to your key pages. This reduces the dampening factors at play.

How to get past this

One common way to bypass this difficulty in building links to category pages is internally linking to key category pages we want to push from blog posts/Digital PR pieces that then get links themselves.

Although the PageRank passed to the page we ideally want to rank will undergo a dampening factor, this can still be more beneficial than failing to get any links at all to your target page.

It is worth considering how relevant the category page is to the blog/PR piece it is being included on, as well as where the links are placed on the page, being mindful of the impact the Reasonable Surfer dampening effect can have.

1. Build links from pages with high PageRank

As any Digital PR will know, high authority pages or pages that have lots of PageRank to pass onto your own site are some of the most sought-after links to attain.

Most of the time, this is actually viewed at a domain level, however as is demonstrated in this great review of how PageRank works by Majestic, a domain that should theoretically have a high PageRank can actually be significantly decreased at a page level by its own internal linking.

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One caveat for Digital PR teams in this regard is not being too reliant on domain-level metrics as a proxy for links that pass a lot of PageRank and are thus good for ranking. Exactly which pages have high PageRank is nigh-on impossible to know, and although an over-reliance on third-party tools is never optimal, they may be the closest we can get to figuring out PageRank passed by a specific page, rather than a domain.

2. Build links from relevant sites

As part of the Reasonable Surfer Model, it suggests that a link is less likely to be followed if the links are unrelated to the document:

“This reasonable surfer model reflects the fact that not all of the links associated with a document are equally likely to be followed. Examples of unlikely followed links may include “Terms of Service” links, banner advertisements, and links unrelated to the document.”  (Source)

As a result, building links from sites that are of higher relevance to your own site, is likely to pass more PageRank.

3. Remember it is not just about the number of links

Due to how PageRank is calculated, the PageRank value passed by one site can be drastically higher than the PageRank passed by the culmination of 1000s of others combined.

This is why the reliance on the overall number of links can be misleading.

Use internal linking to spread PageRank

We need to consider a few different methods while identifying pages that will benefit the most from ranking and how you pass PageRank around an ecommerce site:

  1. Link to pages you want to rank from pages that have high PageRank themselves
  2. Link to pages you want to rank more frequently throughout the site
  3. Give links to pages you want more prominently ranked

1. Link to pages you want to rank from pages that have high PageRank themselves

Pages that have high PageRank, from which we can assume to be the pages most linked to from external sites, can be used to pass PageRank to – 

Homepage linking

The best example of how you can do this is through the homepage. The homepage for most websites tends to be one of the most, if not the most externally linked to page on a site.

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This means that in terms of PageRank, the homepage has the most to pass on to other internal pages.

By carefully selecting which pages you link to from the homepage, and therefore pass the high levels of PageRank to the key pages you want to rank.

2. Link to pages you want to rank more frequently throughout the site

Another method to consider is how frequently you link to the most important pages you want to rank.

Considering that each page can pass PageRank on – this stands to reason that if a page is internally linked to more frequently, it is likely to pass on more as compared to a page less internally linked to (although obviously influenced by the PageRank of the linking pages).

Therefore, you should be considering where you can add internal links to ensure that important pages are linked to more frequently, including:

Global navigation

Due to being outside of the main body content of the page, we can reasonably assume there is a dampening factor applied to links in the menu. However, given its role in navigation, this is likely to be far less than in the footer. 

Therefore, since the global navigation is, as the name suggests, linked globally from every page on the site, the sheer number of links that will be passing PageRank is likely to funnel to those pages included in the navigation. These should therefore be the key pages you want to be ranking.

Breadcrumbs

As long-time fans of breadcrumbs at NOVOS, their benefit of passing PageRank to key pages should not be underestimated, due to the frequency with which different levels of pages are linked to.

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The benefit of breadcrumbs on ecommerce sites (outside of usability benefits for the customers) is that they pass PageRank up to the core pages that generally rank for competitive keywords. They are typically helpful to rank the categories.

Most ecommerce websites have a pyramid structure with the homepage at the top, followed by some core categories, an increasing number of subcategories, and lots of product pages. By implementing breadcrumbs on the site, you use the pyramid structure to your advantage (both SEO and CX wise). Since every product page will link up to its relevant subcategories and category, and every subcategory will link through to its relevant category.

In this sense, you distribute internal links as an inverse pyramid, concentrating the highest number (if we disregard the homepage) on the core categories that are the pages generally targeted for high volume keywords. In this sense, your ecommerce site stands a great chance of receiving large amounts of PageRank from internal links.

Product pages also generally are easier to build links to and also naturally generate them. The higher PageRank product pages can distribute upwards, the greater is the relevance – which implies lesser chances of suffering significantly from dampening factors.

Hierarchy of ecommerce site structure and how PageRank can be transferred

Footer

Based on the Reasonable Surfer Model we can assume that the PageRank passed by footer links is significantly impacted by dampening factors. However, the fact that these links are site-wide may mean that there is some benefit to including important pages in the footer for the accumulation of PageRank.

3. Give links to pages you want more prominently ranked

As the Reasonable Surfer Model applied to the likelihood of a link being clicked on a page, it is therefore worth considering whereabouts on a page. This could also mean considering page templates in general links.

For example, in a content strategy, where multiple blogs are being written on a given relevant topic to support a category page, linking to the category page early in the article, with clearly related anchor text, is likely to drive more PageRank than right at the end of an article. On a case-by-case basis, this distinction may appear trivial, however, on an ecommerce site with hundreds and thousands of blogs, the PageRank passed in total may be significant.


Susan Dolan is a Search Engine Optimization Consultant first to crack the Google PageRank algorithm as confirmed by Eric Schmidt’s office in 2014. Find her on Twitter @GoogleExpertUK.

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Daniel Cartland is Head of SEO at NOVOS, Global SEO Agency Of The Year 2020 and 2021. A Brighton SEO speaker, Daniel has a particular interest in the quirks of how to optimize for different CMS. Find him on Twitter @DanielCartland.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.





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SEO

Why Esports organizations are losing business due to lack of SEO

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Why Esports organizations are losing business due to lack of SEO

SEO is a standard within a number of marketing strategies through a myriad of industries, but has someone found themselves outside of the gaming and esports industries? There is a non-factor within new marketing verticals such as influencer marketing despite its immense potential to impact.

During the latest edition of the Gamactica Podcast, I got a chance to talk about the lack of SEO, or Esports SEO, that exists within the industry with Michael Ashford, CEO of The Game Awards.

In this article, I share some highlights and key insights that are affecting the fate of many Esports organizations.

What Esports can learn from sports and other industries

“I guess where Esports has been very pioneering there are also a lot of things that it can learn from other industries in the same vein,” he said.

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“The big controversial one is the sports and Esports gear compared a lot. I’m a big fan of it because sports do very well with media rights and distribution deals. They do very well with sponsorships, two things that are absolutely pivotal and critical to the future of Esports. Those two things go hand-in-hand, they ensure everyone continues to be stable and everyone wins off the back of them. Esports as a term has really only been popular for 10 years. Before that you would just be OpTic gaming, people would just type in “optic” and their website would come up, their socials were there, everything was great and now there are probably 10,000 companies that all call themselves Esports something or another, and it’s a very different problem.

Doesn’t matter to OpTic, because OpTic is still a leading name and people still search for OpTic on Google. OpTic still comes up but it does matter to new businesses coming in.

“There are three waves to Esports”

You have wave one which is all the teams, the TOs, and the publishing companies.

Wave two is supporting services, people like ourselves, agencies, creative agencies, sales, and talent specialists.

Wave three is all the supplementary services under that, and that’s where that trickle-down comes down with publishers at the top and everyone in these waves underneath waiting to get paid. That is where wave three is so pivotal and why you hear stories of these companies trying to get in now that are very challenged because they’re not using proven techniques that work outside of the market to get into the market. They are trying to conform to the market that already exists, and you can’t take on an Esports Awards because we own that domain, we own that optimization, and we have seven years of history working with Google, YouTube, Amazon, we have even worked with Lexus. All these brands have given us that domain authority that is very hard to purchase now.” said, Michael Ashford, CEO of The Game Awards.

The advantage of domain authority in Esports

Ashford goes on to discuss the competitive advantage the domain authority provides them, especially as the Esports landscape continues to evolve and grow.

“So, if you were going to take us on as a competitor, you probably don’t want to go against that unless you’ve got a big, realistic search engine budget to go against us. That’s where marketing gives you that advantage, when you do marketing you put yourself in the eye of the consumer, you look at their journey, you understand their peeves, and you gain a finer understanding of what they’re doing.”

Ashford talked about the difficulties that face new entities, such as Esports teams face as they are entering a fiercely competitive space.

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“If you’re a team that just got into this and you’re saying ‘I really want a big sponsorship to land on my doorstep’ like you have to be in their consideration and that’s what it comes down to. If I’m buying for one of the biggest companies in the world and I have a budget and I type in “Esports teams” or “successful Esports teams” or “biggest Esports teams” on Google, if you’re not on that list you’re already outliers from the consideration perspective because all of those other brands have long term domain authority” he said.

“The OpTics, The FaZe, the DSMs have done it for years and they’ll be the first stable thing that people see.”

Despite the proven data, SEO remains on the peripherals of the gaming, Esports, and content creation industries.

While platforms such as Twitch struggle to effectively scale the monetization of creators and their platforms, SEO continues to be an absolute need, a critical of conversation which eludes these spaces.

The Game Awards will be taking place on December 11th-13th in Las Vegas, Nevada, and will air on platforms such as Twitch and Twitter.


Anthony DiMoro is CEO of Gamactica. He can be found on Twitter @AnthonyDiMoro.

Subscribe to the Search Engine Watch newsletter for insights on SEO, the search landscape, search marketing, digital marketing, leadership, podcasts, and more.

Join the conversation with us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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