Google is the Web's most popular search engine, powering not only the popular Google.com Website, but also Yahoo! and AOL. Being listed in Google is very important, and being listed highly in Google can bring great benefit to your site.
However, there are many myths about how Google works and, while fairly harmless in themselves, these myths tend to allow people to draw incorrect conclusions about how Google works. The purpose of this article is to correct the most popular Google myths.
This myth is frequent, and is the source of many complaints. People often notice that a site with a lower PageRank than theirs is listed above them, and get upset. While pages with a higher PageRank do tend to rank better, it is perfectly normal for a site to appear higher in the results listings even though it has a lower PageRank than competing pages.
To explain this concept without going into too much technical detail, it is best to think of PageRank as being comprised of two different values. One value, which we'll call "General PageRank" is nothing more than the weighting given to the links on your page. This is also the value shown in the Google Toolbar. This value is used to calculate the weighting of the links leaving your page, not your search position.
The other value we'll call "Specific PageRank." You see, if PageRank equated to search engine results rank then Yahoo, the site with the highest PR, would be listed #1 for every search result. Obviously, that wouldn't be useful, so what Google does is examine the context of your incoming links, and only those links that relate to the specific keyword being searched on will help you achieve a higher ranking for that keyword. It's very possible for a site with a lower PageRank to in fact have more on-topic incoming links than a site with a higher PageRank, in which case the site with a lower PageRank will be listed above its competitor in the search results for that term. Understand that with this example I am simplifying things, however I've found that this is the easiest way to explain things.
PageRank aside, there are also other factors that contribute Google search results -- though PageRank remains the dominant one.
When Google created their toolbar it was a boon for many Webmasters as this was the first time we got to see any value related to our PageRank. However, the toolbar has also caused some confusion.
The toolbar does not show your actual PageRank, only an approximation of it. It gives you an integer rank on a scale from 1-10. We do not know exactly what the various integers correspond to, but we're sure that their curve is similar to an exponential curve with each new "plateau" being harder to reach than the last. I have personally done some research into this, and so far the results point to an exponential base of 4. So a PR of 6 is 4 times as difficult to attain as a PR of 5.
The exponential base is important because it illustrates how broad a range of pages can be assigned a particular PR value. The difference between a high PR of 6, and a low PR of 6, could be hundreds or thousands of links. So if your PR as reported by the toolbar increases or drops, it's important to remember that it could be the result of a small change, or a large change. Additionally, it's possible to lose or gain links and see no change in your reported PageRank.
The other issue with the toolbar has to do with the fact that sometimes the PageRank it displays is only a guess. People will often notice pages on Geocities or another free hosting provider having a high PageRank. This is because when Google hasn't spidered a page, but has spidered the root domain, the toolbar will guess a PageRank based on the value of the root domain. Therefor it's common to see pages on Geocities with a PR of 6 or 7. The PageRank does not equate in any way to a high Google listing, in fact in this case it indicates the opposite: that the page isn't even in Google. Once Google spiders the page, it will be assigned a more appropriate (and usually lower) PageRank.