Why PageRank Isn’t A Useful Metric For International Link Building

In my last article, I talked about how Google detected a user’s location and language interest for the purpose of filtering the results to give the most relevant information in response to a user’s search. Now, I propose to dive deeper into how geo-targeting affects PageRank and why many need to adjust their thinking when thinking about generating international links.

If you track back through articles and posts I’ve written, you’ll find that I have been knocking link builders who have had experience in one market — perhaps the US or the UK and then roll out a campaign to build links using pretty much the same approach everywhere.

The Corpus Is Filtered

My argument has always been that PageRank is calculated on an international basis cutting across borders and languages without any regard for user relevancy. By the way, I don’t mean that Google actually uses PageRank in its results in this way — in fact, that’s the whole point.

Google — and also search engines such as Yandex and Baidu — have to create a corpus or a set of results for a particular market such as Germany for example, that have a relevancy for that market. The index is “filtered” as we saw last time.

The Competition Is Local Not Global

This filtering effect means that when aspiring to achieve best results in terms of visitor traffic and rankings from our example of Germany, we actually are competing not with a global version of PageRank but with the relevant PageRank levels of Germany — which may be higher or lower than we’re used to in the market in which we operate.

Thus, it is entirely false to start by saying, “We only want links of Page Rank 3 and above in our link building campaigns”. This may theoretically make sense in the domestic market — but it doesn’t transfer well into other countries.

New Data On The Way

By the way, it might sound like I’m about to say, “Page Rank is bound to be lower in these markets” but actually that’s not what I mean nor is it necessarily the case. In some markets, the equivalent requirement would actually be higher — but the point is, it’s bound to be different meaning that PageRank isn’t a useful guide. It might to clarify this by calling it “Global Page Rank”.

Until now, however, I’ve had some difficulty finding some useful data to prove the point that I’ve seen to be true for years. At SMX London, a useful database was launched which has helped me with my proof — namely the Majestic Million. This is a database of world’s top million sites based on the number of inbound referring domain links. Most importantly, you can select the data by Country Code Top Level Domain or “ccTLD”.

Unexpected Results?

Whilst ccTLDs don’t give us the complete picture — because the Top Level Domains also play a significant role in country level PageRank — they are a strong indicator and suitable comparator of one market to another.

Using this new data, I’ve been able to assemble the chart below comparing 10 ccTLD markets with the dot com — and producing some fascinating and somewhat astounding results. I’m confident that these findings are a good reflection of the situation because they very much reflect the issues that my team and I have found over the years.

Which Domain Is In The Millions?

I chose to sample the most interesting markets but also included some smaller and lesser well known ones so that we can pick up on a variety of issues. So this data includes China and Russia as well as the main markets people target when first going international in Europe and a smaller couple of examples.

A comparison of key data of a sample of ccTLDS:

Source: WebCertain and Majestic Million


The domain is the most linked to domain for each ccTLD or TLD. The Global Rank is the position that domain held at the time of checking the data in the top million domains. The Domains in Million is the number of domains of the code which appear in the top million sites and the referring domains. The domains are ranked in order of the number of different domains which link to the most linked to domain within the ccTLD.

The Surprises

As this data moves around a lot, the main point I would like to make is that you can’t make assumptions. Here are some points you can draw from the data which might be surprising:

  • The most linked to domain of all is not the dot com but the .cn — probably partly due to the size of China more than anything else.
  • Germany beats the UK — which is not at all a surprise to me as we have known for years that link building in Germany was more challenging than the UK.
  • Bulgaria beats Italy and Italy only just pips the new РФ internationalized domain launched only in the last year to represent the Russian Federation in Cyrillic characters.
  • To rank in Swaziland with a .sz, from a links point of view, would require less than one thousand links.

The conclusion? Think about what you need for a particular country and don’t obsess about the PageRank score of potential links!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Multinational Search


About The Author: is a linguist who has been specializing in international search since 1997 and is the CEO of WebCertain, the multilingual search agency and Editor-in-Chief of the blog Multilingual-Search.com. You can follow him on Twitter here @andyatkinskruge.

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