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H and H Consultancy - Beyond the obvious

SEO, Backlinks and Page Rank - Overview

"SEO is not a Science.
There is no set of rules to follow that will guarantee good search engine rankings."


Back Links - links from an external web page to a web page on your site
Bot - the software element Search Engines use to index a web page
Canonical addresses - variants in web addresses that display the same page
Crawl - the 'reading' of a web page by the Search Engine to index it
Long tail - search terms that you had not expected people to look for
Organic Search - the non-paid for positioning in SERPs by use of SEO
Page Rank - a semi-arbitrary value given by Google to pages it has indexed
Reciprocal links - when two web pages both link to each other (swap links)
SEM - Search Engine Marketing (paid for positioning in SERPs: eg Adwords)
SEO - Search Engine Optimisation (non-paid for positioning in SERPs)
SERPs - Search Engine Results Pages


This document is meant to provide a basic understanding of back-links, how they potentially effect a web page's search position and why their effects are not instantaneous.

It will also provide a basic insight into Page Rank (PR); Google's expression of the value of a web page and why we use it to help us choose web pages to get back-links from.

The most important thing to remember is that SEO is something that happens over many months and not a few weeks.

Just one published article to consider from one such SEO forum site

Slow Results

Search engine optimization can be a waiting game. You create pages, invest time in content, build links, get directory listings, but results are not yet showing up. It's been a month... what did I do wrong?

Many people will go back, remove links, restructure internal links, work on content, change titles and make all kinds of adjustments. Search engine optimization is a slow process. It takes several months to get results on Google, and those months can be frustrating, especially if you only have one website.

When results don't show up, do not worry; give it up to three months. Instead of going back and changing everything, invest time in new ideas, content, links or other domains.

Only after learning that what you did does not work should you go back and make adjustments; otherwise, if you did not wait, how do you know it did not work? SEO is a slow process that requires patience. Many SEOs sometimes create a site, throw some content on it, get a couple of directory links, build a few more links and let that site mature. Then they go back several months later for heavier work.

What are back links

Back-links are links from an external web page, to one of your site's web pages; that a user could click to access your web site.

For Google, back-links are the single most important factor in determining your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages); however, just having lots of links is not enough. There are MANY examples of sites with many thousands of links to the site that appear much lower in the SERPs than sites with just a few.

This translates, in general, into: you only want quality links from reputable and relevant web pages.

However, if you can't get quality links, any link not regarded as BAD is better than having no link at all.

Here are just some of the generally accepted sub-factors for back-links:

One important factor often over-looked in considering back links is, that just having the back-link created does not automatically help you. Before it can help (or hinder) your 'value/score' the page with the link on needs to be indexed by the Search Engine AFTER the link is added; and then the page it links to needs to indexed AFTER the page the link is on has been indexed.

So, if we add a link to a page and that page is not indexed for 4 weeks and then after that page has been indexed, the page it links to is not indexed for four weeks, then we are looking at 8 weeks before any value that link may add to the page is added (it is not unusual for some pages to go longer than 4 weeks without being indexed).

In some cases, where links are added to link farms etc they may never be indexed; as the Search Engines have labelled them as link farms and not worthy of indexing.

Also, if a webpage is deemed by the Search Engine to have been created solely for the purpose of adding value to a page it links to, it will be made valueless for SEO purposes even if it remains searchable.

What is Page Rank

Page rank is the value given by Google to web pages it indexes; a proportion of this value is passable, via correctly established links, to other web pages.

It is important to understand that PR is not the same as the actual value of a page for determining the SERPs position of a page; but is a good indicator of the likely 'base' value of importance of a link from that page to one of your pages.

PR is however widely accepted to have other, more direct, benefits. One such benefit is that a page with a high PR is more like to be indexed more frequently.

The Page Rank that you see in your browsers (if you have the Google Toolbar installed and if the PR function is enabled) is purposefully left well out of date by Google - 3 months or more is not unusual - and should only ever be used as a general guide.

Many other factors about a web page with a link on it will affect the value of the link, for a given Search Term, and not just the page rank; once again however, given no other information, it can be useful to take the PR of a page as an indicator of how likely the page is to be valuable to have a link from.

Page rank values

PR values range from 'not ranked' and 0 at the bottom to PR10 at the top.

Not ranked generally means that the page has not been indexed; but could mean that at the time it was indexed it wasn't deemed important enough to be ranked.

For each higher PR it is generally accepted that the value of page must increase either logarithmically or exponentially. For the purposes of this document and for ease of explanation we will use exponentials of base 10; though this is almost certainly not the case.

Using the base 10 exponential concept this would give us:

PR0 requires a value of 1
PR1 requires a value of 10
PR2 requires a value of 100
PR3 requires a value of 1000
Etc etc

A page has a very small base value for existing and then gains additional PR for itself by being linked to from other pages with PR.

Passing Page Rank

Each link from a web page will pass a proportion of the value of that pages PR value to the page it links to. The actual formula is once again a carefully guarded secret, but the following would be generally accepted as a fair example.

Assume a page has a PR of 2; this means it has a value of between 11 and 100. We will assume 100 for the purpose of this example.

The page 'keeps' 15 percent of this value - there is a good, but complex, explanation for this; but does not help understanding so I won't give it. This means that for our example page we now have a value of 85 to pass on to other pages.

Each link on a page will now get an equal proportion of that 85 to pass to the page it links to. (There are lots of qualifying conditions that can affect this; but not relevant to the example).

If we therefore assume that there are 17 links on the page then each link would carry a 'base' value of 5 PR points to the next page. If the PR of the page had been 3 rather than 2 (use 1000) then this would have passed 50 PR points instead of 5 .

As can be seen therefore, if you have a link from a good quality page with a high PR and few links, you will get good value (link juice in the vernacular) passed to your page.

Conversely, a link from a link farm, with 100s or even 1000s of links on it with a low PR is next to worthless.

Why is this useful to know

The PR of a page in and of itself will not tell you how valuable a link is for any given search term, so why is it useful?

The actual formulas for the values of any given link with regards to a specific search term are a closely guarded secret; but it is accepted that factors such as relevance of content between the pages, the anchor text, and many, many more factors are used.

But one thing that is known is that the 'authority' of a web page plays an important part. The best guide we have to the authority of a page is its Page Rank. If a page has a high PR itself, then it is more likely that Google will value links from it more highly.

This is why we use the PR as a 'guide' to which pages we want links from.

So why does back-link SEO take so long?

Let us assume that you have got everything else with regards to SEO right about your site. You've spent several weeks getting your website looking good; you have great content; and a great sales pitch to convert your visitors into sales.

You have spent a few weeks and found some good pages to get links from; and even more time arranging for the owners of your chosen websites to place a quality link from their page to your desired page.

And you find there is no difference to your search position. What's going wrong?

Nothing, necessarily, is going wrong. Just simply placing a link on a page does not magically get value passed to your web page.

First of all, the page upon which you got your link placed has to be re-indexed by the Search Engine (to find that there is your link on the page in the first place) and it is not unusual for this to take weeks, even for well regarded pages. For 'bad' pages, link farms, badly regarded directories, etc, could take even longer or they may not be re-indexed at all.

Once the page with the new link to your page has been found and indexed then the value to your page is now there, yes? No.

Now you need to wait until your web page is indexed again so that Google can asses the actual value of the link for the various search terms you page could be relevant to.

So if for examples sake only, we assume that it takes 4 weeks for the page upon which had the link placed to be indexed and then a further 4 weeks for your page to be indexed AFTER the link page was indexed, then it will be 8 weeks before any value is added to the search terms you have targeted.

This is the single biggest reason that SEO, for Google in particular, is not a quick business.

And this doesn't take into account all the other factors that someone conducting SEO on your pages should be taking into account, with regards to a link and, that may need fine tuning over time.


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