Page Rank in the Japan Blogosphere

By Michael Gakuran | | Japan | 23 Comments |

Google Page Rank is one of the measures used to determine a site’s importance. It’s based not only on the number of incoming links, but also on the quality and relevance of each link. Kinda like sites voting for one another. But it’s not just how many people you know, it’s also who you know.

Online marketing and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a pet interest of mine that I’m learning more about. In fact, this whole website, while being an outlet for creativity and a platform for networking with other great people, is also an experiment in branding. I wanted to see just how much I could grow and how content is used on the internet. Gakuranman.com is still a very young site however, and I feel I’m still very much gliding over the surface, but I have learnt a thing or two since I started writing. Today I’d like to talk a little about Page Rank, specifically in regards to Japan-themed sites written in English.

A Brief Overview


Firstly, Page Rank is not a fixed number and is distinct from a site’s ranking in a search engine. Although sites are assigned a value from 0-10 to show their rank, in reality there are huge differences between sites even with the same number (more later). While Page Rank is taken into account when determining how important a particular site is, it is not the sole factor. Ranking takes into account a site’s age, backlink duration, backlink relevancy and how frequently content is updated (among many other things), whereas Page Rank is focussed on the number and quality of incoming links. Basically, a site with a high Page Rank may not necessarily have a high ranking in the search engines.

Because websites cannot control who links to them, Page Rank is not affected by dubious links. That is, if a damaging site links to you, Google will not strip you of points. However, since you can control who you link to, adding links to bad sites will lower your Page Rank. So if you’re into the habit of using linkfarms to boost your rankings and have lots of hidden keywords and links back to such sites, you’re actually more likely to be hurting yourself than helping*. Furthermore, links with the nofollow attribute are not counted when calculating Page Rank. So, if for example you were writing an article on hackers and wanted to link to an example of a hacker site you do not support, you could add the nofollow attribute to show that. Often many blog comment sections are automatically tagged with nofollow to discourage spammers posting links to their websites.

*I was the victim of this just a few months ago when I suffered a WordPress hack. Somewhere in between upgrading the WordPress platform, someone managed to find a way to inject code into an unsuspecting WordPress theme that didn’t use the latest version. What this did was insert links into my website that pointed to other websites, usually for rubbish like credit card loans or floor polish. It was even done in such a way as to be completely hidden from me, and it was only through a kind blogger contacting me that I found out. He had suffered the same fate, and now both of us had unwanted Google listings pointing to spam websites. This would have been a nightmare if I hadn’t been able to nip it in the bud, because it meant I was actually supporting (voting for) those dubious websites, and so my ranking and Page Rank would have been penalised accordingly.

Page Ranking in the Japan Blogosphere


Alrighty, onto examining exactly how links are valued. Google Rage Rank is calculated on a scale of 0-10 (with many small steps in between each number). 0 is the lowest and 10 is the highest. As users though, we are only privvy to the big denominations. Below is a list of websites for comparison. Obviously this is a very personalised group of Japan-related sites that I like to follow (and highly recommend!). Please, no hard feelings if I didn’t include you. I read many other websites as well and this isn’t an exhaustive list! (But let me know in the comments if you have a site you think I’d enjoy :) ).

I have arranged them roughly in the order I think they rank (it can be difficult to tell between sites with the same PR number).

Abandoned Kansai – PR2

A haikyo explorer friend of mine. Just started blogging last year.

Meow.fr – PR3

Another explorer friend of mine who blogs in French. Still quite new and unknown.

Durf.org – PR4

A mention for master translator Durf. Always lending his experience on Twitter. Looks like he is blogging a bit more frequently these days too, which is good :).

I-cjw – PR4

Climber buddy of mine Chris. Rarely updates, but when he does it’s always gold. Probably explains the high-ish ranking despite the few updates.

Gakuranman – PR5

My site recently moved up from a 4 to a 5, so it’s reasonable to assume I am still a low 5 on the scale.

Tokyo Times – PR5

Judging by haikyo friend Lee’s amazing number of feed subscribers and frequent comments, it’s safe to say he enjoys a much higher 5 than me.

Tofugu – PR5

Fellow Japanese educator and friend of mine, Koichi, has enjoyed huge growth in the past 6-12 months. I reckon Tofugu is almost 4 times as big as Gakuranman, judging from Twitter followers, blog comments and traffic. Yet he is still PR5. By now you might be seeing that Page Rank is exponential in its calculation.

Pink Tentacle – PR6

Pink Tentacle is an awesome site consistently full of antique memorabilia and cool, quirky Japan stuff. It’s what I would have my site pumping out if only I had the time. No sense in walking down the same path though. I was a little surprised Ed’s site was PR6 (a huge jump from PR5), but evidently all those interesting articles garner many backlinks.

Dannychoo – PR6

Pretty much the biggest J-blogger out there and deserves mention just for that. Probably in the region of tens of thousands of visits per day, so perhaps an upper PR6? PR6 is generally the benchmark I use for determining an outstanding website. Anything above this is likely to consist of news websites, collaborative sites with many authors or A-list bloggers (Seth Godin has a PR7).

The Daily Yomiuri and Mainichi Daily News (both English versions of the Japanese newspaper) have a PR7 and the Japan Times, which is an English-only newspaper focussed primarily on Japan, has a PR8. For reference, the UK Guardian newspaper has a PR9 and Google has a PR10.

The Value of a Link


So we’ve seen evidence that suggests the Page Rank algorithm is exponential. The image below provides a clear visual representation for how this actually plays out. You can see that even A-list bloggers like Seth are small fry on the grand scale of Page Rank. Best not to get too excited about that PR5 then.

Source: Elliance

According to one source (listed at the bottom of this article), Page Rank has an exponential base of 4, meaning it’s 4 times as difficult to move up from a PR5 or PR6, for example. The difference between a low PR6 and a high PR6 could be hundreds of thousands of links. This is proved in my examples, especially in the PR5 group. I know that Tofugu gets a lot more traffic than I do (not at liberty to give figures here), yet we share the same PR5 number. Clearly he is some way ahead in approaching the next plateau that is PR6.

I mentioned earlier that Page Rank is not based soley on the number of links, but also the quality. A link from a PR5 blogger is much more valuable than a link from a PR2 blogger, for example. Furthermore, the value of a link is also determined by how many other outbound links there are on the same page. A blogger linking to 2 external sites is voting for both of them, but the value of each link is halved in doing so. What this means is that a link coming from a linkfarm or website with a high PR number that links to lots of other sites is actually less valuable. You would be better, say, to receive a link from a PR4 website that only links to you than a PR5 website that links to a few other sites in addition to you.

One final point that I have not yet mentioned is that Page Rank is determined on a page-by-page basis. This means that, while the top level domain (for example, http://gakuran.com) may have a PR5, individual pages will likely have a much lower Page Rank. Among my top ranked pages that have been indexed (it seems to take several months), I have PR2 and PR3 pages, but most others will be much lower.

That about wraps it up. There’s a wealth of extra information in the source material below that I highly recommend you check out if interested in reading more about this topic. I’ve only covered the central points as they relate to me and other websites in the Japan blogging community, but I hope this small-section analysis has proved useful.

Finally, do let me know if you have any recommended websites! I’m always on the lookout for new stuff :).

Source: Smashing Magazine

23 comments on “Page Rank in the Japan Blogosphere
  1. Hey Michael, I just had another look at the Page Rank thing and found out that my blog jumped from 2 to 4 – not bad for a WordPress standard blog with a very specialized topic… :)

  2. Ashley says:

    This was really interesting – thanks for writing it! Last year (when I first started my Japan blog) I kept wondering when Google would even give me a page rank, expecting something maybe after 6 months or so. I kept checking but nothing and then just forgot about it (since, as others have mentioned here, it’s not really the most important thing to worry about!). Then I read this post, checked and apparently I have a PR now, lol. So for that, and the info above, I’m glad I read this. :)

  3. seifip says:

    Nice article… I can testify that there definitely is a very big jump between PR5 and PR6. http://nihongoup.com/has been PR5 for ages, yet I don’t see it becoming a PR6 any time soon. In my understanding, anything below PR3 is generally not a good site. From my experience, if you put a moderate amount of effort into any kind of site, it is difficult for it not to become PR3 in a matter of weeks. PR6 is generally the ranking of high quality niche leaders, and anything above PR6 is usually reserved for transnational websites, newspapers, and major collaborative websites..

  4. seifip says:

    Nice article… I can testify that there definitely is a very big jump between PR5 and PR6. http://nihongoup.com/has been PR5 for ages, yet I don’t see it becoming a PR6 any time soon. In my understanding, anything below PR3 is generally not a good site. From my experience, if you put a moderate amount of effort into any kind of site, it is difficult for it not to become PR3 in a matter of weeks. PR6 is generally the ranking of high quality niche leaders, and anything above PR6 is usually reserved for transnational websites, newspapers, and major collaborative websites..

    • Gakuranman says:

      Yea, it does seem to be tricky to measure the differences between websites PR5 or higher. I suppose that’s why Page Rank alone is not a good indicator of a website’s worth.

  5. Florian says:

    Hm, interesting – I never thought about that. But thanks for mentioning my blog and I hope the two dozen people who had a look at it because of this article enjoyed what they saw!

    • Gakuranman says:

      No worries! I reckon you’d have more success if you tried to define your blog a little more. at the moment it still looks like a cookie-cut blog layout. Even just adding a nice header image or something would help to personalise it. You already have good content, so why not go the extra distance? :)

  6. Mattress Topper says:

    This writing is very useful and helpful for those who are interested in improving to page rank.

  7. TigrouMeow says:

    PR is now by far the most important subject when we talk about SEO, and the reality is that we should spend more time advertising our websites using Twitter, Facebook, writing articles or simply comments on others websites, and being mentioned than anything else. I remember SEO before, and it was way more straightforward and simple, yet technical. The main focuses were METAs, positions of the words, clever repetitions, ALT, etc… But this is (almost) all gone. Now it’s all about marketing (and therefore also overall quality), and that’s actually what it should be. What I would be really interested to know though, is… What’s the average PR of the websites depending on the language they use? Anyway, nice article and thanks a lot for the mention, I’m sure I gained some decimal points here! :)

    • Gakuranman says:

      Yea, the old system was easily gamed by carefully spreading keywords and the like. I suppose it is still possible to do this now, but the penalties are high if caught, so it’s just not worth the risk. Much better to focus on creating quality content! Hope the decimal points helped :).

  8. koichi says:

    huh, really interesting. It’s like how earthquakes are scaled!?

    Pink Tentacle seems about right – they are / were often mentioned by high page rank sites (Want to say either Engadget or Gizmodo?) which helps a lot, plus I’m sure he gets tons of links for his awesome articles. Pink Tentacle rules, one of my favorite sites.

    DannyChoo I thought would be a 7, but, probably as you say it’s a high pagerank 6.

    *Sigh* I was a pagerank 6 for like a week, then Google *fixed* their Pagerank algorithm :)

  9. Interesting stuff! I know absolutely nothing about SEO, so this was all new to me. I really should stop trusting WooThemes so much and learn this for myself…

    • Gakuranman says:

      I was the same. I just started picking things up as I went and gradually learning by trying different things. It can get quite addictive sometimes, so it’s important to remind yourself that they are just figures after all. Unless of course it’s your business and life on the line!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the mention and the news on what my page rank is. Not something I’ve ever been remotely interested in, to tell you the truth!

    • Gakuranman says:

      No worries. It’s not something you need to be worrying about really, especially if you have no interest in building blog traffic or earning money through your website. For me, it’s related to the area of work I’d like to move into, so it’s good to know of how things run :).

      • Anonymous says:

        One project I’ll be working on a lot this year is going to ignore hit #s entirely in favor of time spent on the site per visit. (It’s going to be a text-heavy site with no ads, so this is a better way for us to gauge how well it’s doing for us.) I don’t know much at all about SEO but I figure we’ll put together a solid site with great content and let the success happen over time.

        • Gakuranman says:

          That’s generally how it happens. Content is the thing you should focus on. Once that is in place, a few good links by friends in higher places and people will start to find it :). Of course, it sounds easy, but churning out quality, useful content and doing so on a regular basis is huge, especially when it’s only a full time job!

          For SEO, just get your headers right and a proper site structure (each page should be properly named and linked). That’s about all there is to it for the bulk of SEO stuff – the rest is tweaking and trying to capitalise on good copy and relevant keywords to get visitors to your site.

    • Rick Martin says:

      Like Durf, I’m not particularly interested either. In my mind, there is a ton of intangible value that comes from blogging, like attracting like-minded collaborators who you can discuss with and learn from. I think I have about four regular readers on my blog, but I respect them immensely and exchange ideas with them all the time.

      Even if you SEO the f*** out of a website and bring in tons of traffic, the question remains — what’s the end goal of all your SEOing? Pageviews aren’t easily converted to cash. There’s nothing wrong with a little SEO, but don’t let yourself get carried away to the point where you write for search engines first and human readers second.

      • Gakuranman says:

        Yup, I wholeheartedly agree that the real benefits of blogging come from the people you meet and the connections you make. Unfortunately, just like the number of Twitter followers and Facebook likes, a high Page Rank and good SEO potential attracts eyes, which is important for any business, especially when they are looking to capitalise on that success with ads.

        As noted, Page Rank is also important when recommending other websites and establishing a circle of trust. A group of well-connected bloggers who write good content all linking to one-another reinforces their standing, which in turn leads to more recognition and to connections with previously unreachable people. Not that it’s impossible to get in touch with PR7 bloggers and the like, but it does make it easier when you have a website that is noticed and deemed successful.

        A high number of Page Views do not necessarily equate to a good conversion rate, especially form link-baited articles, but they do increase your brand recognition and exposure. Pretty much all of the opportunities I’ve had have been the result of people finding me through my website and contacting me. This just would not have happened without the popularity and reach certain articles gave me.

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