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Think Google PageRank Doesn’t Matter? Think Again.

Isn't PR the Basis of Google's Technology?

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It looks like Google wants you to think PR doesn’t matter, but don’t let them fool you! For more than a decade now, Google has been trying to retrieve this metric from the radar of webmasters. That Google has stopped pushing regular updates to their toolbar is one more step in the strategy to convince you that PageRank doesn’t matter anymore.

Balderdash. Let’s look at the trouble Google’s gone to pull the wool over our eyes.

PageRank wasn’t unknown to webmasters in Google’s in the late 90s, but the search giant really spilled the beans on PageRank in December 2000 when it released the Google toolbar that included the metric that Google still describes today as "basis of Google’s search technology."

Google knew that the metric would be of vital – and viral – interest to webmasters and webmasters not only flocked to install the toolbar, they began using the metric for link swapping, selling and buying. It made PR manipulation so much easier when you could easily see Google’s estimation of the importance of a page.

Google has been backpedaling ever since. Unhappy with the manipulation of PageRank that was greatly enhanced by the ability to see the PR on any page, (but apparently unwilling to withdraw entirely the prime reason to keep the toolbar installed on your browser), Google fought back with a publicity campaign and with tools that sometimes backfired.

For example, in 2005, Google introduced the nofollow attribute to fight comment spam and encouraged webmasters to add it to their blogs. Not long after, they demanded that anyone selling text links use the nofollow attribute to discourage selling PR.

This handy attribute opened yet another can of PR worms for Google, as webmasters quickly learned how to apply to sculpt PageRank within a site and Google engineers had to change the way that Google divides links on a page to prevent webmasters from reassigning it with the use of nofollow.

Google stopped pushing data to the toolbar in late 2004 and established something of a quarterly schedule of updates with the hope, one assumes, that outdated PR would devalue the commodity. "The PageRank that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is for entertainment purposes only," Googlers reportedly announced that December.

In October of 2009, the ability to see the "importance of a page" was removed from Google’s Webmaster tools in the search giant’s ongoing campaign to take the focus off the PR metric, and 6 months later in April ’10, released what appears to be the last quarterly update. Webmasters report updates to toolbar PR often with no pattern, as though updates are now simply random and sporadic.

Google does seem to have effectively rendered the toolbar more useless than not, and  it’s common to hear many webmasters insist that PageRank is no longer important.

Again, I say, balderdash! If PR wasn’t still a central factor in Google’s algorithm – or as Google puts it, the basis of their technology — why would they go to all this trouble to pretend otherwise?

Share your thoughts in the comments.

Think Google PageRank Doesn’t Matter? Think Again.
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  • http://www.ryanmjones.com Ryan Jones

    I think a lot of people confuse actual pagerank with toolbar pagerank. Toolbar pagerank is meaningless. It’s a 1-10 logarithmic scaling of actual pagerank, and the way it’s divided is essentially useless. Quick, what’s the difference between a PR4 and PR5 site? Who knows, and I argue who cares?

    Internal pagerank within Google’s system technically still matters, but there’s no way for somebody to know what it is let alone track or measure it.

    For all intents and purposes, there’s no use worrying about something that you can’t measure or control. I’d say worry about stuff you can control like on page content, links, influence, and visibility and less any form of pagerank.

  • Guest

    I can not belive that this post actually made it onto WPN.

    Of course the toolbar doesn’t mean anything. Of course the REAL page rank still matters. It’s just that no one will ever now the pages TRUE PR because that is held close to Google’s vest.

    • Guest

      See the post above you … ;)

  • http://docsheldon.com Doc Sheldon

    Hi, MJ- You make a good argument, but not good enough to convince me. ;) I think you may have seen a couple of my blogposts back in Aug/Sept on the subject. I think it only makes sense for Google to pull away from PR.

    Great post, though, even if you’re wrong! :P

  • http://www.paontheweb.com Mike

    OK, I’m relatively new to the web development world. I started when I retired from the Air Force in 2002. I’m all self taught. However, I run a site that has a PR of 4 and currently it gets 30 to 50 thousand unique visitors per month. Back in 2009 during the same period it was around 150 thousand unique visitors per month. The PR has been a solid 4 in that period of time. Therefore, I can understand it when people say page rank has no real relevance.

    The big drop in traffic is still a mystery to us. We grew the site with a blog, events and classifieds to try and boost traffic and beefed up our directory listings to no avail. Our PR is the same yet our traffic severely declined.

    The bottom line: If the ultimate goal is traffic PR does not matter.

  • http://dejanseo.com.au Dejan

    I like this article and expect some pretty interesting reactions from SEOs and webmasters :-)

  • http://www.HouseHomeRepair.com ScriptMan

    Nice article MJ. Tells it like it is.

  • http://www.efitnesssource.com eFitness

    Most people say that if you don’t have page rank you’ll never show up on page 1 of SERP. It doesn’t matter how much SEO you do and relative content you have on your site. If you have a page rank of 0 – no page rank, then your site’s chances of appearing on the first 3 pages is limited unless you keywords that have little to no competition.

    Do you find this to still be true? How often or what is the average times when Google re-evaluates page rank for a Web site?

  • http://internetmarketingremarks.com Randy Pickard

    It appears that do follow blogs got slapped with PageRank penalties during the update to Toolbar PageRank released on January 20 (a do follow blog does not apply the Google suggested nofollow micro format to comments). However, it is not clear as to whether there is a negative impact on search rankings corresponding to the penalties. Thus, hard to judge whether PageRank penalties matter, in least in regard to do follow blogs.