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June 1, 2011

Google PageRank: SEO Treasure or Fool’s Gold? What the Experts Say…

One of the most controversial, misunderstood, confusing and debated topics in the SEO universe is the importance of PageRank. But let me be specific here. When I use the term “PageRank”, I’m not talking about Google’s 0-10 logarithmic toolbar PageRank, which is nothing more than a “superficial beauty contest” vanity tool – very much out-of-date, and does NOT have a direct impact on a site’s ranking. That fact was established long ago.

Google Removed PageRank Data From Webmaster Tools

In fact, Google removed PageRank data from Google Webmaster Tools back in October, 2009.

Here’s what Google Webmaster Central’s Susan Moskwa said about that move:

“We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it [from Webmaster Tools] because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.

Personally, I would love to see us remove PR from the Toolbar, but mine is not the only opinion in Google.” (Source: Google Webmaster Central)

There’s No Rhyme Or Reason To PageRank

No, when I use the term PageRank, I’m referring to the algorithm – one of the more than 200 signals Google uses to rank web pages. Personally, I’ve always thought that the importance of PageRank was overrated, and not nearly as important to rankings as it’s perceived to be by many.

Why do I feel that way? Because, whenever I do searches, I constantly see lower-PR URL’s ranked higher than higher-PR URL’s – constantly! Figure that one out. Also, I’ve seen my own PageRank decrease, while my traffic and sales continue to increase. That sealed the deal for me.

Besides, you can’t control your PageRank, so why worry about it? There’s absolutely no rhyme or reason to it. It’s been my experience that the best way to improve your rankings is to play by the rules, and use common sense practices. That includes making sure your content is relevant to your keywords, and your keywords are relevant to the overall theme of your site.

Also, have a fast loading, user-friendly site, continually build up your site’s content, acquire as many quality, relevant backlinks as you possibly can, then let the proverbial chips fall where they may.

Now, let me state for the record, I am NOT an SEO expert, nor do I claim to be one. Unfortunately, neither are a bunch of other folks who write articles discussing PageRank like they know what they’re talking about. I can assure you, many of them DON’T. They’re simply parroting what they’ve heard elsewhere – often dispensing misinformation.

That’s why I decided to write this article – to give you the “true” facts about PageRank – not speculation or hearsay. All of the pertinent information presented in this article was gleaned from highly respected and acknowledged sources, top level SEO professionals and Google insiders – people who know what they’re talking about.

So, what do the experts think about PageRank and its importance – or lack thereof? Continue reading and see for yourself.

What Google Thinks About PageRank

Let’s get started by going straight to the horse’s mouth. This is what Google itself says about PageRank:

“Don’t bother thinking about it [PageRank]. We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner. If you’re looking for metrics, we’d encourage you to check out Analytics, think about conversion rates, ROI (return on investment), relevancy, or other metrics that actually correlate to meaningful gains for your website or business.” (Source: Google Webmaster Central FAQ)

Google’s Director of Research, Peter Norvig, said that PageRank is overhyped and probably needs a new name. Norvig went onto say that the public’s focus on PageRank is misguided and it may be time for a new name.

“One thing that I think is still overhyped is PageRank. People think, yeah, you do this computation on the web graph and then you just order all the pages by that [PageRank]. Yes, that computation is important but it’s just one of many things. And people say, “Oh, well you’re stuck if you don’t have that.” We never felt that way. We never felt that it was such a big factor. It’s got the catchy name and the name recognition, but we’ve always looked at all the available data.” (Source: Search Engine Land)

And The Band Played On

Here’s what SEO Book’s Aaron Wall had to say about the importance of PageRank:

“PageRank is important to driving indexing, but for rankings, it is nowhere near as important as it once was. SEO has become a much more refined art.” (Source: SEO Book)

And Stephan Spencer, author of The Art of SEO writes in his article “36 SEO Myths That Won’t Die But Need To…”

“It doesn’t take many searches to see that low-PageRank URLs outrank high-PR ones all the time.” (Source: Search Engine Land)

Rand Fishkin, CEO of the well-renowned SEO company SEOmoz, had this to say about the relevance of PageRank:

“There’s so many reasons why PageRank shouldn’t be a primary metric for SEO:

  • Infrequently updated
  • 1 of 200+ ranking signals
  • Applies to pages, not sites
  • Imprecise
  • Intentionally Inaccurate” (Source: The Daily SEO Blog)

And as far back as October 2006, SEO Book’s Aaron Wall said this:

“Google has also significantly lowered the weighting on raw PageRank scores over the past few years, because too many people know about it and manipulate it. Just looking at PageRank is nearly as useless as a meta keywords tag.” (Source: SEO Book)

Don’t Get Obsessed With PageRank

Google’s Matt Cutts says not to get obsessed with PageRank:

“Don’t get obsessed with PageRank. While important, it’s one of the most important out of 200 signals that we have, is still one of only 200 signals that we use in ranking.” (Source: YouTube)

And in his article What is Page rank and Why do we want it?, respected SEO consultant Chris McElroy writes:

“Examine search results and you will find that page rank isn’t the only determining factor in search engine placement, although it has value and is part of the algorithm.” (Source: EvanCarmichael.com)

Here’s professional Web consultant Wendy Boswell’s take on the importance of PageRank:

“No one will argue that PageRank has become irrelevant, but there is significant evidence to suggest that PageRank is not quite as important of a factor in website ranking as it once was.” (Source: About.com)

Why Doesn’t Google Remove PageRank From the Toolbar?

So, there you have it – what the experts think about PageRank. Now, the obvious question becomes, if PageRank isn’t all that important, then why doesn’t Google simply remove it from the toolbar?

I’m sure there are a lot of folks out there wondering the exact same thing. And obviously, only Google knows the answer to that particular question. But I do have a theory: Google is reluctant to remove PageRank from the toolbar for two reasons:

1. It’s a huge part of their branding. Google and PageRank are almost synonymous with one another. Google without PageRank is like McDonald’s without the Big Mac. It just doesn’t feel right.

2. It’s phenomenally popular, and if they removed it, they would have millions of users uninstalling the toolbar en masse. No, best to let sleeping dogs lie.

Anyway, that’s my theory.

In closing, the importance of PageRank to rankings will likely always be a topic of debate – at least, as long as PageRank continues to exist as a metric. And while I agree PageRank does have some importance, in my opinion, it’s not nearly the dernier cri many perceive it to be.


David Jackson is a marketing consultant, and the owner of Free-Marketing-Tips-Blog.com – Powerful, free marketing tips to help grow your business! free-marketing-tips-blog.com

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