In case you missed the news a few days ago, Google has now updated the toolbar PageRank for the first time since February. This has put a skip in the step of many webmasters that were delighted to see their PageRank go up, and perhaps saddened others that saw the green bar go down.
What's interesting about this update, is that Matt Cutts less than 2 months ago at PubCon (that I attended), mentioned in his key note address that he would be very surprised if PageRank was updated by the end of this year. Well, it has indeed been updated…but does it really matter anyway?
Many people have reported on the recent Google PageRank update, and have shared their thoughts and reactions. Here's just a couple of articles highlighting the PageRank update:
- Google PageRank Update December 2013 Despite Matt Cutts Saying There Won't Be an Update – SearEngineRoundtable.com
- Google Toolbar PageRank Has Been Updated, First Update in Over 10 Months – SearchEngineJournal.com
You can also read on a number of forums, about webmasters sharing the news of either an increase or decrease on their websites. People feel like its an early Christmas present!
What is PageRank?
First, we need to clarify what PageRank really is, and then we can determine if its worth worrying about or not.
I actually wrote a piece on the importance of PageRank (or lack thereof) at the end of a recent post here. I highly recommend that you read that post to get a handle on what PageRank is all about, why its value has been decreased, and what really is important for ranking in Google.
In the beginning of Google (1996), PageRank was the backbone. However, Google has now introduced hundreds (thousands?) of other ranking factors to its algorithm. So, while its fun to see your PR go up, its impact on how your site actually ranks in Google is significantly less than it used to be.
I quoted from a few SEO “gurus” in a previous post about PageRank. I'll re-quote them here:
Neil Patel of QuickSprout.com said (and this quote is from 2011, so its even less important now):
So while it’s true that PageRank played a huge role in Google’s ranking algorithm in the past, its role today clearly isn’t as important in terms of rankings, due in large part to the fact that plenty of other ranking factors have been introduced since the launch of PageRank. As more ranking factors are introduced, their relative weight must get smaller, as each represents a smaller percentage of a site’s total score.
Neal goes on to explain in that post that working on increasing his PageRank did not result in better rankings in Google.
Yes, PageRank is important to driving indexing, but for rankings it is nowhere near as important as it once was in terms of delivering top rankings….
So, Aaron says PageRank still determines how quickly a site will get crawled and indexed, but not very important as a ranking factor.
But when determining which site ranks better than the next, link diversity is typically far more important than raw PageRank.
On CopyBlogger.com (from Feb. 2013):
The problem with PageRank was that you could game it.
Real Life Examples of PageRank
If PageRank was the most important factor for actually ranking a website, then when we looked at the top 10 results in Google for just about any search query, we'd see them ordered with highest PageRank first, then down to lowest PageRank.
But the reality is that we almost never see that in real life. Here's just 2 quick examples to drive the point home.
First, lets look at the keyword, “Best Survival Knife” (sound familiar?):
If PageRank were the most important ranking factor in Google, we would see a PR 6 page ranking below a PR 0 page. As you can see in the above screenshot from Long Tail Platinum, the order of these top 10 results would be significantly different.
Here's another quick example. Let's look at the keyword, “Best Safety Razor” from Perrin's Niche Site Project.
In this screenshot from Long Tail Platinum (my keyword research tool), you can again see that the order of sites would be significantly different if PageRank was the only factor that made sites rank. In this example, the highest PR does happen to be #1, but that's about as far as it goes.
Now of course, that doesn't stop me from checking my own PageRank. It was interesting to see that my site: BestSurvivalKnifeGuide.com now has a PR of 3 (zero previously). But does having a PR of 3 suddenly shoot my site back up to page 1? No, of course not.
You can see a full link analysis and what I think I need to do to overcome the Penguin 2.1 penalty caused by negative SEO for my niche site.
Even Toolbar PageRank is Not Accurate
Finally, I will just say that Google is updating their internal PageRank of sites constantly. So, each day, sites may be going up or down in PageRank, but we don't see that. We are only allowed to see what Google pushes out to the Pagerank toolbar every so often.
So, even though you see a PR increase or decrease, that is likely very old data anyway…so may not be as relevant as hoped for.
All in all, PageRank is fun to watch…I get it! But at the end of the day, its not the biggest determining factor for how a site ranks in Google; and therefore, is something that you should only give very minor consideration (if any) when building your business.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the whole PageRank topic. Did you notice anything exiting, odd, or noteworthy with the latest Google PageRank update? If so, please let us know in the comment below. I look forward to the discussion!