For many, Matt Cutts is the real “face of Google.” For years, he’s spoken on panels, given addresses, and answered the questions of webmasters more directly. In his continuing series on the YouTube Google Webmaster Help channel, Cutts addresses questions posed by webmasters, SEOs, and curious bystanders. One recent question delved into a topic of major interest: PageRank.
PageRank lies at the origin of Google, and was a large part of how Google was able to – in its 1998 release – immediately provide more relevant results than established competitors Yahoo and AltaVista. Since, PageRank has seen its ups and downs, and is generally considered to be just one of many ranking factors. PageRank itself is only updated every few months, but a few people have noticed that it’s been longer than normal since the last update. In fact, PR hasn’t updated since Panda was released.
Cutts explained that this is simply due to how PageRank is stored and tabulated. On the Google end, advanced data on a site’s PR is kept in a bank of computers. It’s not just the 0 to 10 figure, either. Rather, it’s tabulated on a more incremental scale that keeps pages moving around the SERP continuously – not in big jumps. Cutts states that the PageRank displayed is only released once every few months to prevent webmasters from obsessing over what their number is or how their most recent link-building efforts have impacted their PR.
Another possible factor in this choice, however, is that access to real-time data would provide a lot of extra information to SEOs looking to game the search engines. Seeing the exact details of how a site changes when a single link is added will give a concrete value that Google, especially as it tries to avoid spam, likely wants to evade.