8 Things We Learned About Google PageRank

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Yesterday, Google lowered the Toolbar PageRank of many sites in many different online verticals, in what may be a permanent or temporary message to sites about selling links.

Google also lowered the Toolbar PageRank of many sites which do not sell links, so the link argument may not even be relevant. Until Google comes out with a statement on the changes in PageRank, we may be beating this argument into the ground. Especially since blog networks and major media sites were also included in the update, which seems to be hand delivered from the Google gods.

However, there has been a lot of coverage about Google PageRank over the last day, and if anything, the public is becoming more educated on the separation between Google Toolbar’s PageRank and how Google ranks a site.

Search Engine Journal is now a PageRank 4 or a PageRank 6, depending on what datacenter your toolbar is working off of. We were PageRank 7 for several years and have not, in my opinion, done much to offset this PageRank.

We have hundreds of thousands of incoming links and have never purchased a link to this site.

Here are 8 different notes about the Google PageRank ‘update’ (this could be a PageRank hiccup) from yesterday”

1. PageRank is not an indicator of Google traffic or Google Rankings.

Since May 2007, our Google search referral traffic has doubled and now stands at 45% to 50% of our incoming daily traffic. Search Engine Roundtable reports similar findings.

In fact, Search Engine Journal’s traffic from Google Search has shown a sharp increase over the past month, possibly due to some changes we have implemented (or the popularity of the subjects we cover).

2. Firing a PageRank Warning Shot

Google is not the Internet, but is all powerful. A drop in Google Toolbar page rating system leads to advertisers pulling out of sites, link deals being broken, widespread fear of paid links hurting site ranking and traffic.

In my opinion, by flipping the switch on changing the PageRank of some sites, Google is trying to send a message that they have the power to turn this search marketing industry over on its head. But they have not issued a rankings change.

3. Target the Authorities, But Not the Wrong Doers

Does lowering Search Engine Journal’s PageRank to a 4 stop a multi-million dollar industry from shutting down? No.

Do we deserve to be publicly humiliated or targeted by Google for having a couple of links in our ad section? No.

Are we still an authority site? Yes, of course.

Google targeted the PageRank of high profile sites in what is becoming a trickle down effect. ‘Engadget got hit, I better stop before I get hit too.” Yeah, but hit for what?

4. PageRank stands for PR, or Public Relations

I’ll let these Forbes quotes from Rand and Barry speak for themselves.

“The bottom line is that people are able to manipulate Google’s rankings by buying links, and Google has to do something about that,” he said. “Today, they sent a huge statement to some of the most popular blogs on the Internet, and particularly those in the search industry.”

Search engine marketer and blogger Rand Fishkin agrees that the pagerank shift was likely meant to send a message to link buyers and sellers. “Google has said in many conferences that this number isn’t accurate, that it’s a rough signal but shouldn’t make any determination about a site,” says Fishkin. “This is meant to be a more public way of saying,’we know what you’re up to.'”

5. NoFollow is a Sign of No Trust, We Trust Our Sponsors

Barry Schwartz says it best:

I trust my sponsors, I value their sponsorships and I couldn’t do what I do without their financial support. Some sponsors can’t afford huge sponsorships, so they sponsor in their ways. It is what enables this site and many other sites to function and operate on a daily basis. I turn down sponsors all the time because they are simply not relevant or useful to my reader. I hand select them and for them to be on my site, means I trust them. Why nofollow someone you trust and want to thank? Is that a slap in their face? Will I have to and will they continue to sponsor? Time will tell.

6. PageRank is not a Marketing Metric

If anything, yesterday’s PageRank change helped remind us that PageRank, like Alexa and other questionable ratings services, is not a pricing or marketing metric. A link from a PageRank 7 site is not going to have more vale than a link from a PageRank 3 site. The value is in the context of each site, the anchor text and other values. Don’t buy links based on PageRank, and don’t sell links based on PageRank. Come on, that’s just so 2002!

Doug Heil did a great job of discussing his view on this in our Search Engine Journal Comments area:

I’m don’t understand why Google displays the bar anymore. It’s purpose was to get good public relations a long time ago. It’s not needed now. It only serves “text link brokers” and those who sell pagerank text links. In other words, it’s totally useless. It actually always has been totally useless as a “rank” indicator.

Why the SEO industry has made a big deal of the green bar all these years is something I’ve never been able to understand. Oh sure; Google may have created the metric, but it’s the SEO industry who has been their very own worse culprit in spreading the BS and falsehoods about the bar.

7. It’s Time for a Better System than PageRank

SEOBook’s Aaron Wall speaks up:

Since Google is demoting PageRank’s viability as a site’s global authority score perhaps this is a time for Yahoo to bring back WebRank, or Ask to launch something like CommunityRank. The Google-webmaster relationship is fraying. This presents an opportunity for whoever wants to take it.

8. Lowered PageRank Leads to More Quality Links

Search Engine Journal was linked to yesterday from Google Blogoscoped, SEOmoz, Forbes.com, Search Engine Watch, Techmeme and Sphinn among other quality and authority sites because people’s toolbars changed around the world. Great link bait! Thanks Google 🙂

What have you learned about Google PageRank in the past 24 hours? Please feel free to share below.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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