Google’s Toolbar PageRank, the number we see when we have the Google Toolbar (http://toolbar.google.com) installed has just been updated. For some web pages, the Google Toolbar number has gone up—and for some it’s gone down. But, as a search engine marketer or a website owner who wants better search engine rankings, should you really care?
Don’t get confused with what PageRank really means. Google PageRank is a number based on a calculation or formula—it is not the rank of your page in the Google search results. Also, the word PageRank comes from one of the formula’s original authors, Larry Page. The word PageRank does not imply the ranking of web pages. Google PageRank is often referred to simply as PR.
There are several reasons why you shouldn’t rely on what is shown on the Google Toolbar. In many cases, what’s shown on the Google Toolbar is not the real PageRank number. I’ll go on to explain why you shouldn’t rely on what you see in the Google Toolbar, especially because of the following reasons:
* The last PR update could have been months ago.
* The number we see is not the real PR of a web page.
* PR can actually be stolen or faked.
* PR is only a small part of the entire algorithm.
* PR0 (PageRank zero) is not necessarily a bad thing.
* PR is not always passed from one page to another.
* PR doesn’t always pass its full value to another page.
* PR is sometimes estimated.
The number we see on the Google Toolbar is only updated once a quarter. Therefore, if a page was created after a certain date, it will not have its PR updated until the next update. For example, if the last PR update was based on pages created before June 1st, then any page created after June 1st will automatically have a PR0 because it simply missed the cutoff date. Therefore, if you look at that page on August 31st, the page could have a lot of good links going to it and it might be a worth a lot to you if that page links to you—-but it could potentially still show up as a PR0 only because it missed the deadline.
The number we see is not the real PR of a web page. I’ve spoken to Google employees and they confirm that the number shown to the public is not the number they have in their database. They actually refer to PR as “internal PR” (the number they have for a page) and “external PR” (the number the public sees). Each web page is given a number—-and that number includes decimals. So, one web page could have an “internal PR” of 4.927547 while the “external PR” (the number we see on the Google Toolbar) is only a 4 because we only see whole numbers. Another page could have an “internal PR” of 4.0000024 and we would see that it has a PR of 4. Obviously, the page that the higher number might be better to get a link from. But, since we're really not seeing the true PR of a page, we can never tell for sure.
PR can actually be stolen or faked. It’s been proven by many people that the Google Toolbar PR can be faked or stolen from another web page. By placing a redirect from your web page to another web page that has a PR7, your web page will, after one PR update, show that it has a PR7 on the Google Toolbar. Once that redirect is removed and a web page is put back in place at that URL, the page will be viewable to everyone—and the Google Toolbar will still show that that page has a PR7 until the next PR update. In the meantime, users going to that page will think that that page has a PR7 when it actually does not. If you want to learn more about the Buying and Selling PageRank scam, I wrote an article about it back in June, 2004 here: http://www.webproworld.com/viewtopic.php?t=21387
PR is only a small part of the entire search engine algorithm. Many different people, including Mike Grehan (http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk), have talked about why PageRank is not necessarily something you want to concentrate on when you’re trying to get better search engine rankings. He talks about PageRank and Rich Linking in an October 2004 article called Filthy Linking Rich (http://www.e-marketing-news.co.uk/Ot04/RichLinking.html). It’s an interesting read and will explain why links are more important that PageRank.
I mentioned it earlier, but PR0 (zero) is not necessarily a bad thing. The number we see on the Google Toolbar is only updated once a quarter. New web pages are consistently given a PR0. And if that page missed the PR update deadline, then it will continue to show as PR0 until the next update. Therefore, what the Google Toolbar shows is not necessarily accurate.
PageRank is not always passed from one page to another. Google has, for the last few years, been cracking down on websites that buy and sell PageRank. In fact, they’ve been doing it since Google won the SearchKing lawsuit in 2003. Just because a web page shows that it has a PR7 doesn’t mean that that page will pass any PageRank to your web page if you get your link on that page. If that page has been manually tweaked by Google, then it might still show a PageRank of 7 in the toolbar but it might not pass any PR to your page.
PageRank doesn’t always pass its full value to another page. If a web page has a PageRank of 7 showing in the Google Toolbar but has too many outgoing links on that page, your web page, if included on that page, might not get the full effect of a PR7 link. It might only really pass the equivalent of a PR4 or PR3. For example, this can happen if a PR7 page has more than 100 outgoing links on a page that links to your website. 100 outgoing links is just an arbitrary number. But, if a page has more outgoing links on it than incoming links it generally is not a page you want to have linking to you.
PageRank can be estimated at times.. Many web pages are dynamic in nature. Their URLs include query strings and other parameters. Therefore, since Google hasn’t actually crawled that web page it tends to actually estimate the PageRank number that we see in the Google Toolbar. The estimate is actually the PageRank of another web page, perhaps a page that’s a part of the URL that is currently being shown. For example, let’s assume that Google knows about a page at this URL: (www.mydomain.com/article.php) and that page has a lot good links going to it—so it’s truly a PR6. If a new web page is created with this URL: (www.mydomain.com/article.php?title=Google-PageRank), it’s very likely that that page will also be assigned a PR6 in the Google Toolbar. However, that new page does not have a PR6—so a link from that new page might not be what it seems.
The bottom line is that the PageRank number we see in the Google Toolbar isn’t something that you necessarily would want to put any faith in. There are too many variables, and the number we see in the Google Toolbar is not necessarily a good representation of link quality or importance. Google’s original intention was to show the public the value of a web page by showing it’s Google PageRank number. Originally, many years ago, when it was first introduced, that idea was a good one. However, over the past few years, many people have figured out how to manipulate that Google Toolbar PageRank number. Furthermore, it’s not updated on a regular basis, which complicates things even more. It’s now gotten to the point where you just cannot rely on it anymore. To me, that Toolbar is more of a novelty if anything else.
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July 15, 2005
Bill Hartzer currently runs a Strategic Online Marketing Consultancy that includes services such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, and online reputation management.
Bill Hartzer formerly managed the Search Engine Marketing division of Vizion Interactive and MarketNet, leading interactive marketing and website design firms in the Dallas, Texas area.
Hartzer is a successful writer, blogger, search engine marketing, and social media marketing expert. During the past fifteen years, some of his many accomplishments include: Search Engine Marketing Manager, Vizion Interactive, Search Engine Marketing Manager, MarketNet, Search Engine Optimization Strategist, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Webmaster, Intec Telecom Systems PLC, Founder, Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association, Owner/Author, Corporate Web Site Marketing, Administrator, Search Engine Forums, Frequent Speaker, Search Engine Strategies Conferences, Frequent Speaker, WebmasterWorld's PubCon Search Engine and Internet Marketing Conference.
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