Algorithm Rolled Out: May 2009

On the 23rd and 24th of June, Google PageRank (the visible toolbar PageRank) was modified over the web, updating the visible PageRank scores that display on the toolbars of Google users all around the world. Many publishers use PageRank as a statistic to judge the quality of their site, but the toolbar PageRank is still useful to many website owners and bloggers, so any update is significant.

People started noticing the small green pixels in the Google Toolbar upgrade yesterday afternoon. Yes, a Google Toolbar PageRank upgrade occurred last night, and several forums are buzzing about it.

Yes, a Toolbar PageRank change has no impact on your ranking in the near future. The PageRank scores displayed in the toolbar are out of date and have no effect on your Google rankings. That is not to say that PageRank has no impact, but neither does the toolbar score. Google shows us one thing while using another.

The most recent PageRank change occurred in early April 2009, therefore it has just been roughly two months since then. Google typically adjusts the PageRank value in the Toolbar once every few months or so. So this update appears to be more current than previous releases.

With Google getting increasingly sophisticated, it’s reasonable to conclude that you can never rely on a single measure. Other components of this bigger system are expected to include brand signals, topical relevance, link placement on a page, credibility, topical coverage, context, searcher intent, and more. Several of these objects are protected by new patents, such as this one.

Why are SEOs so concerned with PageRank, despite all of this information and Google warning us not to? Simply said, PageRank was simple to demonstrate as a measure to businesses and became established in the brains of business leaders. Despite the fact that PageRank could be faked and manipulated, and that spam could easily have a high PageRank without being quality or relevant, the measure caught on because it was a simple rank of zero to ten that could be improved.

PageRank was a popular statistic in the buying and selling of domains, as well as one of the most popular metrics in the buying and selling of links. Since Google wiped off the toolbar PageRank, I’ve received a few hundred letters attempting to sell me high PR links, which amuses me enormously.

Stop attempting to replicate PageRank.

Overall site traffic may be a better indicator to look at to assess the authority of a website without looking at a ton of other data. Many tools may help with this, including Alexa, Compete, Quantcast, SimilarWeb, SEMrush, and Ahrefs. SEJ displays a broad range of figures, ranging from 54.4K visits per month on SEMrush to 1.4M visits per month on SimilarWeb. Finally, consider PageRank to be merely one component of the larger picture and begin looking at other signals. If you’re going to compare existing metrics, make sure you compare apples to apples. Use the metrics as a guide, not as the last word. Use them to help you make decisions, not to make them for you.

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