*Google updated toolbar PageRank in December 2013, after this post was written.
PageRank was devised by Google to help judge how important a particular webpage is, and it did this by giving it a score out of ten based on other webpages which link to it. It was named after Google co-founder Larry Page, and was introduced in a paper written by Page and Sergey Brin entitled - The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine.
In this paper they wrote:
“The citation (link) graph of the web is an important resource that has largely gone unused in existing web search engines. We have created maps containing as many as 518 million of these hyperlinks, a significant sample of the total.
“These maps allow rapid calculation of a web page's ‘PageRank’, an objective measure of its citation importance that corresponds well with people's subjective idea of importance.”
On reading Google’s current information on PageRank it would appear that not much has changed:
“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is.
"The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”
This information became very useful for SEOs and old fashioned link builders, as it was thought that the more important your site was perceived to be, the better it would rank in Google’s search results. SEOs would prioritise PageRank above all else and the link-builders would seek links on high PageRank sites, oftentimes regardless of that site’s content.
A knock-on effect of this was that Page Rank began to be manipulated so that web pages appeared to be more authoritative and important than they actually were. There were various techniques used to effectively fake PageRank, and a market emerged where people were buying and selling hyperlinks at increasingly inflated prices based on this score out of ten.
Fast-forward to today and PageRank isn’t anywhere near as useful a metric as it used to be.
It’s always been the case that the PageRank a user sees in their toolbar isn’t 100% accurate, so it’s questionable as to whether it’s ever been reliable for SEO purposes as a standalone metric. Google updates PageRank internally on a regular basis, but only updated the publically available PageRank once every few months.
However, as things currently stand Google hasn’t updated PageRank since February 2013, and Google’s web-spam-man, Matt Cutts, has recently said that there are no plans to update it in the foreseeable future.
This means that it’s gone from unreliable, to almost redundant, and the PageRank you currently see is the PageRank of 9 months ago. Since then, highly ranked pages could have dropped drastically, or a new blog which started this year could now be storming ahead of similar sites in its niche with a high page rank - we just can’t see it.
There are other metrics available:
- ‣ Moz developed MozRank and Domain Authority;
- ‣ Majestic SEO have their Citation Flow and Trust Flow scores
- ‣ AHrefs use a domain rank and URL rank score out of one hundred,
But though these and other metrics exist, none are reliable indications of what Google thinks about a webpage. They merely give you an idea, or a best guess based on algorithms designed by these individual parties.
The best way to judge a site is to use your own assessment of the page, and then look at how active the site is in terms of social sharing, onsite interaction in terms of comments, and the quality and regularity of the site’s content.