Why the Page Rank Toolbar has Little to do with Links

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9 users commented

No, it’s just because I’m a black hat.

said Jane on April 17th, 2009 at 10:59 am

I think the clue is in the tag line on your blog. “Part three, episode one…”.

When I get my next update I’ll be able to see all the old redirects… but that’s a different tale :)

said Dixon Jones on April 17th, 2009 at 11:20 am

Great Post Dixon,
Probably worth emphasising that PR did used to be all about the back links, and that as you point out the original Stanford Patent was am accurate representation of its use. I think the confusion amongst most web masters has come from this.
It also does not help that the PR green bar is still so actively pushed – the prevalence of its use probably compounds the misconception.

said Peter Barnsley on April 17th, 2009 at 12:30 pm

Good article – It’s difficult to persuade people to ignore the green bar. Over time the green bar has become the end instead of a means… it used to be one of many indicators that an SEO campaign was heading in the right direction but now in some instances it’s actually become one of the starting objectives of seo campaigns.

said Steven Nash on April 17th, 2009 at 12:45 pm

Thanks Peter. Yes – Google seems to have a way of being able to change the meaning of a word. This is extremely clever. The original “PageRank” was in deed all about links – but millions of lay-people see “PageRank” as that little green bar, and Google describes it as a view of “importance” and over a frighteningly short period of time, we all think “PageRank” is a number from 0 to 10.

More recently, they have hijacked the phrase “Website Optimisation” and legitimized the phrase by changing the meaning to analyzing conversion rates instead of search engine friendliness. Don’t get me wrong – Google’s “Website Optimizer” is a great tool, but it further darkens the murky waters of SEO by giving ambiguity to phrases banded around in the industry.

Thanks too, Steve. You must be younger than me. When I started this game, Inktomi and AltaVista were king. The green bar was some way off!

said Dixon Jones on April 17th, 2009 at 2:35 pm

Nice one Dixon – I’m always a bit bemused about the obsession with PR. And, anyway, isn’t it the quality of the company you keep that’s important rather than the absolute number of ‘friends’? i.e. If EGM had a lot less links but they were all hugely authoritative, then he’d presumably have a much longer green bar than you :-)
Nice to see a bit of friendly ‘green bar’ envy going on amongst you guys. Personally, nowadays I’m happy with a modest one as long as it makes money!
All the best ;-)

said Alan Potts on April 20th, 2009 at 12:47 pm

Heh. We know how to spread the link love around Alan :)

said Dixon Jones on April 21st, 2009 at 10:24 pm

Some great analysis and I’m really loving that Majestic backlink history tool!

But I would disagree with your conclusion that toolbar pagerank “isn’t about links”. All this proves, as Alan says above, is that it’s not about the raw *quantity* of links but more about their quality. I’ve seen Toolbar PageRank rising from 3 to 6 just (predominantly) off the back of 3 very authoritative links.

Btw where does majestic get its backlink data – does it have its own index or does it use Yahoo data?

said Jaamit on April 23rd, 2009 at 11:05 am

The Majestic data is its own. I’ll be doing a bigger review of it in due course. The other data source used in the article is via Yahoo’s api.

Of course, a good quality link is a sign that a page is important to the world – and that eventually reflects in the green bar. I seem to have aggrevated a couple of people by liberally using adjectives to make the meaning a bit murky. Quality counts. Quantity doesn’t.

But I still feel that the green bar that users see is a long way from the PageRank that forms key main part f the algorithm. It is out of date compared to the true PageRank, for one thing, but more than this, other factors are also coming onto play in Google choosing your mark out of 10.

An example was when Google appeared to penalize sites apparently selling links a few years back. The (green bar) page ranks dropped, but from what I heard, traffic didn’t. So Google took a “view” and effective;y used the toolbar to send a warning message over the bow of sites.

said Dixon Jones on April 24th, 2009 at 3:47 pm

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