Google’s numeric rating of how important it considers pages to be will soon no longer be accessible to the public. Website marketers and SEO practitioners should be interested in this decision, as PageRank was an indicator that was erroneously heavily relied upon by most of the industry.
When Google first started, PageRank was something it talked about as part of its research papers, press releases and technology pages to promote itself as a smarter search engine than well-established and bigger rivals at the time, (such as AltaVista and Lycos). The PR score essentially represented a measure of how Google viewed the importance of a web page, based on inbound and outbound links. However, the function of PageRank was diverted in 2000 when Google released the first version of its Google Toolbar for Internet Explorer, which gave those who enabled the PageRank meter the ability to see the PageRank score out of 10 for any page that was viewed.
For most SEO practitioners, the toolbar was an amazing present, a numeric rating of how important Google considered any of their pages to be. It was also a terrible trap for them and a disaster for the web as a whole. PageRank always was and remains only one part of the Google search algorithm, the system that determines how to rank pages. There are many other ranking factors that are also considered and so a high PageRank score did NOT mean that a page would necessarily rank well for any topic. Pages with lower scores could beat pages with higher scores if they had other factors in their favour.
Those practitioners that fell into the trap and wanted a better PageRank then also wanted links back to the site being optimised. So the link-selling economy and ‘link-farms’ emerged. Google wasn’t happy with the Pandora’s Box it had opened and so it began to fight back and ended up in court to defend its actions against companies that provided such links. That didn’t stop link selling and the quest for boosting PageRank scores quickly, rather than earning them naturally, continued for many.
As link spam became prevalent, people were chasing higher PageRank scores by putting links wherever they could, including into blog posts and forums. Eventually, it became such an issue that demands were raised that Google itself should do something about it. It did, in 2005, by releasing the ‘nofollow’ tag, which was a way to prevent links from passing along PageRank credit, but that certainly didn’t end link spam. Google then took 10 months in 2013 to finally update the PageRank scores it was feeding into the toolbar for IE users. It’s likely that it never updated the scores after that and PageRank was finally removed from the Google Toolbar, officially. That made the quest to improve the score futile, as the public could no longer find ways to see those scores.
So Google eventually alleviated the pressure put on the importance of having numerous back-links, but gave the game away that they depend upon them to some extent in their complex ranking algorithm (although no-one but Google knows exactly how much). As such, PageRank – Google’s original ‘secret formula’ – has gone back to being secret. Only Google will know the scores, which it will continue to use, mixed in with the many other factors that make up its ranking algorithm.
If you would like to know more about how we can help your business website improve its rankings through Search Engine Optimisation, contact us now.