Final Thoughts On The PageRank Debacle

| Created: October 31st, 2007
Search Engine Optimisation 22 Comments

Many things have been said about the recent toolbar PageRank update. Most tend to agree that PageRank has lost relevance and that we shouldn’t place too much importance on it. Most of us feel it’s time to move on and stop talking about it. I’ll do that, but not until I’ve had a final say on the matter.

EDIT: Since writing this post, I’ve changed my views somewhat. Please read my post on the toolbar PageRank penalty for more information.

On A Positive Note

Firstly, some sites, mine included, have received a good PageRank. I am very happy that my site is PR4. I’ve worked hard and waited a long time for the update. I was expecting PR1 or PR2 at best, so I am thrilled with PR4.

However, it’s a little hollow, because so many sites have ranked lower than they should (then again maybe mine is ranked too high).

Sites That Should Be Higher

I’m only naming a few sites that I read regularly. There are many more that deserve to be higher, that I’m not aware of right now.

I’ll start with authority blogger Andy Beard, whose site should be PR 6 in my opinion. PR4 is just wrong. This is a definitive case showing that PageRank is not an accurate reflection of a site’s worth.

The following are other great sites that I read regularly, which are definitely worth more than the PR3 they’ve been given:

All of these sites serve up quality content on a regular basis. They have a much larger body of work than my site and many more backlinks. I know my DualFeeds plugin boosted my PR a lot, but I just can’t understand how their PR is lower than mine. It’s incredulous!

What Can I Do About It?

Stop using Google. I’ve read people suggest this. Would it work? Probably not. Even 10,000 bloggers abandoning Google probably wouldn’t have any effect. Am I willing to do it? Honestly, no. Some of their tools are very useful and I would find it hard to give them up. And as Josh points out Google Brings Traffic – Why Boycott it? But full marks for Maurice who stopped using Google tools even before the recent PageRank penalties.

Promote other alternatives. Many of us are Google centric, but there are other options out there. We can easily promote these options, instead of, or as well as, Google. We should be doing this anyway!

Pass on the link love. I’m going to try to link to the sites I listed above more often. Of course I’ll only link to them only when it’s relevant. As I already link to them fairly often, it probably won’t have much effect, but it’s the least I can do. I’ll try to give good quality links rather than making the common linking mistakes encountered on blogs outlined by Andy.

Move on, remembering that PageRank isn’t really relevent. It’s time for us to do this. Things like traffic and subscriptions are more important. Hopefully advertisers will stop using PR to measure the worth of sites.

So Is Google Evil?

When the first round of penalties kicked off, RT asked Is Google Evil Now?

I don’t think they are. I think they just have a different agenda from us bloggers. It’s their search engine, it’s their PageRank system and they can do what they like with them. My real frustration with Google is that they aren’t open enough about what’s happening and aren’t specific enough about the rules. No one really is really sure what’s okay and what’s not.

Getting slapped for something you thought was okay is a lot worse than getting slapped for something you knew was naughty.

PageRank Alternatives?

If PageRank is not an accurate reflection any more, can someone else come up with an alternative ranking system, which is fair and updated regularly?

There have been other ranking systems but they weren’t adopted widely. To be successful, such a system would have to be introduced by a big name.

My original thought, first voiced in the comments of Reflections On The Google Slapfest, is that Yahoo would be the ideal candidate. They must have a private ranking system already and they’d love to deal a blow to Google.

However, I found Yahoo already tried this back in 2004 (or thereabouts). Yahoo called their system Webrank, but it seems to have been abandoned long ago. When I searched for information on it, what I mostly found was webmasters saying that it was just a poor copy of PageRank and it wasn’t worth worrying about. So, to an extant, we’ve made our own bed.

It’s worth noting that I also found complaints about Yahoo applying penalties. Sound familiar?

Maybe it just isn’t going to get any better. Or maybe we are underestimating how hard it is to make systems covering such a massive number of sites work successfully. Still I’d like to see Yahoo have a go.

What I Won’t Be Doing

I won’t be stopping writing sponsored posts. Adsense: 35 cents in a month; Sponsored Posts: $16 for one post (on a topic I’d write about anyway). If you can pass my Maths Comment Spam Protection, you can add this up!

I won’t be cloaking Nofollows so only Google sees them – Thanks Lucia.

And I won’t be talking about this any more. Well maybe in the comments. πŸ™‚

The Final Word

I’ve said my piece. Now I’m moving on…

22 responses on “Final Thoughts On The PageRank Debacle

  1. Lucia

    Thanks for the links. πŸ™‚

    Many keep suggesting an alternative ranking system. But, there’s a fundamental problem with that. We could create a million ranking systems, but only Google’s system counts with Google. Google drives a lot of traffic, many take Google’s rank as an indication of whether or not they will tend to appear in Google SERPs. Their rankings are also made available free of charge.

    Would a “third party” rank be seen as providing a good indication? Only if they could somehow prove they had very good predictive value. Why would anyone develop such a tool and provide it free of charge to the world?

  2. Andy Beard

    You know I have been debating posting anything else, but I know I have to write an update. Google currently thinks my social media profiles syndicating my content are more worthwhile than my blog.

    I do however need to post a few more articles before mentioning the P word again.

  3. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Lucia, of course you’re correct about PageRank being the only system to count with Google. I was thinking more of an alternative system for advertisers to use – a lot of them rely on PageRank. I know some, such as PayPerPost, are developing their own system.

    Why would someone do it and provide it for free? Yahoo might. If they pulled it off successfully, it would get more people talking about them, more webmasters on their side, etc. In time it could help them in the battle against Google… However, I suspect they look the flak that Google get and probably don’t want the headache. That may be why Webrank disappeared in the first place.

  4. Joyce Babu

    What I don’t understand is why everyone (including me) is running after PageRank. It is just a system developed by Google for their search engine. They made a mistake of telling us about the system, is that why we are all complaining about them? I don’t know. But there is one thing that I certainly know – I too wish for a high PR.

    I have many sites that are completely dependant on Google, for both visitors and revenue. And I am not ready to complain about them forgetting all the good things they have given me.

  5. Maurice (TheCaymanHost)

    Hi Stephen,

    Thank you for the kind and supportive comments and the link πŸ™‚

    I have to add that I think you underestimate yourself and your blog. For the niche you are blogging in, it does represent quality and provides a lot of useful information, in addition to your work with plugins. You do have a lot of quality and uniqueness and italways helps to be a likeable guy! Congrats on making a 4!

    Blogs like mine are ten a penny. I commentate and provide information, but I wouldn’t say I innovate, nor that any of my content couldn’t be found elsewhere.
    My subscriber base is still small, but amazingly loyal for which I’m very grateful. I guess I do blog from a fairly uncommon location and I hope that this, and my writing style help to differentiate me me from similar blogs and work in my favor. I also hope that as time goes on I can develop and expand into other areas and cover more subject matter.

    When it comes to visible PR, I don’t pay it too much mind. I do think that the blogs you have mentioned warrant a better visible PR, but then I’m a fan of those bloggers too. As Joyce and Lucia both say, having a high visible PR counts a lot for some people and whilst understandable, it’s not worth worrying about for someone like me who doesn’t sell huge amounts of advertising.

    I guess when it comes to PR, girls and boys alike fall into the “mine’s bigger than yours” trap πŸ˜‰

  6. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Andy, your situation is ridiculous. I can see no way for Google to justify this.

    I thought twice about writing this post because: a) there are people much more knowledgeable (on this topic) than I; b) I wasn’t personally affected (negatively); c) too much has been said already.

    In the end, I cancelled my PageRank party and wrote the post, because I’m actually angry about this and I had to speak out. Google have been great to me, but I can’t sit here quietly.

    You have my support (however little that amounts to) on this issue, whether you post about it again or not.

  7. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Joyce, you make some good points there, that we shouldn’t forget.

    The problem is that Google did make the system available. People are using it in ways not envisaged by Google (such as to determine which sites to use for advertising) and Google is trying counteract that by applying penalties. However, the penalties seem to have been applied in an adhoc way and there’s been very little specific information on exactly what will result in a penalty (lots of general information, but not specific).

    The end result is that toolbar PageRank is now skewed and not an accurate reflection of a site’s worth.

    It’s been known for a while that Google are considering dropping toolbar PageRank and it has been suggested the recent moves are intended to ease the way, which is an interesting thought.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot I like about Google: the traffic they send me and some of their tools. I’m not going to boycott them. But I think they are wrong on the PageRank issue.

  8. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Maurice, Thanks for the compliments. But I think you’re underestimating your blog too. I get a lot of value from it. If mine’s worth 4, yours is worth at least that. (seems I’ve gotten the “mine is bigger than yours” thing the wrong way around πŸ™‚ ).

    Yes, if you’re not selling a lot of advertising, you can probably just forget PageRank (hopefully more advertisers will stop using PR now). But of course many of us fall into the trap, myself included, because it’s one way of measuring our progress. It’s the same with Alexa rank. We shouldn’t care too much about these systems. But the main reason I’m upset is because people I like and respect have been treated unfairly.

  9. K-IntheHouse

    I had missed some of the links you had mentioned, so thanks for that! It is indeed sad to see some quality blogs lose their PR. Atleast, none of them have reported in reduced traffic yet, to my knowledge.

    Your PR4 is definitely well deserved. I have come to learn a lot of things from your blog and like your candid writing style very much.

  10. Stephen Cronin Post author

    K, Thank you very much! Congrats on your PR4, which was very well deserved too. It just a pity that a lot of people don’t have the PR they deserve – but as you say, I’ve haven’t heard of reduced traffic as a result.

  11. cyprus apartments

    Congratulations on your PR 4. I got one of my sites from PR 4 to PR 2 πŸ™
    But my blog got PR 3 (formerly PR 0)

    You’re right on sponsored posts, you’ll get always more money from them than with Adsense or Kontera in content.

  12. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Hi Cyprus… Sorry to hear about your reduction – but congratulations on the PR3. Yes, sponsored post seem to be the best way for the average blog to make money.

  13. Search engine optimization company

    Love your blog, I read it a lot. This would be my first comment on any of your posts, because I really like this blog post in particular. I work with adsense for our clients’ accounts for a part of my day at the office, and it’s really frustrating. It seems inevitable that a company so large would sooner or later incorporate new rules for PR; the internet is a huge business. It seems unfair that they would capitalize on this but it is a part of business, and it’s making me want to pull my hair out every day I have to put up with Google’s crap. I really hope Yahoo (or anyone) does something soon, before I go bald.

  14. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Hi SEOC, Thanks. It would be really good to see someone step up to the plate and give Google a real run for their money. It’s a very big job though, so for the moment we have to play by Google’s rules. I just wish we knew exactly what they are! I feel for you, as you don’t have any choice but deal with it, because of customer demand.

  15. Odzyskiwanie danych

    It seems that after last PR update (which is still in progress I think) you maintained PR4. Personally I think nobody should care about PageRank – my website with PR5 is lower is SERPs than other pages optimized for few keywords but PR1 for example.

  16. Andy Beard

    The problem is when you run around using blog comments to try to help your SEO clients rank for Polish terms such as “Data Recovery”, you might be walking into a major reputation management situation if an SEO based in Poland sees what you are doing and feels like picking up a few clients just by making a few phone calls.

    If a link in a comment doesn’t lead people back to a page that tells people something personal about you, you are abusing the system, and one day it will come back to haunt you.

  17. Stephen Cronin Post author

    Andy, Thanks – there’s no way I would have realised that’s what it meant. The fact that it leads back to a commercial site makes it borderline spam – the only saving grace is the actual comment is relative to a degree. Otherwise, I’d press the spam button.

    Odzyskiwanie, it’s worth listening to Andy on this. I was actually going to leave the link in place despite that, but seeing you think people shouldn’t care about PR, I figured you didn’t really need the backlink. That was too much to resist! Still, I thank you for taking the time to make a comment.

    PR is, of course, important in the SERPs. Keyword optimisation is the first thing worry about (if no-one else is optimised for the keyword you’ll rank high), but when you run into competition for the keyword, PR is very important…

  18. Drunk Text

    You know what? Most of us complain a lot about google but still use their basic tool (their search engine) when they’re stuck. The problem with another company coming up with their own ranking system is simple.

    I can launch my own “Fair” ranking system tomorrow and spend millions promoting it and millions might as well be using it, but the fact that it’s in everyone’s subconscious that PR effects SERPs makes my raking system worthless because I don’t have a multi billion dollar search engine that rules the internet world.

    *PS: I think that PR is irrelevant when it comes to SERPs, how can you quantify a website’s worth by a number?? It’s impossible because every site is competing for different keywords all the time. Check it out do a search for anything you want and I assure you that 50% or more of the time the 1st result has a lower PR than the second.

    1. Stephen Cronin Post author

      DrunkText, Good points… But with:

      I think that PR is irrelevant when it comes to SERPs, how can you quantify a website’s worth by a number?? It’s impossible because every site is competing for different keywords all the time. Check it out do a search for anything you want and I assure you that 50% or more of the time the 1st result has a lower PR than the second.

      There’s no doubt that Google places a lot of importance on keywords when deciding what to serve up. If you’re trying to rank for terms where there is little competition, PR isn’t important.

      However, if you are trying to rank for terms where there is high competition, PR is one of the deciding factors. (that’s real PR, not toolbar PR). I don’t think you can say that it’s irrelevant…

  19. Jenn@Atlanta commercial real estate

    I would love to see this topic brought up again and updated. So much has changed with Google since late 07.

  20. Kaushik Biswas

    Mine is a personal website, contents have changed quite a few times in the past 1 year, many links are dead; yet, my website is PR1. How does this PR thing happen Stephen? I didn’t work for PR, one day I noticed accidentally that I’ve PR1. On the other hand, my wife has a regional language free blog, she got PR4 there, she also said she didn’t know how she got it.

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