A Major Step Towards Improving Google Search Quality

by Hessam on January 24, 2011

Google’s toolbar PageRank is Evil! I don’t mean it in a clubbing-baby-seals-evil sense, but in that it creates unnecessary confusion and misunderstandings which eventually lead to many incorrect business decisions. In addition, it’s empowering an entire industry of sleazy online marketers who earn their living by luring naive business owners to pay for “link packages” which in reality have a very low value for money. The outcome of all this is a worsened quality of Google Search, something that has lately come under fire from its competitors and its users.

Instead of continuing the never-ending loop of hunting down the offenders, wouldn’t the right thing be to fight it in its roots?
Google Toolbar PageRank Meter
Here are in my opinion a number of negative side effects of the existence of Google toolbar PageRank:

  • It’s utterly useless as a KPI, but unfortunately many decisions are based on its existence. There are no correlation what so ever between the perceived PageRank value and other meaningful KPIs such as website traffic, search engine rankings, conversion rate, bounce rate, depth of visits, etc etc. It’s just a number, and a very useless one for that matter.
  • Many webmasters put an undeserved amount of time and energy on trying to increase their PageRank. This is valuable time which should’ve instead been spent on analyzing and improving vital areas such as accessibility (e.g. usability, findability, load time), identity (e.g. design, information clarity), content (e.g. call to action), and of course conversions!
  • Many reputable websites and site-owners are seduced by link vendors to link to unrelated websites in exchange for money or backlinks to their own site and a promise of higher PR. These actions are not only ineffective, but often times threatens the success of an online business. Here’s a question everyone should ask themselves: If you would choose, would you rather increase your PR by X points, or receive X% less search engine traffic because Google penalized your site for buying/selling links!?
  • The algorithms behind evaluating and ranking webpages use a large set of signals and factors – to simplify this massive computation into a figure of 1-10 is a degradation of Google’s technology, brand, and reputation. These misunderstanding lead to more confusing questions such as: My page has PRx, why is Google then ranking me below all these other sites which all have lower PR than mine!?

My proposed solution: just remove the Toolbar PageRank display! It’s obvious to me that the consensus among Googlers is that they don’t find it useful either. As a matter of fact Google removed the PageRank metric from the Google Webmaster Tools back in late 2009 for this particular reason. Susan Moskwa, a Webmaster Trends Analyst and a former colleague of mine at Google then said:

We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it. :)

Google’s search quality wouldn’t jump up over night if toolbar PageRank was removed and link sellers would continue to fool naive businesses with their attempts. That said, with no PR to show for, it would become very hard for link traders to wave their PageRank card when asking for a price, and more webmasters would hopefully start looking at the relevancy of the links and choose not to acquire links just for the sake of it. This would thus make a noticeable dent on the link trading business which many times is to blame for worsened search quality.

So my question is why is the PageRank display still available in the toolbar!? Are there any meaningful use cases for keeping the Toolbar PageRank? Matt Cutts tweeted yesterday about an expected roll out of new Toolbar PageRank values, and I’m still wondering what’s the use?

Photo Credit: Google Toolbar PageRank Meter by dannysullivan, on Flickr


if google removed from the toolbar this would actually make it easyier from link traders to sell links to customers based on page rank. As they could say your website is only page rank 2 and your competitors who are infront of you in the serps are pagerank 4. if people dont listen and chase page rank there own fault not googles or anyone elses there is loads of information out there about how useless page rank is

by itsmartie on January 24, 2011 at 10:36. Reply #

I don’t agree with you – most link sellers sell links based on their PR value, e.g. X$/month for PR8 links etc, and with no PageRank it will be much harder to attach a monetary value for a link from an unrelated site.

by Hessam Lavi on January 27, 2011 at 12:29. Reply #

Great one Hessam. Couldn’t agree more. Everyone I meet asks about this bar. It is like it is the way we measure success or not online these days. Like mentioned earlier.. maybe Larry Page (as it is his baby) as a new CEO can put some new spark in it again!

by Sara Andersson on January 24, 2011 at 21:32. Reply #

Thanks Sara, I guess it’ll be a major PR challenge if they decided to remove it (“Google Admits PageRank Has Failed”), and it seems they have plenty of PR issues to deal with right now :)

by Hessam Lavi on January 27, 2011 at 12:33. Reply #

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by Warum gibt es den PageRank noch? | Affiliate Marketing Web Club on January 31, 2011 at 15:53. Reply #

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by Veckans länkar, vecka 4 | Nils Grundberg on February 2, 2011 at 22:05. Reply #

Well said! I’ve been saying the same thing for a few years now. Google really are the own worst enemy and despite all the bad practices they frown upon in their ‘guidelines’ and ‘terms and conditions’, they are the exact culrpit and reason why the search marketing industry is riddled with scams and the near impossibility of obtaining natural and valuable backlinks these days as everyone is putting a price tag on a link.

Scrap the visible toolbar PageRank and get these PR link selling spammy scam companies wiped out completey. And while you’re at it Google, get rid of the ‘nofollow’ attribute, it serves a purpose but it’s getting abused – everyone is just applying nofollow left right and centre because of all the hype about not wanting to pass authority outside of your own website, it’s just got ridiculous now.

by zigojacko on February 4, 2011 at 10:43. Reply #

mozRank is the new PageRank.

by Nabil El Alaoui Sossey on February 4, 2011 at 13:12. Reply #

Keeping old page rank stuff alive hides that there are other things. So all the kids trying to manipulate the serps will fail and the good an relevant pages will rank – in theory.

by Maik on February 4, 2011 at 15:45. Reply #

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