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PageRank No Longer a Useful Performance Indicator

Posted 2009-04-14 in SEO   By

Whatever Google is up to with PageRank lately, it's quickly losing my interest. PageRank was never meant to be a reliable measure of search engine performance, but it was usually "in the neighborhood". After the last few PageRank updates, I've found myself relying almost completely on other tools due to the extreme gaps I continue to observe.

Don't get me wrong, I love Google Search. It quickly becomes the start page on every browser I'm allowed within ten feet of. :) At one time PageRank was a somewhat useful indicator of search engine performance, but this has changed dramatically in my opinion. There is a stark contrast in PageRank and actual performance on too many sites to rely on the number.

The problem became really noticeable around a year ago, but the last 2-3 PageRank updates have been completely unreliable indicators. After watching dozens of my own sites over the last year, it seems clear there are too many other things at work here. My guess is this is the result of Google's attempt at coping with paid links with non-algorithmic adjustments, and possibly algorithmic approaches to coping with backlink SPAM, duplicate content, and other factors. That said, I'm not really one to follow Matt Cutts' every word, so don't hold me to it.

Either way, it's about as consistent for my needs as a roll of the dice. Perhaps it's time for a new motto:

"PageRank™: The Web's most popular random number generator"
Google is an awesome search engine, and PageRank was once useful for me too. The unfortunate part is that PageRank is immensely popular. No matter how inaccurate I consider the ranking system to be, advertiser's will continue to make purchasing decisions based on PR, SEO consultants will continue to tote the buzzword with clients, and newbie Webmasters will continue to be confused over what it really means.

This isn't really such a terrible thing, since the same can be said of most Website ranking systems. Google just happens to be the authority in Web search, and whatever they do with PageRank gets the attention of the entire Webmaster community. My advice to anyone else who shares my feelings on the subject:  educate your customers that PageRank is just one of many factors. More than ever, Webmasters should utilize as many sources of data for our performance research and as possible.




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