It has been noted recently that Google wants us to think PR doesn’t matter anymore, but here at PSM digital, we think otherwise. For more than 10 years, Google has been trying to retrieve this metric back from the attention of webmasters and SEO workers and has stopped pushing regular updates to our Google toolbars. This is just one of the many steps in the strategy to convince you that PageRank doesn’t matter anymore.
But let’s think about it more. Let’s delve into looking at some more of the signs they feed us to try and prove it no longer matters.
PageRank wasn’t unknown to webmasters in Google’s in the late 90′s, but the search giant really spilled the beans on PageRank in December 2000, when it released the ‘Google toolbar’ that included the ability to check Google PageRank (which it still describes today as “the basis of Google’s search technology”).
Google knew that the measurement tool would be of vital (and viral) interest to webmasters and webmasters not only flocked to install the toolbar, they began using the metric for link swapping, selling and buying. It made PR manipulation so much easier when you could easily see Google’s estimation of the importance of a page and check it after an SEO campaign.
Google has been back stepping ever since. Unhappy with the manipulation of PageRank that was greatly enhanced by the ability to see the PR on any page, (but apparently unwilling to withdraw entirely the prime reason to keep the toolbar installed on your browser), Google fought back with a publicity campaign and with tools that often backfired. For example, in 2005, Google introduced the ‘nofollow’ attribute in an aim to conquor comment spam and encouraged web owners to add it to their blogs. Not long after, they demanded that anyone selling text links had to use the nofollow attribute to discourage ‘selling’ PR.
This little attribute opened (yet another) can of PR worms for Google, as webmasters quickly learned how to apply to sculpt PageRank within a site and Google engineers had to change the way that Google divides links on a page – an attempt to prevent webmasters from re-assigning it with the use of nofollow.
Google stopped pushing data to the toolbar in late 2004 and established something of a measly quarterly schedule of updates with the hope that outdated PR would devalue the commodity anyway. “The PageRank that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is for entertainment purposes only,” Googlers reportedly announced in December that same year.
Moving forwards to October of 2009, the ability to see the “importance of a page” was removed from Google’s Webmaster tools in the search giant’s ongoing campaign to take the focus off PR, and 6 months later in April ’10, released what appears to be the last quarterly update. Webmasters report updates to toolbar PR often with no pattern, as though updates are now simply random and sporadic. Is it trailing off we wonder?
Google does seem to have effectively rendered the toolbar more useless than not, and it’s common to hear many webmasters insist that PageRank is no longer important. You only have to read SEO forums and webmaster discussion groups to read scores of people claim that ‘why do you care about PR’?
But hey, if PR wasn’t still a central factor in Google’s algorithm – or as Google puts it, ‘the basis of their technology’ — why would they go to all this trouble to hide it?