A recent move by search engine giant Google has left search engine optimisers either shaking their heads, or feeling vindicated. An article appeared on WebProNews earlier this week, backed up by a post on Google Webmaster Central from Webmaster Trends Analyst Susan Moskwa, pointing out that Google has removed their PageRank distribution feature from their webmaster tools.
Although it still appears in the Google toolbar, Susan Moskwa explained that it’s removal from the webmaster tools was intended to underscore what Google have been saying for years: That PageRank is not such an important metric for site owners to focus on.
200 Signals Affect Crawling, Indexing & Ranking
In her post, Susan Moskwa linked to a part of the Webmaster FAQ, that specifically points out that PageRank is only one small factor:
“We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner.”
Explaining their decision to remove it from the webmaster tools in her post at the Webmaster Central forum, she 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.”
Despite the fact that the PageRank distribution feature has been removed from the Webmaster Tools, it remains in the Google Toolbar. However, Ms. Moskwa explained that “PageRank in Toolbar is aimed more at the casual browser of sites who wants to get a general feel for the authority of a page….Toolbar isn’t primarily aimed at site owners who are looking for precise & reliable metrics that they can judge their site by or make decisions by.”
Others have speculated that too much branding is invested in the toolbar to make Google likely to remove it, regardless of how many people feel it should be removed from the toolbar as well.
PageRank Still Useful In Some Cases
Even with this announcement, Andy Beal of Marketing Pilgrim has said that PageRank can still be useful, suggesting that, if nothing else, it can be an indicator of a sites behaviour in the Google index.
“Any green means ‘go.’ No green, means there’s something to investigate,” he said in his blog post on the subject.
However, in the final estimation, it seems that Google really means it when they say you shouldn’t pay too much attention to PageRank as a metric.
What Net Age Thinks
The removal of PageRank data as a metric from the Google Webmaster Tools is all very well. Indeed, it’s understandable, and even desirable, from certain viewpoints. For a long time, its appeared that Google has been trying to do away with the concept of PageRank from a webmasters point of view.
Part of the reason may be that people place too much reliance on it, and another part may be to curtail the selling of links on the basis of PageRank. If nothing else, making clear its relative unimportance in terms of rankings may help discourage people from relying too much on PageRank data, and selling links on the basis thereof.
Indeed, this may well be the first step towards doing away with PageRank altogether. However, until they do away with it completely, including removing it from the Google Toolbar, we will continue to look at PageRank, not as the be all and end all of page importance, but as an indicator of a page’s authority. With or without PageRank, a better domain, with more links to it, will always have better credibility.
In the end, regardless of what data Google makes available to the public, there will still always need to be a way to measure the rank, value or importance of a page.