PageRank.  The secret formula that Google used to decide how important any given web page was has finally been officially retired from public view.  16 years ago, Google made it possible for people to see an approximation of the PR (PageRank, named after co-founder Larry Page) for website pages.  The higher the PR, the more important Google thought your page was.  Technically anyway.

The Toolbar PR (named for its inclusion in the google Toolbar that can be added to browsers) was both boon and bane to SEO practitioners almost since its inception.  It appeared to give a view inside Google’s “thinking” and for some, became the be-all and end-all of SEO metrics.

Of course, as we all know, Google uses hundreds of different signals in order to determine how likely a page is to rank in organic search, but the PageRank was a theoretically concrete indicator of the quality of your site.

The Pitfalls Of PageRank

The basis of PageRank was a calculation based on how many links you had pointing to any given page.  Sculpting PageRank became something of an art form, and inevitably, having revealed that links were critical in ranking pages, the very revelation became the foundation of the link buying (and selling) networks that sprang up in short order.

Link spam became such an issue that a few years later, Google implemented the “nofollow” link in an attempt to limit the exploitation, although by then it was too late.

Although Google effectively stopped updating the Toolbar PR several years ago, its mere existence has caused countless people to carry on chasing worthless metrics.

Farewell Toolbar PageRank

As of their recent announcement, Google will no longer be displaying even Toolbar PageRank, and no tools will be able to access that data.  Nonetheless, PageRank itself remains in effect, behind the scenes at Google.  It’s just not going to be visible to anybody.  And for as long as Google continues to rely on inbound links for its ranking algorithm, the link industry that it spawned is going to carry operating, one way or another.