Google Page Rank may be a tool you have used in the past or it may be something you've never heard of but one thing is becoming clear in the world of SEO: Page Rank is no longer enough if you want to gauge the effectiveness of your web page.
The Concept of Google Page Rank
Google introduced their Page Rank toolbar to help internet users quickly assess the quality of a website. Pages were ranked when Google crawled them, allotting them a score from 1 to 10. Unlike a standard 1-10 system, 5 is not deemed "average" when it comes to Google Page Rank. In fact, many smaller businesses strive for a Page Rank of 3 or more, whilst precious few websites have a Page Rank higher than 8. Page Rank 10 websites are almost exclusively government or academic and beyond almost all businesses.
How is Page Rank Calculated?
The Page Rank of a website was created from a variety of data but most attributed it to the age of a domain, the quality of the on-page text and the external links that lead to it. This last factor is why the Page Rank toolbar became so important to many SEO practitioners.
The Higher the Page Rank, the Higher the Level of Trust
The Page Rank toolbar was created to aid those who were unfamiliar with the internet to discover websites with the most trusted content. This could help when sorting through news stories from different sources or making purchases online. So the higher the Page Rank, the higher the level of trust and authenticity. At least that was the theory. Unfortunately it also became an avenue for companies and individuals to look into ways to boost their Page Rank unnaturally. The focus for businesses became the Page Rank itself, rather than creating excellent content and relationships that would translate into a higher Page Rank down the line.
Page Rank and the SEO Industry
Businesses, particularly as part of their search engine optimisation activities, used the Page Rank toolbar as an indication of how effective a link from a certain website would be. This was often placed above all other factors. This meant that the average SEO practitioner would happily take a link from a Page Rank 5 website - even if it looked unprofessional or irrelevant - and ignore an up-and-coming website with a dedicated following that had yet to be ranked.
Perhaps understandably, Google has been somewhat put out by the near-obsessed attention Page Rank has received. Intended to be nothing more than a rough indicator for those who wanted to find out how trustworthy a website was, the Page Rank of a site became the end-all of search engine optimisation. This then lead to websites with higher Page Ranks cashing in on their rank by offering to host weblinks in return for payment, feeding their own "link juice" through to others at a cost. This flew in the face of Google's best practises but there wasn't much risk to a website and there was simply too much profit to be made.
Abandoning the Page Rank Toolbar?
The Page Rank toolbar hasn't had any updates for approximately 6 months - an exceptionally long period of time in Google's update-filled world. This means that Page Rank data may no longer be considered fully up-to-date (a necessity for those working in search engine optimisation trying to assess a site's quality).
The Future of Page Rank?
Whether we will see an update soon or not at all, or if the Toolbar is being abandoned, Google is refusing to comment. But I think it would be disappointing to see them simply leave this useful resource to gather dust, as unhappy as they have undoubtedly been with its implementation. Businesses and SEOs are hungry for an explanation but until one is forthcoming a website's Page Rank needs to be taken with a considerable pinch of salt. Instead, additional research, using other tools, is essential to back up any claims that these numbers may make to provide a fair quality assessment.
A new business blog has no Page Rank
Researching the blog's background reveals thousands of social media followers who are all engaging regularly with the content being created. There are also hundreds of links to the site from a variety of high quality domains and an overall link profile that is exceptional for a new blog.
More research might lead to the discovery that this blog is affiliated with a large business brand, which then went viral due to some exceptional quality content or is being powered by a loyal network of followers.
Whatever the story, simply disregarding it due to a Page Rank of zero would be a gross underestimation of the power a link from this blog could generate.
To this end, the Page Rank can no longer tell the whole story and is no longer the only way Google can work out how trustworthy a page is (the Panda update is an important development to this end). In addition, with social media now being a factor in where websites rank within Google search engines, the website itself is no longer the only benefit of getting a link. A link from a small site can gain power if their loyal followers share interesting content across their own blogs and social sites. Yet another reason why Page Rank can't be the whole story anymore.
What To Do?
If you've been using the Google Page Rank to quickly assess whether you want to begin a relationship with a potential site, then you will need to start doing the legwork (if you weren't already) to decide for yourself whether this site is worthwhile. Seeking out additional information will give you a far more complete picture than Google Page Rank is able to.
SEO companies who up to now have simply been treating the Page Rank as gospel and their core means of assessing website quality, will need to diversify to keep their knowledge truly up-to-date. This will guarantee a fuller picture and this in itself will translate into a better optimisation for clients.