Google’s pagerank: why all the excitement?

It often surprises me how much excitement a pagerank update still causes. The start of an update is always directly followed by an enormous amount of blog and forum posts. Not to speak about the number of people who are immediatly stress-testing the online Pagerank tools. So, I think it is about time to clear some things up. To start with, Google has changed quite a bit in the last couple of years:

  • Previously Google updated the index on a monthly basis. This caused fluctuating results as Google was updating the various servers one by one. The updates where soon called the Google Dance by the webmaster community. Currently Google continuously updates its index while crawling the web. In other words, there is no monthly Google Dance anymore.
  • Every two to three months people start talking about a pagerank update which should be taking place. Well, in fact pagerank is updated continuously as well. Google only exports the pagerank values to the datacenters which are used by the Google toolbar every couple of months. That’s when you see new pagerank values in the toolbar. This will however not influence the ranking, not even a tiny bit.

Besides this, you really shouldn’t care that much about Pagerank as most people know it (the little green bar in the Google toolbar). This green bar does not reflect the PR that Google uses for its ranking algorithms. I might give you an indication, but certainly not more than that. I’ve seen pages that ranked worse while the (toolbar) pagerank increased and vice-versa. I think that there is a rather simple explanation for this: Google doesn’t want to be a SEO instrument! I’ll give you a couple of examples which illustrate this:

  1. Performing a backlink search (link:) at Google only provides you some sample data. Matt Cutts even confirmed that at SES London.
  2. The Google API does not return ranking scores, Google also hasn’t planned to do so.
  3. The toolbar only communicates rounded pagerank scores.

I’m certainly not saying that Pagerank isn’t important. It is. You should however be aware that the pagerank which is visible in the toolbar does not tell it all. I think it is better to focus on the actual ranking of a website rather than staring at a tiny green bar.

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