Google Continues to Encourage Site Owners to Think Beyond PageRank

The latest blog post from Google Webmaster Central remind site owners what many of us have been saying for years: The Google Toolbar PageRank number is a terrible SEO metric (I may be paraphrasing a bit). Webmaster Trends Analysis (and knitter extraordinaire) Susan Moskwa, who wrote the post, says:

“I posit that none of us truly care about PageRank as an end goal. PageRank is just a stand-in for what we really want: for our websites to make more money, attract more readers, generate more leads, more newsletter sign-ups, etc. The focus on PageRank as a success metric only works if you assume that a higher PageRank results in better ranking, then assume that that will drive more traffic to your site, then assume that that will lead to more people doing-whatever-you-want-them-to-do on your site.”

Susan suggests instead tracking:

  • conversion rate (how many visitors who land on your site from search results are performing the action you want them to)
  • bounce rate (how many visitors who land your site from search abandon it as soon as they get there)
  • clickthrough rate (how many searchers who see your listing in search results click on it?)

The post points out that not only is PageRank not a real indicator of the results your site is getting from search but in fact “the PR you see publicly is different from the number our algorithm actually uses for ranking”.

Susan points to her own forum post in 2009 when the PageRank number was removed from webmaster tools where she wrote “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.”

(Edited to add: To be clear, what Google is saying is that site owners should use metrics that tell them how well their sites are performing. And the toolbar PageRank doesn’t do that. This post does not say that Google uses conversion rate, bounce rate, or clickthrough rate as ranking factors and no one should read that into the post as implied. This post isn’t about ranking factors at all. It’s about the best ways to measure your online efforts.)

With this latest blog post, some are wondering why the number still exists on the Google Toolbar, and of course, the answer is simply that a different (non-search) team manages the Google Toolbar product and what features it includes. (And in fact, the PageRank number displayed in the toolbar wasn’t originally intended for site owners in any case. It was intended to be a very approximate guide for consumers who were looking at web sites.)

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: SEO | Google: Webmaster Central | Top News


About The Author: is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. She built Google Webmaster Central and went on to found software and consulting company Nine By Blue and create Blueprint Search Analytics< which she later sold. Her book, Marketing in the Age of Google, (updated edition, May 2012) provides a foundation for incorporating search strategy into organizations of all levels. Follow her on Twitter at @vanessafox.

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  • Michael Martinez

    I’m afraid her post will raise more questions than it answers. I don’t believe Google looks at bounce rates in as simplistic a manner as the post seems to imply — rather, improving bounce rates is a way for people to ensure they ARE providing a good user experience. But too many people in the SEO community may seize upon her comments and use them to shore up wild speculations.

    I wish she had written about 15 more paragraphs further explaining her thoughts. (And, yes, I note that the post was targeted toward \Beginner\ level but people at that level are just as capable of asking questions as experts.)

  • Vanessa Fox

    Michael – You are absolutely right. I need to write about 15 more paragraphs for exactly the reason you say. I’m going to edit the post briefly now but then hopefully will have time to get something longer out in the next couple of days.

  • Joe Youngblood

    Question: if they know people will misuse PR, use it for selling links, etc.. and it’s not even correct then why on earth make it public?

  • Thomas Rosenstand

    For years I’ve done my best to convince customers and newcommers to the SEO world about the fact that PageRank from the toolbar equals the daily horoscope (at best). I welcome every effort from Google, you and everyone else to help address the misunderstanding that PR is the way to top in SERPS.

  • B.P.

    Michael Martinez, I agree with you. I don’t understand how PR calculates? PR is different Alexa? Some website has ~ 1000 Alexa Ranking but PR is N/A or 0? Believe PR or Alexa?

  • K.C.

    I also welcome any and every effort to educate people about how Pagerank is not very relevant to their SEO goals.
    I am actually a little disappointed that my own site’s Pagerank went up after the last update. I used to like to use it as an example. I had a pagerank of zero, yet ranked very well for plenty of search terms. Pointing that out to clients who were hung up on Pagerank was helpful in demonstrating just how much misinformation is out there about SEO.

  • Adrian Toma

    For business purpose I think that Pagerank is not the best factor that has an influence for SEO meanings. The next stage of SEO is conversions, a subject that is not so discussed like PR an some other SEO factors.
    I think the best way to increase a these factors is to raise the position in SERPs of an website for some given keywords. This comment is treated more ample in this web page

  • TimmyTime

    “I don’t believe Google looks at bounce rates in as simplistic a manner as the post seems to imply — rather, improving bounce rates is a way for people to ensure they ARE providing a good user experience. But too many people in the SEO community may seize upon her comments and use them to shore up wild speculations.”

    You comment makes zero sense. If bounce rates tell about user experience, why isn’t Google tracking them, then? You defeat your own argument. Google would not likely tell us anyway.

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