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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.)
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