PageRank – Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Google’s PageRank, like Alexa, has long been a questionable indicator of a site’s actual “rank.” Supposedly based on both the number and quality of incoming links, plus some secret sauce that’s never been completely demystified (go figure), the accuracy of PageRank* is called into question by anomalies/”rule breakers” and updates that are sporadic at best.

I defy anyone to go into any SEO forum and find a thread discussing PageRank in which all the participants agree.

That said, there was still a collective “what the hell?!?!?!” and “uh-oh!!!!” when Google rolled out its latest PageRank update and people, especially those who had indulged in paid linking, saw their PageRank drop considerably (often, it seems, with no attendant loss in Google positioning and/or traffic…at least not yet).

Now the latest news on the PageRank “front” is that Matt Cutts is making it a “mission” to do away with the PageRank score on the Google toolbar.

I cry “foul” plus “no fair” plus, had I been drinking, maybe a couple obscenities. I still look at PageRank when I’m looking at a client’s site. If they have a zero PageRank, that still tells me something. It they have a PageRank of nine, that tells me something else. PageRank never answered all the questions, but it’s part of the picture, a component that leads me toward an overall diagnosis.

Would my ability to build an SEO campaign that addresses a site’s issues disappear without PageRank? Of course not. But if Google is still using it I want to see it too.

But what’s the truth? On one hand you have Mr. Cutts saying, out loud in an interview with ClickZ’s Mike Grehan:

There are over 100 factors in ranking. And PageRank is just one of them. It’s an important factor, but it’s by no means the be-all and end-all.

Then, on the Google Technology page, we have this:

The heart of our software is PageRank…

Dude, I’m no doctor, but I’m pretty sure the heart qualifies as a “be-all and end-all.”

There is no perfect system, and I know that if Google completely demystified what-all goes into its algorithm/etc. SEO would be a lot less fun. But I’d like to think that the majority of professional online marketers, Oneupweb included, are actually trying to help our clients provide a better online experience for their customers. Which is what Google is trying to reward, no?

* PageRank, for the uninitiated, is named after Google co-founder Larry Page, so it’s not “the rank of the page” but “the rank according to the Page.” As opposed to the other alternative, which would have been “BrinRank,” which doesn’t roll off the tongue so much as it sticks somewhere in the middle like half-dissolved aspirin. For what that’s worth.