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The Demise Of A Visible PageRank Is Good For The Web

July 28, 2016 1 Comment RSS Feed

PageRankGoogle has indicated that there will be no future updates to the most visible representation of its assessment of a domain. This comes as no surprise — it hasn’t been updated since 2013, but the confirmation from John Mueller puts the final nail in old-school SEO’s coffin. Site owners will no longer be able to obsess about the PageRank of their site. SEO professionals will no longer be able to present a single (spurious) number to their clients as proof that their techniques are successful.

I, for one, am glad about the demise of this form of PageRank. Firstly, because it’s a remnant of a way of thinking about search engine optimization that is, thankfully, fading into the past. And secondly, because it was never an accurate indication of anything at all. It was a vague and clumsy approximation — a facile reduction of a complex topic that outshone every important metric of site popularity and effectiveness.

Let’s be clear: the real PageRank, whatever form it currently takes within the massive algorithmic complex Google uses to rank websites, is still going strong. What’s going away is the simple number that used to be used as a measure of the authority of a domain, and most importantly, of a domain’s ability to pass on “link juice” to other sites.

The PageRank number, as displayed in Google’s Toolbar, was a misleading metric, and like all token metrics designed to simplify the complex, it became the misplaced focus of optimization efforts. Search engine optimization was, in large part, an attempt to game PageRank, to figure out how to make that number go up. The result: web spam, link spam, link schemes, and everything else that went along with early search engine optimization.

Without a regularly updated visible indication of PageRank to obsess about, search engine optimization has shifted to focus on what really matters: creating great content that people want to link to, optimizing for performance and user experience, building engagement the right way.

Site owners should have focused on those factors from the start, but PageRank skewed the industry’s focus away from the user and towards the algorithm. That’s why Google stopped giving us a glimpse behind the curtain. It was self-defeating.

I’m sure some will be sad to see the demise of the PageRank number, particularly those who use it to determine the value of domains they are selling, but the rest of us know that sales, conversions, visitors, time-on-site, and engagement are the true measure of a positive web experience.

Posted in: Webmaster