April 2010 was the last time Google performed a full PageRank update and since then there have only been minor updates. However, that all appears to have changed during the course of the weekend. As Search Engine Land have reported (amongst many others), Google appear to have chosen January as the time to remedy this particular situation and provide some Webmasters with a late Christmas gift.
Koozai can certainly testify to this, as our toolbar rating has leapt from a rather dubious PR 0 to a more respectable PR 5. Increases have also been seen across a number of client sites too, indicating that something must be rumbling over at Google HQ.
If you’re unaware of what Google PageRank is, then let’s have a quick recap. Named after Larry Page, the returning CEO of Google, PageRank or PR is a method used to calculate a page’s importance and relevance. The rank is based on a scale of 0 – 10, with high ranking pages being more important and relevant. Generally speaking, the more links to your page, the greater your PR, especially if those incoming links are from authoritative sites.
Why is this good news for Webmasters? Well, Webmasters and bloggers often use Google PR as an indicator of how well the pages on the website are performing. It’s a useful guide and some certainly place more importance on it than others. Effectively you can receive feedback on the performance of pages directly from Google (who are a reasonably reliable source); with the toolbar figure seen as a type of medal or achievement for some. So if PR is that important, why did Google take so long updating their visible PR figures?
It’s slightly confusing why Google delayed this particular update for so long, with only minimal changes seen since April last year. Well, the SEO community and Webmasters have again been giving their two cents on the issue, airing views on blogs and forums all over the Internet.
Google’s tardy update could certainly add weight to the argument that it’s either being phased out or simply isn’t seen as being that important anymore [see: Has Google’s Toolbar PageRank Been Shelved (and Should We Care)?] Of course it shouldn’t be ignored entirely, but much of the noise that used to surround updates has dissipated in recent times. Many simply see it as a rough guide rather than any kind of meaningful indication of a site’s overall strength.
The common misconception here is that a high PR guarantees a high ranking within SERP’s. Whilst there is a strong correlation between PageRank and actual rankings, it’s not always quite this simple. PR is effectively a gauge of how strong your links are, the stronger your links, the higher your PR. SERPs take a lot more into account other than a web page’s link structure/PR though; for example, content quality or keyword targeting.
This is the trap that Google didn’t want Webmasters to fall into [see: Google Doesn’t Want You To Think About PageRank]. The reason being that PR is just a a single measurement of your site’s strength and not necessarily the be all and end all. If you have an improved ranking, then congratulations; but if you want to seriously improve your SEO, and ultimately the traffic to your website, then you’ll have to consider a lot more than just your PR.