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Google Toolbar PageRank for entertainment purposes?

Last week, two statements about Google's PageRank started a new discussion about this topic.

The first statement was made in the Search Engine Watch forums. It was from a person who received the following answer to a PageRank question from a Google employee:

"The PageRank that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is for entertainment purposes only.

Due to repeated attempts by hackers to access this data, Google updates the PageRank data very infrequently because is it not secure. On average, the PR that is displayed in the Google Toolbar is several months old.

If the toolbar is showing a PR of zero, this is because the user is visiting a new URL that hasn't been updated in the last update.

The PR that is displayed by the Google Toolbar is not the same PR that is used to rank the webpage results so there is no need to be concerned if your PR is displayed as zero.

If a site is showing up in the search results, it doesn't not have a real PR of zero, the Toolbar is just out of date"

In another forum, a person with the name GoogleGuy, who is believed to a Google employee, made the following statement:

"I'd strongly disagree with the statement that the toolbar PageRank is for 'entertainment purposes only'--millions of toolbar users use the PageRank display to judge the quality of pages.

I think it's also a little irresponsible to quote John Galt claiming to talk to some random person at Google, and then for you to quote it as a response from Google, which makes it sound more official. I'm happy to refute that this is any sort of official stance."

GoogleGuy didn't say that the comments in the first statement are wrong. He said that toolbar users use the PageRank display to judge the quality of web pages. He did not say that Google uses the number of the PageRank toolbar to rank web pages.

The PageRank feature is also no longer mentioned in the official Google toolbar tour.

What does this mean to you?

Of course, PageRank is important to get good rankings on Google. However, the PageRank number that is displayed in the Google Toolbar and the green PageRank bar are not important at all for good Google rankings.

It's very likely that the PageRank number that can be seen in the Google Toolbar is mainly a marketing instrument for Google that doesn't have much effect on the search results. Google seems to use an internal PageRank value for its ranking algorithm and a public PageRank value for the toolbar.

That would explain why many web pages with a high ranking on Google have a low (toolbar) PageRank.

When you want to trade links with another web site, don't look at the PageRank of that site. Instead, ask yourself: Is the web site related to your site? Would it make sense for web surfers if they linked to you and you linked to them? Could visitors of the other web site be interested in your site? If you find a web site that you would want to visit or your visitors would want to visit then link to it and ask for a link back to your site.

Just use common sense. If you like a page, changes are that other people also like that page, no matter what PageRank the Google toolbar displays.

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December 2004 search engine articles