Google has announced that it will remove PageRank, also known as PR, from its toolbar and will stop supporting toolbars that make use of the metric. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed that Google is removing PageRank scores from the public eye altogether.
Another Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, Gary Illyes, went on to explain that PageRank will still be used internally by Google but will no longer be shown to the public.
PageRank, a play on the name of Google, Inc. co-founder Larry Page, is a number from 0 to 10 that Google would assign to every page on the web based on its level of authority. This authority was determined, in part by how many pages on the web were linking back to that page. The more “backlinks” a web page had going to it, the more authoritative it was in Google’s eyes, and the higher PageRank it was assigned.
As PageRank became more visible as a ranking factor, website owners began to obsess over it, some building their entire business around PR.
SEOs realized they could manipulate a page’s PR, and subsequently, its position in the search results (SERPs) by employing a combination of keyword stuffing and backlinking. What began as a means of offering web searchers the most relevant results quickly became a runaway train as spammers were easily able to manipulate their non-relevant pages to the top of the SERPs.
The blackhat SEO world went crazy with link sellers coming out of the woodwork. PR obsessed site owners were paying hundreds of dollars for backlinks from sites with PRs of 5 or higher or renting backlinks for as much a $100 per month.
Private Blog Networks (PBNs) were springing up all over the place. PBNs are essentially a network of sites used for the purpose of passing “link juice” to a money site. A person would search for, and purchase expired domains that still had a high PR, throw some content on them, and create links to their money sites, thereby raising the money site’s PR and catapulting it upward in the SERPs. Selling links on PBNs was, and still is big business.
Google employs an army of engineers, many of whom are graduates of elite schools such as MIT, Berkeley, and Stanford, just to name a few. It didn’t take them long to realize what was going on in the way of search engine manipulation. Steps were taken to try to take the emphasis away from PageRank, including:
- Removing PageRank data from Webmaster Tools – This should have been a sign to webmasters that something was going on.
- Not adding PageRank to Chrome – If PageRank had a future, why did Google not include it in its own browser?
- Less frequent PR updates – In 2006, there were eight PR updates. In 2013, there were only two, February and December. The December 2013 update was the last one published.
- The de-indexing of PBNs – In September of 2014, Google went after many PBNs that were being used to manipulate their rankings. It sent out thousands of manual action notifications to those participating in these networks. Members of the blackhat community called it a “slaughter fest.” The PBNs were de-indexed and the money sites they linked to plummeted in the SERPs. It bears repeating that Google is not stupid. PBNs leave footprints that are not hard to track, and the mass de-indexing of September 2014 is proof of that.
By the end of 2014, having seen no PageRank update in a year, there was much speculation that PageRank was dead and no longer had any bearing on a site’s authority. Despite the warning signs that PR is no longer a viable metric of a site’s authority, the blackhatters are still out there pushing “high PR links” and apparently, the uninformed are still buying them despite the fact that, as a metric, PR is all but obsolete.
Life after PageRank
By now you should realize that PageRank is on the verge of being just a memory. Blackhat SEO is not the way to build a site that will garner goodwill from Google.
So, what do you do? The answer is simple: Address the needs of your visitors as best as you can.
Relevant Content That Promotes Engagement
Google’s mission is to return the results that are most relevant to what the user is searching for. People search Google for different reasons: information, entertainment, shopping, and problem-solving, just to name a few. Regardless of your site’s subject, your content must provide the searcher with good, fresh content relevant to what they are looking for.
You also want your content to move your visitors to engage with your site, whether by watching a video, looking at photos and reading descriptions of products you might be selling, participating in a survey, etc.
The more engaging your content is, the more time your visitor will spend on your site.
Solve a Problem
People turn to Google to find solutions to problems. The question you need to ask yourself is if your website solves a particular problem better than any other site. Remember, your visitor found you by searching for a solution to a problem they have. As soon as they hit your site they need to know where they are, what they can do there, and if you can solve their problem. If you don’t answer all three of these questions for them, they’re off to the next page in the results.
When your site provides the solution your visitor is looking for, their search is over. The more times this happens, the more Google trusts you as the authoritative website for the terms your visitors were searching.
Your Website Should Load Quickly
Relevant content that solves the user’s problem doesn’t do much good if your site is slow. Users are very quick to abandon a site that doesn’t load quickly. Here are some statistics.
- One in four potential visitors will leave a site that doesn’t load within four seconds
- 46 percent of users do not return to poorly performing websites
- Your content has five seconds in which to engage visitors before they leave
- 47 percent of users expect a page to load in two seconds or less
- 74 percent of mobile site visitors will leave if the site doesn’t load in five seconds or less
Your Pages Need To Be Mobile Friendly
Over a billion people access the web from mobile devices and over half of all web traffic is via mobile. Also, Google favors mobile friendliness in the search rankings and will penalize non-mobile friendly sites.
The demise of PageRank should come as no surprise to anyone. Hopefully, it will ring in a new era in which website owners put their efforts into what really matters: serving the web-searching public with good, content-rich sites that give users the web experience they expect and deserve.