Google recently confirmed that it is pulling PageRank from its toolbar. The announcement is the first of its kind since October 2014, when Google’s John Mueller publicly speculated that PageRank would not be updated again. As it turns out, he was right.
PageRank, the ultimate scorekeeper for the underground ‘link economy’, is officially dead. News sources point to the exponential growth of paid links and SEO tricks as having a major hand in the decision to shut down PageRank.
The Death of PR?
PageRank became accessible for web users in 2000 when it was added to the Google toolbar. While Google uses many other factors in ranking webpages, the PageRank score was an easily accessible way for site owners and link sellers to quickly “calculate” the value of a webpage and the resulting value of a link that could be placed on that page.
Pages with higher PageRank scores have been pelted with email pitches from so-called PR companies and linked to sellers ever since. These individuals and companies wanted sites with high PageRanks to link back to them, increasing their own PageRank and boosting them in search results. Paid links are the only way individuals can ensure well-ranked pages will link to their low-quality content.
The problem with this arrangement is the resulting content quality.
PageRank and Content Quality
When someone organically chooses to link to another article or webpage, chances are, it’s because it’s valuable information. When money enters the equation, however, site owners are tempted to place low-quality links in their blog posts and articles in exchange for fast cash.
While that might not seem especially problematic, as paid links increased, the general quality of linked content on the web began to fall.
Google didn’t like that, and the decision to shut down PageRank is expected to help remove the influence of paid links in search results.
This isn’t the first step Google has taken to fight back against paid links and the hijacking of PageRank for “black market” link selling–the last documented PageRank update took place in December 2013. Before that update, it had been 10 months since the last PageRank update. With Muellers’ announcement about the uncertainty of PageRank’s future in October 2014, the internet has just been waiting for the other shoe to drop.
As for the future, we will be watching to see how Google weighs inbound links as a factor in ranking search results. The web will certainly be different without PageRank, and we’re excited to see what the changes bring.
Are you surprised Google shut down PageRank? Did you expect it? We’d love to discuss it with you on our Twitter page (@conrecept).