Senior SEO Consultant

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PageRank was once the currency dealt amongst professional SEOs in the pursuit of climbing one more rung of the ladder, has seen it’s reputation marred in recent years as ‘PR5+’ links sales people took to Fiverr and our inboxes to try and sell us link juice – long after the final update back in December 2013. To an extent I’ve even seen an heard reputable agency personal talk about Pagerank in 2015 like it was still ‘a thing’, it’s last update was early in December 2013, they even declared after this update not to expect another one ever.

Fast forward and it’s now March 2016, and Google have hit the final nail in already well buried Pagerank coffin, they’ve announced that they are removing the toolbar that enables people to view a site’s outdated PR score – and I for one could not be happier.

For far to long, vulnerable people have been spending money on Fiverr and been falling foul of people selling ‘high quality PR9 backlinks’ when in reality, they were nofollow links on site’s like Facebook or really spammy comment links.

My other bug bear that Fiverr fails to protect it’s users is another story, but now that Google has officially announced the PR is dead, they have got to take steps to protect vulnerable buyers who simply don’t know this and just want to try and improve their sites on small budgets – I mean, all services on Fiverr are legit, right?

This will also (hopefully) be the end to spammy emails from fake people trying to sell high PR links on blogs and other sites, the majority of which are actually free to post on anyway. Pagerank started off as something good, something that Google spoke about in press releases and research papers, it was the differentiating factor that made it a better, much more intelligent search engine that the already well established Yahoo and Lycos.

So after such a promising start, where did it all go wrong for Pagerank? The answer is in 2000, when they released a toolbar for IE, this made it really easy for users to search the net (on Google) without having to leave the page they were on – it also enabled people to view the PR score of pages that they were visiting.

This little green (or white bar – depending on how great the site you were on was) also gave you a numberical value when you hovered over it, the higher the number, the more important Googled deemed the site. For the average user, this probably didn’t mean a lot – and because a user had to go out of their way to enable it, it more than likely passed a good majority of them by.

However this number and little green bar caught the attention of a select group of people, the SEOs.

People tasked with search engine optimisation saw this toolbar as a God send, they were able to quantify their efforts and show any impact they had on how Google perceived how valuable their sites were. It also became a trap for many SEO professionals.

PR was not an indicator that a site would rank well for specific keywords, there were and still are a multitude of factors that determine how a page ranks and sites with a lower PR could easily outrank sites with a high score. However, this didn’t stop the obsession with the PR score and a market emerged of hungry SEO professionals wanting links and mentions on high scoring sites, and as demand soared – suppliers emerged. Google had intended for links to be the web’s way of ‘democratically’ up-voting sites that had value, but we found a way of f**king that up with money.

Google realising it’s mistake and the monster it had created and fought back. Notably it took action against a spam network known as Search King and penalised the site and other sites within the network, in some cases removing sites from Google SERPs altogether. Search King fought back, took Google to court, Goole won. This didn’t however set a precedent, sites continued to sell links and link networks moved underground and as one shut down, another opened. Predictably as these link networks went underground they became more and more spammy, leading to the birth of the NoFollow Tag.

The Toolbar became obsolete when Google launched it’s own browser allowing users to search from the address box – also Google never released a version for Chrome. Support for the Toolbar was dropped by Firefox in 2011 and then took 10 months in 2013 to make another update to it – the last update.

The sad, slow end…

Pagerank has been terminal since 2010, it’s removal from Search Console in 2009 and then from the Google Toolbar really set the tone. Internet Explorer itself is a depreciated browser, with few people using it still and even further using the Pagerank toolbar.

With Pagerank scores now finally being confined to to the annals of history means we can move on from seeing PR scores being touted in our inboxes and on Fiverr and in our inboxes. We can enjoy some peace and quiet all the sellers try and find something new to sell.

The link economy won’t go away as we know that links aid our ranking efforts, and new tools exist such as the Moz toolbar and scores such as Page Authority and Domain Authority. Google has come along way as well and now has much smarter algorithms that can penalise sites that use poor link building and black hat practices.

All that’s left to say…

RIP PAGERANK 1996 – 2016

Quantified a new world to many, created economies and markets, and drew the best and worst in marketers.

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