Sam Harrelson

Does PageRank Still Matter?



Just in case you were wondering, Google’s Matt Cutts makes it official (on Twitter nonetheless):

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Twitter / Matt Cutts

Curious to see what your new PageRank is now? Here’s a nifty tool (of course, you can always go the toolbar route, but that takes away all the mystery and surprise).

Personally and professionally, PageRank is meaning less and less these days. Why?

1. Social networking sites (like Matt’s Twitter page) have taken on just as much authority as blogs yet these social profiles and pages fall outside the playing field of PageRank.

2. Sure, PageRank is important for SEO and PPC to some extent, but if you’re doing marketing work in the niches, PageRank becomes increasingly non-relevant the more niche you go. Someone, like myself, who loves and deals in antique books doesn’t really care if a blog on 19th Century German translations of Hebrew texts has a PR of 6.

The point is, PageRank is great if you’re dealing with keyword buys on large scale sites or blogs, but it’s not the ultimate determiner of a site’s authority.

3. PageRank has always been a standard for determining a site’s legitimacy for consumers, affiliate managers, bloggers and even Google itself. However, in the ongoing process of “web fracturing” (nice network science term), a metric built solely on the number of inbound links doesn’t scale.

4. Affiliate managers and advertisers have better tools to determine if a site is legit these days. PageRank is a part of that mix, but not the dominant part anymore.

5. Google itself doesn’t seem to always abide by PageRank only in its own SERP’s. Why should we rely on it solely as the metric of authority?

All in all, PageRank is sill a necessary part of any marketer’s daily life. However, the almost clinical obsession some people have over their PR number seems silly in a world where the determination of authority is increasingly based on intelligence and discernment rather than an algorithm.

One of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written was a March ’07 post on the rise of search motors to replace search engines:

My college students don’t use Google near as much as I do, or I would expect them to do. In fact, they don’t seem to use (or know how to use) many search engines at all.

They do know how to use Wikipedia, though. The idea of going to a specific “search engine” or “search site” in a few years will seem as stupid as dialing in to an AOL server to get on the internets. We’re going to be talking about “the good old Google days” soon enough.

Google is our generation’s AOL, I fear.

What young people seem to be realizing (and helping the rest of us realize) is that reliance and dogmatic faith in the preeminence of one search engine is not efficient or natural. Instead of relying on inefficient search engines, individuals doing search on the web are moving to search vehicles that rely on countless tiny motors.

What I realize now is that social networks are those motors. Facebook, Twitter, etc are the new search motors that run on fuels much more efficient (and better for the environment) than the fossil fuel of PageRank.

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Posted: 12.31.2008

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