Google has confirmed that it’s removing Toolbar PageRank, so any tools you’re using showing this data will start to break over the coming weeks.
So what is PageRank? In short, it’s how Google measures what it sees as the most important pages. It analyses the number of links, which we can think of as votes of confidence in a page, as well as the pages that these votes come from. A high page rank doesn’t necessarily equate to being high up in the search results, as PageRank is just one of the factors that decides this. Over time, in fact the connection between this and actual performance and search has become increasingly disconnected.
There’s been indicators over the past few years that this major change might be happening. PageRank was removed from webmaster tools in 2009, because, in the words of Googler Susan Moskwa, Google tells webmasters “that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much”, therefore removing it from webmaster tools was a smart move which aimed to stop webmasters from obsessing over it.
What’s more, Toolbar PageRank was never a feature on Google Chrome, and was last updated in December 2013, a year that saw only two updates where in previous years there had been four. Googler John Mueller said in 2014 that Google “have no plans to do further updates”, seeming to suggest that PageRank was to be killed off.
It’s worth noting that behind the scenes PageRank isn’t really going anywhere – it’s updated on a daily basis for use by those who work at Google. For those who use PageRank, this change means that we may need to rely more heavily on other metrics, chiefly and Majestic SEO’s trust and citation flow or Moz’s useful, if incredibly flawed, domain authority.
Trust flow, scored out of 100, tells us how trustworthy a site is based on how closely related it is to a list of authoritative domains, such as the BBC or national newspapers. Citation flow, also scored out of 100, measures how influential a domain is based on how many links it has and how many links these linking sites have.
Moz’s Domain authority is another score out of 100 which predicts how a site will rank on search engines, showing which sites have the most powerful link profiles. A big issue with this score as things stand is that Moz.com have a very limited crawl budget, meaning that their interpretation of the web is often far away from the reality of how many links are actually out there.
Overall, this means that PageRank is going underground like many of the metrics that make up Googles algorithmic soup. As a positive, hopefully this move may over time take the focus away from scores, encouraging marketers to think of the bigger picture, rather than fixating their efforts on PageRank.