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PageRank Secrets and the Google Toolbar May 25, 2010

Posted by Arlington SEO in Technical Articles.
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Now, many of you reading this have already heard about PageRank. You also know how you can use the Google Toolbar to view your (and other people’s) web page’s PageRank. (If not, you can download the Toolbar here. You also need to turn-on the PageRank feature, note that there are also some privacy implications for doing so)

But here are a few things that you may NOT know about PageRank and the Google Toolbar – secrets that can help you optimize your site in Google!

Here we go! –

#1) You know that value labeled “PageRank” that is displayed in the Google Toolbar? That is NOT really your actual PageRank!


Your actual PageRank is a precise value calculated and stored internally by Google. It is NOT that # you see on the Toolbar, but this secret, internal value which is what is actually used by Google to help determine your web site’s rankings in searches!

The value displayed on the Google Toolbar is only a rough approximation of your actual PageRank, re-calculated to fit on the Toolbar’s 0-10 scale.

#2) Compared to your actual PageRank, the real  values represented by the Google Toolbar PR  increase exponentially for each level. That is why each PageRank # is substantially harder to reach than the one below it. This is also why, when you try to estimate PageRank values using the PageRank formulas, the resulting numbers don’t seem to make any sense!

#3) The actual PageRank value is MUCH more precise that what is displayed on the Toolbar. And because the values in the Toolbar go up exponentially, a given PR number can represent a pretty wide range of actual PageRank values. This is what people mean when they are talking about things like “a high PR 4” vs. “a low PR 5”.

TIP: By looking at a site’s navigational structure, and how quickly the displayed PageRank values drop, it is often possible to tell if the site’s actual PageRank is in the middle, on the high end, or on the low end of the range covered by the displayed PageRank values.

#4) The PageRank values displayed by the Toolbar are stored in a separate database at Google than where your actual PageRank is saved. This Toolbar Displayed PR database is also updated infrequently (typically only a few times a year, but not on a standard schedule, it’s totally up to Google’s discretion when to update it next).

As a result, the PageRank displayed by the Google Toolbar LAGS BEHIND REALITY.

This is an important concept to grasp – the Google Toolbar does not show you the current PageRank, instead it displays a “snapshot” of what your PageRank was at the time of the last Toolbar database update.

#5) Due to these infrequent updates, the PageRank displayed by the Toolbar also tends to change in a sporadic and sometimes dramatic fashion, which can be the cause of much confusion among webmasters.

For example –

“What happened to cause my sudden huge drop (or jump) in PageRank?”

Reality: Oftentimes, there WAS no sudden change in your actual PageRank – the change was actually a gradual one over the last several months. You are simply seeing, all at once, the accumulated changes to your PageRank since the previous Toolbar database update happened!

The long periods between updates can also cause the opposite problem –

“I have been adding lots of quality inbound links the last few months, but no matter WHAT I do, my low PageRank STILL won’t budge!!!”

Reality: While Google may have already spotted many of your new inbound links (and your site may already be receiving credit from them – see below), the extra PageRank from these links will not be visible in the Toolbar, until after the next Toolbar database update happens!

#6) Your actual PageRank is updated much more frequently than the Toolbar PageRank is. As a result, the PageRank displayed by the Google Toolbar not only lags behind reality, it also lags behind the actual PageRank values that are currently being used by Google to help determine your site’s rankings in searches!

This fact is the cause of much confusion and misinformation, even among some professional SEOs.

Some common examples –

“How can a PR0 site come up above mine in a highly competitive search?!”

Reality: The site may have recently gotten some good links, but their current (higher) PageRank just isn’t showing-up in the Toolbar yet! (This situation can often occur when a new web site is involved)

“I added links from some high-PR sites a while back, and while my rankings improved, my PageRank didn’t go up at ALL! PageRank doesn’t care about good inbound links any more?”

Reality: The links did already increase their actual PageRank – the Google Toolbar Display just hasn’t caught-up with the new PageRank yet!

“I lost a link from a major web site last month, but I’m still showing the same PageRank as before, so apparently it didn’t hurt my PageRank that much!”

Reality: Actually, it DID cause a big drop in PageRank – the Google Toolbar just hasn’t updated to display their new, lower PR yet.

“My rankings recently nose-dived, but I KNOW it’s not my PageRank – it’s still the same as it was before – so something else must have caused it!”

Reality: Many countless hours have been wasted by folks trying to locate / fix non-existent SEO issues due to this common mistake! Their site did recently loose some links and PageRank, which was in fact the cause of the corresponding drop in their rankings. The Toolbar display just hadn’t caught-up with the change yet!

“My PageRank just went way down (or up), but my rankings didn’t change any – PageRank must not matter anymore!”

Reality: This is another very common misconception. The change to their actual PageRank (and any resultant changes in rankings) may have already happened MONTHS AGO. What they are actually seeing is just the Google Toolbar catching-up with reality.

#7) Coincidental events that *happen* to coincide in timing with a Google Toolbar database update can also often lead to erroneous conclusions, even among SEO professionals. For example –

“My PageRank just jumped up – but I haven’t added any new inbound links in months! In fact, the ONLY recent change to the web site was when I changed the color from blue to green early last week. So having a green web site must improve your PageRank!”

Now, before you all go turning your web sites green

Reality: That jump in displayed PageRank was actually the result of a decent inbound link they got 3 months ago! The Toolbar Database update at Google just happened to occur around the same time as an unrelated change to their own web site, which they then misinterpreted to be the cause of the increase.

Less ridiculous versions of the example above (along with some of the others listed) are, in fact, the source of many of the incorrect myths being circulated about PageRank today!

Well, that’s enough secrets for now!

We hope you found this article useful & informative. We plan on having more articles on PageRank & other interesting SEO topics in the future. Stay tuned!

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