Well this is a surprise. It wasn’t too long ago that Matt Cutts, head of Google’s search spam, shared his thoughts that there was a strong possibility that we wouldn’t see a PageRank update. However, it appears there was such a PageRank update on the 6th of October with as much as 90% of websites seeing a drop in their PageRank value, at least according to Dave Naylor’s observations:
“We looked at hundreds of sites and 90 percent dropped,” says Dave Naylor of Bronco. “We’ve not seen many gain PageRank in big leaps this time. We saw PR6s drop to PR1s, but not many PR1s rise to a PR6.”
In case you weren’t aware, Google normally rolls out PageRank updates quarterly. However, we hadn’t seen an update prior to this one since February 4 of this year. According to Jennifer Slegg of SearchEngineWatch.com:
At Pubcon Las Vegas in October, Cutts said we hadn’t seen a recent PageRank update because the pipeline that pushes PageRank data from the internal Google servers to the toolbar broke. There were no plans to fix it, he said, at least not for the remainder of the year. However, it appears that they decided getting this information out to the public was useful enough that they fixed the problem.
With so many websites showing a drop in PageRank rather than a jump, it wasn’t hard to speculate that the data used to arrive at the current scores may have been erroneous. Matt Cutts admitted himself that the PR update was really more of an afterthought. According to Matt:
Team was fixing a different backend service and did a PR update along the way.
Many people feel that the data used may have been from around the time that the PageRank system broke, which would peg that information as being from around September.
There was a time when SEOs gave PageRank a lot of priority because it is an indicator of how many quality sites are linking to you. However, over the years, its perceived importance has been dwindling. Barry Schwartz of SERoundTable.com says:
Despite PageRank still being part of the algorithm, SEOs know that toolbar PageRank is often outdated and not that useful. In addition, there are many other factors part of the algorithm that may or may not be as important as PageRank.
And the Toolbar PageRank we see is different from the internal PageRank that Google itself uses. Google’s internal PageRank is assumed to be anywhere from only hours old to near-instantaneous. On the other hand, the Toolbar PageRank is a compression of data from Google’s internal PageRank over a period of time.
That the data used may have been months old and not as reflective of a site’s real PageRank as it usually is can be worrisome since PageRank is still used as an indicator of site quality, particularly when it comes to buying or selling advertisements. It certainly throws a curveball into website owners who were looking to sell their sites that have suddenly become devalued.
Did your site lose some of its PageRank or did it see a gain? If it jumped one or two spots, congratulations are in order, but if you’ve dropped down a level or two, then you might want to start focusing on naturally getting more high quality links from reputable sources. Try not to focus on it too much though as it is only one of possibly hundreds of ranking factors that can impact how well your site performs in the SERPs.