This past Friday, April 15th 2016, Google killed off the PageRank score feed just like they said they would about a month ago. It doesn’t mean that PageRank is gone — far from it. Google still uses the score internally as a measurement and factor in natural search rankings. It’s just our access to PageRank that is no more. All the toolbars and extensions that pulled PageRank from Google’s feed will no longer work. The feed went dark on Friday and it will not be coming back.
Is this a dark day for SEO’s the world over? Have we lost a bright lampost on dark and windy road of SEO? Hardly. Instead, we offer a some thoughts and considerations on why Google’s removal of the PageRank feed is a cause of celebration.
#1 PageRank Brought Us Paid Link Networks
When Google first publicly revealed its PageRank system via the Google Search Bar for IE (and then Firefox) in 2000, it gave SEOs something they never had access to before. A measurable score, directly from Google.
Before you knew it, sites and SEOs were buying and selling links like hotcakes in an effort to move their PageRank score ever higher. This marketplace evolved into paid link networks. Google has since done a fairly decent, and well publicized job of taking them down (either through penalized PageRank score or removal from Google all together). Still, less-than-natural linking schemes still exist, and we all have PageRank to thank for their existance.
#2 PageRank Gave Us Link Spam
Much like the rise of paid link networks, PageRank is also largely reponsible for the rise of Link Spam. When SEO’s realized that PageRank authority could be easily transferred from site to site via links, all bets were off.
This resulted in SEOs planting links to sites everywhere they could in an effort to boost PageRank score. This included commment and forum threads on every blog, news site, and/or forum they could find.
Some more advanced SEOs even developed complex bots that could post several thousand comments (with links) per minute, across thousands of sites.
Again, Google eventually brought the smackdown to link spam, and has been largely successful in doing so. Still, it’s PageRank we have to thank for that bit of SEO history.
#3 PageRank Oversimplified SEO
More than paid links, more than link spam — the real reason shout “Huzzah!” at the death of the PageRank feed is that it needlessly and erroneously oversimplified SEO.
While Google always made clear that PageRank was only one factor of many, the fact that it was a numerical score directly from Google was too good for many to ignore. It became the end-all/be-all of SEO status for a while. If you weren’t familiar with myriad of other ranking factors, it became too enticing to boil everything down to that one number.
Your CMO asks how SEO is doing? Great, we jumped up a PageRank! It feels like it was almost custom-made for executive summaries. A number directors could fire over to their c-level execs as an email bullet point, summarizing an entire channel of marketing with one digit.
In the long run, the PageRank meter did a lot more harm than good. The brilliant Danny Sullivan over at Search Engine Land wrote an incredible piece last March on the history of the PageRank meter and the damage it has done over the years.
So long, PageRank, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.