Monday, September 29, 2008

Google PR Toolbar Update

Yes, that`s right. It`s that time again!!! If you`ve noticed your PR fluctuating or if some of the sites linking to you have changed in PR it`s because Google is doing a PR update right now. Matt Cutts said they are "1/365th of the way there!" so, expect to see up`s and down`s until the dust settles.

As you are probably already aware, Google periodically updates it`s PR Toolbar. In the past these updates generally took place once every 3-6 months. Over the last year or two we have noticed Google updating the PR Toolbar even more frequently and for longer periods of time. We recently experienced a Toolbar update, at the end of which we updated our rented products with new pricing in accordance with what we believed was the updated PR. Unfortunately, even though the update seemed to be over, we continued to see a lot of sites change dramatically in PR. One day a PR 8 would go to a 5, only to come back up the next day to a 7. It`s obvious now that the updates will be happening more sporadically and changes can fluctuate for long periods of time (weeks, sometimes months). I personally think Google is moving towards a more sophisticated system which will allow them to update sites on the fly. PR today, gone tomorrow...

Overall Google has devalued Toolbar PR anyways. It used to be that the higher the Toolbar PR, the more SEO value that site can pass. That is no longer the case. And, just becasue the Toolbar says something, that doesn`t mean it`s your sites true PR.

I`ve seen a variety of things happening, such as:

Google takes some or all PR away on certain sites they think might be selling links to confuse buyers, but the pages still cache and the links still index.

Google leaves PR as is, but stops the site from being able to pass any PR.

Google only gives higher PR to sites in certain industries, or to branded names (you know Adobe, HP and such are buying links!!).

Higher PR is getting increasingly difficult to achieve- like Google is grading on a curve and only so many sites can be a 9, a few more an 8, more 7`s, etc. So, even if you have high PR now and you feel nothing has changed on your site, you`re PR can go down simply due to the "Google curve". If your in a popular online industry, too bad. You may never be able to achieve the higher PR`s, unless you knock someone out of that spot. It`s called on-line saturation! How relevant can a scale from 1-10 be when there are billions of sites ranking #8? Not very. Sorry people, but if 1 million turns into 5 million over the next year in your industry, you`ll be lucky to be a PR 3.

With so many discrepancies it`s become apparent Toolbar PR is a thing of the past. Instead, there are many other variables that you can use when determining the value of a site, for example:

How many backlinks that site has – specifically .gov and .edu links
How old the site is – what is the age of the domain?
The Compete and Alexa ranking
How many other OB links that site or page has
How many pages are indexed, how much unique content does the site have?
How the site is hosting the links (top, bottom, sidebar? contextually or stand alone? boxed together, under a "sponsored heading", near other links that aren`t relevant...)

The list goes on and on....

If you do see a dramatic decrease and you think it`s because of something you did (on page changes, a bunch of new links, etc.), the worst thing you can do is freak out and make a bunch of changes. This is exactly what Google is looking for when trying to determine whether a new link building trend (or whatever caused them to "red flag" your site in the first place) is natural or “paid”. If they are messing with you and trying to confused you by temporarily changing the PR on the toolbar, it`s only with the hope you`ll screw things up for yourself by taking down your links or making other changes to your site.

Unless your site loses rankings in the SERPS, don`t freak out (and even then, don`t freak out... but that`s a whole new blog post for another day). Who cares what your Toolbar PR is if you still have good organic placement? Isn`t the goal to get traffic to your site?

Bottom line:

Google DOES play games with sites to confuse people
Toolbar PR DOES NOT = organic placement
A decrease in PR DOES NOT = a penalty
If you suspect Google is playing games, play games too :-) Buy links that are difficult to flag as paid and RANK ON!

E-mail me of you have questions:
or, as always, comment away!

1 comment:

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