If you're involved in Internet Marketing, chances are, you have read the news about the recent updates Google has made to it's Toolbar PageRank number (this is the publicly available PageRank number). Much of the current discussion has been the loss of PageRank by some high-profile sites in articles like "Digg Favorites Slapped by Google" and "Google changing the PageRank Algorithm?"  There has also been a fair amount of speculation as to the cause of this PageRank loss for these popular (and in many cases, highly regarded) websites.

(For those of you who don't know what Google PageRank is, check out The Importance of Google PageRank.)

The most common speculation is that these sites lost PageRank because they were selling links, and that this is a "penalty" being imposed by Google rather than just a "normal" update of PageRank. I don't have a strong opinion (yet) as to whether this was indeed the cause, but I do have some facts related to this recent news. As it turns out, we have access to the Google PageRank data for over 139,000 websites.  This data was collected via our free SEO tool called Website Grader.  Website Grader looks at a number of factors about a website as part of its evaluation -- including Google PageRank.

So, here are some of the insights drawn from this database. Disclaimer: The following was derived from some quick database queries and should be used for amusement purposes only. I'm not going to try and defend the points below. You don't have to believe me.  Also, I'd suggest using some of the numbers shown as relative measures indicating trends -- not absolute numbers you'd hang your hat on.

What You Can Learn About PageRank From 139,000 Websites

1) Contrary to what some believe, this recent update did not just reduce PageRank for some number of websites. There were sites that have increased in PageRank as a result of the recent update. A quick scan showed at least a handful of sites with PR5 or higher than rose to PR6 or higher. (As you would expect, there were also improvements in PageRank for a lot of lower ranked sites as well).

2) Overall, the average PageRank (across all sites) seems to bounce around a little. If we ignore sites with PageRank 0, the average PageRank for the home page of websites submitted to Website Grader was around 4.59 in March 2007. This increased to about 4.77 in April 2007. Coincidentally, there was a Google PageRank update in that month. I always suspected that the April update was reasonably "liberal" in its allocation of PageRank, now the data seems to back it up. Note: Technically, PageRank is assigned to individual URLs (not websites). What we tracking is the PageRank of the home/default page of a website as that is what most people talk about as a measure of the overall weight of their website with search engines.

3) Currently, the average PageRank is about 4.22 in October 2007  (it was 4.16 in September 2007). So, it would seem to me that there has been a drift downward in PageRank overall since the peak back in April.

Dharmesh Shah contributed heavily to this article.  In fact, he might have even posted it himself if he were not locked in the basement writing code for HubSpot right now.  (To any law enforcement officials reading this, don't worry, he is not being held captive against his will.  He has a big smile on his face and is working on "really cool stuff".)

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Originally published Oct 25, 2007 11:54:00 AM, updated March 21 2013

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Google Updates