They brought us Google. And PageRank. We forgive you the second one. Image by Getty Images via Daylife
Most people working in the online marketing world have known the truth about Google‘s infamous PageRank scoring for several years: it didn’t work, it wasn’t terribly accurate and attempting to classify the billions of pages on the web into 10 clusters was just plain silly.
PageRank was named after Larry Page, one of the two Google co-founders. The company included the score on its web toolbar so that someone surfing from one site to another could see that they had moved from a PageRank (PR) 4 location to a PR 3 location.
That meant nothing to anyone, of course, and PageRank grew more meaningless over time. It grew so meaningless that Google removed the metric from its Webmaster Tools section this week.
Googler Susan Moskwa posted about PageRank in an official Google forum Wednesday:
“We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it.”
What Susan didn’t unfortunately comment on was that Google’s toolbar that many non-marketing users have access to still includes PageRank. Those numbers haven’t matched up with “real” PageRank in years, and the marketing community has differentiated between the two for years by referring to the latter as “toolbar PR”.
PageRank is not a meaningful metric, and you should immediately stop using it in any context. If your marketing agency refers to PageRank as a metric, you should fire them just for being dunderheads who are out of touch with the marketplace.
This underscores a big issue. Just because you know a piece of data doesn’t mean that you have the context, training or skills to interpret that data. My doctor sent me an electronic medical recod on CD with all my tests from my last physical. Not having gone to medical school (sorry, Mom), I have no idea what the numbers mean, but I’m sure that some web site somewhere will convince me I can read the chart. For my sanity, I think I’ll let the medical folks worry about that data while I explain to them that they can stop worrying about PageRank.
Now if only Amazon would admit that Alexa’s data is easily manipulated garbage, we would could really start cleaning up.