What is Going on with Google PR and Backlinks?

With more and more noise on various forums from anxious webmasters I decided to take a look at the data available to me, and there were a few tell-tale observations that might help clear up this question.


    Here’s a small sample of what I found.

    1. On several of my own sites, I have some pages with zero page rank despite having links pointing to them from PR 5 pages on the same site. These pages are about 2-3 months old. Shouldn’t they have PR by this time?

    2. Most of these pages rank well despite their apparent zero PR.

    3. Doing searches on Google show up a lot of anomalies. Many top ranking pages have a zero PR

    For example, go to PRsearch.net

    Do a search for Bratz dolls.

    Below are the top 10 sites when I searched:

    #1 PR 6 Backlinks – 151
    #2 PR 7 Backlinks – 5
    #3 PR 0 Backlinks – 18
    #4 PR 4 Backlinks – 2
    #5 PR 0 Backlinks – 0
    #6 PR 0 Backlinks – 0
    #7 PR 0 Backlinks – 0
    #8 PR 0 Backlinks – 0
    #9 PR 6 Backlinks – 46
    #10 PR 0 Backlinks – 11

    4. Backlinks at Google don’t tally with known backlinks. This has been reported a lot in various publications recently. Google used to only show backlinks from PR 4 or higher pages, but it has been reported that backlinks from lower PR sites are showing and backlinks from some higher PR sites seem to be missing.

    Reading through these observations, it is clear that something is going on

    It might look at first glance that PR is either being ignored, or perhaps not being updated since lots of pages which should have PR don’t. I don’t think this is the case, and I will explain in a moment what I believe is going on. However, before we do that, let’s consider some of the other stuff listed above.

    Look at those top 10 results again.

    How can it be that 6 pages with a zero PR rank in the top 10 for a competitive term?

    Also, how can it be that some of those PR zero pages don’t have PR, yet they do have backlinks? Look at position 10. PR zero yet 11 backlinks reported by Google. Go look at those backlinks and they all have PR zero as well. So is Google then reporting backlinks from pages that are PR zero?

    It all seems very weird, yet I believe the answer to this is very simple. Google has not updated the PR in the Google Toolbar for some time, yet in its own database, PR is largely up to date. This means that pages that appear to have a zero PR may in fact have much higher PR and therefore rank better than might otherwise be expected.

    From a webmasters point of view, this is a real pain. Imagine putting up a site, adding a page to get some link partners, but not getting any PR on the links page for several months. You contact other webmasters for a link exchange, but the other webmasters ignore your request because you are PR 0!

    Could it be that Google has decided to update the Google Toolbar far less frequently, or not at all, so that webmasters cannot find out the true PR of pages in the index?

    It is possible, but if so, why would they do this?

    Google used to show only backlinks from pages with PR 4 or more, yet currently appears to show backlinks from pages with much less PR, even zero PR. Does this mean that Google has changed their policy on which pages they show as backlinks?

    Possibly, though doesn’t it make more sense that Google still only shows PR 4 pages as backlinks, but since PR on the toolbar has not been updated, we see these backlinks as significantly less PR than they actually are?

    For any search engine to return the most relevant results possible, those engines must try to stop webmasters using techniques that get their web pages better rankings. For Google, this includes manipulating PR.

    Google states this clearly in their Program Policies for webmasters using Adsense advertising on their sites.

    Read through the section “Site Content” and look at the last point in the bullet list. Google specifically mentions PR manipulation. If Google is applying these rules to Adsense advertising, does it not make sense that they also apply these rules in their algorithms?

    If Google is trying to:

    a) prevent reverse engineering of its algorithm, and b) prevent webmasters from using techniques that might get a webpage ranked higher than it deserves based on its content, then surely, not updating the PR on the toolbar is a good thing for Google.

    In doing so, it makes it very difficult:

    a) for webmasters to find out why top ranking pages rank so well, and b) for webmasters to get links from other webmasters (which is a way of manipulating PR and increasing rankings).

    I know Google wants to make their engine the best it possibly can be, and they should be applauded for that. It makes it easier for searchers to find things of relevance. I believe that the whole idea of Pagerank was based on the premise that quality sites would get links from other sites because of their quality, not because of artificial linking like link exchanges. Link exchanges have just gotten out of hand and made a mockery of the Pagerank idea.

    So what can you do about it? Well, my suggestion is the same as always. Add quality content to your sites. Other sites will naturally link to yours because your site offers value to their visitors. In addition, write some quality articles and submit them with your own resource box that links back to your site. Submit these to sites that reprint articles, and you will naturally grow your own backlinks and PR through quality content. Your rankings will improve, and Google should love your site for the value it adds to the internet.

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