Over the last few months, there was a school of thought developing amongst the internet marketing and search engine optimisation communities that PageRank was dead; toolbar PageRank, at least. It’s easy to see why people started to think that way – with Google quietly dropping the metric from their Webmaster Tools interface and the little green pixels in the gauges not moving for the better part of nine months combined with the fact that sites with a high PR could be trounced in rankings by those with lower readings, it genuinely did seem like it had finally gone away and we could all uninstall the indicators from our browsers.

Then on Thursday/ Friday 20th/21st of January 2011, depending on what timezone you were in, fresh from the announcement that Larry Page was taking the reins, Google decided to switch the game up and release a toolbar PageRank update. It was only minor and really doesn’t seem to have affected much of anything apart from how things look in toolbars, but it still made me growl when I found out that one of my sites still had no PR and that this one had dropped from zero to ‘Unranked’. Yeah, thanks a lot Google. As irrational as it was, it still bothered me a little, especially when I checked a few other sites that are pure, unadulterated spam and they didn’t drop any PR.

Here’s the thing: anyone in the know when it comes to SEO is aware that toolbar PageRank doesn’t really mean much of anything in the grand scheme of things. This site’s reading as ‘Unranked’, but I know it’s in Google’s index and although positions aren’t great due to the domain being new and a few off-page problems, I can actually find my posts in SERPS. My other site with a PR of zero is also in SERPS and is performing quite well, although that’s got a lot more links going to it. That says to me that Toolbar PageRank is really not an important factor in rankings. If it matters at all, it’s got a very minimal impact. So why do people still care?

The way I see it, PageRank is a metric that people can understand and use. Anyone can look at a browser plugin or online PR reader and see a gauge with some green pixels in it – to the layperson, the more a site’s got in the meter, the ‘better’ it must be, and though it was before my time in the SEO game, it probably was like that once upon a time. This simplicity is nice, it’s pleasant and can reassure you that your site’s going the right way if you see it increase. Clearly though, considering the way sites with low PR’s but good on and off-page SEO can perform in search, it’s really not an important factor in your rankings.

As annoying as it can be to look at the site you’ve slaved away at for months on end just not move in the toolbar (and believe me, there were seconds when I was actually quite annoyed), don’t be disheartened. As long as what you’re doing is done with Google’s Webmaster Guidelines in mind and you’re not breaking any rules to get where you want to be, forget about PageRank and worry about what really matters in search engine optimisation – getting those positions and using them to get paid.