Steve’s Wrong: Pagerank is a Horrible Measure of Online Influence
Ian Lurie Oct 9 2008
Steve, Steve, Steve. Pagerank? The ‘ultimate measure’? Really?
I tried to resist the urge to link to his recent post, where he says that Pagerank is the ultimate measure of online influence. But that’s like trying to ignore your kid’s stinky diaper in the hopes your spouse will take care of it: It only stinks more and more. At some point, the poop’s gotta come out.
The pagerank you see doesn’t matter. It’s worthless. OK? Are we done?
Just in case we’re not, here’s why it doesn’t matter:
The Pagerank You See Is An Illusion
First, the pagerank you see in the Google Toolbar isn’t real. Real pagerank goes from zero to who-knows-how-high: Billions? Trillions? Who knows. But it sure doesn’t stop at 10.
What you see in the Google Toolbar is like a horribly inaccurate Richter scale. It’s an attempt to convert a number that can probably wrap around the earth (or at least your house) to a tiny scale.
The pagerank you see is an illusion.
All Sites at a Certain Pagerank Aren’t Equal
You could sit at a toolbar pagerank of, say, 4, while your real pagerank vaults from 1,000,000 to 1,400,000.
And, 2 sites that both have a toolbar pagerank of 4 could have vastly different real pagerank scores.
How exactly is pagerank a great measure of online influence?
We Don’t Really Know How It’s Calculated
Yes, we have a handy Wikipedia article that talks about the original pagerank formula. But Google’s added lots of other items to the formula, no doubt.
We don’t know what a site’s real pagerank score is. We can use the old formula to figure out a site’s old-style pagerank. All we have to do is find every link to the site, and every link to the sites that link to the site, and all the links that link to the links that link to the site. And so on.
And even if we kept our sanity at that point, we’d still be wrong.
Google Ain’t Telling
Google’s not going to tell us what our real pagerank is, either.
Google Isn’t Neutral
Oh, another thing: Trusting Google, or any other private corporation that earns a living by selling advertising, is insane. Crazy. Nuts.
Say your site gets a pagerank penalty. Yesterday, you had a pagerank of 6. Today it’s a 3. Your influence may be the same. But you pissed Google off, and they pissed back.
But your influence is still the same.
Again: How exactly is pagerank a good measure?
Find Another Model
If you really want to measure online influence, it’s going to require a more complex model. One that accounts for visits, pageviews, time on site, buzz web-wide and softer metrics.
Until then, I have to put ‘pagerank’ in the same category as ‘maverick’ and ‘bailout’. Terms that are utterly inaccurate, and make me want to rip out nosehairs so I have an excuse to cry.
If you’d like to hear me splutter with rage in person, please sign up for my 10/16 internet marketing webinar. It’s worth it, I swear.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More