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Proposed: Google Should Stop Displaying Toolbar PR
tedster




msg:3416516
 7:23 am on Aug 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

This is part 1 of the discussion, and it is locked. Part 2, the active
thread, is here: [webmasterworld.com...]

Toolbar PR is not just a harmless toy or an entertainment.

Toolbar PageRank numbers can be 3 months out of date or more. Some "PR Updates" have been buggy enough to seriously misrepresent a page's real PR. But despite these openly discussed flaws, the toolbar "report" affects the web culture in many ways - and most of them are negative.

Matt Cutts has blogged that PR Updates are considered pretty much a non-event around Google. But when that "non-event" is also buggy (because Google sees it as unimportant?), then some advertisers will not pay fair value to a website for hosting their ads. That's not entertaining at all, and it's no longer a non-event.

In our previous threads about reporting paid links [webmasterworld.com] and the rel="nofollow" attribute [webmasterworld.com], members expressed their frustration with the way Google's green pixels have distorted the natural balances of the web.

Enough is enough. Can't the folks in Mountain View see that this situation is nowhere near honorable or "entertaining"? Since it seems that up-to-date and accurate PageRank reporting is an extremely unlikely step for Google to take, I think the time has come for them to stop reporting ANY green fairy dust at all. Keep it as part of the secret sauce, sure, but stop teasing the public at large with funny numbers.

As I see it, PR (PageRank) = PR (Public Relations), and that's the main reason that Google keeps Toolbar PR report around. Branding. Image. Mindshare.

What do you think? Could you live without TBPR (Toolbar PageRank)? Would not seeing it help the web as a whole, or hurt it?

[edited by: tedster at 7:57 pm (utc) on Aug. 14, 2007]

 

tedster




msg:3418319
 9:01 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google is not collecting which web pages I browse if I have the toolbar with the PR display turned off.

Let's be more complete here - it's not just the PageRank display that makes a difference, it's many of the "advanced" features.

While we don't generally collect information about the web pages our users visit, if users choose to enable advanced features of the Google Toolbar, Google may collect information about web pages that they are viewing in order to provide the Advanced Features. The advanced features of the Google Toolbar are PageRank, AutoLink, SpellCheck, and WordTranslator.

[google.com...]

In the Google Toolbar's Settings > Options > more, there's also a checkbox for "Help Google improve the toolbar - Send usage statistics to Google.

Also, the above is from Google's information about the Explorer Toolbar. The information for the Firefox Toolbar [google.com] also mentions the "Web History" features as requiring some information sharing.

texasville




msg:3418335
 9:21 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Point is, Alexa rank tells you but one thing.
Current trend of SEOs, Webmasters visiting your site.

Ours is top 3000.
Theirs was top 6nnn something.
Pure SEO stuff.
I congratulated and moved on.

Not that I usually reply, and not that we have a SINGLE exchanged link on that site. But this was so ridiculous I couldn't leave it unanswered.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Well..if you have that little ol Alexa toolbar installed..click on your site a few thousand times and watch your traffic rank grow and grow.

Oliver Henniges




msg:3418350
 9:46 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

In contrast to my earlier post, overnight I recalled an additional feature, which I'd like to see added to the toolbar:

Please show us the Brin-RankTM of each page.

> Branding. Image. Mindshare.

nickreynolds




msg:3418361
 10:05 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

I find it useful as a rough indicator.
I see it as a bit like the energy ratings we have here in the UK. Without knowing all the technical stuff, I know that a B rated product is probably better than D, but that this is only in certain aspects that are measured and there may be other aspects of the D rated product that would make it a better buy.
PS I know this analagy does have flaws!

beren




msg:3418364
 10:11 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Without a guide that restricts something, the market expands with demand. Literally millions of pages online are not significant targets for link selling now, but will be if the green bar went away.

Publishing PR doesn't restrict the market; it promotes the market. If the green bar went away, the value of sites would be flattened in the minds of potential buyers. Look at link brokers today: they usually mention the PR of the sites they are selling links from. High PR sites sell for more than low PR sites.

If the New York Stock Exchange stopped publishing stock prices and the companies on it stopped publishing dividends, it wouldn't cause the market to "expand with demand". On the contrary, it would substantially reduce the amount of stock trading and reduce investor confidence in the market. Indictors of value (whether PR or another gauge) help promote markets.

Google says they want to discourage link buying, but they have effectively created the industry by valuing links in their algorithm and by publishing the value of webpages through the toolbar PR. If Google wants to discourage the link industry, they should no longer publish PR. Doing so lets buyers and sellers of links have confidence in the link market.

I suspect Google is slow to update toolbar PR partly because they realize this.

Oliver Henniges




msg:3418370
 10:24 pm on Aug 9, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google says they want to discourage link buying, but they have effectively created the industry by valuing links in their algorithm and by publishing the value of webpages through the toolbar PR.

Lol. I just thought of the patents on phrase-indexing, which tedster recently discussed in another thread. Any phrase-brokers yet out there? Reminds me of Lefty, the Salesman from sesamestreet.

Just my ten cents for an "O";)

mvandemar




msg:3418430
 12:13 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Given that many of you aren't so fond of PR info in the toolbar

Adam, for me personally, before acting on this I'd like to see something backing up the concept of "many". Currently, as has been noted, the PageRank indicator is in fact optional. If people do not like it they can turn it off. So far there are about 60 people participating in this thread, and as far as I can tell most of them seem to like having it there.

What about doing a widgety style poll on one of the Google blogs? Be good link bait*. :D

-Michael

* Plus would allow those who don't frequent WebmasterWorld a chance to vote.

steveb




msg:3418454
 12:47 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

"Publishing PR doesn't restrict the market; it promotes the market."

Obviously backward and you prove it in your next sentence.

"If the green bar went away, the value of sites would be flattened in the minds of potential buyers."

Precisely. Instead of a smallish niche of higher PR sites, linkbuyers would no longer have the rough guide of the toolbar and would only be able to judge from link volume info, and again, it is far easier to get a volume of links than toolbar PR.

If the bar goes away, the universe of link sellers increase at least ten fold. I'm not sure what you are resisting about this, but it is a pure slam dunk.

Removing the toolbar display won't make people forget that link power is the key ingredient in ranking. They will still want to get link power, and without the restriction of the toolbar, far more sites will be able to promote themselves as link sellers.

You may be confusing two concepts... link selling prices may go down, but volume of link sellers and amount of link buying will go through the roof. Oversimplified, essentially PR1 and PR0 pages can't sell links today because of the toolbar. Without the toolbar, they can. Nothing else changes much, except perhaps prices go down, which of course will further increase link buying.

Aside from general fear of penalties, the only thing restricting link buying now is the toolbar.

Whitey




msg:3418473
 1:28 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Adam said : Still, a lot of folks find the PR information useful; it provides a great incentive to try out our toolbar and explore its other features as well.

Who are folks? Webmasters or Users? Users have no idea mostly, and webmasters are saying it's probably not to be relied on. - just me reflecting the perceptions out here.

Given that many of you aren't so fond of PR info in the toolbar, I'd love to know what feature you [i]would like to see.

That's the catch - from my interpretation of the sentiment here we are wanting criteria that allows a metric to be applied to the importance of a page, simply as part of the process of competing in rankings.

Adam has previously said: In other words, this isn't the way we communicate that your site is violating our guidelines (unlike our Webmaster Tools, where Webmasters of penalized sites can often find a warning/status message). [webmasterworld.com...]

So ..........

Mandatory criteria:
- Would have to provide actionable info for webmasters
- Would need to be useful and interesting for the ~99.9% of users who aren't webmasters

I find this difficult to break down and answer, since it involves Google's secret soup for anything relevant to a webmaster. Perhaps an overall "Trust Rank" would be a better term to use, reflecting the page's quality in terms of content , relevance, age, referal [ links ] and on page user behaviour.

For me , the PR Toolbar provides me with a sense of the relative importance and page strength , but with so many doubts around I'd hardly trust it, or take it as "up to date" .

[edited by: Whitey at 1:39 am (utc) on Aug. 10, 2007]

Adam_Lasnik




msg:3418483
 1:53 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whew... okay, read through all the recent posts.

A few thoughts...

First, we're unlikely to increase the rate at which we update PR on the toolbar... we don't want folks scrambling, say, daily to check all their pages in the toolbar.

europeforvisitors: good point on serving the majority of (non-webmaster) folks. To that end, I could see putting more emphasis on Webmaster Tools offerings... but I've still appreciated seeing WebmasterWorld'ers ideas of stuff we could add to the toolbar.

The Contractor: thanks for the smile re: your entertaining emoticon'ish enhancement to the TBPR.

Pontifex: the idea of an extra page as you've described is something I hadn't thought of. Cool :)

And a couple other thoughts:
- No information is sent back to Google unless advanced features are turned on.
- The toolbar offers a ton more than just web search and a PR number. If you haven't tried the toolbar lately, give it a look at [toolbar.google.com ] :) (I installed it on my Firefox even though I typically use the upper-right box for searching)

steveb




msg:3418506
 2:21 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

"we don't want folks scrambling, say, daily to check all their pages in the toolbar."

Why? What do you care? It's these sort of statements that alienate webmasters, Adam.

You guys broke the PR display, and don't update it at a rate that would be more accurate and useful to webmasters. that's fine, you can do what you want, but obviously updating it daily and accurately would be greatly in webmasters interest.

If you can't do it, fine. If you don't want to do it, fine. But we don't care what you don't want us spending our lives "scrambling" to do. Have kids, or take over a Latin American country if that level of nannyism appeals to you.

whitenight




msg:3418556
 3:52 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

we don't want folks scrambling, say, daily to check all their pages in the toolbar.

Why? What do you care? It's these sort of statements that alienate webmasters, Adam.

I have to agree with Steve B.

After the rel=nofollow blow-up, I would think Goog would go easy on these types of statements.

And certainly, many webmasters check their rankings several times a day, so that logic doesn't wash.

But more to point, "daily to check" is of course taking it too literally. I would think most webmasters would be happy if the 3 month updates were fully implemented....

If it could be on a more frequently updated schedule - Great!

But lately the 3 month updates are woefully incomplete and therefore, useless, even for "entertainment purposes".

jomaxx




msg:3418625
 5:28 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why? What do you care?

This would be my slogan for the entire thread. If anyone doesn't care to see it or use it, it's the easiest thing in the world to turn the toolbar off. But what this thread seems to be about is preventing ANYONE from having access to this information and stopping them from caring about it. Again, what do you care what others think or do?

Besides, as MartiniBuster commented early on in the thread, if all the other webmasters are hypnotized by a shiny green bar, surely that gives YOU a competitive advantage. Don't complain about it; leverage it.

tedster




msg:3418669
 6:40 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Rough guess - 95% of the people who know that PageRank exists are misguided or confused about the details of PR to some significant degree.

It's true that anyone who is is really clued in can limit their exposure to toolbar PR, and also that they can leverage their knowledge to a competitive advantage - those points are very well made. But it's also true that a good number of online business owners THINK they have knowledge and make distorted decisions based on their misconceptions.

Just look at how many people show up at forums, upset (or sometimes rejoicing) about TBPR changes that have not impacted their rankings or traffic one bit. This general "field effect" of PR confusion may not be exactly "evil" (it was never Google's intention, I'd say) but it's also pretty far from benign.

Right now, I'd like to see more accuracy in the export of PR values to the toolbar. Home pages that go from PR6 to PR0 and stay there for 3 months are not a happy thing - even if their rankings and traffic do not suffer.

CainIV




msg:3418685
 6:57 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

First, we're unlikely to increase the rate at which we update PR on the toolbar... we don't want folks scrambling, say, daily to check all their pages in the toolbar.

Then there is no inherent value from your standpoint in the tool anymore, seeing as it in no way reflects any current measurement of any website.

Asking us how the tool might be more useful and then telling us you would never consider making it accurate and useful by updating it correctly simply confirms my first impressions - ditch the tool and let link sellers and buyers do what they do.

Whitey




msg:3418713
 8:10 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'd like to see more accuracy in the export of PR values to the toolbar. Home pages that go from PR6 to PR0 and stay there for 3 months are not a happy thing - even if their rankings and traffic do not suffer.

I think this would be important - if Google places any value in the consumer presentation of it's toolbar and to help webmaster / siteowners not suffer panic attacks.

However, I'm picking up that we're not going to get much joy in using it as a future barometer of site/URL health for webmasters monitoring other sites.

Google seems to be basically reducing ther intelligence for competitive site comparisons, that we once had, with things like complete backlinks and PR. It is more focused on helping webmasters internally manage and comply with their own sites to Google's guidelines through Google Webmaster Tools.

centime




msg:3418761
 10:19 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Google is clearly the most influential firm on the web, an such influence an power surely carries weight.

In most industries, Google might be obliged to place a very visible notice, that could not be missed, that was very prominent

Explaining that:

TBPR is not live

TBPR is often up to 6 mths out of date

TBPR is not used by google for ranking purposes

Without these disclaimers, prominently displayed, is Google justified in providing for public use an inaccurate tool with such a large impact on other businesses?

For a lot of people, accurate representation of facts is key

Casual users, and even extremely experienced webmasters who should know better consistently misunderstand the TBPR completely, just reading this thread and many others should show this.

Anyway, thanks Adam Lasnik for listening, its admirable an a good sign.

I am keen on Pontifex idea of a details page
I am keen on weekly updates
I am keen on accuracy

[edited by: tedster at 6:51 pm (utc) on Aug. 10, 2007]
[edit reason] by user request [/edit]

luvdavy




msg:3418764
 10:24 am on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

If you are taking a head count, I vote to keep the page-rank indicator no matter what. I'd love to have it current all the time, but even if it's not, it tells me whether a page on the internet is old and established, or brand new or spam. I may discount a few sites that are better than what I judge, but I'd rather do that than end up buying something online from from a fly-by-night that takes my credit card and runs.

It certainly helps when you need to see your competition for placement as well. If my PR goes down, I might be disappointed, but as long as I understand the concept, I don't freak out either.

Please, PLEASE don't take it away!

Jan

europeforvisitors




msg:3418903
 2:40 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

For a lot of people, accurate representation of facts is key

On the other hand, there may be some value in giving foolish people a rope to hang themselves with, just to keep evolution moving along.

Quadrille




msg:3418921
 3:02 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

If Google keep it - and despite their respect for WebmasterWorld, they will - I do hope they will develop it, and provide a prominent disclaimer.

There's several quite reasonable 'webmaster' arguments above for retaining it, but no-one has attempted to deny that the LGB is widely misunderstood by the public at large, and very few have argued the point that the LGB is widely used - deliberately - to mislead and obfuscate, thus helping both Google and honest SEOs to get a bad name.

One of these years - :) - the popular press will run a news story exposing Google's role in 'conning' the public; yet another bit of bad publicity that Google could so easily avoid.

Though I notice that their agent here is avoiding that issue very effectively, despite several people raising it. And I'll bet $1.00 he continues to do so ;)

Silly, really; this thread is a matter of record, and so is his presence and confession to reading it!

luvdavy




msg:3418957
 3:44 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I'm in the real estate seo industry, and I don't really agree with the fact that the public misunderstands the page rank tool. Most of the true "public" is completely unaware of its existence from what I've seen.

Even the majority of the real estate and mortgage agents that contact me with questions or wanting help do not know anything about it. I started talking to a mortgage lady in California yesterday about her site.
I mentioned the toolbar, and she said, "I'm glad you brought that up. I asked this other SEO company I talked to about it, and they acted like it was not anything I should be concerned with, and didn't want to talk about it at all."

Now I thought that was strange. I take on very few new customers because I work full time for 2 already. But I do dispense alot of very basic SEO tips and get emails constantly from agents. I ALWAYS advise them to get the Google toolbar, and explain to them a simplified explanation of pagerank and how it will help them in their efforts with linking and judging their competition.

Maybe it's just the industry. But the only people I see sweating the pagerank process are those of us in the industry, and the ones who read and try to apply it to their own sites.

It's not the be-all and end-all, but certainly still important...and I wouldn't want to lose the tool.

Jan

netmeg




msg:3419069
 5:23 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I guess my bottom line is, in the grand scheme of prioritizing things that I wish Google was working on (or fixing), the TBPR is more than halfway down the list. Hard for me to believe it even generated six or whatever pages of discussion on it.

whitenight




msg:3419126
 6:05 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

in the grand scheme of prioritizing things that I wish Google was working on (or fixing), the TBPR is more than halfway down the list.

One would hope a billion dollar organization could prioritize several things at once...

Instead of waiting for some quality lawsuits to come along or an entire group of European countries starts threatening them in some form.

But methinks a certain arrogance at the Plex will put this on the back burner until
the negative consequences suggest change
OR
They can figure out a way to monetize it. (then you'll see it updated hourly) :snicker:

randle




msg:3419133
 6:15 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Hard for me to believe it even generated six or whatever pages of discussion on it.

Itís understandable to me. Asking them to get rid of it would just be an exercise in biting off your nose to spite your face; anything is better than nothing. It just grates people the wrong way that the information is purposely distorted (worse than just old). Google could make it pure as the driven snow at very frequent intervals if they wanted to. Itís a concerted program of dis-information to keep people off balance. My money says if they were just a lot more upfront about this it wouldnít bother people as much.

PageRank is an important signal and remains one of many effective measures of quality

No doubt about it, and we all sure we wish we knew what the real PR of every site was, every day; but we donít, the only people who can tell us this is Google and their not saying through the tool bar I use.

They can figure out a way to monetize it. (then you'll see it updated hourly)

How many webmasters would try and be the first guy in line to pay for totally accurate PR info. I know I would. PR is an extremely interesting barometer of a site and Google knows that better than anyone.

I certainly donít blame Google for the program of disinformation. Every day, they think about ways to keep the playing field level. In fairness to them, they used to give more than any of us had the right to ask for. Recall the old days; back link update, PR update, Google dance; it was like reading a road map to climb the serpís for cripes sake.

beren




msg:3419159
 6:44 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

waiting for some quality lawsuits to come along or an entire group of European countries starts threatening them in some form.

Lawsuits on what basis? That they donít give out PR information? How would that be considered an offense by any court in any country?

In fairness to them, they used to give more than any of us had the right to ask for. Recall the old days; back link update, PR update, Google dance;

Yep. We got spoiled with the info they gave us. People got used to it and expected it was part of the game and that they were entitled to this info.

Adam_Lasnik




msg:3419165
 6:48 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

> Every day, they think about ways to keep the playing field level.

Bingo.

We want to provide more info that is actionable by webmasters dedicated to sharing quality information and tools on the web. At the same time, we aim to make life more difficult for those who seek to manipulate results and deceive users. It's admittedly a challenging balancing act.

At the end of the day, I personally wish that more webmasters focused on the (online) things that matter:
- Quality traffic
- User experience
- Conversions (signups, purchases, whatever)

All of that can be discerned far more efficiently with our Webmaster Tools and robust broader analytics products (including but not limited to our own, IMHO). Whether a page is PR7 or PR3 shouldn't play such a major role in the development, much less goals, of web sites. Either the page is attracting the right folks, making them happy, and getting them to learn/do good stuff, or it's not, and PageRank isn't going to tell you that.

That's why I noted that it's an *important* signal, but only one of many in the webmaster's arsenal.

whitenight




msg:3419174
 7:02 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

We want to provide more info that is actionable by webmasters

Ok, so wherein lies the logic of producing faulty PR values (which are already inherently misleading) every 3 months?!

You created the monster, don't get upset when people expect the monster to perform it's juggling act at least to some degree of entertainment. (and not drop the balls every other try)

I could care less if it's removed, but randomly putting up fake values of fake values is irresponsible.
(for beren - and misleading and unlawful)

Where's the easily seen disclaimer that centime suggested?


At the end of the day, I personally wish that more webmasters focused on the (online) things that matter:
- Quality traffic
- User experience
- Conversions (signups, purchases, whatever)

Be careful what you ask for.

I agree wholeheartedly, which is why I recommend to all my clients to remove Adsense immediately from their sites.

The most poorly performing affiliate program around. With abuse condoned by the affiliate manager, no less.

[edited by: whitenight at 7:14 pm (utc) on Aug. 10, 2007]

Quadrille




msg:3419187
 7:14 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Ok, so wherein lies the logic of producing faulty PR values (which are already inherently misleading) every 3 months?! You created the monster, don't get upset when people expect the monster to perform it's juggling act at least to some degree of entertainment. I could care less if it's removed, but randomly putting up fake values of fake values is irresponsible.

whitenight: That's another bingo! moment.

Crikey. I agreed with whitenight ... I need a drink ;)

Halfdeck




msg:3419211
 7:33 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I use the toolbar when I buy stuff off the web; I need it...:)

Halfdeck




msg:3419220
 7:42 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

Adam, for some people the TBPR is actionable...it makes webmasters go out and buy more links.

Many people mistakenly see Google as the means to gain visibility - so they focus all their manipulation efforts on ranking high for as many terms as they can any means necessary.

It would be more realistic, at least from a white hat perspective, to look for other venues to gain visibility (e.g. networking with people in your niche and drilling your name into their heads). Once you gain visibility, Google results will reflect that fact.

Vanessa Fox didn't "optimize" for her site name or for her own name. She didn't have to. She already had the visibility - that fact is reflected in her high ranking for both terms and her TBPR 7 gained over one Toolbar update.

People who obsess over TBPR are people who often have nothing to offer and are invisible on the web.

[edited by: Halfdeck at 7:43 pm (utc) on Aug. 10, 2007]

potentialgeek




msg:3419238
 8:07 pm on Aug 10, 2007 (gmt 0)

I can see how some would use it for determining advertising value. I personally use it mostly to see if a page has any rank (other sites) and relative rank (my sites' pages).

I think Google started to mess it up when it suddenly changed its 'currency,' lowering it for everyone (almost). It's been downhill from there. I don't think it should have been changed at all.

Google now treats it like some kind of internal (intra-company) thing its geeks can play around with, change whenever, or not at all, and nobody outside the firm uses or really cares about. A little pet project they'll get to do if they get bored or run out of things to do.

Frankly, it's one of the most odd things about the company's web services. What else is this buggy, inconsistent, unstable, and unfinished?

It's certainly not the way to build confidence before Google launches its own browser to compete with IE.

p/g

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