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If you insist on knowing then check their backlink profile.
Given what you said about the age of the directories you probably already have your answer about just how much Pagerank matters in the context of what you are seeing. In the context of what you are seeing the (toolbar) Pagerank pretty much shows itself to mean nothing - except to the knuckleheads and chuckleheads who go about trumpeting about their directory's Pagerank.
Thanks for your opinion on Pagerank, but you really don't address my question, which is how directories achieve high Pageranks.
"In the context of what you are seeing the (toolbar) Pagerank pretty much shows itself to mean nothing" - I don't know why you think this. Why is this context any different from any other context?
Quote directly from Google:
"PageRank reflects our view of the importance of web pages by considering more than 500 million variables and 2 billion terms. Pages that we believe are important pages receive a higher PageRank and are more likely to appear at the top of the search results."
So those directories with high Pageranks are, by definition, important pages to Google. Their backlink profiles are apparently acceptable to Google, otherwise Google wouldn't rank them so highly.
In other words, and I will be more explicit, if you don't know how to gain high pagerank for a website, then what you need is not a fish, but to learn how to fish.
backlink profiles are apparently acceptable to Google, otherwise Google wouldn't rank them so highly.
That statement is not correct. This is why I say you need to learn how to fish. You do not understand even the basics of Google. Your level of understanding doesn't even qualify you as a beginner at SEO. Go to the Google forum and read their Google FAQs [webmasterworld.com]. Read every single post in every single thread and at the end of that study if you can understand why your statement is not correct then maybe you will be on the road to doing interesting things. I say this because I am trying to help you, to show you how to become good at what you do.
I haven't presented myself as any kind of expert at SEO. SEO isn't my profession. I'm not trying to become an expert. I just have a simple question, which is how sites can obtain high PR so quickly. I guess it's slight of hand or trickery.
And I don't care what they say in those threads about how important PR (toolbar vs real, etc.)is or not because the perception is what counts in many cases more than the reality. Try to ask someone to buy ad space or trade links with a low PR site and see how far you get.
I can see how this sounds a bit condescending, but you should treat it as a motivating kick in the butt. FWIW, what martinibuster is suggesting is *exactly* what I did when I first got into link development. I read every post in the link dev. section going back years.
At the end I still didn't know how to do link development, but I knew what questions to ask and what to start trying.