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My question is, since the menu bar uses graphic navigation buttons, and therefore don't have any relevant anchor text, am I getting less of a page rank or SERPs boost then I would with a text link menu?
I did a check using the Google Toolbar and since the internal pages have a page rank of 5, they do show up in the list of backlinks. So I know that Google is crediting me for them, but would I get better "performance" out of a text link navigation menu?
You can easily go overboard with internal anchor text within a site, IMHO, and one easy way is to have alternate means of navigation using the identical anchor text. That can push it over the top very easily. This means to me right now that the alt attribute of linked graphics should be looked upon as *probably* counting the same under normal circumstances, for safety sake. No one is going to tell us for sure, but the evidence is mounting.
One related issue that concerns me is thousands of auto-generated "catalog" pages (some with dynamic URLs) on some sites that replicate internal anchor text and could really skew search results. I've kind of got a feeling that's being dealt with or if not now, will be. It's just an intuitive feeling backed up by seeing a couple that look like they fell for that reason, but it can't hurt to err on the side of caution.
One way it could be dealt with is if anchor text carried different weight on different kinds of pages. Just a thought. ;)
To address the original question:
since the menu bar uses graphic navigation buttons, and therefore don't have any relevant anchor text, am I getting less of a page rank or SERPs boost then I would with a text link menu?
There's no reason I can see why PR wouldn't be the same as long as they're normal a href static links (not JS), but for anchor text just use an appropriate alt attribute - which should be done anyway, for usability purposes. That way the visually impaired and/or those with graphical browsing turned off can still navigate the site.
PR as we've known it is a numerical value regardless of how the vote is cast. It isn't the same thing as anchor text counting for scoring. They're two different things.