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I've done a bunch of reading on this forum, and I gather that:
Gray = No PR
White = Zero PR
But I am still unclear about which is worse. "Zero" PR, or "No" PR? Please explain?
This is discouraging.
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How old are your pages?
How many links to your pages exist from pages which are already listed in Google?
If your pages have been on-line and have had links from sites that Google knows about for more than 2 months, then you should start worrying. If not, don't.
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A gray PR bar generally indicates that Google has not indexed a page. If the page isn't in Google it can't be found by searchers using Google, so yeah, a gray PR isn't good. On the other hand, it is where we all start out, so it's not fatal by any means.
A white PR bar indicates that a page is indexed, ie, Google knows about it and has it in their system, but either:
1 The page has insufficient incoming PR from either external or internal backlinks for it to register on the 1-10 scale. This isn't 'bad' as such, but the page will struggle on competitive keywords.
2 The page has a penalty. This is the bad one. Time to do some serious housecleaning, find a deity to pray to and/or develop a drinking problem.
The site has been around for a while, but under construction until quite recently. During this time, I deliberately did NOT publicize the site. (To this day, Google reports no backlinks.)
On my site, I put some links to outside sites with similar interests. One of these outside sites was running a script which publicly displayed the latest referrers-- an off-the-shelf toy for novice/amateur webmasters. I did not know about his script until one day I recieved... traffic?! And with this traffic came the Googlebot.
True, Google has not indexed the gray bar pages, but IIRC, the googlebot did crawl some of those pages-- several times.
Also, the white bar pages don't just "struggle on competitive keywords"; they don't come up at all. Google lists them only if I search for something in the url. Otherwise, they don't exist. Google would rather tell me that the search "didn't match any documents".
Anyway, maybe my question would be better stated as "which color might sometimes indicate a ban?" Because if its a gray bar page, I might need a new domain.
That said, I have another site that is only a couple of weeks old and it is still grey barred. But it now ranks No. 1, 3, 12 and 23 for my preferred keyword phrases. So I don't understand how PR relates to SERP at all.
One of these outside sites was running a script which publicly displayed the latest referrers-- an off-the-shelf toy for novice/amateur webmasters. I did not know about his script until one day I recieved... traffic?!
This is the exact reason why you were crawled by Googlebot. When Googlebot crawled the other site, they found your link in their referrer logs. The most likely reason you are not being crawled now is because you (and / or others) have not visited that other site via the link on your page and are no longer showing up in their referrer logs. Find some other Google-indexed sites to give you a hard coded link and you will keep getting crawled. Continue to build quality content pages and you'll get your site listed in Google.
It appears to me that the reason you have a white toolbar is low PR from being a new site and not from a penalty. As you have a non-commercial site, there is no incentive for you to spam the search engines with hidden text, hidden links, doorway pages, URL redirects or cloaking. I would suggest you read Google's Webmaster Guidelines [google.com] as a starter.