The Case for Google PageRank: Perception vs. EconomicsIn my previous article, Google PageRank: SEO Treasure or Fool’s Gold? What the Experts Say…I argued strongly against the importance of PageRank and believing in it as a reliable metric. Among the many compelling expert opinions that I presented to bolster my argument, this statement by Google itself made the most sense to me:

“Don’t bother thinking about it [PageRank]. We only update the PageRank displayed in Google Toolbar a few times a year; this is our respectful hint for you to worry less about PageRank, which is just one of over 200 signals that can affect how your site is crawled, indexed and ranked. PageRank is an easy metric to focus on, but just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s useful for you as a site owner. If you’re looking for metrics, we’d encourage you to check out Analytics, think about conversion rates, ROI (return on investment), relevancy, or other metrics that actually correlate to meaningful gains for your website or business.” (Source: Google Webmaster Central FAQ)

Perception is a Metric Too

I couldn’t agree more with Google. Analytics, conversion rates and return on investment are much more important metrics than PageRank. However, the undeniable fact remains, there are a lot of individuals who strongly advocate for PageRank. And in the aftermath of my article being published, I got a lot of interesting and compelling dissenting feedback – so compelling in fact, I decided to play devil’s advocate and write this follow up article strongly making the case for PageRank.

No, I haven’t changed my position on PageRank, but I realize there are always two sides to every story. And despite my strong personal opinion on the matter, it’s only fair that I give an equal hearing to the other side of the argument. That’s what reasonable people do. And while I defend my positions vigorously, I do consider myself a reasonable person.

There was one comment in particular that was the catalyst for me writing this article. In fact, the commenter made such a lucid and compelling argument, there was no way I could dismiss it. Here’s the brief but interesting conversation I had with a forum member who calls himself “oldbuddy” regarding my article:

oldbuddy: “I am a long way from an SEO expert, but I have had almost 11 years earning online under my belt, with seasons of success. I can tell you with no hesitation that I don’t care what Google Experts say. The antiquated 1-10 PR rating is still valuable to this day (in my opinion). There are THOUSANDS of people online that are extremely impressed by your PR rank and that in itself is reason enough for me to work on improving mine.” (Souce: Small Business Ideas Forum)

David Jackson: “People such as yourself who believe in PageRank argue adamantly for it. That’s why it’s such a hotly debated topic. But I agree with Google on this one. Analytics, conversion rates and ROI are much more important metrics.”

oldbuddy: “I am not arguing with that, all I am saying is there is more to R.O.I than meets the EYE. Perception is a metric too.”

“Perception is a metric too.” How profound is that statement? I couldn’t get those five words out of my head. And he’s absolutely right, of course. Perception IS indeed a metric. And unfair and ridiculous as it is, many uninformed individuals do judge your website by its PageRank.

Perception vs. Economics

While I was doing research for this article, I came across this interesting article titled PageRank – What is it and is it Really Important? written by SEO expert David Nicolosi:

“Joe user comes upon your site while searching a specific piece of information or product. He doesn’t find exactly what he wants but he finds your site pleasant to look at and finds some useful information. He then looks up at his Google toolbar and sees your site has a PageRank (PR) of 0.

Joe user is somewhat tech-savvy but not a hard-core techie and not someone that readily keeps up with technology, but he’s read enough Google marketing propaganda to know that the little green bar in his Google browser is telling him something about this site. It’s telling him “this site is not a popular site!”

Joe user decides not to bookmark the site based on his perception that it’s not popular. Instead he moves on to a competitors website. Joe user is probably in the minority of users and may not even have a clue what the PR number is really telling him. What he’s doing is perceiving it as measuring stick that tells him about a website’s quality and popularity.

Joe is a casualty of the “PageRank Effect” and a potential sale gone by the way side. The goal of any good website is to convert as many visitors into sales as possible. For that reason alone PageRank should be considered important.” (Source:

Here’s another interesting comment by someone who calls himself “The Londoneer” that gets right to the economics of the matter:

“Despite the fact that I rank well for certain search terms and have consistent traffic, recent advertisers I have approached have rebuffed me – because all they see is a PR 0 blog… Until advertisers find a fairer way to judge the worth of particular blogs then pagerank will continue to be important.” (Source: SiteProNews)

That’s an excellent point. And while it’s true some advertisers do judge the worth of a site by its PageRank, fortunately, for most advertisers, it’s still all about the traffic – as it should be.

In fact, while doing research for this article, I contacted several prominent advertisers and they revealed to me they check sites like Alexa and Compete for traffic data when trying to determine where to spend their advertise dollars – even though they know Alexa and Compete aren’t really all that accurate.

So, if you want to attract advertisers, incréase your traffic. If you do that, advertisers will find you – regardless of your site’s PageRank. Because for the advertisers I spoke to, traffic trumps PageRank.

By David Jackson (c) 2011