Google Killed the PageRank Multiplier – What Does it Mean for SEO?

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I’ve gotten lots of questions from people about PageRank over the last few months, and wanted to set the record straight.
Back in October, 2009, it became widely understood that Google was killing off PR. What does that mean for the SEOs? The simple answer – It changes nothing!

Why Kill PageRank?

PageRank as a metric was too easy to falsify. All you had to do was stop linking externally to your site, or nofollow all external links, and your pagerank would pool.

Linking: The Currency of the Internet

So, it turns out that Google was incentivizing people to stop linking by dangling the chance of a higher PR over our heads, and SEOs acted accordingly. This was horrible for the web community. Linking is how Google finds new content to index, determines popular content to serve to searchers, and how writers get credit for their unique contributions. Disincentivizing linking on the Internet is like discouraging spending money in a financial economy. The currency of the Internet must roam free!

Reversing the Linking Disincentive

After having effectively rewarded PageRank hoarding for so long, Google seems to have reversed the trend. It would make sense to begin rewarding links to authoritative sources instead of penalizing. Many SEOs now tout the fact that they have seen results from a simple link to Wikipedia; whereas before, they did not link out.

So, They Killed PageRank. Does it Matter?

The truth is, PageRank as a number, or as a multiplier, didn’t change much when it got the kibosh. Let’s take a look at the math behind it. Super simplified, let’s say the ranking equation looks like this:

(PageRank)  x (# of links) x (authority of links) x (200 other factors) = Rank

PageRank as a multiplier may have been taken out of the equation, but the stuff that made up PageRank sure didn’t leave – namely the number & quality of links. Mathematically, since PR as a number was taken out for everyone, there were very few shifts in rank because of it.

Stopping Spammers

This seems to me to be a great way of stopping PR spammers. A few months previous to the PR announcement, Matt Cutts explained on his blog how PR sculpting would no longer work because Google would leave it up to their discretion whether to respect nofollows or not.

Cutting the multiplier for PR out of the equation leveled the entire playing field for everyone that wasn’t being greedy with their link juice. Good job, Google, on your smart decision to kill the PR multiplier!

The bottom line is: Don’t be worried! This is a change that sounds bigger than it really was.


Bob Rutledge

I did not hear that Google had dropped the penalty, but I could see it in the results of my sites (see for example) where I have begun using outgoing links to dot gov websites.

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