PageRank: Get Over It

John Battelle posted a plea to Google today to increase the granularity of PageRank, which he calls “the unofficial, and official, and semi-official, arbiter of value on the web.” Alternatively, he proposes that Google “just go dark and don’t tell us anything.”

I have an another suggestion: stop worrying about PageRank. It’s not even clear how much Google cares about it anymore. Recently this blog’s PageRank has been even more volatile than the stock market, going up from 0 to 5 and back down to 3 over a period of a few weeks. I haven’t seen any correlation between PageRank and traffic, and I find that this blog often appears in the top search results for appropriate queries. It seems to me that PageRank only matters to the ego of the page’s author–and surely we can find other ways to inflate our egos.

I know that competition is human nature, and I’ll confess to grade grubbing in my early school years. But reducing all pages to a static authority score is literally one-dimensional. Even Google seems to have de-emphasized static authority in favor of query-dependent relevance.

A decade ago, PageRank was a revolutionary measure, a secret weapon against spammers who were gaming the traditional information retrieval measures that most search engines used to rank results. But the past ten years have reminded us that relevance has many facets. PageRank is still valuable as a static indicator. But, if anything, we should ask for it to be coarser-grained rather than finer-grained, since static authority is more useful a spam filter than as a total ordering on the billions of web pages.

In any case, it’s unseemly to grub for grades. Let’s show some dignity.

By Daniel Tunkelang

High-Class Consultant.