What's good for Google is good for Yahoo. The service has launched a system to show the "Web Rank" popularity of pages viewed by those using its toolbar. That's similar to the Google Toolbar's long-standing PageRank meter -- and brings with it some of the same potential problems.
The Google Toolbar PageRank meter reflects how popular Google believes a page is based on the number and quality of links pointing at it. Sounds great -- but adding this meter was one of the worst things Google ever did.
PR Meter Madness
The PageRank meter has caused a frenzy among site owners who confuse themselves thinking that if they could only get their PR rating higher, they'll rank better. That neglects the fact that the content of a page, and the content of links pointing at a page, may trump the PR score when Google returns search results.
You can easily find pages with low PR scores outranking higher ones on Google, as I've often demonstrated in the past. A new PR ranking tool makes it even easier to now test this yourself. Try it and see how the Hard Rock Cafe gets in the top results for newport beach on Google with just a paltry PR1 score, to cite just one example.
Clearly, it's not all about PageRank. Nevertheless, some site owners will seek out links of any type in hopes of making their PR score rise -- sometimes causing harm along the way.
Google's even been involved in a lawsuit over PR values, and one arguably that might never have happened if it hadn't hung the golden ring of PR scores in front of the world via its toolbar.
What about the value of the PR meter to searchers? Honestly, I can't recall getting a non-search engine marketing person even knowing about this before I told them about it. The PR meter does have some value to searchers, as a way Google can indicate if it likes a page. But for the downsides the rankings have caused, I wouldn't be sad to see the meter disappear.
Rather than learn from Google's mistake, Yahoo has decided to have its own Web Rank scores shown in its Yahoo Companion toolbar.
I suppose it was inevitable. You can imagine that Yahoo would love to see people as obsessed with their WR values as they are with Google PR values. It would get more buzz going about Yahoo. But that buzz might not always be so good.
Officially, you can't download the toolbar with the Web Rank meter any longer, as the beta test has been closed.
Unofficially, using a link I found in a great thread at WebmasterWorld.com did manage to get the toolbar installed with the meter showing despite the beta test closure. Act soon, as this might not last.
While I can see the meter in my Yahoo toolbar, it's not actually showing any scores. Apparently, this can be a common problem. But never fear! Digital Point Solutions has a web-based WR checking tool you can use to generate a score if you lack the meter or find it isn't working.
Generating WR Scores
Where do the scores come from? Yahoo's help pages say the value is calculated by anonymously monitoring what people visit. So if many toolbar users visit particular sites, that might be a factor in helping the sites get a better Web Rank score.
But hold on! When I asked Yahoo earlier this month, I was told that the score is instead determined by Yahoo's search algorithm. That means visits to a site are not counted to create Web Rank. Instead, it's apparently link popularity based, as with Google's PageRank. Unfortunately, Yahoo hasn't yet corrected its help pages to reflect this.
If we're going to have Web Rank, I'd like to at least lobby for a more catchy name. PageRank is actually named after Google cofounder Larry Page. How about calling Yahoo's new metric JerryRank or FiloRank?
No doubt the recently released MSN Toolbar will eventually get its own meter, once MSN starts using its own search technology. What do you think -- GatesRank, MicrosoftRank or MSNRank?