Surprise! Google Updates PageRank Just in Time for Christmas

Christmas has come early for webmasters eagerly waiting to see if PageRank would ever update again. Twitter is abuzz with webmasters who noticed PageRank was updated early this morning, for the first time since February 2013. It’s surprising to many, since Matt Cutts had said there were no plans for another 2013 PageRank update due to technical issues.

At Pubcon Las Vegas in October, Cutts said we hadn’t seen a recent PageRank update because the pipeline that pushes PageRank data from the internal Google servers to the toolbar broke. There were no plans to fix it, he said, at least not for the remainder of the year. However, it appears that they decided getting this information out to the public was useful enough that they fixed the problem.

It seems the majority of sites that are new since the February update are starting out with PR1 or PR2. However, sites that have already had PageRank in the neighborhood of PR4-PR6 didn’t see much in the way of PR improvement this time.

“We looked at hundreds of sites and 90 percent dropped,” says Dave Naylor of Bronco. “We’ve not seen many gain PageRank in big leaps this time. We saw PR6s drop to PR1s, but not many PR1s rise to a PR6.”

There is also a lot of speculation that this data is not that fresh, and that the data seems to be several months old. Since Google gets daily updates to their internal PageRank tool, it seems a bit mysterious that Google would push out stale data — unless there is a reason for it.

“My gut feeling is that the PageRank is from when the Google PageRank system broke, so it’s not new PageRank; it’s second hand PageRank from September-ish,” says Naylor.

Having a Google Page Rank update done in the few weeks leading up to Christmas (especially as it’s their first update since February) is also a bit unusual. With updated PageRank during a busy shopping season, it will definitely have an impact on those who have purchased links from high PR sites if those sites have seen a drop in PR.

It is also very important to remember that Google sees their PageRank update internally on a daily basis, and that is what impacts the algorithm, not the PageRank that is publicly seen by users through the Google toolbar or another similar tool. However, the perception of site quality, particularly when it comes to buying links or advertisements, still gets a lot of its weight from the current site’s PageRank in determining its value, even when that data is months old.

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