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Has Google Killed Off Toolbar PageRank? And If Not, Should It?

We may have reached the end of an era. We haven’t seen anything official, but Google hasn’t been updating Toolbar PageRank, and hasn’t said that it is not killing it. In fact, earlier this year, the company hinted that a time could come that they would kill it. Now, there’s nothing but virtual tumbleweeds in PageRank land.

Google has not updated its Toolbar PageRank since early February, and that was the only time they’ve done so all year. It’s unlike Google to go so long without updating it, which is leading some to wonder if Google is no longer going to provide this information.

Barry Scwhartz at Search Engine Roundtable pointed this out after noticing some chatter about it in the WebmasterWorld forum.

Typically, Google will push an update to this data about every three or four months. Last year, there were four updates, including in February like this year. Last year, however, there were also updates in May and August. August isn’t over yet, of course, but they’ve already skipped May, and August is nearing its end. The last update of 2012 came in November.

Some people would be happy to see Toolbar PageRank go away. Google has discussed why the company has continued to let it exist. Here’s Matt Cutts talking about it in a video earlier this year, coincidentally (?) around the time of the last update.

“My rough answer is,” Cutts said. “There are a lot of SEOs and people in search who look at the PageRank toolbar, but there are a ton of regular users as well. You would be really surprised at how many just regular people have the Google Toolbar, and user PageRank as a way to figure out…how reputable at something…I know it seems kind of strange, but it also seems strange that nofollow is only a single digit percentage of links on the web. We get into our tunnel vision, and we sort of say, ‘Oh, well no one else uses the PageRank toolbar,’ but the fact is a lot of people do.”

“Now, one interesting twist is Chrome doesn’t really have a PageRank toolbar feature built in, and Internet Explorer 10, as I understand it, doesn’t allow toolbars or add-ins, or as Microsoft calls it, it provides an ‘add-in free experience,’ so if IE 10 becomes more popular, eventually it might be the case that the Google Toolbar is not as commonly used, and in that case, it might be the case that, it might be such that over time, maybe the PageRank feature is not used by as many people, and so maybe it will go away on its own or eventually we’ll reach the point where we say, ‘Okay, maintaining this is not worth the amount of work.’” Emphasis added.

Perhaps Google has now reached that point. They certainly reached it with Google Reader, and that had quite a few users. We’ve reached out to Google for comment, and will update if we hear back

Update: Google has had plenty of time to get back to us, and has apparently chosen not to. We also reached out to Matt Cutts directly, who has also chosen not to respond. Schwartz also said he was reaching out to the company, and has apparently not yet received a response either. Clearly, Google is just staying quiet on this one.

This wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that Google just quietly stopped updating information related to search. There for a while, as you may recall, Google was putting out monthly lists highlighting changes it had made to its algorithms. Eventually, they just started coming out more slowly, but at this point, it will be a year in October since Google has put out one of these lists. To my knowledge (despite my emails to the company), Google has not said why they stopped doing this. Initially, the lists were meant as a way for Google to be more transparent. It seems they decided to turn the transparency knob back a little.

It could very well be that Google simply hasn’t decided whether to continue on with PageRank updates, but based on Cutts’ comments from earlier this year, it seems inevitable that Toolbar PageRank is going away, or at the very least, becoming even less reliable as a measurement of Google’s view of a site, as the result of fewer updates.

This probably isn’t going to make people buying domains too thrilled, and people are already afraid of how Google views others’ sites in terms of links. They’re likely to be even more cautious about the domains they choose to buy these days. Perhaps Google simply recognizes this very fact, and doesn’t want people to think Toolbar PageRank should play a significant role in their domain-buying decisions.

Do you think Google should continue to update the Toolbar PageRank, or should it just go away? Let us know what you think.

About Chris Crum
Chris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.
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