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Mar 3, 2010

Google may be call pagerank something else

Google quietly got rid of PageRank in Webmaster Tools. Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Susan Moskwa had said, "We've been telling people for a long time that they shouldn't focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it's the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true. We removed it because we felt it was silly to tell people not to think about it, but then to show them the data, implying that they should look at it."

A lot of people wondered why Google would keep PageRank in the Google Toolbar, where it still sits to this day. Search enthusiast Barry Schwartz of Rusty Brick speculated that Google would not want to remove it because PageRank is "too much of their branding." After some words from Google's Director of Research, Peter Norvig today, however, I'm not so sure that's the case.

Note: Watch Norvig's keynote address here (or view our liveblog of the event), and our exclusive interviw with him here:

Norvig said at SMX today that PageRank is still one thing that is "overhyped," and that Google never felt that it was such a big factor. They have always looked at all available data, combining every available signal and tiring to figure out the best way to combine them.

Norvig also said that it may be time for some re-branding with regard to PageRank. There may be a different term in the pipeline. "There's a technical formula that's PageRank, which is the way of judging the links between pages, and that's just one component of how we rank the pages and you get your final search results. There's all these other things that come in, but they don't have a catchy name. So some people apply PageRank to mean all the components that give you the final ranking, and that's where we get confused. So probably we need some other term for that...We'll get some marketing guys on it."

I don't know how seriously the company is considering this, as Norvig seems to simply be speaking off the cuff, but given the company's repeated emphasis on a lack of emphasis on PageRank, it would not be surprising to see them change the name. However, the problem with that could be, that these same PR-obsessed webmasters would just become obsessed with the re-branded term.

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