Google PageRank, Meet Yahoo! Web Rank

Yahoo has launched a system to show the “Web Rank” popularity of pages viewed by those using its toolbar. It’s similar to Google Toolbar’s long-standing PageRank (PR) meter, and it brings with it some of the same potential problems.

The Google Toolbar PR meter reflects how popular Google believes a page is, based on the number and quality of links that point at it. Sounds great. But adding this meter was one of the worst things Google ever did.

PR Meter Madness

The PR meter caused a frenzy among site owners. They confused themselves with the belief if they could only get their PR rating higher, they’ll rank better. That neglects the fact page content, and the content of links that point at a page, may trump the PR score when Google returns search results.

Pages with low PR scores that outrank higher ones are easily found on Google, as I’ve demonstrated in the past. A new PR ranking tool makes it even easier to test this yourself. When I tried it, the Hard Rock Cafe got into Google’s top results for newport beach with a paltry PR score of 1.

Clearly, it’s not all about page rank. Nevertheless, some site owners seek links of any type in hopes of making their PR scores rise. Sometimes, this causes harm along the way.

Google’s even been involved in a lawsuit over PR values. Arguably, that may never have happened if Google hadn’t hung the golden PR score ring in front of the world via its toolbar.

Does the PR meter offer value to searchers? Honestly, I can’t recall a non-search engine marketer even knowing about it before I explained it. The PR meter does have some value to searchers as a way Google can indicate if it likes a page. But all the downsides these rankings have caused mean I wouldn’t be sad if the meter just disappeared.

Yahoo’s Version

Rather than learn from Google’s mistake, Yahoo decided to have its own Web Rank (WR) scores displayed in its Yahoo Companion toolbar.

Inevitable, I suppose. You can imagine Yahoo would love to see people as obsessed with WR values as with PR values. It would get more buzz going about the company. But the buzz may not always be so good.

Officially, you can’t download the toolbar with the WR meter any longer. The beta test has been closed.

Unofficially, using a link I found in a great thread, I did manage to get the toolbar installed with the meter showing, despite the beta test closure. Act soon — this may not last. (Click here for download.)

Though I can see the meter in my Yahoo toolbar, it’s not actually displaying any scores. Apparently, this is a common problem. 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, it may be a factor in helping those sites get a better WR score.

Hold on, though. When I asked Yahoo recently, I was told the score is instead determined by Yahoo’s search algorithm. That means visits to a site are not counted in WR creation. Instead, it appears to be link popularity based, as with Google’s PR. Unfortunately, Yahoo hasn’t yet corrected its help pages to reflect this.

JerryRank, Anyone?

If we must have WR, I’d like to at least lobby for a catchier 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?

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