Is TBPR a Cardboard Carrot?

Updated June 27, 2011

Doc Sheldon

Shaun Anderson’s Hobo-Web brought the news to my inbox this morning that Google had bestowed another Toolbar Pagerank update upon us. Thanks for that, Shaun… I can see we have to get up pretty early to beat you to anything.

Many of us realize that Toolbar PR (very aptly called Foolbar PR by some) is, at best, nearly useless, and at worst, well… worse than useless. Unfortunately, there seem to be a lot more that genuflect every time they see that green bar.

It might represent a snapshot of what a site’s actual pagerank was, at some point in time – perhaps two or three months prior. There’s an even-money chance, however, that it was determined by a separate algorithm, based upon totally different criteria. Nobody outside the GooglePlex really knows, so I suggest taking it for what it’s worth.


So a person might ponder, ‘why even bother?’ Why show us something that is essentially meaningless?

I think one possible answer might be this:

A relatively small percentage of Internet users are even aware of pagerank and what it means. So perhaps the target audience is that percentage that knows it means something, in terms of ranking their pages in the SERPs, but only because they read/saw/heard mention of it once. They have no concrete idea of what it really is, and equate TBPR to actual PR.

Actual pagerank is like a unicorn, woodland fairy or even a deity. Some certainly worship it as though it were a god. If a couple of prominent blogs were to offer the theory that ceremonial sacrifices could add three points to your site’s PR, we might experience a pronounced shortage of virgins. Surely there’s a better way to move them to the other side of the aisle?

Like those other myths (and FTR, a myth is not necessarily untrue), Pagerank may exist, and indeed, may possess seemingly magical powers, but nobody has every seen it, so it requires a certain leap of faith to believe in it.

Organized religion, for instance, is based entirely upon myth. The vast majority of humanity adheres to some religion, and if there are any that can boast hard evidence of their veracity, I’ve missed them.

Where am I going with this, you ask? My point is, organized religion and Google have something in common. They both tend to dangle carrots in our faces. Whether the supposed reward is enlightenment, 72 virgins, eternal bliss or page one rankings, it’s still a carrot.

Dangling a carrot

From the Badfinger album jacket

Except that in Google’s case, the carrot may be made of cardboard. They never let us see the actual carrot… just a cardboard likeness. More like a snapshot of a cardboard likeness.

So, that’s my theory: Google dangles TBPR in front of the donkeys to give them something to follow.



  1. I always thought it was a cardboard cookie.. Actually, that sounds good right about now.. and probably worth more than a tbpr update..

  2. Or even TWO tbpr updates. 😉

  3. I actually got up at 11am yesterday lol – spotted it right away and published lol – so you don’t need to get up that early next time 🙂

    I’ve had a Toolbar PR 1-7 at hobo, and now a Toolbar PR 4, so back to 2006 I think! Toolbar PR really doesn’t matter for me on Hobo – I just redirected a lot of urls on the site – so expected, as matt Cutts said to lose PR through a lot of redirects.

    Oh well 🙂 – toolbar PR is certainly not something I care abut at all these days. It’s all to do with traffic and converting keywords for me – oh, and links from ‘real’ websites.

    I have to say that now I have a PR 4 again tho lol 🙂

  4. Good to know, Shaun. At my age, I need all the sleep I can get. 😛

    This site’s homepage climbed from PR0 to PR3, and another from PR1 to PR3, which isn’t really noteworthy. What did catch my attention, though, is that it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a TBPR update substantially affect deeper pages.

    Well… back to chasing that pesky unicorn! Thanks for chiming in, Shaun… always a pleasure!

  5. “What did catch my attention, though, is that it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a TBPR update substantially affect deeper pages.”

    indeed – I havent see TBPR go that deep and consistent for perhaps a year or more…. internal PR has always been of more interest to me……

    Best. 🙂