First – I actively monitor Grey google toolbars on internal pages on various sites. I love it when I see a new one :)
Having a Google Toolbar Grey bar, (pages that look, according to Google’s toolbar for your web browser, to have no Pagerank) while it may have no apparent detrimental affect to ranking the actual page in SERPS, *might* be an indication that page is not passing anchor text value or pagerank.
I’ve tested it on a couple of pages. I can’t find a grey bar page that i can determine passes anchor text value. The same pages appear to pass pagerank, but on closer inspection, this might be because of syndication to other sites. as I monitor the phenomenon, it’s interesting to see which pages pop up with Grey Toolbar values. The last one I saw (which appeared from nowhere) was a page with sloppy internal anchor text variation to the same page, low link equity and a possible slight dupe content issue.
But what is the meaning of the Google Grey bar? If it is not a ranking penalty, perhaps it’s a sign the page isn’t passing value to other external sites?
Some other notes:
- Typically pages that have relatively less links pointing to them, but well linked to pages can have a grey toolbar too
- Pages with no Toolbar PR do rank so they must have real PR – in most cases for ‘honest’ pages toolbar grey has no detrimental effect in rankings even for mildly competitive phrases
- Obviously pages that are nothing more than manipulation or engage in shady links somewhere, or have a severe duplicate content issue, might have grey bar and will probably not be in the Google SERPS
- Some pages don’t seem to pass anchor text value, some do (although this could be because of syndication issues by scraper sites and duped and reworked content)
- Pages with a toolbar grey may still apparently pass PR to other pages (I tested this specifically a couple of months ago) with one link to a new site from a greybar page I thought might have been a 3 or a 4 – and the site got a PR 2 I think (although again this could be syndication ripples ie links from other sites that’s republished this blog’s content).
- Common problems associated with Toolbar Gray which caused the page to dissapear from Google *sometimes* seemed to suffer from dupe content issues, and another typical example was pages with just links.
- Pages with low link trust that have different anchor text links to the same destination page
- Pages with links to irrelevant sites which Google *thinks* could be paid links (which are against Google terms of inclusion)
Results? It’s buggy thats for sure – and it’s probably meant to be. You cannot make any assumption about a page with Toolbar PR grey until you look at it, how it’s linked to within the site, who it links to, where it ranks and if it’s links are passing anchor text ranking value – so this isn’t a simple check.
Some pages did seem to pass value, but on closer inspection, I found these articles republished on other sites, so there’s a chance some of these links passed on the anchor text.
Theories – I think if you have a toolbar grey page,
- the page may be either brand new and Google does not know about it
- google is ignoring it because it has a problem with it (like too much dupe content),
- the page does not have enough trusted link equity,
- Google may have penalised it for something like too little unique content
- or doesn’t like what the page links to (a paid link?),
- how the linking is set up or
- it looks like a traditional links page (which Google doesn’t like)
Of course, it also could be a bug. It sure is glitchy!
What to do
- Check if the page ranks in Google for it’s title / main keywords – if it does, it’s not penalised – maybe it just isn’t passing anchor text (although that’s not to say every page with toolbar pr passes value).
- Get more links to the page in the internal navigation and in page and see if it’s a lack of trusted links problem.
- Examine who the page links to (a possibility but I see the same type of linking on pages with PR) – I surmise a page might need a certain level of trusted links
- Is the text totally unique? Rewrite it.
- Does this page look like a links page? Change it.
- Trying to do too much with your anchor text? Change it.
- If it’s a low quality page with little traffic anyways, sometimes I just 301 Redirect it to the most relevant page on the site
Finally. If you see a grey toolbar – check to see if there’s any issues I’ve highlighted above. Sometimes it looks like a glitch, sometimes not. If it ranks and you’re not bothered about spreading link equity to other sites, don’t worry about it (for now). Remember – not every grey bar links page pass no weight!
What if Google didn’t want to show you which pages where important? ;0