It’s all over the blogosphere (a word that I hate but hey, it works here) that PageRank has decreased for many sites recently, possibly due to them being penalized for buying links. Google isn’t confirming the reason right now. Normally we try not to comment on items that have been commented upon endlessly, but I’ll make an exception here since a very sweet reader asked for my opinion and, when informed that I wasn’t planning to write about it since everyone else was doing so already, he said that he wasn’t planning on reading anyone else’s opinion. He wanted mine, so here you go…and thanks Gene. You’ve obviously received the bribery check.
Here’s my crackpot theory: Google drops the PageRank for enough sites that it becomes noteworthy, bloggers take to the net and discuss/fume/rant for a bit, everyone speculates that it’s a paid link witchhunt, and fear of Google is renewed. Paid links become the next really dirty thing in SEO. Sites lose some of their “authority” and rush to spend more money in paid (Google) ads just to make a preemptive strike towards any potential loss of rankings and/or traffic. Google, as always, wins.
Google is a seriously cocky enterprise. Yes, they probably do deserve to be, but cockiness is always an ugly trait that usually gets worse and only very, very rarely gets better until something extremely humbling happens. Since we don’t really have a major contender in the engine world right now, I don’t expect the humbling to happen any time soon. So, with all of us freaking out about PageRank decreases, they can easily see that, once again, they have successfully scared the bejaysus out of all of us. This is bad because it makes them strut around like a mean little rooster. Note that, in the spirit of maturity (newfound, no less), I am not making any cock jokes. Not right now, at least.
I do believe that Google wants to prevent what they view as the buying and selling of authority, just as I do believe that they want to make the user experience the best possible. My issue with them is their motive for all of this…I certainly do not believe that they are simply seriously trying to make the net a better place just because they’re all decent people and it’s the right thing to do. If the recent PageRank decrease is, in fact, an effort to crack down on sites that buy links, why aren’t they coming right out and saying that? Because it imposes fear on people who might want to somehow try and work the system that THEY created. They’re not really big fans of exploitation you know. They built an algorithm based on promoting sites that had great inbound links. If they failed to imagine that people would exploit that, they’re bigger idiots than I thought previously.
Apparently many of the sites that are popular in Digg have had their PageRank lowered. What’s the motive HERE? As many people have pointed out, not all of the affected sites DO buy links. Many of them are, reputedly, being smacked because they are in some way associated with some potentially iffy interlinking. So the lesson here, one of fear again, is that you really should be careful about your associations. That sounds very high school doesn’t it? If you’re friends with this group, we’ll throw you out of the math club! OK that never happened but the fear of it still rings loudly in my head at times like this.
Overall, I don’t buy the notion that Google updates its algorithm for the benefit of humanity. I doubt that you do, either, of course, but since we all have to deal with Google, what can be done? You can’t simply ignore them. The alternatives are highly unattractive. If you keep doing what they say is big bad stuff, you’re going to risk having the rug pulled out from under you at some point. The best solution is to continue to find ways to hide it…as much as all the whitehats criticize blackhats, it’s times like this when they should be looking to them for advice. It’s not terribly difficult to hide the fact that your links are paid, after all. Hiding your interlinking blog schemes may be a bit tricky though…but someone will find a way, and it will be made public, and we’ll do it, and then they’ll catch it and there will be another update. THAT aspect of Google isn’t going away any time soon.