When Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page were working on Backrub, which became Google, almost 10 years ago, their PageRank concept seemed reasonable. Links to web pages were almost like votes. If it had only been used in the halls of Academia, perhaps it would have continued to work. However applying it to all the information in the world was really opening a Pandora’s box. With Google’s success, it became a key way of generating visitor traffic to websites. The natural consequence was that everyone tried to develop as many links to their websites as they could. The resulting chaos is not something that is easily reversed.
Despite the Herculean effort required, Google is trying to put the lid back on the box. As Andy Greenberg of Forbes noted last week their actions are scaring the search experts.
Google, for online businesses, has the impact that Alan Greenspan once had on the financial markets. … Web site administrators for major sites including the Washingtonpost.com, Techcrunch, and Engadget (as well as Forbes.com) found that their “PageRank” – a number that typically reflects the ranking of a site in Google (nasdaq: GOOG ) results for key search terms – had dropped precipitously according to the Google Toolbar, a software program that shows Google’s assessment of a website.
The experts are all chiming in on this hot topic. Donna Fontenot and Rand Fishkin both note that hundreds of websites are being affected. Barry Schwartz suggests that it is websites offering paid links to other websites that are being affected. Andy Beard points to other websites that are affected where this explanation does not apply. This PageRank adjustment is not part of a universal PageRank revision. Rather it would seem to be a manual adjustment for some fairly significant websites. The PageRank has been reduced by 2 on the 10-point scale.
The whole exercise would seem to be one where Google cannot win. Even if it were done to try to remove some of the artificialities created by the PageRank concept, it is alienating some of its most staunch supporters. Most often it is being seen as a policy driven by only bottom line considerations, so as to promote its own AdSense program at the expense of competing advertisers.
I think Robert Scoble has it right when he says that Google PageRank’s Been Dead for Quite Some Time. It is highly probable that links should not play a big part in any keyword search algorithm given the distortions that PageRank has created on the Internet. Google by now has a wealth of information on what makes the most relevant answers for searchers. Perhaps it’s time for Google 2.0 as Google moves into its second decade. This could be based on some completely new concept that gives better relevancy to answers for searchers’ queries.