The recent PageRank™ updates by Google stirred up quite some talk within and outside the search engine marketing industry and opened room for many more or less far-fetched speculations about what this could mean. There is in my opinion no need to panic just yet, but it also does not mean that you should do nothing. I tried to create a list of facts followed by a few assumptions that are tied directly to the mentioned facts without going off too far into the realm of pure speculation.
Loren did a good post about the same subject already. You could consider this post supplemental to his.
Let us start with the facts we know for sure.
- Many sites saw in the recent weeks a significant drop in PageRank™, as in PR displayed in the Google Toolbar, which is separate from the PR used by Google internally as one of over hundred factors for ranking web search results.
- Google confirmed that they applied a PageRank™ penalty manually to sites who are selling links.
- Sites who are not selling links also saw a drop in PageRank™.
- The PageRank™ in the Google Toolbar is usually updated only every three months or so. It seems that they updated the Toolbar PageRank™ database out of their usual schedule several times in the last month alone.
- PageRank™ is only one of over hundred factors for ranking and plays only a minor role in the overall scheme of things. Other factors are much more significant for a websites ranking in the SERPS (search engine result pages). This changed over the years. PageRank™ was a major ranking factor in the past, even the biggest factor when they started their search engine in 1998. Their famous patent “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hyper-textual Web Search Engine” is all about PageRank™.
- While PageRank™ does not play a major factor in ranking anymore so is it still play a major role in the evaluation of a website by third party advertising services. One type of services that uses PageRank™ to determine pricing for advertising are marketplace services that facilitate paid text links for improving search engine ranking.
- PageRank™ is the most prominent of only very few visible indicators to people outside the search engine marketing industry about the quality and importance of a web site for search engine ranking. Like with the Alexa ranking are normal non-search marketing professionals giving those types of indicators a higher value than they actually represent. This is due to marketing, which has often nothing much in common with boring and cold facts of the real-life. That is what marketing does.
- Most people who even enable the PageRank™ display in their Toolbar and look at the value displayed are individuals who have a website or have a stake in a website or are employed by the owner of a website and have something to do with marketing a website or have a financial interest in how successful a website is.
- People that fit the description of the above and by search engine marketing professionals are the type of people who notice a change like the one we have seen. Normal people using search engines and websites do not notice this or do not care very much. Since PageRank™ does not play critical role in ranking, are search engine results and traffic from search engines not much, if at all, affected by this change. This indicates that Google only wanted to send a message, an advance notice, probably even warning only to a certain group of people about things to come. The targeted group of people is given the chance to do something or to stop doing something to prevent or reduce the negative impact of the things to come for their website and business.
- The paid links issue is almost certainly playing a part in this, but does not have to be only one. Sites that did not sell text-links for search engine ranking purposes, but also saw a drop in PageRank™ might only be affected indirectly from this and will be affected indirectly by the things to come too.
- A site that did benefit from a high PageRank™ of other websites that were penalized will be affected indirectly by the penalty. This indirect penalty affects many innocent sites, but the impact varies from site to site and depends heavily on the websites inbound links profile. Actually all websites will be affected to some extend because of the nature of what PageRank™ is and the fact that all websites are connected with each other. The “six degrees of separation” principle applies to websites as it does to people.
I am certain that more websites are going to see a drop in PageRank™ in the weeks and months to come while the effect ripples through the whole internet.
There are also sites that were penalized directly by Google that did not do anything wrong, collateral damage so to speak. In those cases is it possible to contact Google for reevaluation to get the manually applied penalty removed from your website.
It is the right time of the year and the right time overall for a major Google ranking algorithm change and search index update. As a reminded, “Florida” happened in fall 2003 and “Jagger” in fall 2005 followed by “infrastructure update” dubbed “BigDaddy” right after “Jagger”. Fall 2007 seems to be a good time for another major Google algorithm update.
Websites who saw a severe drop in PageRank™ should look at their inbound links and should review their current link-building strategy.
Keep in mind that you have to look at things from a bigger perspective, beyond your own website.
If you saw a PageRank™ drop as a direct or indirect side effect of all this, you will probably be affected by the things that are likely to follow, but so is your competitor, if he was affected by the recent PageRank™ updates as well. If all sites in your space were affected by this update, chances are that they will be affected the same way by any other changes that might come. If everybody is affected the same, nothing changes overall.
For example, if the value of the Dollar drops compared to the value of the Euro and you are a company that does a lot of business with countries in the European Union, this drop affects you as much as your competitor who does equally as much business with the same countries. If you are not dealing with Euros in your business very much and so does your competitor, the drop will not have any impact on yours and your competitors business at all.