Websites steamed after their Google PageRanks fall
Search-zilla takes a swat at link farms
The net is abuzz with speculation that Google is cracking down on link farms designed to artificially puff up the placement of websites after bloggers disclosed recent PageRank drops for more than a dozen sites.
They include tuaw.com, which watched its PageRank fall from 6 to 4, and Engadget.com, SFGate.com, Forbes.com and WashingtonPost.com, all of which saw their rankings drop from 7 to 5. Webmasters don't take kindly when the engine that by some estimates handles 60 percent of the world's web searches suddenly deems their sites' content less relevant.
Google has yet to explain what is behind the changes. (The company's PR handlers didn't respond to our email seeking comment for this story.) So bloggers have been trying to fill the vacuum by advancing their own theories. Theory No. 1 is that Google, the world's most profitable seller of paid links, is punishing sites that try to horn in on the action (and Forbes.com, ironically enough, recently published a decent primer on page ranking payola.)
"Google's bean counter, naturally, would prefer that you pay Google for sponsored links instead," was how gossip monger Valleywag saw it.
That doesn't make sense to us for a couple of reasons.
First, Google's formidable legal eagles, recognizing the antitrust pitfalls of such a practice, almost certainly would put the kibosh on it before it ever got going. Second, last we checked, SFGate, Forbes and plenty of other sites that took a hit aren't in the business of selling links. At least not publicly.
That leads us to the second, and more plausible theory: That Google is penalizing the large networks of blogs that use one property to prop up another. Under such arrangements, each site in the network posts links pointing to other blogs in the network, operating under the assumption that more links will translate into higher PageRanks.
Assuming that's the case, that's probably a good thing. Google's algorithm was revolutionary because it was one of the first to gauge the usefulness of content based on how many other websites linked to it. The use of reciprocal links benefits purveyors of fluff at the expense of those who are generating authentic and useful content.
Not that we can trust that this is what's truly at work here. One of the great things about being the dominant search engine is that even though you have the power to make or break countless other businesses, you don't have to explain your policies to anyone. So far, Google's lips are sealed. ®
What users want
If they can eliminate the spam sites it would be a major step forward. There are some searches that work in Google, but anything with a product name or a hotel name, for instance, just go to a bunch of bottom feeders looking to make a fast back.
I think metadata might be the answer - offer the option of having a site describe itself with a signed set of "honest metadata". If the metadata turns out not to be honest, then flag it up and ban the instigators. If a site creator proves themselves above board, then their metadata gets its trust quota increased.
re: Couldn't they be demoted?
Nice thought, but how long before botherders started selling denunciations "we can lower your competitors page rank".
Couldn't they be demoted?
"The search results are full of aggregators, pricing sites and link farms. None of which give me the information I need."
Surely, google can detect that a site has no information content of its own and consists mainly of links to other sites.
Failing that, why not get searchers to identify such sites as they come across them, so that once 100 or more deduplicated searchers have identified a domain as a spamlink site, its ranking progressively diminishes?