Feeds

Websites steamed after their Google PageRanks fall

Search-zilla takes a swat at link farms

Top three mobile application threats

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.

This is the theory being advanced by blogger Andy Beard, who reminds us here that Google Guidelines frown on "schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank".

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. ®

The Essential Guide to IT Transformation

More from The Register

next story
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple ran off to IBM
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Nadella: Apps must run on ALL WINDOWS – PCs, slabs and mobes
Phone egg, meet desktop chicken - your mother
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
Samsung threatens to cut ties with supplier over child labour allegations
Vows to uphold 'zero tolerance' policy on underage workers
Dude, you're getting a Dell – with BITCOIN: IT giant slurps cryptocash
1. Buy PC with Bitcoin. 2. Mine more coins. 3. Goto step 1
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.