The blogsphere is abuzz with Google’s recent PageRank recalculations. The “slaps” and “pats” are controversial because big blogs (Problogger.net, Engadget.com, Johnchow.com, and many many more) have seen their PR jump around more than an Asian boy band.
The reason for the heated discussion that has come out of this is that Google is “punishing” sites that sell links, under the idea that such sales of links is designed to give the buyers unearned authority in the SERPs.
Why doesn’t Google love me?
The big question on everyone’s mind is: Is PR really that important? Aaron Brazell (Technosailor) says no and gives some solid reasons why. Reasons I, for the most part, agree with. Most pointedly, PR doesn’t seem to affect rankings in the search results. And if it doesn’t help your search ranking, what is it?
In my opinion, it’s popularity and bragging rights. Whereas in affluent circles you compare car, suit and watch brands, in our geekly little online world, we compare PR, Alexa rankings and Technorati backlink numbers. Regardless of social position, we’re human, we strive on competition.
If I go from a PR0 to a PR5, which this blog just did, I feel all warm and tingly and get a sense that I’m doing something “right”. However, when you have Internet Stars sitting on a PR7+ and suddenly finding themselves around a PR3 or PR4, of course you’re going to get some shouts and cries of “Burn Google Burn!”. Not (just) because it may cause a loss of traffic and in turn a loss of revenue, but rather because it pricks the pride.
For further proof that this is happening, simply look at the response. Near everyone affected is acting like the runner-up at a beauty contest, pulling the “it’s a stupid award, and I didn’t want it anyway” line of saying PR is irrelevant (whether it is or isn’t, is beside the point). Many of these folks are the same people that have devoted post after post on improving PR, Alexa and Technorati rankings – at which point one assumes they most definitely thought it was important.
There must be a better system of feedback
The problem, of course, is not with us Web geeks that like to check out our stats in amazement that anyone bothers to visit our sites, it’s that we use benchmarks that aren’t benchmarks at all as gratification for that work. Google’s “authority” isn’t really “authority” at all. WTF do they know? They’re just geeks like us, amazed as shit that people are visiting their site.
The hypocrisy of Google punishing Web developers who sell links on their sites, when that’s exactly what Google’s AdWords program does on their pages, is laughable. It’s enough to make this lowly writer cum designer question why it is we give so much power to a company that has gotten rich off the backs (read: content) of others, and then why we further empower that site in deciding which of our sites are worthy of people finding.
Surely there’s a better metric. If Google can’t keep their search results relevant because I choose to sell links on my site, perhaps they need to reconsider how they calculate “authority”, and let us do what the fuck we want with our sites.
Using ProBlogger as an example, Darren is, without argument, one of the best resources on the Web for bloggers looking to make money and run successful blogs. Under Google’s system, if Darren sells a bunch of links on his blog, Google will make it difficult for others to find him and his valuable content. How does that make sense?
Darren’s most recent post sums up things nicely:
My main advice to publishers whether they decide to sell or not sell text links hasn’t really changed – forget about Page Rank and build a better blog. Build a quality site that builds community, attracts readers from as many sources as possible (relying upon Google traffic as a sole source of traffic isn’t a smart move) and build a blog that enhances people’s lives. This way you don’t need to rely upon Google (or any other single site) to send you traffic and keep you profitable.
As John Chow, when he was “slapped” by Google back in June, said, “Live by the Google, die by the Google.”