There has been quite some debate in certain circles of the blogosphere with respect to what has been happening with Google’s PageRank (PR). Some websites have experienced a significant drop in PR, some claim that bloggers who make earnings through paid postings have been penalised, some even think that Google, as a monopolist, is censoring a segment of the Internet. One cannot deny that the PR values for a number of websites have changed, but people must also realise what PageRank really is.
For those unfamiliar with the term, PageRank is the heart of a trademarked algorithm that Google uses to power it’s search engine. It’s a link analysis algorithm that is based around gauging the “importance” of a web page by how many other web pages link to it. Not only does it take into account how many pages link to the page in question, but also, their own rank and the number and relevance of pages that link to them. A few years ago, Google made the decision to expose this Page Rank figure to webmasters and users around the web, probably to help them optimise their sites and understand their placing in their index. And this is what is the cause of the problem today.
See, a whole industry has been spawned around PR. If you search for the term in Google, you will find hundreds of websites and companies claiming to be Search Engine Optimisation experts who can help you increase your Page Rank. Not only this, but in the absence of any decent metrics for site comparison, Page Rank has become the cornerstone of all “paid blogging” efforts and people selling space on their website.
And this is a problem. In a pure sense, the PR of a website is no indication of the quality of a website. PR can be manipulated, PR can be bought and sold and website owners, particularly bloggers run the danger of forgetting that what really draws people to the website is the quality of the content there. PR is no measure of “value” that a website brings to the Internet, it’s simply Google’s internal metric which it uses to tailor it’s search results.
I especially find it interesting that people claim that Google is “censoring” the Internet, that it is being “anti-competitive” and that it’s ruining their websites. Page Rank is a comparative index and most of all, the index actually belongs to Google. Your PR may have changed, but does it mean you can no longer find your site when you search for it in Google? Has it actually changed the number of page hits your site gets? Does it make your content less relevant?
My advice to everyone out there is this: Stop worrying about your PR and focus on producing some real, genuine, valuable content. This is what brings people to your website and gets them to come back again. If Google decided to set everybody’s PR to 0, or to stop publishing it altogether (it’s certainly their prerogative to do this), what would this really mean to you, your business and the people who visit your website? Focus on your content, whatever Google does to Page Rank, the market will adjust.