October 29, 2009
It has been almost two years now since Google announced controversial plans to penalize paid links, a decision which provoked a considerable reaction across the online community. At the time, it seemed fairly straightforward: paid links were bad and if you were caught buying or selling them, your PageRank would take a hit. But the question of whether Google is really capable of detecting paid links has long since been in question. So what is the situation today?
As you may have guessed, this post is not a birthday message. It is actually in response to recent announcements by the search engine to remove the famous green bar which indicates PageRank from its Webmaster Tools. So what provoked this change of position?
According to Susan Moskwa, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst:
“We’ve been telling people for a long time that they shouldn’t focus on PageRank so much; many site owners seem to think it’s the most important metric for them to track, which is simply not true.”
In other words, Google is trying to say that we have known for a long time that PageRank is not the key indicator of a site’s value. So what does this change?
- For SEO professionals: Nothing. PageRank only helps SEO’s that have little idea about optimization (apart from the fact that PR gives a good indication of how fast pages will be indexed). It has been clear for a while that PR only plays a minor role in evaluating a site’s value and its positioning.
- For webmasters: not much either. PR still remains in the Google toolbar, even though it is has been devalued by its developers. All in all, Google shows that the green bar is nothing but a well orchestrated marketing tool. It feeds speculation for millions of webmasters and internet users that don’t really know true sense of PR. The webmaster community can in revenge start to slowly become aware of its devaluation.
- For advertising agencies specializing in the promotion of text links (like LinkLift). This doesn’t change much either. LinkLift has been at the forefront of the latest developments in Google’s algorithms for over three years now and we have closely monitored the evolution of thousands of sites. We are well aware that other key factors other than PR have to be taken into account. Here is our list of key criteria:
- Age of the domain
- Quality of backlinks (relevance, age etc…)
- Quantity of backlinks
- Quality of content
- Frequency of updates
- Number and quality of external links on the domain (relevance; no “bad neighbourhood” links : porn, pills, poker)
To conclude, we are not surprised by Google’s turnaround. It doesn’t surprise anyone in the SEO community, and we have in fact been waiting for this announcement for a while now. This development simply introduces the possibility of finally pushing aside what has been viewed as an icon in the webmaster and blogger community. We should remember that:
- Google will always need blogs to optimize its index, which includes those who sell links or have low PageRank.
- Bloggers can choose to blog for themselves and the blogging community, and not for an internet company based in California.
Bloggers and advertisers alike can choose to create and establish link partnerships with whoever they wish. That is why there are specialist agencies which exist to help facilitate this process.