What do you make of this PageRank hullabaloo?

PageRank hullbaloo

Even the less observant amongst us wont fail to have noticed the recent disquiet emanating from the blogosphere concerning that little green bar we all love to hate. One minute it’s down, the next it’s up, leaving many bloggers in something of a stir.

For the benefit of those oblivious, here’s a quick recap:

  • At the end of September David Airey reported being punished by Google for selling text link ads and trying to game search engine positioning. As far as I’m aware David didn’t actually take a PR hit put was being positioned a lot lower in search results than he should have been. David subsequently had his penalty reversed by generally being quite mature and sensible (removing the offending links and kissing big G’s ass).
  • Early October Andy Beard confirmed that Google were applying PageRank deductions to some blogs. Andy’s very SEO-savvy community speculated that the deductions were related to selling text link ads and possibly doing paid reviews.
  • Last Thursday it seemed the world and their dog got slapped with a PageRank penalty including some very prominent blogs such as ProBlogger and Engadget. Andy Beard compiled a comprehensive list of those punished and speculation suggested that some of these sites are being punished for massive interlinking between blog networks.
  • Today it seems that Google has completed its quarterly update of the PageRank. Many of those punished earlier in the month have regained either all or some of their PR losses. Some have lost even more! Once again, head over to Andy Beard’s blog for a comprehensive run down. Andy’s done a great job of keeping on top of the story as it unfolds.

What do I make of this to-do?

It is clear to me that Google are making a very loud statement, although I actually haven’t fared too badly. I don’t sell text links, don’t do paid reviews, and don’t interlink massively between ‘associate’ blogs. There’s been no penalties for me and today I actually saw a slight PR increase from three to four.

Personally I don’t pay much heed to PageRank as I don’t sell any advertising and thus have no need to assert my worth with these kinds of metrics. Obviously I’m all for seeing more traffic coming here from search engines so it will be interesting to see what difference (if any) this little increase has on my Google traffic.

I do have a certain amount of sympathy for Google. They have a right to protect their position as the number one search engine by protecting the integrity of their search results, and all of the activities identified above do affect organic search results. And what’s more, I don’t have much sympathy for those bloggers who put that bloody awful word, monetization, first and foremost and tread dangerously close to the thin and wobbly spam-line.

But it’s not as black and white as people using the weight of their wallets to climb search engine results. Whose to say that a text link ad or a paid review is not relevant? The fact that it is paid for doesn’t make it irrelevant by default. The same goes for blog networks: by their very nature, the interlinking is between similar and relevant blogs.

The unanswered questions…

  • If a blogger doesn’t declare that a link or review is paid, how can Google monitor whether it is paid for?
  • Therefore, will this not just force bloggers to camouflage their text link ads within their blogrolls and be more discreet about paid reviews?
  • Or are blogrolls against Google’s terms as well? If so 99% of bloggers should have a PR penalty now!
  • What about the DoFollow blog brigade – are they treading on thin ice too?

Google are notoriously bad at coming forward and engaging with the web-public, but if ever there was a time for one of their trademark carefully worded blog articles, now is the time. As much as Google have a right to protect their business, they also have a responsibility, as a near-monopoly, to be upfront and clear with the web community. Google has absolutely no right to play games with peoples livelihoods!