For the past few weeks, blogosphere is teeming with posts on Google and its latest PageRank update. The recent update has raised a lot of hues and cries against Google, as a large number of popular and high ranking websites lost their PR by as much as -2. The action was part of Google’s plan to eradicate paid links and sponsored posts as it meddled with Google Ranking system. The penalties were not totally unexpected, as Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team, had warned about selling links with the intention of passing PR almost two years back. Still the public opinion was against Google was heavy with many webmasters deciding to boycott Google and its services.
PageRank[1, 2, 3] is the ranking system used by Google for finding out the importance of a webpage, for their search engine. The system grades every webpage in a numerical scale ranging from 0 to 10, depending on the number of backlinks it has got from other websites. Links from high PageRank websites boosts your PR much higher, compared to links from low PR websites. Google’s SERP is not entirely based on PageRank, as it would have resulted in a lot or irrelevant results like Live Search. Among equally important pages, the ones having higher PR was given a higher importance. This helps in countering content copying, as most of the sites will be linking to the original website.
Initially the PageRank was limited to internal use and was not available to the public. But later Google integrated a visual pagerank bar to the Google Toolbar and it didn’t take much time for the webmaster world to accept PageRank as the best indicator of the value of a website. And soon the PageRank of the homepage became the symbol of a site’s prestige, value and marketability. And with the increase in importance of PR, improving a site’s PR became one of the prime objectives of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Several white hat and black hat methods were developed for improving the PageRank of a site. And most of the methods were cracked down by Google. But selling paid links was something Google was unable to stop, until recently.
Another major reason for PageRank getting its present day (or pre-october days?) significance was that most of the advertisers used to give much importance to PR, while choosing the sites to advertise on. Now that many of the top sites selling links are having lower PR, there is no point in continuing the policy. If advertisers don’t care much about PR, then most of the webmasters will be giving any even lesser importance to PageRank, which is reflected by the recent boycotts. Hence I too think Jamie is right in saying that PageRank is dead as a dodo.
Till now PageRank analysis had been the best method for evaluating the importance of a website. And it served as the basis for buying sites and links. But now with both PageRank and Alexa ranking dead, webmasters have to find an alternate method for evaluating websites.