Last October, along with many other people, I wrote a piece about Google's page rank algorithm change which led to a degrading of the page rank of blogs that hosted paid links. In that piece I discussed Google's conflict of interest in giving lower page ranks to sites that host paid links while they themselves make their money through the sales of advertising. They say the devaluation occurs based on a site hosting paid links that are not tagged nofollow.
During the page rank update in October, 2007, Shards went from a PR5 to a PR3. In this latest update, it went from a PR3 to a PR0. At the same time, the number of readers coming to Shards took a sharp downturn, though the number of subscribers (thank you! ) has continued to increase.
I don't mind writing for just a few people, but, as with most people, I would rather people find what I write than not, so I took down the Text Link Ads links, and notified TLA and Google that I had done so. Within just a few days Shards' PR was back to 4 for the home page, and at varying levels for all internal pages. That still isn't the page rank that Shards had before October (a PR5), but it is a more realistic assessment of the value of the site than a PR0. And, it's much better than has happened to other sites. Many of these, even though they immediately removed paid links, still haven't regained their proper page rank.
Since Shards' page rank was restored, the number of visitors has doubled, and StumbleUpon traffic visitors increased dramatically. So, Google has shown the influence they play in attracting visitors to a site.
I know some people may construe the following as just a rant and sour grapes. I admit, it is a rant, but not just a rant. I hope it isn't sour grapes.
As a business, Google's end is to make money. All of its free services - search, wordprocessing, spreadsheets, calendar, mail, reader, statistics, groups, etc, would not exist if they did not further that goal in some way, either in gathering eyes for it's advertising, in gathering data to be able to serve us ads we are more likely to click or look at, or in some other way I haven't thought about.
Just looking at search, if the results that Google returns for a search are skewed by specious links, Google will, over time, cease to be the goto search engine as people seek out more effective means of finding information. They'll not make as much money. It is in Google's best interest to serve results that give the answers that people are looking for. I understand this. What I don't understand is the approach they are taking.
The people in charge of Google have given ethical connotations to acts (identified paid links) on the web and meted punishments for those acts. Is this really the purview of a private company? Should a private company decide what is right, and what is wrong, who will be heard and who won't based on criteria unrelated to what is being searched for and
the relevance of the available content? Some say That's right. It's a private company and can do what it wants. Fine. Remember that in the future. They've shown they can and will control who will and will not appear in their search engine results and at what level due to factors totally unrelated to the search term. As any group, whether public or private, gets larger and stronger, it is more willing to use that strength to accomplish its own ends.
Reasonable people can disagree about the reasoning behind Google's actions. Neither I nor anyone I know is privy to Google's secret councils. I could be wrong. Maybe paid ads without nofollow skew search results in ways I cannot recognize and in ways that cannot be taken care of without draconian punishments. They have a lot of bright people working for them. They have shown they can tell a paid link from an unpaid link. To me it would be appropriate to just not pass page rank on to the paid link. They would be within their rights and still not set themselves up as the arbiters of good and evil. It seems a bit heavy handed to me. But I could be wrong. It wouldn't be the first time, nor will it be the last. I hope I am wrong.
Technorati Tags: Google, nofollow, paid links