PageRank Update Another Message To Link Sellers?

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Either the Google PageRank in your toolbar is officially meaningless, or Google just sent another message to link sellers. Once again, Google isn’t talking and we’re left to speculate.

As we covered yesterday, two dozen prominent online marketing blogs and mainstream news sites like the WashingtonPost and Forbes.com saw their toolbar PageRank drop between two and four places.

The only commonality among the sites appeared to be that they either sold links or were part of a network of sites with internal linking structures. The immediate response was fear that traffic would plummet. However, as noted by many traffic remained the same, or in at least one case, increased.

Barry Scwartz at SERoundtable saw a two percent increase in traffic following a 3-point PageRank drop, from PR 7 to PR 4. The lack of real impact has produced the theory that the PR hit was more of a Google head fake. If the search engine company meant business, these sites would have dropped in the organic search results or would have been delisted altogether.

Following that train of thought away from conspiracy theories that Google was penalizing sites and blogs that are often critical of company, Schwartz comes up with quite the level-headed conclusion:

If Google delisted all of those sites, then that would hurt their relevancy on some queries. With Google, they want to deliver the best possible results. How can they do that and also send a message to link sellers and link buyers? The safest method is to take this route and lower their PageRank. Link buyers, although not recommended, look at PageRank as a measurement for buying links. Google lowering the PageRank of some of these sites should make it harder for some of those sites to sell links.

Robert Scoble has his own, somewhat less controversial theory, from a post entitled "Google PageRank is Dead and Has Been For Some Time":

[B]loggers were showing up too high in searches anyway. In comparing to my friends we got lots of traffic from Google that we didn’t deserve. The problem is that traffic isn’t good anyway. Put it this way, let’s say I showed up high in a search for Saturn Cars (since I’ve written about them). Most people wouldn’t have found much value in that post and even if they did they wouldn’t have stuck around to be a regular reader.

So whether the PageRank update was a message or a relevancy tweak remains a bit of mystery, but these two theories are as good as any.

PageRank Update Another Message To Link Sellers?
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