This week, several popular blogs reported a significant decrease in their PageRank after the recent Google PageRank update. At first, the entire blogosphere was confused about what caused this drop, until it became apparent that selling paid text links on your website can hurt your PR. It’s certainly no surprise, since Matt Cutts has been saying since June that Google thinks link buying is outside their guidelines and that “we might take strong actions on that in the future”.
Well now they have. It took a while, but the confirmation about this update was eventually released.
So what’s been the overall effect on the blogosphere? The ones directly affected are those who have been making a decent income off of paid text links. PageRank is one of the more important qualifiers listed by people selling these links. A link from a site with PR 9 will cost more than a link from a site of PR 7. If site owners will adjust their prices based on the PR update, well… it’s probably not something they look forward to.
Of course, there are many “innocent bystanders” affected by this as well. If most of the sites that link to you are penalized with a lower PR, odds are your PR will decrease too. Not to mention the sites that were wrongfully penalized such as Darren Rowse’s Problogger. Other bloggers cried foul, and Google responded by restoring their original PR.
There’s even some speculation that it’s a manual update, since PR changes are mostly going on for well-established blogs, websites, linkfarms, and blog networks – rather than a general update going on all over the net. Right now, most of the big bloggers out there are at the mercy of Google. Personally, I couldn’t care less.
That’s right. I don’t really care.
Barry Schwartz actually had an increase in site visitors despite the decreased PR. If you check out Ryan Caldwell’s post on acquiring longterm leverage for your websites rather than being obsessed with transitory trends and changes in search engine algorithms. This PR update (or any other update) doesn’t have to affect you if you don’t want it to.
If you’re a blogger selling paid text links, what are you going to do now? First, if Google PR is important to you, stop selling these links blatantly. Or at all. If you still want to sell links, instead of using PR as a qualifier for your price, use pageviews instead or case studies from previous links, etc. That’s what I look for when buying links, not PR per se. There are other ways to measure popularity out there, especially for social bookmarking sites that depend on readers rather than a big search engine bully.
Or try selling graphic/image links instead.
Being too dependent on Google will cripple you. Even if they may deliver a huge percentage of your search engine traffic, you need to have a backup plan in place. By all means, use Google PR to measure some level of success, if you want. However, don’t hyperventilate with each change they make. It’s their search engine. They’ll do whatever they want with it. John Chow has been Google-slapped several times and I don’t think it’s greatly affected his popularity or income. I know I’m not John Chow, but using him as an example drives a point home:
Just make a good, regularly updated site that people will read, come back to, and tell their friends about.
What “good” means is up to you and your readers. Don’t let Google define it.