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Update info on PR changes and clarifications from Google

 9:12 am on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

There's an interesting heads up from Matt Cutts here, which I've sectioned for comment :

we did do a full PageRank update several weeks ago - there's less PageRank flowing around in some areas (e.g. search and SEO). Vanessa Fox's site dropped by one as well, and for her as well, it's just a case where less PageRank is flowing in some niches of the net. PageRank doesn't always monotonically increase.

Hmmm. which niches? Is Google being selective in some key verticle markets?



 12:47 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

There are two examples right there. It's about the balance of popularity. If some areas gain in overall link share, or entirely new segments are introduced ( with some hype ) they will be calculated into or even become ( or come closer to be considered ) the new scale, the new meaning of PR 1, 5, 10.

Which means all the people who were saying that PageRank 4 is the new PageRank 5 were right.

One example was SEO, wasn't it? ( even if not, I'll make an example out of it )
SEO has lost some of its fanbase, as it is harder and harder to conduct. But let's just say that the overall segment of SEO is losing against other areas in link popularity not necessarily because it's slowing down or stagnating but because there's less PR being passed by related sites compared to some other spotlight/hype sectors. There might not even be a decline, just a slower increase than in let's say: web 2.0 widgets. ( less *low quality* sites, less blog posts, less forum talk, less canon fodder content, less hype )

Or so I think this statement can be made sense of.


But the overall PR does not measure relevancy, search volumes, traffic or trust ( site history, domain and link age ) so, even though there may be batches of new sites with higher PR ( entire areas gaining in link popularity ) they won't make an entire existing industry lose value ( e.g. for advertising purposes ). The SERPs will still show the older, more refined, more settled sites first, traffic is the same, so there's really no problem in losing PR to some hype ( which will eventually settle down, turn either mainstream, or become a niche ). No one said that the new high-PR sites have anything else than link volume ( low quality, irrelevant ). Which however is probably the case for we don't see too much new Wikipedia-like players on the SERPs now do we.

[edited by: Miamacs at 12:48 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2007]


 4:10 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

Whoa Whoa Whoa! Hold up.

Let's put the above discussion on hold for a bit...

As i read the above statement in a totally different way.

It sounds to me like he's saying "officially" that the loss of PR on certain sites(sectors) had little or nothing to do with the "unofficial, never-announced-on-Google-controlled-properties" manual TBPR penalties for selling links, but with how PR flows.

To be perfectly honest, this sounds like some CYA for everything that's been happening the past month with the TBPR.

Hmm, again, the first question one should ask themselves when Goog Employee #1-#3 makes an announcement like this, is
"Why?! What's in it for Goog?"

Why does MC need to clarify anything?

I have my guesses, but I'd love to see what others think.


 6:19 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

To be perfectly honest, this sounds like some CYA for everything that's been happening the past month with the TBPR.

To me, it sounds like an explanation for people who need a reminder of how PageRank works--and that PageRank numbers aren't set in stone.

Hmm, again, the first question one should ask themselves when Goog Employee #1-#3 makes an announcement like this, is
"Why?! What's in it for Goog?"

I get the impression that Matt Cutts is a guy who's more interested in sharing information than in being anonymous or playing a corporate suit.

Why does MC need to clarify anything?

He doesn't need to clarify anything. He chose to share information that be helpful to people who swoon, panic, or get angry every time there's a toolbar PageRank update. To me, that's better than having to read threads about Google's unwillingness to communicate with Webmasters.


 6:33 pm on Dec 2, 2007 (gmt 0)

It sounds to me like he's saying "officially" that the loss of PR on certain sites(sectors) had little or nothing to do with the "unofficial, never-announced-on-Google-controlled-properties" manual TBPR penalties for selling links, but with how PR flows.

But it's been suggested that these may be two different things. I was more like referring to the generic '-1 across the board' kinda thing - a phenomenon with niche sites, not mainstream sectors. I don't think that has anything to do with buying/selling links.

The other thing this manual TBPR change is... well... I think it's a scare tactic. No, make it that I agree with anyone who says that at its current stage its nothing but a deterrent.


Allright, let me tell you a short story ( conclusions may vary )
*serious face*

I 'have' a website. ( ... )
It has gained PR with the last update.

But there was a single page in the main nav that was reduced to PR0 a few days later. The whole website saw an increase, and this sole page lost its PR the next week. Well, no wonder, actually.

It's nothing special, but a list I prepared of related websites with a wide variety of info on the industry. Completely subjective list, to completely objective sites and hasn't been updated for years - except for changes in official URLs / scope of otherwise free services and info, and not a single link was put there on request by others, however, the copy said that if you *knew about a good resource which we somehow missed, drop us a line*. ( unlikely though, everything that's related to any of the official sources is there already - contact form is redirected to /trash - ok almost. )

It's a prominent site, so can't blame Google for being so high on tension, but that page is so relevant, so white hat, it'd deserve some kind of a prize. We *never* utilized the full potential of the site, I'd go as far to say we neglected its power. Its source of revenue is contextual ads, from a well known provider that we won't name here, but has a program called AdSense - so unintrusive that I'm blushing every time I read their optimization reports. Yeah, we could have more and better placed ads.


I reworded this single line in the copy a few weeks ago. Not because I care about my PR, but because I'm not sure if some - and pardon me - part time worker who evaluates websites based on their likelihood of participating in selling links got the wrong message about the page that ranks, and keeps ranking #1 for its term for a very, *very* good reason. I don't want it flagged!

I now have developed a fear from unprepared, unexperienced, trigger happy 'personnel' employed by Google - in this and the upcoming rounds of the battle ( in which I thought I was neutral, by not selling, buying links ). I have some kind of a blurry vision of 10,000 human evaluators - guerilla style part time workers from the English speaking population of wherever, minimum wage, sniffing through sites and overreacting by default - and/or an algo that's so very intelligent that it took the above line as we're selling links or whatever.

Sure, this is but a delusion. Could as well be a coincidence, magic, PR short circuiting, or my monitor running out of green. But fact is, the page ( and thus the website, and thus related revenues ) now has a little red spot of light on its forehead, so... I'm not sure what else I can make it do than dodging the bullet to come.


Anyway, to me official and unofficial statements from Google mean little more than a weather report. They have no control over the elements ( like employee-level decisions ). I take notice, sure, but then I look through the window and ask myself, based on my own experience whether I should get my raincoat or hide in the basement instead. Their departments seriously lack communication between each other, and this is first hand experience. There's no *single* person at Google who knows their search engine... sometimes one department will be too slow or too fast to comment. Sometimes stuff goes on unnoticed. We've seen these things before, it's due to their size and their loss of focus. ( They're still better in these terms than others, but... even their smallest mistakes have a large impact ).


[edited by: Miamacs at 6:38 pm (utc) on Dec. 2, 2007]


 2:38 am on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

Why does MC need to clarify anything?

Because Rand asked and Matt reads the blog - even gets interviewed there.


 2:04 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

okay everyone, here's an example...

The post from Matt Cutts, mentioned on another thread:

The 'official' replies concerning PR changes.

Answer #1:

(...), it is the case that we don't reduce the PageRank for every site that we know of that is selling links. The reason for that is that we don't want to provide a roadmap of places to buy links.(...)

yeeeah, sure.

Answer #2:

We did do a full PageRank update several weeks ago. seomoz.org went down one notch not because of link selling but just because there's less PageRank flowing around in some areas (e.g. search and SEO). Vanessa Fox's site dropped by one as well, and for her as well, it's just a case where less PageRank is flowing in some niches of the net. PageRank doesn't always monotonically increase.


Asked repeatedly about websites that were obviously collateral damage, you get Answer #2 repeated *every time*. Of course PR1 sites of those who commented fall into the safe zone but PR5 to PR0, with subpages still having PR4 is FLUCTUATIONS in PR...?

I mean why bother to reply when the answers are so defensive and uninformative. Matt should not be used as a shield for backing up the obviously subjective business related decisions in which Google decides which websites to penalize and which not ( for selling links or whatever the current trend is ). His purely technical/ethical ways - which we have never questioned - are in conflict with corporate guidelines with which some are even disgusted with.

Of course I wouldn't be satisfied until they include the term *face control* or *dress code* in the official Google guidelines ( ie. 'when breaching guidelines, certain penalties will be imposed if your site is, in additon, seen as LOW QUALITY / against our BUSINESS model / have no relation to anyone who could SUE us and WIN' ) and admit to be extremely subjective with such decisions, but that will never happen I guess. My only concern is that some of the sites I work on have no fortune 500 backing, and thus no insurance against random Google part timers' decisions.

Here's the official wording, again, so that anyone could see the point which others are trying so hard to make on this forum:

If, however, a webmaster chooses to buy or sell links for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings, we reserve the right* to protect the quality of our index. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank violates our webmaster guidelines. Such links can hurt relevance* by causing:
- Inaccuracies: False popularity and links that are not fundamentally based on merit, relevance, or authority
- Inequities: Unfair advantage in our organic search results to websites with the biggest pocketbooks

reserve the right =* we'll consider it based on what your site means to us
can hurt relevance =* sometimes. but then again sometimes even helps relevance ( of Google search results )

* : my emphasis, interpretation

Extreme examples are widely known, and cause imprenetratable markets, but also, solidify fairly relevant search results. Such as hotel chains, associations. Log on to either of their sites and look at the footer. Or 'partnerships' of fortune 500 companies. SE manipulation allright, but as long as it's in accordance with popular opinion ( follows up on and is not trying to alter realities ) it seems to be OK. There's SEO for the rich and famous and SEO for the poor. With some of us working for both sides *grin*.


I wish I was wrong with some of my assumptions, but experience so far shows otherwise, and related concerns are systematically left unanswered. So much for official 'comments' and 'clarifying' things. Ask a question that hits home ( why don't they penalize big players, how come sites that did nothing get the penalty ), and get a fair and straightforward answer of:



[edited by: Miamacs at 2:06 pm (utc) on Dec. 3, 2007]


 3:36 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

There's SEO for the rich and famous and SEO for the poor.

It makes sense that Google would give more leeway to a site that has a high "TrustRank" than to a site that doesn't. A Fortune 500 site may simply have more high-quality inbound links, be more obviously relevant for the topic, and exercise more SEO restraint in other areas than anonymous-guys-thin-affiliate-site.com does. After all, rankings are the result of many different factors, so it's reasonable than devaluations and penalties (like rankings) should take multiple factors into account. And where human reviews are concerned, a "sniff test" can go a long way toward determining whether the red penalty button should be pushed.


 12:29 am on Dec 4, 2007 (gmt 0)

It makes sense (...)

I know, and in fact if you go back and see my posts - in this thread or anywhere else - I never said it didn't.


I just want them to admit to these practices.

Oh and, EFV I know you know, but there's also a third category beside fraudulent virtual businesses and crosslinked fortune 500/media/university networks, and that is the middle class of the net. Sites, services that are quality, but not within the 'clique', not immune to bad weather. Neither are they immune to false positives from part time "sniffers". They're not in the big red book. I have no sympathy to affiliates, spam, low-end, broken English article sites, lucrative SEO, but I'm concerned about the bi-polarization of the net. Trust and its characteristics are a great example on this. No wonder you won't find a single official line of comment on the practice, ever. ( Not even the related patent, because since Google has trademarked the phrase, the non-google application had to drop the title! Want a copy of the original? ) The method of selecting the seed sites to be analyzed for trust? Subjective Human Decisions. And if you've had seen the amount of fraudulent virtual business websites that originate from abusing the power of the oh-so-trusted sources ( oh wait, they're selling links all over the place for huge $$$, and/or starting up their own insurace/amazon/AdSense/whatnot affiliate sites - just for the most common examples ) you wouldn't see the world in Google Black and Google White either.


I don't get why their product must lack the suspicion of subjective, real-time, sometimes even contradicting human-made decisions on website quality, when in fact they are utilizing them. It's their product, and every single advertising board, even free classified publishers have quality control, based on their subjective preferences. No one would mind, I would even like it better. If they didn't play the 'righteous AI' in public, and said 'we'll sometimes do this, we'll sometimes do that, it depends on WHO YOU ARE', I'd never have complained.

But to get back on track: their official comments lack information, honesty and guidiance on what sites that have been penalized innocently can do, apart of pleading guilty.

Oh wait, when someone asked if there was a way for reconsideration without admitting to policy breaches, Matt said no, but they'll look into it *haha* - sorry, that's what they said a YEAR ago. Is changing a single line of copy THAT HARD?

< ok, this is becoming Google noise. Sorry tedster, sorry Matt, I'll just shut up now >

[edited by: Miamacs at 12:33 am (utc) on Dec. 4, 2007]


 10:08 pm on Dec 5, 2007 (gmt 0)

Theclearest statements usually get the most commentary, as if saying the sun rises in the east has some sort of hidden meaning.

Fast growing niches that get few new links from outside their niche will inevitably lose PR as new sites come online.

As new sites come online, most old niche sites will lose PR, as they now have to share an X sie pie with 140y sites instead of 100y sites.

The only sites that should gain PR via the normal course of the growth of the Internet are broadly popular sites that everyone in the world has a common interest in... google.com, adobe.com, etc, since it's just as likely for an golf site to link to them as it is for a new golf site, or a new needlepoint site and an old needlepoint site.

The obvious is usually the right answer.

Of course their is some impact due to link selling punishments but that has to be entirely trivial compared to the Internet growing say 20% since the preve toolbar update.

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