I’d like to talk a moment to mourn the passing of PageRank, the secret sauce that made Google the spicy search engine we once knew and loved.
Some might argue that blogs killed PageRank. But the fact is, the online world goes through pretty impressive changes every few years. And, believe it or not, PageRank is old. In Internet time, PageRank may have been well into middle age.
Its death hasn’t been announced yet, but the time is near. The signs have been around for quite a while.
You see, PageRank was a brilliant yet simple idea at the time: use the structure of the web itself to determine what is and is not popular. But that’s behind us. Google is no longer concerned solely with what’s popular. Like most companies, they also care a lot about what sells or what advertisers want. Many speculate that Google is responding to various pressures to keep blogs from tainting their results. Perhaps.
With all the recent discussion of Google removing (or not removing) blogs from their index, people have been barking up the wrong tree. Google doesn’t have to remove them. The simply need to identify them in a reliable way. Then they can be penalized (given a lower PageRank). And, believe it or not, that’s not terribly difficult to do if you have a good web map and a few blogs to use as starting points.
It has already happened. And the results are less than ideal. A Google search for “jeremy” now [sometimes] yields something far different than what it used to. Notice that Google now believes that my home page is more important than my blog. That is, for lack of a better term, retarded.
(It seems that Google has only partially deployed this. If you play around long enough, you can get the old answer from one of their search clusters. That’s how I got both of those screenshots. So far it seems to be a 50/50 chance, at least from the West Coast.)
The fact that I’m no longer the first result isn’t the issue. I never expected that to last.
Let’s be honest. My home page sucks. Nobody links to it anymore. Sure, there are a lot of old links, but let’s look at what Google can tell us. There are roughly 600 links to my home page while there are over 1,800 links to my blog. There are three times as many links to my blog, and I’d argue they’re more significant. They’re newer. They’re often more than mere pointers because there’s commentary about me or what I write.
Anyway, draw your own conclusions.
Google has a really hard problem to solve. It’s not unlike the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. PageRank stopped working really well when people began to understand how PageRank worked. The act of Google trying to “understand” the web caused the web itself to change. Blogs are only a recent example of that. Oddly, unlike many of the previous problems with Google (see also: search engine optimization companies; link spammers; google bombing), blogs were not designed to outsmart Google. They just happen to use the web and hyperlinks the way we should have been using them all along. Now they’re being penalized for that, it seems.
It’ll be interesting to see how Inktomi and Microsoft handle this “problem” too.
Oh, I should note that this could all be a bug and I’m just using it as an excuse to ramble. But you all knew that, right? My readers are smart. All three of them.