Why Google HAD to butcher PageRank

Google UK LogoWith all the controversy about Google reducing the page rank of sites that sell links, everyone seems to be overlooking one crucial point. Google HAD to do it. To understand why, we really need to look at the overall effect of the PageRank drop across those sites.

When the PageRank drop happened, many were surprise by the scale of the up date and the size of some of the sites affected. Established, highly successful blogs such as Engadget suddenly dropped PageRank. It was dramatic to say the least. The way PageRank works is that if a site with a PageRank of 8, for example, links to you, your site gains a portion of that PageRank. Therefore, in the vast majority of cases getting a link from a site with a high PageRank is better than a link from a site with a low PageRank. The cascading nature of PageRank is one of the defining features. The result is a site can acheive a moderate PageRank with just a few links from prominent sites. Sites like Engadget. To me, this is fascinating. By reducing the PageRank of some of the highest rated sites, Google is also reducing the PageRank of all sites that were benefiting from a cascaded PageRank. And then sites linked to from the second tier sites will also get hit. Google, in one swoop net reduced the PageRank across the internet. I believe this lead to some people believing they had been punished by Google where, in fact, they were indirectly affected. Casualties of war if you will.

Now we understand the implications of this, we need to figure out why Google would want to do it. And I can think of an obvious answer. Every site has a certain PageRank value attributed to it, even if it is a brand new site with no incoming links. It has to be worth something. This leaves Google with a problem, every time a new site is created, it can pass PageRank on to another site. And let’s face it, new sites are springing up at an alarming rate these days. So Google has to keep recalculating PageRank based on the number of sites it indexes. I’m not saying this isn’t possible, in fact, knowing Google, I’d be 100% certain that the PageRank algorithm takes into account the number of sites currently indexed. What I would guess though, is that Google didn’t count on as many sites springing up at the rate they are currently. This Text Link Ads problem seems like the perfect excuse to balance the algorithm and get PageRank down to a more manageable level. And as I mentioned above, it’s not just the direct punishments, this move reduces PageRank across the entire internet.

So the net result is Google increasing the net value of each PageRank point.  Or, to put it another way, a PageRank of 4 is worth more now that it was a month ago.  If Google decided not to balance out the PageRank some way or another, you would end up with a disproportionately high PageRank attributed to average sites through sheer quantity, and not quality, which Google would prefer.