Now this is beginning to look like a complete update. Previously on Search Engine Watch I reported that many new pages that had been added shortly after the last update had not been updated. Now those pages are beginning to show PageRank. Clearly this is a general update.
The big news remains the apparent punishment in PageRank terms of sites which are selling links. What surprises me about this is not that Google did this, but three other things:
- It surprises me that they missed so many sites that are obviously selling links. I am aware of many, many such sites that monetize their sites in that fashion, without NoFollowing their links. Given the set of sites affected, it really does seem like the punishment was manually selected.
- It surprises me that they punished sites that sell links, but clearly labelled them as Sponsored, or as Advertisers, or some other equivalent. Google will never win that battle. Monetizing sites is something that every site owner has the right to do. Such a small percentage of site owners even know what a NoFollow is, that a policy of punishing people on that basis does not make sense to me. Besides which, can’t Google detect these types of clear labels and simply discount those links algorithmically?
- It was also a surprise that there was no apparent impact on traffic. This was reported by both Search Engine Roundtable and Search Engine Journal. So given the broad swipe that they took at sites as mentioned in point 2 above, I suppose that this is a good thing. But simply altering tool bar page rank in a way that does not impact traffic will get them nowhere.
The link selling market will continue to thrive without PageRank. At this point in time, selling links is more about Anchor Text than PageRank. Nothing in this update has changed that.
I think the right strategy for Google is to focus on the sites that are clearly being manipulative, and implement penalties on them that include an affect on traffic. Then Google should be able to address people who clearly label their sold links as ads algorithmically, by simple discounting their links. Sure this may be subject to error, but I would think that the outcry on that score would be far less significant than what they generated with the approach they used.