Bola Egunjobi

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What’s wrong with selling Page Rank

Posted by Bola Egunjobi on January 6, 2008

I posted a couple of comments on Matt Cutt’s blog just now. The post I commented upon currently has more than 260 comments debating the issue of selling links that pass page rank. The question is so important amongst webmasters that the debate still continues 2 years after Matt posted the entry on his blog. I took Matt’s and Google’s stance on this matter, and I have chosen to reproduce my two comments here on my own blog so that I won’t lose sight of what I have said on the matter. Click here to see Matt Cutt’s post and the full set of comments it has attracted:

I think I get the main jist of this issue: Google doesn’t have anything against selling links – as long as they are intended to guide human visitors to the linked-to webpage. Rather, Google is against selling Page Rank. Because Google’s intention is for Page Rank to be a measure of the natural/organic popularity of a webpage: webpage A should pass some of its Page Rank to webpage B (through a ‘follow’ link) because the owner of webpage A genuinely believes that information on webpage B is relevant to readers of webpage A.

Since Page Rank is a factor in determining the SERPs position of a webpage, webpage A’s link-’vote’ for webpage B should result in the relevance passed from webpage A to webpage B increasing webpage B’s chances of being found on the SERPs for the linked-in text.

A paid link doesn’t say “I am linking to you because I genuinely believe you are relevant for the linked-in text”. Instead, a paid link says “I am linking to you because you paid me to do so, [potentially] regardless of whether I believe you to be relevant for the linked-in text”. THIS is the reason that paid links are not good for SERPs, and therefore why Google needs paid links to not pass Page Rank: Where paid links pass Page Rank, they dilute the quality of Google’s search engine results.

And what about Google’s paid links – Adwords? The answer is simple and startingly obvious: Adwords do not pass Page Rank, and therefore a webpage cannot influence its SERPs position by buying Adwords links.

I recently described my opinion of Google’s organic results and Adwords to a friend. (This also applies to all other SERPs that display sponsored results):

The organic results are like a popular TV programme or an article in a popular magazine, and the Adwords results are like the advertising sold around the TV programme or magazine article. The TV programme has to be as good as possible, to attract viewers. Some of those viewers will respond to the advertising.

So for Google to function well and serve its shareholders, it has to make the organic search results as relevant as possible to searchers. This includes discouraging the selling of Page Rank because that dilutes the relevance of the organic search results. Some of the searchers will choose to click on the Adwords results.

This same idea exactly applies to webmasters who create pages to sell Adsense: write good articles, encourage visitors to your website, and you may get some clicks on your Adsense ads.

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