Oct 25, 2007

On Google, PageRank, and Corporate Arrogance


For those of you who pay little attention to the murky world of search engine optimization, you probably have no use for the news that Google updated its toolbar with new PageRank numbers. I will not be offended if the techno-challenged skip this post, though I argue there are larger issues at play here in the move by Google to punish website owners by lowering their PageRanks.

For the record, this particular website has seen PageRank drops from 6 to 5 and 5 to 3 during the changes to the Google algorithm. While this irks me, and inhibits my ability to sell advertising, it will not interfere with my desires to write and post my work online. I will make adjustments and learn how to play the game in such a way that I can make a few dollars while keeping pacified the Leviathan that is Google.

After all, my income from blogging is a small percentage of my gross earnings, and I am more interested in bringing my work to a wider audience than I am in scooping up nickels and dimes.

Google designed PageRank as a component of its classified search algorithm. PageRank itself is a complicated forumla, but its primary variable is the value of inbound links from other websites. Simply put, a web page with many external links pointing to it - especially from other pages with high PageRank - receive a higher ranking on a logartithmic scale from 0 to 10.

The purpose of the virtual spanking by Google appears to be in response to some combination of paid links and link farms. Of course, Google and its AdSense program - which is a blatant example of paid links - do not fall under the rubric of the retributive PageRank actions.

Why, after all, do the Google engineers get to determine the relative validity of paid and unpaid links? By what means do they determine which types of links are acceptable, and which ones are deserving of penalties? If I decide, for example, to write about Phoenix real estate, how is Google to know what my intentions are? We may never know, since Google rarely deems the public worthy of an explanation about its business practices.

Odd, isn't it, that many other publicly-traded companies find that corporate transparency is good business? We might be seeing a new corporate model at play here: the corporation that defiantly thumbs its collective noses at the very customers it purportedly serves. Perhaps, too, Google might be engaging in what might be construed as monopolistic practices.

The unilateral, mysterious, and arrogant actions by Google's leaders are indicative of a company that has lost touch with its customer base. My suspicion is that - despite its high-flying stock prices - Google's heavy-handed tactics will come back to haunt the company. There are already bloggers calling for a worldwide Google boycott, and the silence from Mountain View should best be interpreted as the height of hubris.

And you can ask Creon or Achilles about the value of hubris.


Anonymous said...


webduck said...

You have hit it right on the nailhead Mike. Excellent, and very well put.

Hooda Thunkit said...

For starters, instead of all of us telling each other to "Google" something for information, tell each other to Yahoo! it instead!


I got ticked and switched a couple of years ago.

Actually, that is a lie, I have a relative that works for Yahoo! and switched on their suggestion.

I have yet to be disappointed with any search results.

Yahoo! it!

If enough of us do it, Google will notice ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hardly ever use Google as well.

The reason they don't make their search strategy public is because that would make it too easy for spammers to game. Not that it's horribly difficult now, but they want to preserve any utility they have.

--The Screaming Nutcase (refusing to log in on a public computer)

Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I came to you through your pagerank and som elink you have to one of my competitors.
But I do like write you write, and especially your tone.
Best regards.
FD @ Condo Hotel Miami Beach - Condo Hotel Fort Lauderdale

Erik said...

You currently have a pagerank of 4. : )

You can check your website's google rank here:


historymike said...

Hi Erik:

Yes, climbing back up. Google has a reevaluation request form that I filled out, and they moved this site from PR 3 to 4 on the Toolbar about three weeks ago.