I’ve given yesterday’s Google smackdown a bit of thought over the past 24 hours. I’ve been angry, sad, indifferent, resigned. I’ve gone through the entire spectrum of emotion over the deal trying to figure out how it would affect what I do and how I do it. After sleeping on the matter for the past day and reading the opinions of lots of other people who were affected, I’m inclined to let Google shoot themselves in the foot.
As one commenter in my previous post noted, this is classic FUD. That theory rings really loudly in my ears and I’m inclined to go with that theory. Google slaps down a bunch of prominent people, lets the buzz take over and hope that the warning shot would be taken seriously by the rest of the blogosphere. Well, Google can kiss my derriére.
I’m not inclined to change the way I do things, nor am I inclined to recommend anyone else change what they do, how they do it or try to avoid Google PageRank penalties in the future. In the case of my blog, I have not broken any rules nor have I pimped my blog in some way to artificially manipulate SERPs or PageRanking. In fact, what I’ve done is no different that the bulk of other legitimate blogs.
Let me summarize what Google exists for, from the perspective of a blogger, content producer and user.
Google Exists to Produce Relevant Search Results
Google is first and foremost a search engine. Sure it has lots of other tools and apps that they offer, but their bread and butter is search and to that end, they want to produce relevant search results to users. They want to produce relevancy and authority. You’re more likely to get gadget recommendations from Engadget, for instance, than our own The Gadget Blog. It’s the truth. Engadget is just the authority followed by Gizmodo. Yes, they are competitors. That’s fine. They are the authorities. When I search for a gadget that our blog and Engadget has written about, I expect, as a user, that the Engadget listing would rank higher. Google wants to produce relevant, authoritative content.
Google has an Advertising Business
Google Adsense is Google’s advertising arm and will run on any site regardless of PageRank. On the flip side, commodity advertising companies rely heavily on PageRank. What you have here is a burgeoning case of Conflict of Interest in the case of Google.
Google does not like to have its SERPs artificially manipulated
The beauty of the Google algorithm is that no one really knows all the details. I’d doubt even the founders or CEO have the full picture. This is a deep, dark secret held as closely as the Coca-cola formula. Going a step farther, Google’s algorithm changes as time goes on and as the volume of indexable content grows and challenges with spam and search engine gaming grow. Google likes to have the final word on what is authoritative and relevant. So they do things like lay a smackdown on people selling text links in exchange for PageRank juice. Purchased influence is not something Google likes to deal with.
Now having said all that – what I expect of Google and what I think Google expects of itself – let me tell you exactly what Google has told the world about itself.
“PageRank is Irrelevant”
In the early days of PageRank, it was about casting relevancy of sites. The higher the PageRank, the more authoritative a site was. Now PageRank is less important as only advertisers really care about it. It’s more important to rank well for keywords and phrases – why? Because of Adsense. I’ll get to that later, though.
What Google has shown with their zealous adjustments on PageRank is that content really is not all that important. What is offered to the world is really not that relevant. What is relevant is playing by Google’s dictates. When they say jump, if you jump, you’ll rank high in PageRank. Realistically, PageRank is about the only leverage Google has to influence relevance and by penalizing those that are highly relevant arbitrarily, they have devalued the perception of PageRank beyond its already low perception.
“We Don’t Want You to Advertise Unless You Use Adsense”
The people who have been penalized in this and the last update are people who are monetizing their blogs. The people who are selling text links – okay, slap a nofollow tag on those links and prevent manipulation. Those penalized yesterday – well, I don’t think any were selling text links, but we are running advertising. And we’re not running Adsense. Under the assumption (faulty as it is) that advertisers only want to run ads on sites that have higher PageRank, and Google Adsense does not rely on PageRank, Google has throttled anyone making significant income on non-Adsense advertising. They are trying to dictate how we monetize.
“Content is Not King. Playing by Our Rules is King.”
I stated yesterday and I’ll state it again today: Those who were penalized yesterday should not be the ones who are demoted but PROmoted. If Google’s endgame is to produce relevant and authoritative listings (see point #1 above), then they should be trying to figure out how to promote our content more. They should be asking us to be listed in Google News. They should be pre-populating our feeds in Google Reader. They should be striking up dialogue with us about how to address their concerns while protecting ours. It’s our content, Google.
Now I still cannot speak publicly for b5media, though my inclination is that the corporate position will be roughly in line with my position, I do not plan to change how I run my site. PageRank 3. So what? Google can kiss my derriére. You as the readers discover this site through search results (which to be clear are not necessarily affected by PageRank, so let’s keep that argument separate), through social media promotion via Twitter, Facebook and reading other blogs, and through networking. As noted in the comments on SEOMoz’ White Board Friday a few weeks ago, this blog is an influencer blog – it doesn’t have the volume of traffic of, say, Scoble but the key people who need to read this blog, read it. They don’t care about PageRank. You don’t care about PageRank. Why should I care about PageRank.
I still have people approach me at conferences asking me “Hey, aren’t you the guy from Technosailor?” I still am in the Technorati 5000 (was Technorati 2000 but I don’t try anymore since T’rati is pretty much irrelevant too). I still have people who look forward to meeting me whenever I’m going somewhere. I still have people who LOVE the chance to write here (there’s original Spanish Language content coming as soon as I can secure the writer!). This blog is successful on its own without Google. It’s a shame Google won’t play the game with us, but if they want to be on their own island, let them be.
For bloggers who are not sure what to make of this whole thing, I’d say ignore it. Don’t worry about PageRank. Don’t worry about whether or not you should include a blogroll on your site. My advice about avoiding blogrolls centers on value for everyone when you link to your favorite blogs in the context of your content instead of a semi-static blogroll no one may ever look at. It has nothing to do with whether Google might or might not penalize you for having a blogroll. For bloggers in networks, I’d say forget about Google’s pagerank. Don’t install the toolbar. Don’t torture yourself. Like Alexa ratings, the numbers are completely bunk and are not in your control anyway. Just ignore it. Produce great content, and people will find you. Trust me, they always do. People want good content, not PageRank. Write for your readers or yourself. Google can kiss your derriére.