Feature Article (Pub:October 04) The latest Google Page Rank rumble and the fallout by Paul Rudman

First off, welcome again to the CommerceTuned Newsletter. This month I'll be looking at the latest Google Page Rank shift, what it could mean, and what actually happened. For those not yet in the now, Page Rank is Google's method of evaluating the importance of a website. Their search algorithm involves a mix of various factors such as website longevity, frequency of content updates, size of site and number and quality of inbound links to the website.

SEO specialists are perhaps the most guilty of viewing a high PR (1-10 in range) as being the Mecca of optimisation aims, get a high page rank and you've made it! While this is not quite the case, the fundamental factors that determine page rank are a good indication of the importance of a website, as most of the factors are also used to judge the importance of a website by the other major engines as well.

Approximately 4 times a year Google re-evaluates the quality of its database which leads to the page rank updates. The first thing I noticed that was a precursor to this event was the temporary cache of client websites was being wiped back 3-4 weeks on websites that were being crawled every day. CommerceTuned websites were by no means alone in experiencing this and it was playing havoc with many a person's SERP's (search engine ranking placement) as phrases that had good search engine placements were suddenly disappearing as was the traffic that was generated as a result of it.

The various theories about this were along the lines of "google is rebuilding its database"," google could be conducting technical updates" although no-one knew for sure. What we now know is that the cache activity was the result of Google preparing for its latest PR update, the first in 107 days (not that I was counting...).

So what happened? Google appeared to do a whizz bang re-crawl of the sites in its database and the page rank of some websites increased, as a result of one or more of the factors mentioned earlier, the majority of sites stayed the same, and some websites dropped, generally as a result of not being sufficiently fed and watered by their owners. Remember, websites are like pets, give them love and attention and as a result they will be the gift that keeps on giving, for with your Google page rank rewards will generally come increases in traffic, after all there is no substitute for an appealing, up to date website!

Why did Google make the changes? some theories floating around are that Google has introduced a new spider designed to try and catch websites using cloaking scripts to send spiders to different content while feeding up different content to users. Another more simplistic suggestion is that Google just wanted to update its database of websites.

Either way it isn't worth losing sleep over. Google and the rest of the major search engine players are fully independent and work in their own ways. We will never understand what they do or why - we can only speculate and react to the changes as and when they occur. After all, lets face it, we can all get into that comfort zone at times, so the Page Rank updates will always keep you on your toes whether you are into website optimisation or a website owner. Abide by the factors that page rank is based on in the first place and you are far more likely to come out a winner rather than a loser in the next PR update.


Paul Rudman is the director and head of optimisation at CommerceTuned, he's been involved in developing search strategies and search engine optimisation for 7 years.

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