How PR has changed the web. (A Tome)
PageRank and the Supplemental Index
PageRank has once again been stated to be the primary factor in determining a web page's position in Google's Search Engine Results and a web page's assignment to the 'Main Index' or the 'Supplemental Index'. According to Adam Lasnik, who administers a Google group on crawling, indexing, and ranking, backlinks are a "...key way that our algorithms will view your pages as more valuable to retain in our main index".
Google has explained that other factors such as content, quality, and on page aspects do make a difference in where you're site is positioned on SERPs. But, with the recent addition of a 'Supplemental Index', pages are now, in effect, grouped into two different categories: searchable and virtually unsearchable with backlinks being the primary determinant of which category a legitimate page will fall under.
With PageRank as the stated and apparent 'key' factor in determining a web page's designated index, once again the search for quality backlinks is on. And with it comes the need to hoard PageRank, or, in other words, create outbound links to as few people as possible while building inbound links to your own.
The result is as Adam puts it, a negative "feedback loop" in which a site's viability relies heavily upon backlinks that are increasingly difficult to get. However, basic means of building backlinks, such as link trading and directory submission are more frequently determined to be low quality, thus having little positive benefit on PageRank.
For large sites, there is usually little trouble in acquiring backlinks. However, a link trade with a small blog or online store is hardly worth the time and effort for larger authority sites. Many smaller sites are either forced to accept few to no inbounds links or are pushed into acquiring low value links, or worse, bad links that are purchased or found in link farms.
PageRank is King
Google states that it does not want site owners seeking inbound links in order to manipulate search engine results. However, by creating a demand for links as a scarce and required resource they are, in fact, encouraging just that behavior. The suggestion by Google's representatives to "Get more quality backlinks" is, in effect, a call to do just what they claim to discourage.
I've seen it many times. Sites that were once placed very high in
SERPs are now sent to the supplemental index for a lack of backlinks. Content ceases to be king. Fresh updates of the content on product pages that are designed to provide the user with more information and really 'reach out to the customer' as Adam puts it are not even noticed by Google until months later. And then there's still a slim probability that the page will be upgraded back to the main index. This is true even for sites who have unique and quality content.
Sites who offer troubleshooting forums, original content, and a little more than a cookie cutter, scraped content, online store still have a slim chance of getting back into the main index any time if they cannot acquire backlinks in an aggressive strategy to influence (or rather, manipulate) search engines.
So who can win?
Large, already established companies? Sure. Companies with the resources to invest heavily in marketing and advertising? Definitely. Companies who offer a buzz worthy innovation? Yes, if the buzz catches. Mom & Pop shops with quality products and services that are similar (and better) than their large competitors? Probably not. But what if they have better and more informative websites? Still, probably not.
So the problem is now, this: Google who has claimed to only want to serve the interests of its searchers by relaying the best and most relevant results is actually only relaying those who are established, trendy, or those who have invested the most in trying to manipulate search engines. But they are not actually returning the most relevant pages or even the highest quality web. Right now, Yahoo! is doing that.
The Solution As I See It
What's needed is some good old fashioned people to look through the web on behalf of Google and actually check out websites. You don't have to get rid of crawlers and algorithms, but they should be weighted ( if they already are they should be weighted more) by human opinions and site reviewers. Now, I know this will probably never happen. After all we have to keep costs down to take care of the stockholders and our huge profit margins! And you might tell me that we site owners should be out creating demand for our sites, and we'll automatically start seeing increases in our search positions. But, Google offers a product. That product is designed to
provide the best quality searches possible to its users and the only way to really do that is to get some actual human opinions.
To sum up my short tome I would like to say this. I have a site that sells Nortel products, among others. Nortel themselves contacted my company and told me that my site was perhaps the best, most informative secondary market telecommunications site out there. Of course they would not link to my site (after all they're looking out for they're own PageRank) but they are looking into making us an official partner. I built this site by myself, and I market it by myself. I don't have the resources to compete with many others in the online marketing world. However, I offer a better experience and more
information to my users than most of my competitors. (Sounds familiar right, Google!) Google, with their mathematical algorithms, apparently cannot see this, but maybe, if they got some humans to check it out, they would. And, what's more, they'd offer a better product at the same time.