In a recent interview with Aaron Wall, legendary “black hat” SEO Fantomaster commented that Google’s PageRank algorithm is based on a fallacious view of links. Is he right?
Let’s review what PageRank is and how it is calculated. If you’ve been around on the Internet for awhile then you know that PageRank is based on the concept that inbound links count as “votes”. The system was devised as a way for Google to examine a website’s authority based on how many other websites were linking to it and the quality of those links. Over the few years that this system has been in place, the algorithm has changed and shifted from merely counting numbers of links to analyzing several factors related to the quality of a link. But the basic underpinning of links as votes is still in place.
Fantomaster has a point when he says this is a flawed view of linking. A link does not necessarily equate with quality in the eyes of the linker. There are all sorts of reasons, as he points out, for one website to link to another, including disagreeing with a premise or an entire point that the linkee made on his or her blog. A link could be for the purpose of criticism, not praise.
So why is this system still in use when it is clearly based on a flaw? And why do so many Internet marketers still rely on it as a test of relevance and authority?
PageRank has its flaws, no doubt. It certainly is not a reliable test of authority, especially since many “so called” search engine optimization experts have used it to buy and sell links and to manipulate rankings and their own site authority through complex linking schemes. In the world of SEO, link building has become an industry of its own simply because of the PageRank algorithm.
Aaron Wall’s question to Fantomaster regarding the future of links – will the search engines get away from link evaluation for the purpose of determining authority and relevance – is a good question. I wish they would. I’d like to see a more complex measure in place that takes into account other factors like scalability, heavier emphasis of on-page factors, and more weight toward new websites that meet a specific query answer. But until something better comes along we are stuck with evaluating links.