Matt Cutts Clears Up Page Rank Confusion

Matt Cutt’s blog is a wonderful source of Google insider information that can make a significant difference to your SEO efforts. This week, he’s tackled the complex issue of the link between page rank and trust; which is one that still confuses many people.

As he explains in his blog, a newspaper contacted him to ask why their page rank had fallen from 3 to 7. This is a fairly significant drop, which would alarm any webmaster. Cutt’s explained that the culprit this time was likely to be down to link schemes that violate Google’s conditions. The Google rules clearly state that the sites that you link to are a reflection of the quality of your content. Likewise, the sites that link to you have a similar effect.

The Google ecosystem works on trust, they have to trust that the content you’re putting up and linking to is accurately tied to the keywords they associate with your site. If a site is accepting money for links, this isn’t a natural link, and therefore Google will react harshly.

Link Schemes Explained 

Google will dish out very harsh punishments for any site that attempts to manipulate the PageRank algorithm in its favour. This includes linking to known spam sites, aggressive link exchanging  and selling links. This is all part of their ongoing fight to make the Internet useful and valuable to its users, so they don’t want inaccurate links showing up in SERPs. Matt Cutts draws on comparisons between paid reviews showing up on Amazon, and newspaper reporters accepting undisclosed money to link to a particular site.

The newspaper in question was accused of selling links which passed PageRank. It’s important to remember that selling links isn’t a violation in its own right, after all, this is the basis for most Internet advertising, but there are steps you need to take to ensure your links are acknowledged as paid. Either:

  • Add a rel=nofollow to the <a> tag
  • Redirect the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file.

Simply marking your links as ‘partners’ is not enough to appease Google, and their trust is something that you’ll have to work hard to gain back once lost.

Cutts’ advice to the newspaper in question was to do a thorough search of their links and remove any paid links, add rel=nofollow where appropriate, or block them from search engines with a .txt file.