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PageRank: Don’t Try Too Hard

For web administrators and developers, search engine optimization, which refers to the process/techniques for causing a website to be ranked highly by a search engine, is of critical importance when it comes to attracting as many users to a site as possible. Achieving this of course requires some understanding of what search engines optimize for and utilize when ranking websites. As discussed in class, the concept of PageRank is one major component that search engines like Google deeply depended on in its earlier days. The idea is that a website has a higher PageRank if there are more links to it from other websites and also if these links are of high quality (ex: a link from a university website is better than a link from an unverified/unknown website). And even though the common belief is that PageRank itself has become a smaller component of the way Google ranks websites, there is still no doubt that links and having many and high-quality ones link to a website are greatly beneficial for search engine optimization.

With this in mind, many web administrators and developers may try to utilize strategies that exploit this optimization based on links. In the article “Google Algorithms Explained, Part 1: Don’t Be Spam”, the author discusses how search engines like Google are actually very much aware of some common immoral strategies for boosting the ranking of a site, and thus Google will often penalize sites (ex: utilize filters to prevent showing them) that use these types of strategies. For example, based on the importance of links described in the previous paragraph, one trick that is often used is to create an article with a link to a one’s own website and submit that article to as many sites that accept article submissions as possible. This republishing of content effectively creates numerous links to a website, but Google has filters in place to filter out low quality content and links, such as not displaying duplicate pages and results for a given query and also ranking pages with longer/more substantive content at the top (“the average page ranked in the top ten search results has almost 2,000 words”).

Thus, while it is certainly reasonable to try to get a few high-quality links to one’s website when starting out (ex: asking a news website to write an article about a website and provide a link to the website), trying to game the system too much generally does not work out due to advances in the quality of search engines. Instead, it is better to focus one’s time and energy on developing a high-quality website with great content and a compelling user experience in order to truly attract visitors and achieve a high ranking in search engines.




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