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Cheating the PageRank and its Penalties

Google’s PageRank system still represents the core of how websites are ranked in its search queries. Relying on the simple principle that lots of good “links in” represent a quality result, and likewise that lots of good “links out” represent a quality hub, it has clearly served the company well. However, this simplicity comes at a cost!

Since it is easy to understand the PageRank system, it is similarly easy to exploit the PageRank system. As the article listed at the bottom lays out, a number of companies over the years have attempted to exploit the PageRank system to achieve higher results in search queries. As we all understand how valuable a top result in a Google search can be, we should all similarly be able to understand the incentive for such exploits.

As the article explains, huge companies such as The Washington Post, BBC, Mozilla, and Genius have violated Google’s quality guidelines which exist to protect PageRank from artificial manipulation.

In Genius’s case, for example, they were found guilty of unnatural links, a type of manipulation of PageRank. Genius asked bloggers to link to them, and in exchange Genius would advertise their blogs with Twitter. However, this results in unnatural search results. The penalty comes in the form of a temporary, manual lowering of PageRank. Even a short penalty can have enormous effects on revenue.

Even Google themselves were found to be violating their own standards in one case! They had bought links to promote Chrome, and though they called their violation accidental, they still penalized themselves.

It’s clear to see that PageRank has enormous power in its simplicity. However, oftentimes the simplest systems can be the most vulnerable to abuse.


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October 2016