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Status Comments to Affect Websites’ PageRanks

A website’s PageRank value is based on an algorithm that assigns a numerical value to each web page within a set of hyperlinked web pages, with higher values corresponding to an individual web page’s relative importance within that set. This algorithm, trademarked and used by Google, has been key in the company’s success in the field of search engine optimization. Recently, Google has just started to expand the scope of its PageRank algorithm to index and include Ajax and Javascript content when calculating PageRank, so that now comments made on sites that use services such as the Facebook Comment Box or Disqus will now be discoverable via Google search.

What’s interesting about this new update is the potential it can have for generating new traffic, but it also can create negative ramifications. For some website owners, Google indexing comments of users of the website will help generate more traffic, but comments unrelated to the website itself, such as spam, could create search results that would deter people from visiting that site. What this means is that we could expect to see an increase in moderation of website comments by the owners concerned about the relevance of their website’s search results on Google. This also adds a new wrinkle in the ongoing competition between websites for PageRank rankings because now they not only might have to compete for attention based on their own website content, but on the content of their subscribers’ submissions as well. What I find interesting is knowing that since people have found ways to “reverse engineer” the PageRank algorithm in the past to artificially inflate their own PageRank values, whether they will be able to find a way to manipulate this new comment indexing to serve their self-interests as well.

Studying PageRank values in class, we looked only at voting based on in-links between websites in our analysis of relative importance of websites. What interests me about Google’s new and yet-to-be-seen PageRank algorithm is the level of importance that will be placed on website comments compared to the content of the actual websites themselves. If website comments are given equal weight to websites themselves, then there could be even less relevant search results in the future. For example, searching for “fever headache nausea” could give results including status updates from others commenting about their same symptoms, and any advice given about these symptoms from website comments might not be able to be verified as a reputable source. However, the exact details behind the variables that influence Google’s PageRank and search engine optimization have always been trade secrets, and it would be smart to assume that Google has foreseen the potential complications of including website comments in PageRank values and optimized the new algorithm for accuracy and relevancy.


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