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Page Rank, Link Farms, and the future of SEO

The web is constantly evolving, and so are the algorithms and metrics that shape it, what users see, and when.

Prior to April 2016, A website’s page rank was publicly visible via the Google Toolbar. Initially made public in 2000, as Google was just getting of its feet and marketing itself as a smarter search engine than its rivals, though with good intentions, this move had an enormous effect, and arguably negative, on reader content digestion for the next decade and a half.

This move opened an entire area for in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in rankings, results in an effort to gain more traffic. One particular phenomenon
was the Link farming. Link Farming is an search engine optimization (SEO) tactic where websites link to each other in an effort to increase the authority score of the member websites. Often pages or hubs were made to specifically spam link to other unrelated websites. For anyone unfamiliar with the basic PageRank algorithm and update steps, the more links pointing to a particular website, and the higher hub score (its score/metric as a list of links) of each website linking to it, the higher that particular website’s authority score. So, Link Farms unfairly increases the ranks and scores of its member websites, leading to more views, ad revenue, business, etc.

As google and other search engines learned, a search algorithm based solely on PageRank can be easily manipulated. Though Google has fought back and punished websites for spam links, this eventually led to PageRank being removed from the public in 2016. Though PageRank will still be used internally, a page’s score will no longer be available publicly.

Of course, PageRank hasn’t been the sole metric to rank pages in a long time, especially with the progress made in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and NLP fields, this choice surely decrease ranking manipulations and reward websites with better, more relevant content more as it always should have. Though it is disappointing to see the downfall of a for the most part fair ranking/scoring algorithm, hopefully this spurs efforts to increasingly develop metrics to fairly score websites on the quality of their content, rather than heavily on its hub or authority score.

Sources:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_farm

https://www.thoughtco.com/identifying-link-farms-3469360

 

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