EDIT: As of 30 Nov 2007, I’ve noticed my page rank has gone back up to 5! So looks like Google re-inclusion works. We are back in business and traffic has never been better!
There has been a lot of crazy things happening in my life in the last quarter of 2007. The problem was that I was so damn busy that I did not have the time to update readers for what has been happening. So not only was I bogged down daily with work, I had to finalised the Dandelion Exhibition and at the same time finish my Un-p3 Wave concept for this exhibition entry.
Not only that something major also happened to this blog. Sometime at the end of October or early November the Page Rank of Design Sojourn dropped from 5/10 to 3/10. It felt like a dagger through my heart, however I had so much on my plate then that I just could not deal with it. But whenever I had some down time I was researching on why my Page Rank had drop when it was a steady 5 all along. It’s only now that I have some time to really think about this issue and make some hard decisions.
Before we go on, just what is this Page Rank (PR) thing? According to Ian Rogers:
So what is PageRank?
In short PageRank is a “vote”, by all the other pages on the Web, about how important a page is. A link to a page counts as a vote of support. If there’s no link there’s no support (but it’s an abstention from voting rather than a vote against the page).
So in other words, when one of you dear readers link to a post on my site, it indicates that you find my writings noteworthy, and thus casting a vote of confidence in my favour. Not only that, we can extrapolate to say that if 2 sites have the same information but one Site A has a higher (good) PR, while the other Site B does not, the site with a better page rank will come up on top the other Site B in Google’s search engine. Check out Google’s write up on how it indexes your site.
During my research I stumble on a great article by Darren Rowse (of Problogger fame) who adviced patience and going back to basics. I have decided to follow his advice and spent most of this month monitoring my website traffic, researching and keeping an eye on what other bloggers were doing as a result of this so called “fiasco”. Also strange enough the many blogs like Copyblogger or Problogger failed to mentioned that after this “bru-ha-ha” their PR actually quickly returned to what it was before. So much of the ranting and raving is really inaccurate.
Interestingly enough, for this entire month, traffic to Design Sojourn continued to be steady. Of the 47% of total visitors send by search engines, Google owns a whopping 82% share. Of this 82%, 79% are new readers, and infact it is up by 6.35%! So as a result of this experiment, there does not seem to have been any effect by this PR drop in real terms. So everything was going to be “hunky dory” and I was prepared to live with my PR drop especially since I was still ranking highly on the Google search results under certain keywords.
However a few events in the last week had made me change my mind.
After reading the fact that Google does not look to kindly on Text Link Ads (Paid linking), I emailed Text Link Ads to ask them if I could add a “rel=nofollow” to my paid text links. With their response to my email and a recent “confidential” publisher email they sent to me, it dawned to me that through my own naivety I was selling my Page Rank to other sites. Suffice to say, I was just uncomfortable with their new publisher “terms and conditions”.
Furthermore while looking at how to get my PR back up I discovered that Matt Cutts has said through an update:
…we now refer to it as a “reconsideration request.” Why? Well, not every spam penalty results in removal from Google’s index, so “reconsideration” is more accurate than “reinclusion.”
Considering this together with Google disliking paid links, I concluded while I was still in the index, I was penalized by a reduction in Page Rank. Furthermore based on what I gather PR is meant to represent, a drop in my PR could be seen as a tarnish in my reputation. Darren Rowse has also echoed my sentiment by his interview with Sydney Morning Herald where he said:
“It [the PageRank] does say something about my credibility and reputation – in a similar way to anyone ranking anything,” he said.
So I was at a cross roads, do I keep my current site as it is with the revenue from the paid links just paying for the upkeep of the site but living with a tarnish on my reputation? Or drop my paid links and hope to get a “reinclusion” to bring my PR back to 5?
At the end of the day I asked myself? Why do I blog? It has never been about the money. I blog to increase my learning, meet like minded people and most importantly I blog to solidify my reputation as a designer. I think at the end of the day, for designers, having a good reputation is priceless. A good one is difficult to build, while once you have one it is too easily lost in a blink of an eyelid. In our ranking/statistics crazed society, having a PR penalization is something I cannot afford despite growing evidence that PR is essentially meaningless.
So last night, I finally made the hard decision to remove the paid links that used to be in the grey bar at the top of this page. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly support internet advertising as it keeps this and many other sites alive. But if its sole purpose is to “game” the system, then I want no part of it. Also, I have not quite decided if I will run any more Ads other than Google’s Adsense, and more research on my part what is an acceptable format needs to be done. I am however interested to know your take on this issue and of my decisions. I look forward to all of your responses.
I like to also thank fellow design blogger David Airey for additional advice on this matter and helping me get to the crux of the problem.
Brian Ling (Design Sojourn)
Brian is a multidisciplinary Design Leader with more than 18 years of experience leading strategic design programs that drives successful Brands and Fortune 500 businesses such as GE, Philips, Nakamichi, Flextronics, Ericsson, Hannspree, and HP. His passion is in helping organisations leverage on Design Driven Innovation to make people’s lives better.