Sunday, May 04, 2008

Is Traffic The New PageRank? No.

How many times have you read an article or blog post where someone says "don't worry about PageRank, if the link will drive traffic it's worth pursuing." I'm betting you read that a lot and if you're like me, catch yourself scoffing just a little when you do.

Yes yes I know PageRank isn't a major component of the ranking algorithm anymore and yes I know it dates me but what the heck, I can't help myself. I'm a busy person with little time to look behind every page I come across so I let the toolbar set the tone. If there's a meter of green, the page passes the initial glance test. If not, I may do further analysis before moving on. For me, the PageRank meter is an adequate gatekeeper and one I can see present tense.

Traffic is harder to determine, there's no way to look at a site and see site traffic unless they offer something like Sitemeter on their pages. There's also no way to see which pages a search engine deems higher quality. You just don't offer stats publicly unless you're selling links in which case they should be provided in a media kit. As a result, it's tough to find out what a site is generating traffic wise and makes securing links based on traffic a gamble since it's a future tense metric. (meaning, I take a risk in securing a traffic based link. I can't tell the success of that link until it generates traffic).

But there's a couple of problems with my old habit.

First, it limits me to using just Google. That's not good since each of the "big three" use a different ranking algorithm I may miss out on an opportunity to find a good partner site by just using one.

Ok truth be told I don't like the idea of one entity having so much power and right now, Google has a lot. Don't tread on me, and power to the people comes to mind when I think of Google. (Which is pretty funny if you consider their motto.) And while Google doesn't tread, right now I feel like they are creeping along into everything and that kinda worries me.

Second, Google has been pushing the use of nonfollow which has prompted a good number of commercial sites to adopt it rendering any authority vote they cast almost invisible not only on G but Yahoo! as well.

Influenital sites like YouTube, the Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers and now the greater portion of Flickr pink their links which means their authority doesn't flow. We've made them authorities by linking to them but do not enjoy the reciprocity that comes with partnership. Oh well.

And lastly, we know visual PageRank isn't a true representation of the real McCoy... not that it really matters in the big ranking picture anyway. I mean, why do people say things like " well the toolbar doesn't really show true PageRank". Does it show false PageRank? Well no according to Google, it just doesn't show what they see. It's a timing issue. Whatever.

All seems kinda dumb when you talk about it like this. So why does the fuss around PageRank continue? Good question. Better question might be - what's better at giving us the quick qualifying factor like the PageRank toolbar?

Don't tell me Alexa. Yikes! Maybe it's plain old search engine placement, an average of sites across the three engines.

The only tool I know that does that is Aaron's Myriad Search although I noticed it doesn't bring back any results for Ask Jeeves but includes them as an option on the main page.

For now I'm keeping my toolbar. Sorry Aaron, love Myraid and will use it but it doesn't fit on my toolbar. When it does I'll unhook the green meter and put it up there. Until then, here's looking at you PageRank.

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