Searching for the Facts on Pagerank

August 21st, 2008 · No Comments

I have come to a shocking realization:

Walt Disney World for Grownups is a Page Rank 0 Site.

I *WILL* Discover The Secrets

I *WILL* Discover The Secrets

Because of the mystery surrounding Pagerank and particularly the dreaded PR0, it took me a while to come to this conclusion. I initially thought I was just waiting for my first Pagerank update and then we would see our initial Pagerank. However I am getting a different response than the “N/A” that I got when the site wasn’t ranked in the database. I’m getting a 0.

So of course in a panic I began a frenzied session of research. How can I fix this? What does this mean? What will happen? This is where the intentionally vague nature of Google’s Pagerank and the twisted landscape it has created became clear. Separating myth from logical conclusion from fact is nearly impossible.

In a perfect world, Google would say “Don’t worry about your Pagerank”, everyone would say “OK,” and we’d move on. Unfortunately, in this world, people create hypotheses, test them, and post their results. Other people just create hypotheses and post them as facts. All of these hypotheses get mixed together and relentlessly presented as fact, eventually making it nearly impossible to identify reliable information. Here are some conclusions I have drawn based on my research, in order of confidence. Be aware NONE OF THESE ARE KNOWN FACTS.

Fairly Confident: Pagerank Zero is not the same as Banned

I feel fairly confident that this is true, although considerable documentation will lead you to believe otherwise. The easiest way to verify this is the fact that a Google search for our site returns results. Also using Google’s Webmaster Tools I can see that we rank highly for a few searches. So it seems that we exist in the database and can receive searches. We also of course have a few search hits from Google that also corroborate this.

Somewhat Confident: “Badrank” is real

Walt Disney World For Grownups has several decent inbound links. In the same timespan Protoscopic has a PR of 2 and WDWForGrownups has a PR of 0.

Neither site is conducting any type of “shenanigans;” the only difference I can come up with is that WDWForGrownups has many outbound links, some to PR0 sites. While I wouldn’t think this would be a big deal, this site, which I have always found to be very reliable, mentions a Google employee who warns webmasters not to “Link to bad neighborhoods.” This supports the idea that sites are given a “Badrank” penalty whenever they link to other PR0 sites.

It may be at the time the last database was generated, WDWForGrownups had few inbound links and several outbound links to PR0 sites which penalized us sufficiently to get us down to a PR of 0. While I don’t really think this is a good policy, it at least seems plausible, is supported by knowledgeable experts, and seems to be supported by evidence. I can’t really think of anything else that would influence our ranking negatively, so I’m hoping that the next update will show our link-building efforts have counteracted our “Badrank.” I am not really sure why some of the sites we link to have PRs of 0 but they have excellent content that we are loathe to drop just to improve our Pagerank.

Somewhat Confident: Pagerank Zero is not a Death Sentence

As mentioned before, we rank fairly highly for some searches. So obviously it is possible to overcome a Pagerank zero. Additionally we know of sites that are “leaders” in our sector that also have a Pagerank of zero. This leads me to believe that it is at least possible to operate successfully with a zero page rank. In the long run, however, we don’t want to test this hypothesis empirically.

In the end, the only things I am confident of are that PR is not as important as I thought and that there is a lot of bad information out there. I saw many forum threads in which someone stated something authoritatively, was refuted, and then said “well it sure seems that way to me.” So plenty of people want to act as authorities when they are not. We will continue to try to sort out this information and try to continue to improve our “working understanding” of the mysteries of Pagerank.

→ No CommentsCategories: Main blog narrative · Theory’s 101 Link Building Tips–Still Useful After All These Years

August 20th, 2008 · 3 Comments

Experiments in Making Connections

Experiments in Making Connections

You’ve heard us talk about our link-building frustrations and about how tempting it is to bring in loads of traffic through temporary links. But we continue to put our collective nose to the grindstone, because, as Andy Hagans and Aaron Wall at SEOBook say in the archived 2006 gem,101 Link Building Tips to Market Your Website, links “for the forseeable future [are] going to be the easiest way for a computer program to judge the importance and trustworthiness of a Web page.”

Yes, things have changed since 2006. But we haven’t seen anything out there that discourages solid link-building as one of the best ways to establish a site on the web. As long as that’s the case, we’re going to put some of that grindstone energy behind few of these ideas—the ones we deem to be particularly timeless—and show take you through our trial and error. Stay tuned as we explore specific experiments in implementing many of these 101 tips.

→ 3 CommentsCategories: Applied Use · Main blog narrative · Reviews

Market Research: Google Trends

August 19th, 2008 · No Comments

One of the most disappointing areas of development in the Walt Disney World For Grownups project is search engine traffic. Our knowledge and research left us fairly sure this niche is not being adequately serviced, however we are not seeing much incoming traffic from search engines. We’re enacting steps to counteract some of our early mistakes as we recognize them, but for future reference we are analyzing how we could have avoided these problems in the first place.

One of the most fundamental questions we need to ask is: What are people searching for?

Enter: Google Trends

You can get a general overview of Google Trends in this article from the Google blog. As you might expect from the name Google Trends is useful for identifying the relative “strength” of various search terms. So by using the service, you can determine which of various search terms is most popular.

Additionally you can determine the changes in a search term’s prevalence over time. You can watch whether the term is becoming more or less commonly sought. You can also break down all these results by region and download the data to analyze on your own. While you can’t get a “raw number” of searches, it’s questionable what good that number would be. If I knew that “pickle” was searched for 10,000 times a day, I wouldn’t know whether that was a lot or a little unless I had something to compare it to.

Graph of Grownups vs. Adults

Graph of Grownups vs. Adults

So an example of how we could have helped ourselves is in the naming of our site. We chose the name “Walt Disney World For Grownups” over “Walt Disney World For Adults” because the term “adult” has a connotation relating to “adult entertainment”, which doesn’t really jive with our more “PG-rated” site. However if you look at this graph, you can see that “adults” is searched for about 300 times more often than “grownups.” While we expected a disparity, that one is so extreme we might have re-evaluated our name choice had we known about it.

An Awesome Trend (ho ho)

An Awesome Trend (ho ho)

While relative popularity is important, you don’t always want the more popular term. If you are trying to carve out a niche, the less popular term my be less adequately serviced. Take for example: “cool” versus “awesome”. While this shows that “cool” is about 14 times as popular as “awesome”, if you look at this chart you can see that awesome has actually been trending up quite strongly for quite some time. This could mean that it is a candidate to be “off the radar,” but gaining strength. I would rather be a big player in the smaller, but growing pond.

The ways that Google Trends could be used are obvious and numerous. As we find more complex and interesting uses we will share them with you.

→ No CommentsCategories: Main blog narrative · Theory