Google has recently launched an update for its search engine’s algorithm. Nicknamed “Jagger,” this update has resulted to critical changes in the way that Google gives weight to certain factors that it looks at in coming up for PageRank. Because of this, there have been dramatic changes to Google’s search results. Google for its part has claimed that it is only out to give out more relevant search engine results that would maximize the searcher’s experience.
Over the weeks after the update was implemented, several sites that have not been placed in top spots have suddenly flew in ranking while some of those that have been ranked high previously have found their ranking fluctuating.
What is the update about? And what changes have been introduced into Google’s system?
Older Sites See Prominence in Results
One of the three affected areas is the domain age or the website history. Google has decided to place emphasis on the site’s age in calculating PageRank. One obvious effect of this is that older sites have suddenly appeared in the top spots of every search result page, outdoing the newer sites.
This change has brought about several questionable effects. If the older sites have a lot more information than the relatively newer site that has previously held the top spot, then it is good. But if they don’t, then Google has inadvertently prejudiced against newer sites with better quality. By default, older sites have outdated information that would most likely be irrelevant or lacking information to help a web searcher in his quest for information.
On a positive note, the greater weight on the older sites has resulted to suppression of a black hat technique of launching multiple domains just to gain ranks.
Google Recalculates Values for Backlinks
Google has also made changes to how it gives value to backlinks, or links that point to a site. Previously, Google simply calculates the number of links that point to your site (treating it as a vote of support along the way) in coming with up your page’s ranking. With this update, Google has now placed varying weights depending on the link’s age. Newer links have lesser values compared to links that have existed quite a long way before. Google has adjusted its algorithm in a manner that links start to gain more weight after periods of time.
This update has affected those webmasters that resort to link buying to build up their inbound links. No longer could they depend on these methods to quickly gain rank because any new link posted for the site would still take some time before it could build up some weight to materially affect the site’s ranking.
PageRank Loses Part of its Importance
The latest update has resulted to lesser importance for the PR value in the calculation of ranking. Google apparently has realized that a high PR value is not at all related to a website’s relevance and importance to a search query. PR, after all, is calculated by the number of backlinks to a site together with an importance factor that is determined by how the site being pointed to is related to the site making the referral. High-quality links carry the heaviest weight in the calculation, since these links are coming from sites that are considered relevant (and thus important) to the site being referred.
PageRank has come under various abuses by some SEO experts that use black hat techniques to artificially inflate sites’ PR values. While having high PRs serve little to the page’s actual ranking in results, artificially high PR sites can once in a while swindle a link-buying webmaster to buy links from them.
This is related to the practice of PR buying, where a webmaster buys rights from a high PR site to post a link to his site. This practice stems from the long-running belief within the SEO community that a site being linked by a high-PR site gets the PR value of that site. Hence, webmasters buy links from high-PR sites for that purpose, although with the age delay addition to the algorithm this practice has lost its effectiveness.
There has been speculation that PageRank will be replaced by TrustRank, a similar algorithm used by Google’s competitor Yahoo although this has never been proven by public statements. It is also said that Google might have decided that TrustRank is irrelevant. Since they are similar, Google could have concluded that its own PageRank algorithm is irrelevant as well, although most people find this unlikely.