When a thing is funny, search it carefully for a hidden truth. -- George Bernard Shaw
Not long ago I wrote about what I call the "PageRank Crash of 2007" where legions of very big blogging-related sites and commercial ventures -- Washingtonpost.com, Forbes.com, Engadget.com and SFGate.com noticed a downgrading in their PageRank. I also proclaimed, "Now, this is big - you may not grok it right away, but it's going to change the entire complexion of the web, and pretty quick, too. Hopefully, for the better..."
Confirmation comes via posts on Google's official WebMaster blog by Matt Cutts (as well as on his personal blog):
"If, however, a webmaster chooses to buy or sell links for the purpose of manipulating search engine rankings, we reserve the right to protect the quality of our index. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank violates our webmaster guidelines."
In fact, Cutts points out that as early as Feb 2003 Google stated "Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank".
In other words, they've been warning about this for the equivalent of centuries in Internet Time.
So what's the skinny?
The bottom line of all this is that you can now expect to get more relevant search results, a good thing. The other part of the equation is that, like consumers buying real estate with sub-prime 100% financing oblivious to the inevitable impending bust (which we are now in), hundreds -- probably thousands -- of "link buying" sites that promoted schemes involving the purchase of Google "link juice" and enhancement of PageRank thereby, are now effectively out of business. Come to think of it, the environment did kind of smack of an impending "bubble", didn't it?
What will happen now?
What is already happening is that -- just like the inevitable return to sanity we'll see once the real estate / credit debacle is over, we are now seeing a return to sanity on the web. That's a good thing, because bloggers and site owners are starting to realize once again that it is quality content that is Search Engine Optimized which will once again be king. Google reminds me of Paul Volker, Fed Chairman in the late 70's -- the cigar - smoking central banker who had the guts to put both feet on the brakes and keep them there until inflation wound down and the yield curve returned to normal. It was painful, yes. But it had to be done.
I wonder how long it will take until the "Web Curve" normalizes...