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View Poll Results: How Fair is the Link Popularity Algorithm?
I agree it is fair 11 23.40%
I disagree with its fairness 16 34.04%
I neither agree or disagree with its fairness 20 42.55%
Voters: 47. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 09-22-2004   #1
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How Fair is the Link Popularity Algorithm?

We all know how important it is to get links to rank high on the primary search engines, right? An we also know how much effort, time and money it takes to get external inbound links to any given website (.com, .org, or .whatever). Whether it's you who is getting the links or outsourcing it to anyone in the world, it still costs time and money.

The question is, how fair is the link popularity algorithm across all websites on the Internet? Let me explain a little bit more.

Although I would not like this thread to go in depth about PageRank, I will use this one example to illustrate a point. Back some time, I was reading a great thread in SEO Chat about how many links to get a PageRank and our good friends, Sharon and Roy Montero, gave great insight about this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sharon and Roy Montero
How many backlinks from PR7 Web pages (not Websites) would it take to acquire a PR8 & PR9 Web page?

Back on November 4, 2001 we put together a chart that answers your question so the answer is ... 110 pages to acquire a PageRank8 page and 550 pages to acquire a PageRank9 page.


The chart is based on the assumption that all pages have an average of 22 links per page.

---------------------<><><><><>-------------------

How soon does the average Web page "grow up" to be a PageRank8 page?

With all PageRank3 pages you will need to be linked from 68,750 pages.
With all PageRank4 pages you will need to be linked from 13,750 pages.
With all PageRank5 pages you will need to be linked from 2750 pages.
With all PageRank6 pages you will need to be linked from 550 pages.
With all PageRank7 pages you will need to be linked from 110 pages.
With all PageRank8 pages you will need to be linked from 22 pages.
With all PageRank9 pages you will need to be linked from 5 page.
With all PageRank10 pages you will need to be linked from 1 page.

---------------------<><><><><>-------------------

How soon does the average Web page "grow up" to be a PageRank9 page?

With all PageRank3 pages you will need to be linked from 343,750 pages.
With all PageRank4 pages you will need to be linked from 68,750 pages.
With all PageRank5 pages you will need to be linked from 13,750 pages.
With all PageRank6 pages you will need to be linked from 2750 pages.
With all PageRank7 pages you will need to be linked from 550 pages.
With all PageRank8 pages you will need to be linked from 110 pages.
With all PageRank9 pages you will need to be linked from 22 pages.
With all PageRank10 pages you will need to be linked from 5 page.

---------------------<><><><><>-------------------

Your Friends,

Sharon and Roy Montero
Example 1, many links less quality (in PageRank points).

So, based on this example, you could get a PageRank of 8 "to be linked from 68,750 [PR3] pages" and just for argument, let say each these links costs $10 (very competitive pricing across the world). That means that for any website this link building campaign would cost $687,500 to get a PageRank 8 and regardless of what search engine it is 68,750 links is A LOT!! and enough to rank very well in almost all search engines regardless if they are coming from PageRank 3 pages.

Example 2, less links higher in quality (in PageRank points).

Let's say this website will seek an average of PageRank5 links, and those cost about $25 to $50, then the investment might still be around $68,750 to $137,500.

Ok, then whatever the investment is from any example you do, Link Building IS NOT CHEAP!!

For a large corporate website that could even be taken from the petty cash box, but for a smaller "mom & pop" website (regardless of the level of SEO it has) that could be a lifetime savings or not enough human resources to ever accomplish it.

Let's also take out of the equation the service or product offering provided (eg. looking back at the "Paris Hilton video" scandal, for example).

With this in mind, think about it for a minute, and what's your opinion on how fair do you think the link popularity algorithm from the search engines is across all websites on the Internet?

I will run a quick poll for quick overview of the thread with:
  • I agree with its fairness
  • I disagree with its fairness
  • I neither agree or disagree with its fairness

Last edited by Nacho : 09-22-2004 at 10:12 PM.
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Old 09-22-2004   #2
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1.) no such thing as fair.
2.) PageRank is not that important.
3.) link building can be done on the cheap if you focus on good ideas vice just buying links.
4.) if you are buying PageRank just for the heck of buying it then you should pay a ton.
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Old 09-22-2004   #3
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Aaron (seobook),

#1 and #3 are valid points for discussion, but please please let's not turn this into a discussion about PageRank. I just used and example to illustrate a point, and perhaps I should have used a different example.

The true discussion is, do we have a A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD accross all websites (huge marketing budgets vs. NO budgets) as how search engines value link popularity in their algorithms today.

Thanks!
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Old 09-22-2004   #4
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Is link pop fair?

Of course you will need to break down link pop by engines:

Is Google's link pop fair? I think it can be better. Fair? Yes. But can be better.

Is Yahoo's link pop fair? err, fair - i hate the word fair.

Is Teoma's link pop fair?

etc.

MSN's Block Level Link Analysis paper that came out a while back is really the most advanced link equity solution, I have seen. So - when its actually put into play, we will have to see how that impacts relevancy. Will be interesting.
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Old 09-22-2004   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
The true discussion is, do we have a A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD accross all websites (huge marketing budgets vs. NO budgets) as how search engines value link popularity in their algorithms today.
fair enough...

2 years ago I had no knowledge of marketing or web stuff. currently I rank just fine for a bunch of phrases with minimal marketing spend.

being smaller means having less fat (other than my table muscle of course ). it also means you are not going to be constricted by corporate crap that says stuff like "all inbound links must only say XYZ Corp"

in the long run intelligence, branding, and a good understanding of psychology and social networks are likely more important than dollar volume.

I still need to do lots of reading and learning though...

I do remember recently talking with Mike Grehan and he talked about research on this topic...about how the PageRank concept requires significant delay before new competitors can compete in a market.
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Last edited by seobook : 09-22-2004 at 11:56 PM.
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Old 09-23-2004   #6
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Excellent points Barry!

I am also very excited about Block Level Link Analysis, and as Dr. E Garcia (Orion) says, "This is where we are all heading to, to semantic blocks or passages of information semantically connected across the web as a graph of nodes (semantic one)." This is exactly more what I'm trying to see from this discussion. By looking at an equal opportunity. It's not about the number of links you get, but where they are on the web that matters.

The problem is, there will always be someone willing to pay and others willing to receive payment for a link regardless of where they are. Therefore it brings us back to square one, how can a link be fair for the average small budget website compared to Corporate-America's deep pockets? Will the solution be to give it less importance withing the 100 or so factors of a search engine's total algorithm? or can the be a link popularity algorithm that takes into the equation an equal playing field?

Yes, Barry (RustyBrick) is right as to say that search engines will value this link pop algo differently. However whichever search engine it is today, I strongly feel there is not enough fairness (or whatever word you want to use) in them, since it can easily be altered in sombody's favor from the one who has the most $$$ to build links.
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Old 09-23-2004   #7
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The trouble with the notion of questioning link pop is that there is no standard "all links have the same value". And I'm not simply talking about issues such as link weight and PR value of the page linking out, but issues such as age of the link, and what sort of context you have for the link.

Overall, the idea of link pop is pretty fair - the problem is how the concept is executed to provide relevancy in rankings - there are certainly improvements that can be made in Google at least.
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Old 09-23-2004   #8
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Is it fair that some companies can afford the tv spots at the super bowl? Is it fair that some companies can put a full page ad in the New York Times? Is it fair that some companies can afford huge ad space on Yahoo!'s home page?

Is it fair that some companies can buy more links then others?

In my opinion, Yes.
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Old 09-23-2004   #9
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fair is usually a concept based upon selfish individualism and usually fails to put ideas in a proper social context.
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Old 09-23-2004   #10
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Quote:
The true discussion is, do we have a A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD accross all websites (huge marketing budgets vs. NO budgets) as how search engines value link popularity in their algorithms today.
It wasn't level before link analysis was used. You had sites that were overtly trying to push their relevancy higher with on the page manipulation. You had sites that were naturally getting a lower ranking that a human might think they deserved because crawlers don't see images, were troubled frames and so on. In short, we've never had a level playing field in terms of web search.

Link analysis has pros and cons. It was definitely a great step forward, the second generation of search after being dependent on on-the-page analysis. But it can be manipulated and has been growing increasingly weak. Continued link bombs are a sign of this.

But that chart above? The numbers are misleading. PR4 sites might out rank PR10 sites on a particular query because the context of the link text also has to be taken into account. So the deck's not stacked as much as it seems.
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Old 09-23-2004   #11
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How fair?- how about 2/10

You guys know me. I try to be as fair to Google
as possible, but ten years of link building has
shown me that it's not fair at all to judge sites
based on links, for many reasons.

However, that's the world we live in, so you have to
either ignore PageRank, which is what I typically do
90% of the time when I'm building links for clients, or
bow down to it, which is what too many people do.

Here's my stance per a ClickZ article from three years
ago. Yep. Three years ago. Every word of it still holds.

The Five Major Flaws of Link Popularity

Go back in time to that very first moment when
someone paid for a link for the first time due to the
site's PR. At that moment PR became tainted.
Google created PageRank as a way to let content be
the ultimate judge of content. Very true. We link to
stuff that's good. Sadly, now it's "We link to stuff that
pays us to link to it". And that means PR is simply
another thing to be rigged, the opposite of Google's
intent. So, PR is a ticking click, and at some point will
be pointless.

What Google will then have to do is stop supporting
the PR toolbar, and keep the link pop algo out of site,
behind the curtain. You can't rig what you can't see.
And remember, the Google toolbar number is not the
number that Google uses internally for searchers.

Links are my life, and they are the lifeblood of the web.
Google recognized that, and for this I commend them.
But I build links for reasons that have nothing to do with
Google, and always will.

Eric

Last edited by Nacho : 09-23-2004 at 02:43 PM. Reason: No signatures please as presented in our FAQs http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/faq.php?
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Old 09-23-2004   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rustybrick
Is it fair that some companies can afford the tv spots at the super bowl? Is it fair that some companies can put a full page ad in the New York Times? Is it fair that some companies can afford huge ad space on Yahoo!'s home page?

Is it fair that some companies can buy more links then others?

In my opinion, Yes.
Perhaps it is best for me to use an analogy to describe this one.

Last winter I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time (I love skiing ), but I love pizza more than anything when it comes to food. So, while I was on the slopes, on the grocery store, just walking around town, I was asking the locals, "where is the best pizza in town?" and very amazingly 3 out of every 4 people asked would say, "Lake Tahoe Pizza Co.". Sure enough, I went and as an "amateur-expert" pizza lover, I can trully say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had in my life.

However, I have never seen Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. on a TV commercial, radio or even on the hotel broschure where we stayed. Not the least, I would that a Super Bowl commercial is probably worth just as much as their business.

Did I get a "fair" non-commercial recommendation from the locals? YES! Was this what I wanted? YES! Can a search engine eventually do the same? I don't know. Are the search engine's taking this into account today with current link popularity algorithms? IMO, NO.
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Old 09-23-2004   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
Perhaps it is best for me to use an analogy to describe this one.

Last winter I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time (I love skiing ), but I love pizza more than anything when it comes to food. So, while I was on the slopes, on the grocery store, just walking around town, I was asking the locals, "where is the best pizza in town?" and very amazingly 3 out of every 4 people asked would say, "Lake Tahoe Pizza Co.". Sure enough, I went and as an "amateur-expert" pizza lover, I can trully say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had in my life.

However, I have never seen Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. on a TV commercial, radio or even on the hotel broschure where we stayed. Not the least, I would that a Super Bowl commercial is probably worth just as much as their business.

Did I get a "fair" non-commercial recommendation from the locals? YES! Was this what I wanted? YES! Can a search engine eventually do the same? I don't know. Are the search engine's taking this into account today with current link popularity algorithms? IMO, NO.
Search engines are dumb. they just match text and link patterns to search queries. they will eventually get smarter, but IMHO what you are talking about is more about branding. often the best products are not the best selling most widely used products.

if we search for web browser we see that many people have been pushing mozilla and opera to where they rank above the evil empire in Google.

if you want people to care you need to establish a brand that other people care about...and ask them to push it.
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Old 09-23-2004   #14
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Good point Nacho,

One more thing. I am a huge Apple fan. I can't write in this little text box the amount of Apple products I have owned in my life.

When I really think about it, its not because I think Apple makes everything superior to everyone. I sometimes try to convince myself that they do, but I know deep down inside they are not the best at creating everything.

Why do I buy, recommend and love Apple products so much? They are damn good marketers. Where else have you found such loyal customers? Its almost like a Mac Cult, oh wait, I didn't make that up, its for real.

What helped this? $$$ I think.

Something as widely used as computers and search engines can manipulate the user/customer and can be manipulated by the user/customer (referrals). Of course, this is my personal opinion, I do not work for Apple.
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Old 09-23-2004   #15
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I don't think link pop is fair, but I still think it is the best indicator of relevancy because it is the hardest thing to manipulate. Especially as incumbents and established websites become entrenched, it becomes harder to knock out top sites. This is the natural evolution of business.

So what cant you manipulate? The actual user.
I do believe that SE's will incorporate their toolbar data in order to improve quality of relevance. However, any method they employ will always have room for manipulation. But the manipulation costs will increase and become much more difficult. At some point, the cost to create quality content should become less than the cost of manipulation. Then spammers will be forced to produce value.

Linking may not be fair, but those are the current rules we play by.

The russian oil tycoon and founder of Yukos was imprisoned and had his multi-billion $ company taken away by the Russian gov. Is it fair? Should he have "invested" in having more politicians on his payroll?

I know that linking works within the current SE environment and I will continue to invest in link building accordingly.
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Old 09-24-2004   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nacho
Perhaps it is best for me to use an analogy to describe this one.

Last winter I went to Lake Tahoe for the first time (I love skiing ), but I love pizza more than anything when it comes to food. So, while I was on the slopes, on the grocery store, just walking around town, I was asking the locals, "where is the best pizza in town?" and very amazingly 3 out of every 4 people asked would say, "Lake Tahoe Pizza Co.". Sure enough, I went and as an "amateur-expert" pizza lover, I can trully say that it was one of the best pizzas I ever had in my life.

However, I have never seen Lake Tahoe Pizza Co. on a TV commercial, radio or even on the hotel broschure where we stayed. Not the least, I would that a Super Bowl commercial is probably worth just as much as their business.

Did I get a "fair" non-commercial recommendation from the locals? YES! Was this what I wanted? YES! Can a search engine eventually do the same? I don't know. Are the search engine's taking this into account today with current link popularity algorithms? IMO, NO.
You may not have got recommendations from commercial sources - but you still got recommendations from human users. Those locals were recommending you look to a specific place because it was considered a quality place to recommend.

So you are actually arguing, by metaphor, the reasoning behind the benefits of link popularity in the first place.
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Old 09-24-2004   #17
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1) I do not think the purpose of a search engine is to be "fair" - it is to be good. And thats not the same. Search engines serve users and try to do that the best they can. If they do it well users will stick around and watch some commercials ... Search engines do not have to list all companies to serve users well. It may not be "fair" to you that they don't list YOUR company but the users may not care at all, as long as wht the search engine serves them makes them happy.

2) PageRank was never about being fair or democratic, i think. It was, and is, about identifying the elite - the best websites. Not the many websites, not all views on an issue, not a ballanced political view, not nessecarily the most cleaver thoughts but just the view of the few selected top sites. The most popular.
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Old 09-24-2004   #18
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PageRank is not just about fairness, of course, it's about relevance or "aboutness."

As in "which pages" are "widely accepted by authoritative related sites to be" "about" "x subject" (x subject being indicated by the user's query).

As a system, PageRank makes sense in a general way.

But users might have many different intentions... so PageRank is only one stab -- at the time a wildly successful stab -- at improving the state of whole web search.

But as soon as any algorithm becomes the subject of widespread gaming/optimization, its fairness, authoritativeness, relevance, etc. are bound to deteriorate.

"Clickstream search" (now back in vogue with a vengeance, particularly at A9) is another interesting way to attack the same problem -- so that search works very much like browsing Amazon... "users who viewed this page are also fond of .... THIS OTHER PAGE," etc. Of course the flipside is you need to really follow folks around, and there are privacy implications there. But I veer off topic.

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Old 09-24-2004   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by EricWard-LinkMensch
Links are my life, and they are the lifeblood of the web.

Google recognized that, and for this I commend them. But I build links for reasons that have nothing to do with Google, and always will.
I agree 100% with that, and that's how it should be done.

I will never forget when Mike Grehan explained to me the equity and true value in a link the first time. He explained how at one point it was thought that link popularity could be used to determine the next nobel prize winner. However, that theory had many flaws because today’s link popularity algorithm is mainly based on the number of links and not the true quality or authority coming from those links.

Recently, I have been meditating about this more than ever as I am building new websites or rebuilding existing ones. When strategically designing the visual and functional architecture of each page, I am carefully adapting it to the future’s link popularity algorithms rather than today’s. I now know and understand that links residing from those “links.html” or other grocery list pages intended for pure reciprocal benefit only to gain manipulation in the SERPs are going to be worthless in the not so distant future.

And as I value and understand the meaning of the new “Block Level Link Analysis” on top of what has been studied in the past (PageRank and HITS), I realize that there must be other elements in the equation to effectively minimize the risk for spammers to manipulate this algorithm with the following:
  • Honest human ratings and reviews that are subjective and not corrupted by a monetary gain will forcefully need to taken into consideration as a verification of the value of the content, product or service provided in the actual page.
  • There will also need to exist 3rd party authorities that validate these ratings with an “expert” opinion.
  • As well as better flow of information between the websites and the search engines of such information that could not be manipulated by the website owner.
In my opinion, the current primary search engines will have to adapt more to the user’s true needs and not the website owner’s ambitions if the want to stay at the top or gain market share in this industry. After all, the search engines live from their reputation as a problem solving solution of organized information on the web to the users which feed them search query traffic volume. If the relevancy dies, the volume dies and the search engine’s reputation dies with it.
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Old 09-25-2004   #20
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Quote:
that could not be manipulated by the website owner.
All systems, with or without a human component, can be manipulated. Search engines can make it more difficult to manipulate but they can never stop the most talented SEOs from doing exactly what they've sucessfully done since SEO all started: Manipulate systems

In fact, I belive the skills SEOs have got, doing what we do, is likely to spread into other areas. There are other systems companies and people are likely to want us to manipulate - and we have the skills to do it.


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Honest human ratings and reviews ....
There have always been a human component to search and I think there will always be. But, I also believe that any engine, and especially Google, will try and solve relevancy as algoritmic as possible. Humans are not as easy to scale as machines

However, as far as I see, the human component is not always making search better - it just makes it easier to adjust to the political agenda of the engine in question. Did Google improve when they penalized Search King? Did Google improve when they accepted to limit the index to China? Humans did these things - not the algorithm and as far as I can se it was not done to serve the users better.

What I am trying to say is that I don't think humans is any guarantee of quality. Humans can be manipulated too - in some cases even easier than algorithms
Mikkel deMib Svendsen is offline   Reply With Quote
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