The Changing Face of Search and PageRank

Change In Search?  At one time, bloggers look forward to the Google PageRank update, which usually comes in a 3-4 month cycle, with great expectation, hoping to see their sites bestowed with a ranking. For others, they lived in fear that they might have rubbed Google up the wrong way and a PageRank update could well cost them to lose whatever PageRank they already have.

Each time, the dreaded Google PR slapfest took place, you could hear the groans and grunts of those who got hit. They literally "lost their pants" and wondered why they were targeted by Big Goog.

As you can see, PageRank counts a lot to most bloggers because the higher the ranking you get, the better for you to stay on top in your online quest to make money blogging. In simple language, more doors are open to you because of your PR standing. Of course, the higher, the better.

Basically, the whole intention is to rank well in order to gain search engine traffic. Without traffic to your site, you have nothing to shout about. So apart from achieving a page rank, you need to be adept at one more thing and that is to conjure up relevant keywords or keyword phrases that could help boost your position in the search engine ranking pages (SERPs). This has been discussed widely by some bloggers who have achieved good earning results by following these 'best practices' to gain organic search engine traffic which convert well.

However, in recent times, questions are emerging among some SEO mavens as to whether PageRank is as important as before or is it heading into oblivion?

At PubCon 2008, Bruce Clay, in an interview with WebProNews (see WPN video), had asserted that "ranking is dead". He predicted even greater changes in SEO technology this year as can be seen in the many ways we can do search now. In a nutshell, search results are getting better.

Google has always wanted to improve on search, so with personalized search, behaviour-based search, intent-based search, and universal search, everything seems to be good news for searchers and Googlers. But all this poses new challenges to SEO's whereby they might have to look at analytics and measure traffic, bounce rate and action closely.

In a response to Bruce Clay's claim, Google's Matt Cutt might not totally agree with Bruce but he did admit that PageRank "is not as important as it once was".

In an interview with WebProNews, Matt followed the same line as Bruce saying that SEO's central focus should be mainly traffic and conversions since searches are now more "personalized and localized" which means that there's more to SEO than just ranking high for a key phrase.

It has been noted by a Hitwise report that people are making longer search queries, averaging searches of 5+ words in length. They have increased from 10% from January 2008 to January 2009. What does that mean?  The gist of it, according to Ask.com in its blog post, is that:

  •  users are expecting search engines to process Internet data and not just to index the Net
  •  queries are not just keywords, search engines are expected to understand the intent of the query better
  • people are using more words to express a query and expectations on the search engine are higher

To know the number of searches going on, comScore had this findings of the US search market: US searches total 18.7 billion (up 38% year-to-year). Consumers are becoming more and more reliant on search. Outside the traditional search engines, other growing search areas are video, image, and social networking sites.

In a recent conference call, Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: "Wouldn't it be nice if Google understood the meaning of your phrase rather than just the words that are in that phrase? We have a lot of discoveries in that area that [we] are going to roll out in the next little while."

It's all very interesting as we see search evolving into something more sophisticated and relevant but we are still not totally there yet. Neverthless, it's obvious change is coming and we may NOT have to look at PageRank from the same perspective again. - Mark Khoo

Related topics:
Debunking the SEO Myths
Getting Web Traffic Without Going Bonkers
When Big G Gets Mad With Your PageRank

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