Our last post looked at the search engine scene up to the arrival of Google, which then started to dominate the industry due to the success of its PageRank algorithm and the highly accurate search results it produced. We now return to the topic of PageRank, and the all important ‘link juice’ concept that it introduced.
Link juice is a model used to describe how hyperlinks from one website can affect the SEO of another. Its a simple concept at its core – if you create a link from a website with a very high PageRank, such as bbc.co.uk, to a website with a low PageRank, such as mysmallbusiness.com, Google will see this link as a recommendation from the high PageRank website to the low PageRank one. As a result, the low PageRank website will see a boost in its position in the Google search results. It didn’t take long for inventive web marketers to exploit this concept by artificially creating links between websites in order to manipulate the search results, and thus the “link building” industry was born. People and companies starting popping up offering link building as a service, essentially acting as brokers between high and low PageRank websites.
This obsession with PageRank dominated the SEO world. By including a website’s PageRank score in its own ‘Google Toolbar’ (remember that thing?), it was easy for anyone to search out high PageRank websites and offer to buy links from them. However, it didn’t take long for Google to notice what was going on, and over time PageRank started to become less and less accessible, to the point where it was effectively removed from public view altogether in 2016.
PageRank was, and still is, a very clever and powerful tool in determining the importance and relevance of search results, but Google made one key mistake with its implementation: making it visible to the public. By doing so, Google inadvertently kickstarted the link building industry, but at the same time this caused a lot of problems for Google. By publishing every website’s PageRank, Google allowed link builders to manipulate the search results, a practice that threatened its very existence as the world’s top search engine. One of the first things Google did was make a website’s PageRank harder and harder to access, but at the same time another significant factor was introduced, which would go on to change the face of SEO forever: the algorithm change.
Want to find out how algorithm changes work? Check back in a few days for part three of this story.