A recent Pagerank jiggle seemed to indicate that something interesting was happening. Could Google be using its Pagerank system to prevent low-quality sites getting free traffic?

Several of my own observations indicated that low-value Pagerank links may decay over time.

One webmaster reported a jump from Pagerank zero to Pagerank five, purely from a recent link-building campaign. During his link building efforts, he got a few links from a Pagerank 6 blog, and he expected those links “to fade as new posts come out”.

The way that blogs work is that new posts appear on the homepage which is usually the highest ranked page on the blog. Over time, those blog posts move off the homepage and into the archives, where they usually have less Pagerank.

What if the whole web worked in the same way? If new links were counted “in full”, but over time the Pagerank of the links “faded”?

If that were the case, a site that was receiving lots of traffic, but which stopped getting links would eventually lose its traffic. That’s what I experienced with one of my own websites which was chugging along at 2,000 visitors per day. After the PageRank jiggle, the traffic dropped.

Another indication of Pagerank decay came from an SEO expert who wrote that “You need fresh links today, and in the future”.

Are you starting to see a pattern? Pagerank from older blog posts fades, a site that didn’t get any recent links experienced falling traffic, and an SEO expert saying you need continual fresh links.

Here’s my Pagerank Decay theory…

1: Google loves quality sites.
2: Quality sites get links naturally over time.
3: Low value links decay over time.

“PageRank Decay” would benefit Google, because if a site only gets low-quality links, and the PageRank of those links decays over time, the webmaster either has to continually build more links, or give up.

Webmasters who try to manipulate Google will most likely be getting low-quality links. If they spend time building links, they’ll get traffic, but only for a while unless other sites start linking to them naturally. If they don’t get any new links for a while, their traffic will fall.

On the other hand, if a webmaster builds a quality website that other webmasters choose to link to, the site will maintain, or even improve, its search engine rankings naturally.

It’s possible that Google only applies Pagerank decay to low-value Pagerank links. Presumably, the age of a link from a top-quality website wouldn’t affect its value. Anyone who had a site good enough to get a link from a Pagerank 8 or higher website wouldn’t see the value of that link dwindle to nothing in over time. Sites with PageRank 8 or higher would thereby form a “backbone” of quality, trusted sites from which PageRank would flow to lesser sites.

The bottom line is that, if you accept PageRank Decay exists then anyone who works really hard to build “low value” links into their sites will have to keep working hard just to maintain their traffic.

PageRank Decay is like a hamster wheel for webmasters who build sites that don’t get natural links.

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