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The rise of the re-Tweet puts pressure on PageRank

Monday, 6 July 2009 — by

To link is to like is to love. Or at least, that’s been my mantra for long enough. Problem is, Twitter and its ilk could be undermining the web itself. But if we link less, are we trusting less? No. We just need a better way to measure who and what we trust…

Google logoShock! Horror! Google are losing ground to social media? While the numbers are small, they are also an inevitability:

“Seeing the hard numbers of how social media search queries on sites like Facebook has gained in popularity is not a surprise to most … however, in the comScore numbers reported by Search Engine Watch was the slight step backwards that Google took by recording 2% less search queries in May vs. April of this year.”

To me, this was nothing like a shock. I predicted this would happen way back in November 2007, when I saw a trend emerging that I realized had enormous implications for Google and all of the other search engines. In simple terms, social media was on course to kill Google’s search algorithm:

“Instead of ‘Googling’ for something, we find stuff being sent to us as emails from friends, in our profiles, in a friends’ lists of favourites, or any number of user-generated websites, ‘blogs, RSS feeds, Social Networks and Social Media portals.

While we’re busying ourselves voting and commenting on this stuff, we’re not using Google’s search algorithm, and we’re not clicking on Sponsored Links, either.”

Google’s losses are social media’s gains

OK, so the knock to Google is small, that I’ll grant you, but it’s a number that will grow. Why? Because despite having some of the brightest minds in the world working for them, Google don’t have clue one when it comes to social media. And for their part, Google still don’t have much of a clue how to deal with social media, as an entity, let alone as a function of their own products. Right at the very top, Google’s Marissa Mayer struggles to grasp the fundamentals of social media.

Fast forward a few years and another trend begins to emerge, that also coincided with a drop off on my part; I’m not writing nearly as prolifically as I once was due to work commitments. So for me to see the total number of back-links drop off would at least seem to make sense, directly correlating with the slow down in my writing.

However, that might not be the whole story. What if the number of back-links to blogs was dropping off as a whole, across the entire blogosphere? The question is, why?

Louis Gray might have the answer. You see, as re-Tweeting grows as a social activity, there has to be some impact to blogging, as a whole:

“While most of my posts only get a few dozen tweets, some have numbered over a hundred. And as this occurs, in parallel, the total number of links back to the Web site from other blogs is decreasing.”

But this isn’t just about back-links. I’ve had a number of people ask me why their PageRank has dropped off recently. In some cases, quite precipitously. The number one reason is likely to be that Google has determined there are fewer links pointing in your direction, therefor your PageRank decreases commensurately.

If this is the result of people spending more time active within their social networks, sharing what they find, and spending less time writing about what they discover, the implications for PageRank as a measure of value, and linking as a measure of trust and authority could be terminal.

Assuming that back-links are beginning to dwindle, taking with them a key measure of trust, we have to ask: who owns your authority on the web? A question I’ll help decipher tomorrow…

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David → Monday, 6 July 2009 @ 19:33 BDT

I think a lot of Twitterers have blogged – maybe on Blogger or one of the other unself-hosted variants.

I read that many, many blogs in the webosphere have been more or less abandoned. Put these two snippets together and where are we?

Somewhere there has to be original content.

My experience is that people say ‘hello’ on Twitter; say what they had for breakfast on Twitter, and pass on information (links etc.) – but comparatively rarely do they truly micro-blog – which in my dictionary means relating something of their own that is original.

So if everyone migrates to Twitter to find out what is going on, sooner or later there will be nothing going on.

I guess that the owners of Twitter will be wondering how long the bubble of popularity can last – after all, there is very little to losing in closing a Twitter account or just not tweeting any more.

(I didn’t mention Plurk or Facebook, etc. but the same goes for them).

The bottom line is, I think, that Twitter will wane a lot quicker than Google will lose credibility or clout.

Wayne Smallman → Monday, 6 July 2009 @ 20:38 BDT

I think I saw one of those stick figure cartoons, showing the progressing from blogging to re-Tweeting nothing at all. I suppose it’s easy to see a doom & gloom scenario, but like you say, someone has to keep writing.

Well that would be me then!

Google will always be around. They’re too big to just fade away. But they’re not yet smart enough to dodge the social media bullet…

Brian Heys → Monday, 6 July 2009 @ 21:03 BDT

Interesting article, Wayne. I look forward to reading the second half tomorrow.

I tried commenting on various blogs several months ago to see if the rumours I’d heard about comments now being ineffective traffic generators were true. Guess what … I never received a single visit from any of those comments, so the rumours were confirmed nicely.

If everyone is experiencing a similar drop-off in traffic from comments, maybe they’re seeing them as a waste of time and effort? It’s a lot quicker and easier to respond in 140 characters than it is via a blog, which requires some thought and effort.

Anyway, thanks for an interesting post. :)

Wayne Smallman → Monday, 6 July 2009 @ 21:40 BDT

The good thing is, the conversation is everywhere.

The bad thing is, the conversation is everywhere.

We’ve seen Plugins, and all kinds of software gadgets that aspire to pulling all of these threaded conversations together. But the fact of the matter is, the only people that can really pull the whole thing together are the big players like FriendFeed, Google and Facebook.

Google have other ideas and are moving in a different direction with Wave.

For my money, Facebook and Friendfeed are the only ones who can aggregate the conversation. Right now, the front runner is Facebook Connect.

David → Tuesday, 7 July 2009 @ 10:20 BDT

I just read this (by Seth Godin), which seems to be on something of the same track.

Movie Club → Thursday, 9 July 2009 @ 16:03 BDT

This is such an interesting phenomenon – I’m completely geekzo for this stuff. In the grand scheme of things, the web is still in its infancy, as “2.0″ as it may seem. It’s going to be so interesting to see how it evolves over the next decade or two.

About Myself → Monday, 10 August 2009 @ 4:02 BDT

“The bottom line is, I think, that Twitter will wane a lot quicker than Google will lose credibility or clout.”

It should be alarming for the people behind Twitter because the people blogging or Tweeting for the said site are mostly merely passing on links and information that are, let’s accept it, not so much an original or in-depth content.

Personal Statements → Tuesday, 11 August 2009 @ 5:17 BDT

Google will probably still find its function in terms of filtering through research needed for more serious matters. How helpful are the links given in social media? Are they classified accordingly?

Wayne Smallman → Tuesday, 11 August 2009 @ 8:28 BDT

“How helpful are the links given in social media? Are they classified accordingly?”

As far as I’m aware, many of the social media websites aren’t indexed by Google in a way that passes ranking to those linked articles. The ranking stays within with the social media website itself.

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