A few days ago Google did a backlink update and it stands to reason before too long we’ll see a Page Rank update as well. Both updates send excitement through webmaster and seo forums across the web, but why? We all know or should know that nothing has really changed behind the scenes. Google is updating both PR and their count of backlinks all the time. These updates are only about what they show to us. So again why the excitement?
The responses to the updates usually fall into one of several categories. There are those who have been anticipating the change since the prior update. These people are often found asking questions every few weeks about when the update us coming and hang all hope for their site on some positive change. Then there are those who are either completely uninterested or delight in letting everyone else know how pointless it is to follow such things. There is also a third group somewhere between, which is where I tend to fall.
This third group knows that the updates mean nothing yet still get excited for some reason. And again the question is why. It’s easy to answer with the first group. The excited camp generally doesn’t understand that the changes they see were happening all along and nothing is really any different just because Google starts reporting different things. Still why the excitement for those like myself that do know the update means nothing?
Some is perhaps due to a previous time when PageRank was considered much more important than it is today. When your PR went up it was an indication of good things ahead. Even then the update was only a toolbar update, while real PR is constantly updated. Still it was a more innocent time in the seo community and PR updates were something to watch with great intent if only to understand what optimization had and hadn’t worked in the eyes of Google.
Backlink updates may have also been seen in the past as a true update in the count Google sees for a given site. Of course we know now and, even then really, that the new count was just for our viewing benefit and had no real effect on what happened behind the scenes. But it’s still hard to contain the excitement sometimes.
I can’t speak for others, but for myself the updates are a slight reward for the efforts I’ve put into link building over the months. Yes I know that Google is only showing me a sample of links and I know the specific links they show aren’t necessarily weighted to affect much. For all I know none of the links in the results to my link: query help one bit. But it does seem like the more links Google knows about the more they’ll show and seeing that link count increase leads me to believe they’ve become aware of more links pointing to my site since the last update. While everything is still just as it was before the update it’s nice to see nonetheless.
Same for PR. I can’t entirely explain why, but I still want to see PR go up on my site. Regardless of what anyone says, we’d all rather have a site with a PR of 10 than a PR of 1. Page Rank can still be used as a very quick and dirty estimate of the worth of a web page. I know it doesn’t mean what it once did, but who are you kidding if you say you don’t want to see it go up.
I think the excitement and thus the hype over the updates results from some emotional response more than anything else. Maybe we’re all like Pavlov’s dog and simply start salivating when Google rings the update bell. We’ve been trained for so long to think the event carries the success of our sites on it’s back that we can’t help, but get excited and anticipate it’s coming. Real of imagined the reward of seeing our PR or backlinks count go up makes us feel good.
Then again it could also be that outside of where our pages rank for queries this is the only feedback we’re likely to get from Google about how they view our sites. They’re certainly not going to tell us directly, but seeing your PR rise seems to indicate that something you’ve been doing has been well received. Seeing your backlinks count go up does make you feel like Google has found more and that your time gathering them has been well spent. Even if neither is necessarily true.
The actual updates might be meaningless as far as things being different just before and just after the update, but I can’t help it I still get somewhat excited when they happen. Yeah the updates don’t change anything for my site, but it kind of feels like they do somehow. And it’s this feeling that things somehow change when in reality they haven’t, is what in the end causes most of the excitement and hype.