In case you haven’t noticed, the latest Toolbar PR rollout has been abnormal and slow. In the grand scheme of things, Toolbar PR is close to meaningless (Argument From Absurdity: it tells us that Performancing is more important than the DrudgeReport).
Yet as things go, hundreds of thousands of bloggers and website owners are attached to the hip of this stale, useless tool. Why?
Simplistically, the story goes like this.
Google literally came out of nowhere (a garage) to dominate the search space. The reason? They filtered search results not just by on-page text but by off-site “voting” in the form of links.
PageRank is the term that Google invented to describe their “importance” metric. While their filtering systems have changed dramatically since their emergence into search dominance, PageRank is a simple icon of Google’s successful formula.
Despite the fact that Toolbar PageRank is often 3-9 months stale, and despite the fact that Google now intelligently buffers the importance of raw links based on a number of smart factors, Toolbar PageRank is still the king of the hill…the center of gravity for thousands of web publishers and seo artists.
Because of this, a massive virtual economy has built up around PageRank in the last half-decade. Some web publishers make upwards of 5 (and for all I know, even six) figures per month simply by selling this awkwardly valuable commodity.
Rightly so, Google sees the buying and selling of PageRank as a negative manipulation of their once innocent metric. In reaction, Google has implemented a number of temporal buffers to deter the text link ad market. So far, they have not been successful.
But as rumors build that Google is either completely dropping or radically altering the way they tabulate, update and display PageRank, lots of people are scrambling to adjust their web publishing business models. Whether its site consolidation, ad diversification, or complex SEO subtleties like anchor text variation, deep-linking or post-level link buying, it is clear that Google has succeeded in stirring a whole slew of people from their slumber. And that should be expected. We are, after all, talking about people’s livelihoods.
Having set the stage, I now want to address the two issues I raise in the title of this article.
1. Does persistence always pay off?
2. Preparing for the busting of a fairly silly virtual economy built around a meaningless metric
The answer to these questions isn’t as simple as yes and no. After all, persistence does not pay off if you’re trying to dig a tunnel from California to China. But what about persistence in web publishing and monetization? Does persistence always pay in this domain? Yes and no. Yes if you’re open to adaptation and strategical re-evaluation. Yes if you focus on the fundamentals and forget the fads. Yes, if you focus on building long-term equity. In other words, persistence pays if you’re smart and you know what you are doing.
But persistence does not pay over the long haul if your long-term plan is not fundamentally sound. If you build your entire web publishing business around a lot of ephemeral PageRank, you are doomed. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t pay attention to PageRank. You should, but only as one among many indicators of a site’s quality. The point is that instead of PageRank, you should be looking to build Authority. And Authority is built by becoming part of strong, quality niche neighborhoods. This is a fundamental fact about SEO and linkbuilding that will never change. Even if the TLA market collapses.
This brings me towards an answer to the second issue. How do you prepare yourself for the collapse of an economy that’s not built on strong fundamentals? Well, the answer is to start focusing on fundamentals. Quality. Branding. Niche Marketing. Niche Networking. Web publishers who focus on these 4 fundamentals will be building a solid foundation for the future. Those who continue to go down the PR only route, might be successful in the short-term, but are destined for longer term failure…
Here’s a tip for those of you, like me, who enjoy a nice chunky TLA check each month. Take the money you make from TLA each month, and instead of padding the personal bank account, or perpetuating your addiction to PageRank by buying more links, start focusing on the four fundamentals: quality, branding, marketing and networking which all work together to build long-term equity and an attractive target for diverse advertising sources.