Google has this theory called PageRank, just like Ptolemy had a geocentric theory of the solar system.
As with any theory, as anomalies show up in the theory, Google (and geocentric theorists) manually jerryrig their theory with epicycles. Eventually, their theory is going to break down…
…but, mind you, not the reality that their theory is modeling.
In the case of PageRank, Google is manually adjusting the PageRank of high profile sites and using them as “whipping boys” to set an example. But manual adjustment is like throwing in epicycles to save a bad theory.
In reality, links will always retain value because they will always be the most fundamental metric of site popularity. And it will always be true that people will try to gain “perceived” value by purchasing links.
But that’s no different than a college education. Some terribly inept people effectively buy and party their way to a 4 year diploma (anyone can pass through 4 years of college these days) and in effect manipulate the system. They then have credentials to make themselves look valuable to gullible companies who haven’t developed a system for weeding them out.
But the fact is that this phenomenon of passing inept people through college will not destroy the college system. There is nothing good to replace it. And terribly inept people will continue to make it through, landing six figure jobs for which they are not really qualified.
The same holds true for linkage. There is nothing good to replace “the link” when analyzing “value” algorithmically. Links are the fundamental units of inter-site relationships.
Google’s epicyclic solution this time around seems be to penalize the high-profile linkers. It’s a short term solution for a theory that’s on the collapse.
Instead of manual jerryrigging, they should give up the theory and start from scratch.
A good place to start would be a proper analysis of the 4 Dimensions of a Link Portfolio?
In other words, why not buffer the PageRank of sites whose link portfolios are completely out of whack?
That would solve the problem. Webmasters would stop seeing their PageRank go up because of Text Link Ads. The TLA economy would stop perpetuating itself. The bubble would burst. And Google would have done what they normally do well: naturally force the web to conform to principles that encourage quality.
Yes, it is true that a good SEO could simulate the quality of a good link portfolio. Well, good for them. Maybe they’ll even use quality as a method to achieve the simulation…which raises the interesting question of when a simulation becomes the real thing…but that’s another story.