The Cost of Page Rank

Filed under: — 3:10 am

Douglas Bowman at Stopdesign describes a situation in which his entry called Starting Over showed up near the top of a Google search for the phrase, and he received a few messages from people who thought they were reaching the Starting Over reality TV show. Matt Haughey and Pariah S. Burke report similar cases.

This phenomenon isn’t new, nor is it unique to weblogs. At the Quotations Page I’ve been getting email addressed to celebrities for years. Due to high page ranks, I routinely receive email intended for Andy Rooney, George Carlin, and David Letterman. I even get mail for Malcolm Forbes, who died in 1990. Every time Google updates, I wait to see which new celebrity I’ll get fan mail or hate mail for.

Notice that when you search for Starting Over, Stopdesign is the #2 result. The official site is #1. My site isn’t #1 for any of the above celebrity names either. So why do we get the email? We have an easy-to-find contact form. Corporate sites tend to avoid "email us" links, because someone would have to answer the mail, so their audience keeps clicking until they find a site that lets them speak their mind.

Much of the discussion at Stopdesign revolves around what webloggers can do to avoid this–choosing titles carefully, avoiding certain words in text, or even deliberately un-optimizing pages for Google. I think this is all unnecessary and silly. There are two main reasons these situations occur:

  1. Some people are stupid.
  2. Google is imperfect.

Neither of these is your fault. Write whatever you want, call it whatever you want, and when you inadvertently discover a flaw in Google’s algorithms, sit back and enjoy the show.

One response to “The Cost of Page Rank”

  1. Aaron says:

    I run a few sites and often get the same type of silly email. I never really bothered to find out why. I have even received a number of real letters (the kind that are carried by a human being and put in a box) from grade school children telling me how much they like my music. I also get a lot of email asking for free stuff.

    Actually, I feel for the kids. I think they must be doing a school assignment or something. However, I have not had enough pity to actually write them back. Perhaps if they emailed …

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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