Saturday, May 03, 2008

Content or Links: What Drives a Higher PR?

You have probably read time and time again about the power of linking, whether they are from link trades or simple one-way back links. In addition, the phrase “Content is King” seems to pop its little head up all over the place in informational products dedicated to Internet Marketing. Both are very important to have, but which one has more of a driving force when it comes to Google PR? I decided to conduct an ongoing experiment with this almost one year ago, and my results are actually quite surprising. At this point, I would like to share my two-tier test with you.

I bought two brand new domains (Site A and Site B), both with an initial PR of 0. Site A would be dedicated to acquiring links, while Site B would just focus on daily unique content. Both sites consisted of a homepage and a blog, and both were in a relatively similar niche. The time difference of getting Site A and Site B live was two weeks. On both sites, the homepage remained static, and the blogs were updated twice a day every day for about 7 months, then I dropped it down to once a day. All of the blog posts were created by me, which focused on discussing recent articles as well as including information the articles may have missed about the niche. Both blogs used WordPress.

The site that went live two weeks earlier (Site A) was the one I used for acquiring links. There were three sites I used for establishing my links: (the free version), (the free version), and (once I acquired enough of a PR to sign up for free with them). Also, the links I received were not all related to my niche; I just simply created a link directory on my site (not on the homepage or blog) and threw all of the
links I traded for into it.

Tier 1 Test:
After about 7 months of doing this, I was interested to see what the Google PR was for both of these sites. Here were the results:

Site A:                                        Site B:
Homepage PR: 4                      Homepage PR: 1
Blog PR: 4                                 Blog PR: 0

I found this to be pretty interesting, particularly Site B. Since all of the linking I did with Site A was all directed to my homepage, I can understand the PR 4. Seeing all the unique content I inserted, I also wasn’t surprised to see that Site A’s blog PR was 4 as well.

In terms of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), Site A ranked number 1 for about 10 different 2 to 3-word phrases and ranked in the top 5 in about 15 other 2 to 3-word phrases. With all these phrases, the competition ranged from 2 to 212 million other pages for the affiliated search queries (don’t let that fool you though: just because I ranked in the top 5
for queries with 212 million other pages doesn’t mean they are all directly competing for the same phrase. This ‘competition’ also consists of things like random blogs, static websites, products that had the search phrase in them, etc).

Now Site B is still an enigma to me. I did no active linking with this site whatsoever, and even though the homepage remained static the entire time, it got a PR of 1. In addition, Site B’s blog, which provided all of the daily unique content, had a PR of 0!

In regards to the SERPs for Site B, I couldn’t find my website in the top 50, which is when I stopped looking. I wasn’t expecting to find this site in the SERPs anyways…

Tier 2 Test:
Seeing how much better the PR was for Site A compared to Site B, I decided to see how Site A’s PR would change once I stopped actively acquiring links. So, for about 4 months, I completely stopped getting links for Site A to see what would happen. Still providing daily unique content to both blogs, here are my present results (month 11):

Site A:                                   Site B:
Homepage PR: 2                 Homepage PR: 1
Blog PR: 3                            Blog PR: 0

So just from not actively getting any more links, Site A’s homepage and blog PR both dropped while Site B’s PR remained the same.

Keep in mind, the reason I stopped actively acquiring links wasn’t because I couldn’t get any more (those of you who are familiar with the above linking services will know what I mean); I just wanted to see how my PR would react to the changes in link activity.

Site A’s changes in the SERPs were pretty dramatic. It now doesn’t rank number 1 in anything, a few three word phrases are ranked 6-10, and some of the phrases I ranked for I couldn’t even find in the first 50 results. Site B’s phrases did not change in the SERPs.

In the end, I was very surprised to see the lack of impact quality unique content had on Google’s PR algorithms. Granted, unique content is not designed for spiders and bots, but I really thought that writing daily unique content for over a year would have had more of an impact on Site B’s PR.

While there are many variables in this test that were out of my control (i.e. people naturally linking to my blog posts, people social bookmarking my sites, etc.), this should help explain how much of an impact linking can have on your site’s PR and the SERPs. Personally speaking, I know how much of a pain it can be to actively get links, even with semi- automated software solutions like Arelis (which is what I used). What’s even more of a pain is contacting people via
email in your niche and trying to give them free articles that have backlinks to your site (which I also did).

Just remember, if it’s a high Google PR you’re looking for, you have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone and start focusing on elements you don’t have complete control over; for these are the areas where you will be most rewarded.

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