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Possible Google PageRank Tweak Angers Users

A drop in reputation scores for hundreds of prominent Web sites this week has bloggers buzzing that Google has tweaked its PageRank algorithm. Although Google hasn't admitted to tweaking PR (PageRank), which appears in the Google Toolbar and is Google's system for weighing a Web page for its relevance to a specific query based on the number of links that it has to it, Search Engine Land, one of many search-oriented sites to notice the move, pointed out the PR drops on Oct. 24, noting that Forbes.com, WashintonPost.com, SFGate.com, SunTimes.com and Engadget.com all dropped from PR7 to PR5.

While PR score is one factor that determines if a page will rank well in a search, it is also a factor in how much the Mountain View, Calif., company can charge its AdSense network affiliates, who pay to get connected to advertisers all over the world. Lower rankings can affect advertising dollars as well as how much Google charges these Web site operators. This is a big deal to many site owners, and some of them may try to beat the system by paying for extra links, said Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li. "I could link to a pig farm, and I have nothing to do with a pig farm but because they pay me I'll do it," Li told eWEEK, offering perhaps no finer example of site owners trying to hog traffic.

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