Rules of the Google Economy

The term Google Economy refers to the concept that the value of a resource such as a web page can be determined by the way that resource is linked to other resources. It is more complex than search ranking, and broader than interlinked web pages, though it draws meaning from both. The Google Economy is an example of a network effect.

The Internet and World Wide Web have emphasized the role of the citation as a means of identifying the value of a resource. The structure of the print publishing world imposes strict limits on what information is promoted and distributed, but the web imposes much lower barriers to ‘publication,’ eliminating the old-media filters that information consumers once depended on to identify worthy information. Internet Search engines were developed to help navigate the growing number of web pages, but their results could not represent the value of individual pages until Google‘s Larry Page and Sergey Brin started to apply the concept of citation analysis that was developed in the 1950s by Dr. Eugene Garfield at the University of Pennsylvania. Today, Google’s PageRank algorithm is a form of citation analysis.

The PageRank of any single web page depends on the number of web pages that link to it, the PageRank of the linking sites, and whether those links appear to be natural or manipulative. The financial implication for commercial web sites are obvious and provide motivation for search engine optimization practitioners and website owners. There are serious implications for non-commercial content as well. A person doing any research on the web will find his or her results heavily influenced by PageRank-style ranking. Accurate and correct information that is poorly linked may have lower ranking than incorrect or misleading information that is better linked. Because many of the most authoritative information sources, such as medical journals, or the Oxford English Dictionary, are subscription services, their content is not available for indexing by search engines, and by extension, to those using search engines for research.

Even among free services — many library catalogs, for instance — it can be difficult to index the information because of technical obstacles like dynamic URLs that make it difficult to deep link to content or explicit prohibitions in the robots.txt. The result is that a person searching for a book is far more likely to find the Amazon.com catalog page or blog posts discussing the book long before they will find any library offering the book for loan.

As with market economies, the Google Economy is subject to uncertainties, fluctuation, and occasional manipulation. Manipulators do so, however, at serious risk, as search engines have been known to blacklist them from results pages. Further, search engine engineers continue to refine ranking criteria to deliver quality search results.

In general, however, there are three rules for full participation in the Google Economy:

  • Linking must be possible
  • Linking must be desirable
  • Linking must be measurable

Contains text from the wikipedia article.

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