A recent patent filed by Google suggests that the search giant may be considering a change to the way that pages are assigned rank by their algorithm.  The original PageRank system calculated the value of a page largely by determining the number and source of links pointing to a page, and despite the obvious limitations (shown clearly by the insane link building strategies once popular in Search Engine Optimisation), the system has been relatively successful.

The new patent shows a method of calculating PageRank which appears to involve a pre-determined set of “core” (or seed) pages which are trusted by definition.  In the patent, it is the distance calculated in links) between one of these trusted page and the page in question, that will help determine the page’s rank.

Developed by a senior staff engineer at Google, it is not known whether “Producing a ranking for pages using distances in a Web-link graph” has been adopted or tested by Google, let alone whether it is live.

It’s an interesting approach to be sure, but in my opinion anyway, the real ideal would be to get away from links as a ranking metric entirely.  If you’re interested in the patent, click the linked title aove, and you can check it out for yourself.