Google Drops PageRank For Many Sites : Paid Links or New Algorithm?

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Dude, where’s my PageRank?

This morning, around 1 am, I was finishing up a document and clicked over to Search Engine Journal to see if any comments were made on some of my favorite posts. Looking at the Google Toolbar, I saw the PageRank bar read a PageRank 6. After refreshing a couple of times and rubbing the sand out of my eyes, low and behold, after 3 or 4 years at PageRank 7, we dropped.

I can’t say I was too surprised. Search Engine Journal was not the only site I noticed a drop in PageRank on last night, I noticed many other blogs and forums I read experiencing a drop. And recent Google activity has pointed to a new regrouping of PageRank, which may be addressing the size and growth of the Internet since Larry PageRank was first published, or may be addressing the growth of paid linking.

So, I made some changes to my template to eliminate the 3 links under Supporters, added a button from AdAge and thought about new changes I could make to the site, some which have nothing to do with links, Google or PageRank.

The drop in PageRank did not keep me up last night as I drifted off into dreamland with thoughts of the next few weeks in my mind.

This morning however, I noticed that search marketing blogs were not alone. Actually, we’re in rather good company. Here is a list of some of the major sites ‘hit’ by the PageRank update yesterday:

Like I said, rather good company. Newspaper and blog networks which use a lot of intralinking, seem to have been hit hard; b5media, Weblogs, Inc. and Gawker.

One could say that paid linking led to the decrease in PageRank for these sites, but not all of these sites use paid linking as a source of revenue.

Furthermore, there are many sites which were not associated with this drop in PageRank which sell paid links, but I’m not going to out them.

So, why the decrease? As I wait to hear back from Google on the decrease, there are many reasons which Google may be changing PageRank.

  • Paid Linking : The easy excuse is that they’re targeting paid links, but not all sites which experienced the drop sell or buy links.
  • Mass Linking : Do we link out to too many sites via Blog Rolls? Does Linkbait just result in TOO MANY links, even if they are natural. Do blog networks use influential linking to their advantage? I think PageRank has been spread too thin and Google is changing its PageRank formula to address the mass publishing which has taken place over the past 2 years.
  • Devalue PageRank : PageRank is seen by many as the end all value of a web site. Our PageRank dropped but we are receiving more Google search traffic than ever. PageRank does not define site rankings in Google or traffic and it should not be mistaken as so.
  • Kill the Paid Link Market : If Paid Linking houses use PageRank as a pricing metric, then eliminating or devaluing PageRank will devalue paid linking

We’ll have some more news on the changes in PageRank, or the Great Google Halloween Update, but until Matt Cutts addresses this on his blog or Google… please sound off in the comments below:

  • Why do you think Google has changed the PageRank on so many sites?
  • Was your site hit? If so, why do you think so?
  • What sites have you noticed that experienced a drop in PageRank?
Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
Loren Baker
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