Matt Cutts Confirms Paid Links & Google PageRank Update

SMS Text

Matt Cutts emailed Search Engine Journal last night to let us know that in fact, the partial Google ‘Toolbar’ PageRank update which happened last week was a result of Google’s campaign against paid linking and advertisement links which influence PageRank.

The partial update to visible PageRank that went out a few days ago was primarily regarding PageRank selling and the forward links of sites. So paid links that pass PageRank would affect our opinion of a site.

Going forward, I expect that Google will be looking at additional sites that appear to be buying or selling PageRank.

No word from Matt Cutts or Google yet on how exactly sites are targeted for Google’s change of opinion, or how a site can redeem itself (if it wants to do so, as PageRank seems to have no effect on rankings or Google search traffic).

This is however, one of the first responses from Google on the PageRank update, and its effect on sites which sell paid links, so if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them below.

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
Get the latest news from Search Engine Journal!
We value your privacy! See our policy here.
  • Mark

    I’m confused; if PR doesn’t matter in Google rankings why do they bother updating the toolbar? Surely if they wanted to get rid of PR selling and buying they should just get rid of page rank all together?

    Its very mixed messages ๐Ÿ™‚

  • CVOS man

    if PR doesn’t matter, please make my site PR 10 matt.

  • Lars-Christian

    I would assume that over a longer term, a demotion in terms of authority (which PageRank is supposed to measure) from Google will in fact result in changes of the ranks. Or at the very least that seems to be the only obvious conclusion, because if PR is strictly symbolic, why would the want to keep it?

    Just because some of those who were hit didn’t see any immediate effect, I can only assume that those who “disobey” will suffer the consquences in the long run.

    Another possibility is that the lesser PageRank because of selling links is simply a way of making it so that the affected sites can’t actually lend authority to other sites, but don’t necessarily lose authority themselves. I would love to hear some fact on this from Google, as it is quite frustrating really having no idea of what types of effects selling links might have on your SERPs.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    Lesser PageRank does have a direct effect on link pricing metrics, SEOMoz PageStrength (which has become an unofficial pricing metric), and the way undereducated link buyers (or builders) view the value of a site.

    So, in a way, the direct effect may not be on rankings, but as Matt says “opinion” or perception, not only by Google but by the advertiser, who may decide not to buy a link for a premium price, or do so for less (PR 6 price vs. PR 4 price), hitting webmasters where it counts, in their wallets.

    In that train of thought, if a site is selling links for PageRank, and did not get slapped by Google, and still have higher PageRank, they can now effectively raise their pricing ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bruno Saric

    Is it just toolbar PR or some site’s did get penalized after this update? One of my site from 2003. was penalized but i don’t have one single paid link there.

  • Deb Harrison

    I have never paid for links or invested in adverts, however I was penalised for my main keyphrase when the more unethical sites that concentrate on getting just any old links ranked higher.

    The only reason I can think of is where Toxic Lemon and Limeysearch used to be free directories (when I listed in 2001), they now charge something absurd like £3 .

  • CompuWorld

    PR update is happening…

    and yeah the PR might not be used in searches but when it comes to selling ads than you need to have a scale to show and that is where PR comes into play. It is to show to the general public so that you can be measured on http://WWW...!!

    by the way my PR is 3 from zero even though my URL is just 2 months old .. I guess transferring my blogger posts from wordpress did the job for me!!

  • Vertical Measures

    I am afraid our super hero’s (you have to check out comments just are not enough to explain all the changes.

    Many are claiming that they have never purchased or sold a link, yet still took significant hits.

  • Tim

    I understand the concept of the visible page rank vs. the SERPS, but where I am fuzzy is how much pagerank am I now passing – is it my internal-to-google pagerank (most likely a 4) or my visible pagerank, a 2?

  • Seo Design Solutions

    I am glad to see that there has finally been a confirmed report of Page Rank, for a minute there I thought it was almost going to Join Bigfoot and Nessie and be delegated to the land of myths and legends had they held out any longer. In the meantime it’s strange to see Page Rank turn into Rage Rank for so many hit by the impending devaluation process of their links.

  • Thomas M. Schmitz

    Mark, there are different types of PageRank. The PageRank that Matt Cutts refers to here is not the Green Bar type. Matt is Referring to Link Equity or Link Juice. You have probably read some variation of every link being a vote. What Matt is saying is that Google does not want to count votes made by paid links.

  • Mike Papageorge

    Never sold a link before, but definitely got hit. I’d guess they’re still working out how much to crank the paid link knob… (site is a member of 9rules network tho).

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    Mike, I like your “adjusting the paid link knob” analogy, but what the radio’s pumping out ๐Ÿ™‚

    So, they set the knob all the way down and then adjust it for the sites they they later find out are not selling links…. with the mindset that if the site is not selling links to begin with, the drop in PR will not hurt them.

    Problem is, and I’ve said this many times, not all people understand what Google PageRank is.

  • Wulffy

    I believe it’s very easy to explain. Of course Matt has to threat PageRank sellers, but Google used an pragmatic approach. They have only excluded the incoming links to websites from their algorithm. Nothing more. This is the reason why all websites (also those not having bought or sold any links so far) have been “downgraded” with PageRank. Of course Google must explain this in a more mystical and sophisticated way.

  • Wulffy

    Sorry. – I believe that only incoming links from Social Media websites are taken into account for this TBPR-Update. (Blogs, Social Bookmarking, Social communities etc.) – But, at the end, no changes happened in SERPs caused by PageRank.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Well, I think we had one of the first confirmations of this ๐Ÿ™‚

    That’s my official confirmation from Google back on October 7, and I’m amazed people are still pondering what might be behind the drops. Google said pretty clearly those selling paid links would get hit.

    I guess I should clarify more. When I wrote that post, Google told me that sites would be seeing PageRank decreased, and that this would rollout over time. Guess I should have put the ROLLOUT in big capital letters. Instead, I thought it was pretty obvious that if sites started seeing PR decreases, they’d know why from that confirmation.

    Anyway, as part of our own follow-up on the PR saga, I’ve worked with Barry to try and explain things more:

    The key thing seems to be sites that might have been hit for link selling that then started saying they weren’t appear to be getting reverses.

  • Fionn

    Now the decsion to purchase a link will have to be based on traffic logs and potential targetted traffic for the link buyer. Sites will have to perform or lose their revenue not makes tonnes of money while they sleep just because they have a nice chunk of page rank to justify their extortionate rates for an “AD”. Some of these sites definitely deserve their authority status as a great online resource the mistake they made was not stopping selling links or placing a no follow on the ad when Google told them to. I am sure if they clean up and get rid of the links the status quo will be restored.

    Is if fair that Google can do this maybe not, I personally think it is. It certainly levels the playing field for the Mom and Pops with no money to o buy links.

  • Tony

    “Google’s campaign against paid linking and advertisement links which influence PageRank.” – Translation: We are going to eventually penalize anyone who doesn’t use AdSense exclusively for all their sites’ advertising.

    And since when do paid directories have a negative effect in Google.

    As long as the links are relevant, I don’t see what the problem s.

    Google is getting pretty shady.

  • Matt Jones

    I want to know how sites can redeem themselves, then again if it doesn’t affect search results it’s only the ignorant advertisers that care… sadly what they think that matters the most.

  • rummy

    They don’t want to remove PR because they won’t webmasters to remove their toolbar..

    See PR was on one of the most important reason why webmaster installed the G toolbar like crazy !!

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    @Danny : Well, I guess this was confirmation ‘after the storm’, bravo on the initial forewarning.

    We had it in our alerts, but misjudged the wrath and reach of the storm ๐Ÿ™‚

  • mike b. – geeks

    Lorne – (I posted this in the Sphinn Comments also) — thank you!

    Our site dropped down to a PR 5 and we neither buy nor sell links? I have also seen MANY other sites that have dropped in PR, that do not participate in link selling. It is not part of their business model, so I am pretty confident in this assessment.

    I have only been reading about Google laying the smack down on bloggers and sites that are monetizing based on the site’s PR, and therefore perceived value.

    The search marketing blogosphere is discussing mostly ‘their own’ affected industry. I feel what is missing from all the conversations is data from outside the search marketing sector, which may better explain and understand Google’s overall intentions.

    I have seen many sites not in the search vertical also being effected by a drop in PR, but haven’t seen much reporting on it. (are we to assume every site that has dropped in ranking is as a result of link buying or selling) That is very presumptuous. and I believe there has to be more to Google’s motives than JUST smacking the link traders, when many sites have been effected.


  • AussieWebmaster

    Danny I hope you realize that those link drops are not worth anything anymore…. now that the site has had a big PR drop!!

    And I would have used some anchor text instead of the plain url.

  • mike b. – geeks

    Sorry Loren – didn’t mean to spell your name wrong! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Barry Schwartz

    Frank, your too funny.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    Come to think of it Danny, I thought I set Akismet to hold all comments with more than one internal link in moderation ๐Ÿ™‚

    Some sort of WordPress Jedi Mind Trick going on?

  • Mark

    A bit of talk around seems to think they are rolling out TrustRank; it could be that all the known paid text linkers have been manually edited to have poor TrustRank, lowering their ranking, and all websites who don’t happen to be linked from a yet trusted site. Who knows though, its all speculation until our Lord Google speaks ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Harrison

    “Never sold a link before, but definitely got hit.”

    Mike, I clicked on your site and saw a post saying “This is a sponsored post, of Axosoft OnTime 2007 Beta” If I can find that, I’m guessing search engines can too..

  • mike b.

    @ harrison – I have no idea what you are referring to? Can you be more specific?

  • Harrison

    Mike b, I was looking at the comment by Mike Papageorge. Sorry that was unclear, too many Mikes!

  • mike b.

    I saw after — sorry about that. You scared me for a second!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  • Joe B

    I think Lars-Christian has it right when he says, “Another possibility is that the lesser PageRank because of selling links is simply a way of making it so that the affected sites can’t actually lend authority to other sites, but don’t necessarily lose authority themselves. ”

    To me this makes sense. Don’t impact a site’s traffic, just stop them selling PR.

    Personally I couldn’t care less about my drop from 5 to 2, other than it reuqires me to have to explain to a prospective link partner why it’s worth exchanging links (to get real traffic, dumbass) if they don’t want to link to my shitty little PR2 site.

    Because I don’t sell links to pass on PR, I can only speculate that I might have been penalised because Google don’t like affiliate links either. Perhaps they might also class them as a form of paid link. However, as Eric Enge says on searchnews, “Google will never win that battle. Monetizing sites is something that every site owner has the right to do.” My affiliate links pay me to create my content. Without the income, I would not be doing what I do.

    Fair enough, go after sites that are simply selling “authority” to others. But the question remains, how will Google tell the difference between this form of link selling and genuine ads designed to create traffic and sales for the buyer and a meaningful (and entirely ethical) business model for the seller. And if they do come up with a way, won’t the PR sellers simply cheat the system?

    Anyway, at the end of the day and to return to the start, if this is just a means of stopping sites selling PR then fine, it makes no difference to me, since I don’t sell it and I don’t buy it. If, however, it turns into something more sinister and impacts real web traffic, then the only conclusion can be that Google are simply trying to protect their own link advertising interests in an anticompetitive manner. For me, the good news then would be that, given the number of genuinely decent quality sites that appear to be affected, I would not see Google remaining the no.1 search engine for very long since their search results would likely be significantly poorer than at present.

    But I don’t believe that will happen because Google are very clever people, right? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Jeremy Wright

    Danny, as one of the networks targetted by this update, I can tell you equivocally that many of our sites that were hit were NOT selling links, and never had ( among them).

    This update *was* about text links, as Matt said, but tens of thousands of sites that had NEVER sold text links were mistakenly penalized as well.

    For some reason, this fact simply isn’t being covered properly (or, really, at all). Hitting up Google in the WMC and asking for reinstatement for this sites WILL work, though.

  • Deva Rajan

    Instead of using Google PageRank for measuring a Web site’s popularity, bulk link sellers can start using free Alexa traffic stats instead. Alexa traffic stats are not influenced by Google and its corporate decisions, or algorithmic choices, and is instead based on actual traffic measurements. The only problem with Alexa is that is a sampling-based approach, but its coverage is steadily increasing and thereby getting more reliable.

  • Rabin

    It is very mind boggling to see people keep on trumpeting this “PR Euphoria” bandwagon. For a very long time I looked at PR to measure the success in SEO. But having seen some sites perform well in search despite the low PR proved otherwise. Here I have noticed someone talk about Alexa and its purity over Google. Lets be mindful here, both Google and Alexa alike are organizations with their vested interest. To think their metrics are unbiased would be very foolish.

  • Anon

    If it was for selling paid links why is then W3 Cons not punished/penalized yet??
    PR is 9, still.

    Anybody knows they are selling yearly paid links, starting out from $1000/year.. and her eis the list of their so called supporters (read” paid link buyers)

    Oddly, as one can see there linking to bad neighborhood is a rule!

    just my 2 cents

  • Malcolm Lambe

    I dropped from PR5 to 4 although I’ve never bought or sold a link and in fact I’ve more quality links now (including 96 .edu and 11 .gov) than I’ve had in the two years life of this site.
    The part I don’t like is the arbitrariness of it all. Terrible piece of Public Relations on Google’s part. And really don’t like those bastards and I hate what they’ve done with YouTube too.

  • Dave

    I think this news confirms that Google really does not care about content, just about the presence or absence of paid links, affiliate links, and advertising. Content is not king. Abstinence from paid links is king.

  • derek

    From one hand Google penalized popular sites selling/buying links and from other hand assigned high PR for thousands of new or less popular sites that do nothing else than selling/buing PR.
    Additionally Google penalized sites never selling ot buying links and the reason was that they’re hosted from same IP as main site to be penalized.
    This is how it looks. This is what shows us how stupid Google algo is. This shows us Google is not able to track sites selling PR.
    This shows to many how to play with Google PR now. This is what will hurt Google much more than ever before.

  • AussieWebmaster

    Matt did a post about what to be for Halloween…

    I think if he wants to personify Google he should put on a blindfold and start swinging an axe… they know they will get most of the bad guys and are willing to lose some innocents along the way

  • JB

    Do Googles latest algorithm changes indicate that any site ( that has webpages for each business and also has a link through to the business’ webpage), will get penalized if they are charging for that business to have a webpage on the site?

  • Jay G.

    Just because a site sells links to cover costs or even make a few bucks does not make that sites content any worse….so being penalized in the SERP would just make Googles results worse. I think dinging visual page rank is a kinda silly though, it makes Google’s page rank look like a joke. I don’t know why they just don’t get rid of it from the toolbar?

  • msnchat

    Ok great so what about google adsense when you put sponserd links above the ads could this be mistaken as paid links if its anywhere near other links..

  • Sly from

    I really think that all this fuss about PR is useless. It’s taking over almost every blog on the blogosphere and nobody can stop talking about it. PR should die! ๐Ÿ˜›

  • FernandezAlexia

    If PR doesn’t weigh anymore in the eyes of Google, then please give my site a PR10.

    I would surely believe it right there!

  • ADAC

    So now that the threats have turned into actual penalties, I wonder now many webmasters will start adding “nofollow” to their “traffic Only” link sales?

    No doubt Google will be watching to see if this will increase compliance with their demands.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    @msnchat : Google AdSense ads, or other contextual advertising programs like YPN or BriteAds, are not mistaken by Google as paid “natural” links.

    The paid links being discussed in this thread are ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ hypertext links which pass “link juice” as being real, coded and anchored links.

    The links served in AdSense ad code are served links, not natural, and do not pass PageRank or ‘link juice’.

  • Aussiewebmaster

    Hurting non offenders is the “baby with the bath water” approach that their inactive terms, and max bid additions to PPC.

    They have gone from a “Do No Evil” to “Some Innocents Will Get Hurt Is Okay” model!

  • Andy Beard

    Working my way through trackbacks I see a very welcome one from SEJ… come to the post and it seems not to be in the post.

    What gives?

  • Pozycjonowanie

    I know a lot of websites who sell links and they have the same PR look at the strongest domains they lost -1 PR (many PR9) lost to 8 many 8 go to 7 many 7 go to 6 when You look at BL from last update domains You will see that they lost BL (if they had 10x PR7) now they have (10x PR6) and this is one thing another thing is that this time to get PR6/7 domain You needed not 10-20 quality PR6/7 links but 100-200 quality PR6/7 links and those are the real reasons why so many PR6/7/8 have lost their PR!!!

  • Pozycjonowanie

    Show me one site that have 100-200 BL from PR6/7 (not from 1 domain) and not get PR6/7 . I have many PR6 websites and I sell links of some of them and they have the same PR like on the last PR update. And this time i need to use many more quality BL to be this way (Google PR algorithm changes in number of BL) last time I need 10 quality BL to get PR6 this time i use more then 100 to stay with this PR.

  • Loren Baker

    @Andy Beard : I was spamming you! No, I had added an update, with your chart (and embedded link). But the table’s width was too thick for the SEJ template, due to the full URL’s in the text. I deleted it (or saved to drafts) with plans to make edits, then had some meetings to attend to.

    Totally forgot about it until reading your comment on the mobile. I wasn’t trackbacking you ๐Ÿ™‚

    @ Group : Lots of reports of new sites gaining PR. I had one go from a zero to a three (small site). Anyone care to share their positive PR changes?

  • Pozycjonowanie

    I have many from 0 to 6 ๐Ÿ™‚

  • kh

    This won’t be the first time you will feel the heavy backhand of Google. Remember in the Wizard of OZ when they saw they little man with the fireball machine behind the curtain, and he said “Don’t look behind the curtain!”. Anytime the SEO-ers start to say “hey, it is just two little guys and a fireball machine”…WHACK! Each one will hurt more than the one before. Most have a freshly slapped face. And everyone on this thread is for the most part being pretty diplomatic, as if the Wizards of Google are reading it. But talk to people offline and they are quoting Will Rogers “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

  • Andy Beard

    The easy solution to the width problem is just to wrap the table in [small] [/small]

    No worries

    I should note that I know blogs that Matt Cutts reads that write paid reviews that didn’t receive any penalty.

    I think they need to spend a lot more time training their human evaluation team in what qualifies as valuable content far beyond token payments made for consultancy.

  • Harrison

    “If it was for selling paid links why is then W3 Cons not punished/penalized yet??”

    Anon, for the url you mentioned and there’s a meta tag on it:
    meta name=”ROBOTS” content=”INDEX, NOFOLLOW”
    so those links are not passing PageRank.

  • venkat

    Make my site page rank 6

  • Clement

    Google services such as Adsense, blogger etc have their own blogs. Why cant Google put up I a blog dedicated to PR issues? Why should we getting Google’s information through third party communication like this.For some of us, it took us a long time before we knew that Matt Cutts speaks for Google. As part of their social responsibility, Google should be more transparent. If you can, please get the whole story here:

  • Clement


    I have been asking myself this question. How does Google distinguish paid links from links in paid reviews? In my short online career, I have observed that paid/sponsored review are fast becoming the norm of the day and they pay really well. But these reviews are supposed to include a link to the reviewee’s site. Does that make it a paid link?

  • Clement

    @betty betty: If that is the case then TV and Radio adverts must also be strongly discouraged because they are as well in in no-one’s interest but the seller, and the guy who can’t get a job who whores out his mad advertizing skillz.

  • Avik

    If google continues to update the PR, then they cant eliminate PR buying/selling completely. A few sites will be penalized but a few not. Soon they will be loaded with complaints with paid links reports. Also webmasters will find a new way to buy links thru contextual posts or blog posts or else. I think google is smart/intelligent enough to understand that. Why dont they remove the PR from the toolbar ?

  • Clement

    @Avik: If they remove PR from the toolbar, people will still check it out online using the various online tools.

  • Avik

    @Clement : But they know how to hide it from those tools ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Clement

    @Avik: That will be backtracking. In the first place, people did not know anything about PR, it is them(Google) who brought it to the masses. Why should they rehide it?

  • Avik

    Yeah, that is true, but there is no other way to eliminate buying/selling links. Penalizing a few sites wont solve this problem. Webmasters will continue to find out other ways/tricks to increase PR.

  • Jens Meiert

    The situation is quite interesting, above all since it indeed imposes a definition problem: What exactly is a paid link? I consider donor links and links to cooperation partners as paid anyway, but I am not sure if somebody who accepts and rewards donations or somebody who donates and gets linked should be penalized for that?

    Also, the update does not – cannot – cover “all” sites with paid links, so it isn’t – cannot – be fair at all. Even though I understand Google’s motivation, it is quite difficult, tricky problem.

  • Michael Glatz

    We have no paid ads on our website and offer a particular form of publishing through the site. We only offer free links to services that complement our own service. We have never bought or sold a link other than with Google’s own “Adwords”. Yet our site was demoted from a “5” to a mere “2 rating” overnight. Years of work downgraded for no apparent reason.

  • Dmitri

    a lot of people everywhere seem to be complaining about dropped pr. I personally know a bunch of sites that were dropped from 5 to 4. I stopped looking at PRs long time ago,but it sure a nice way of telling about quality of certain sites and their age.

  • Kevin May

    Google in the UK gave us this explanation:

  • ctabuk

    Well it has certainly kept us forum Moderators at WebProWorld extremely busy. But we tried over and over again what was happening and why. Would people listen? No!
    Matt, could you do me a huge favor and drop the dreaded greenline – please? In the UK the new Beta version is out and the toolbar PR has to be downloaded. I for one did not do it.

  • franconov

    This is a cool solution, but can you explain how Google check the websute that buy or sell links?
    Is there a method of judgement ?

  • Not telling

    I do nothing but buy and sell links and didn’t get hit. On the contrary, all my internal pages increased!!!!

  • Jay G.

    I would like to hear Google’s answer to this question.

    If it is not right to purchase links to rank higher because that hurts the integrity of the results then why does Google sell the top spots to the highest bidder? Sounds a bit hypocritical to me.

  • Dave (The Other One)

    I don’t understand this recent Pagerank update. I’ve never bought or sold links for PR purposes but I’m amazed to see my newest sites and blogs all jump to PR4 and my older, more established sites with thousands of pages of content and purely organic links dropped by a point or two in PR ???

  • Sofna

    Yea, I’m still confused. Our web design site, actually the one I am using to post this, went from a PR4 to a PR1 and we have never bought or sold any links at all EVER. Most of my backlinks were from social bookmarking sites and being a top commentator on blogs (which I am wondering if this is what hit me, being on big blogs that do sell links as a top commentator so I am on every page as if I were buying links). If this is true, google has some work to do, its not fair to -3 PR from my site because I like reading blogs?

  • ctabuk

    Sofna – are you running a redirect?

    That is how Google sees you. Also you have a limited number of visible links

  • Danny Sullivan

    @aussiewebmaster heh, I’ll still take the link ๐Ÿ™‚

    @lorenbaker weird. normally akismet bans my comments regardless of links, so maybe they finally whitelisted me!

  • AussieWebmaster

    Danny So would I…. links always rule.

  • Sofna

    @ctabuk has no redirect.

    I have 4k+ backlinks on yahoo, most from social bookmarking and social media sites. I had a PR4 with 12 backlinks before I started building all these social backlinks, now I am PR1 and have never paid for a link in my life. I thought they could have looked at my site like I paid for a spot on a popular blog for being a top commentator. If you are a top commentator, its like being on a blog roll.

  • Sofna

    Forgot to mention something else kinda funny, my inner pages have higher PR than my than my index. They all have PR2, and then my portfolio has a PR3. They really have me baffled. it obviously has to do with my incoming links pointing to

  • ctabuk

    Cool. The only thing to really concentrate on is your SERP and toolbar PR has never been a contributing factor to that.

    So try to live without the toolbar pagerank and build your internal and external links to related topic sites and not based on the greenline.

  • uttoransen

    PR or no PR! it dosenot really matters! google can’t control the internet anyway!

  • kh

    @uttoransen – Thank you. Much of their great power comes as a result of people thinking they can control the internet. IMO they have punished many who have helped them get where they are. And alot of people recommended Google out of spite for Microsoft. You would think many millions of publishers ultimately wield more power than the giant that uses what they create. But, I guess only if they believe that to be true.

  • AussieWebmaster

    PR or no PR! it does not really matters! google can’t control the internet anyway!

    Not really only 55% of it… well maybe more if you use global numbers

  • Dave (The Other One)

    @AussieWebmaster – They sure do seem like they’re trying to control the internet. Personally, I don’t see the big deal if people want to sell text-links. All of this wouldn’t even be an issue if Google had never started the toolbar PR thing in the first place. What really irks me is that people find ways to make money on the internet an some multi-billion dollar corporation who invented the whole PR scheme to promote the use of their tollbarso they can use the data they collect for marketing purposes wants to stop them from making a living.

    I think we’re far beyond the “Do no Evil” stages here.

  • Oneunder

    Loren- “The paid links being discussed in this thread are ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ hypertext links which pass “link juice” as being real, coded and anchored links.

    The links served in AdSense ad code are served links, not natural, and do not pass PageRank or ‘link juice’.”

    Very PC response, another way of looking at is Google recieves no income from passing along PR and link juice and they don’t want anyone else profiting from it either. The other thing these “organic links” do is steal traffic from the AdSense links Google serves up so in away “paid links” present a 2 prong attack on the Big G’s bottom line.

  • David

    Believe it or not but Google controls it. Or is your first page u open somebody other than google? i think not.

  • gossip

    google is a joke….i have a PR 1 of one of my sites…..and get close to 7k new visitors per month. Site has only been around 2months

  • Fionn

    The “Are Paid Links Evil” session at the next SES will be interesting ๐Ÿ™‚ It might be a good idea to cancel it poor Matt Cutts might get attacked.

  • M.-J. Taylor

    I think what we are missing, in part, is that this update also targeted sites that are relying heavily on reciprocal linking …. which *is* a sort of paid link. One can also argue that a relevant reciprocal link is of value to the human visitor and these sorts of links have, perhaps, been unfairly targeted in the assault on paid links. Google has inadvertantly damaged ‘innocent’ sites in other updates (remember Florida?) and then they set about correcting the problem. I will trust they will correct the errors in this one. Content and natural, relevant linking does rule.

  • Lorel

    I believe, besides the demotion for paid links, that this update was an overall demoiton of over inflated PR. Even the Washington post and were reduced in Page Rank–getting too close to Google’s PR apparently.

  • SEO consultant Bikram Choudhury

    PageRank matters, I am sure of it.

    Google has many parameters like – keyword density, title, PR, and many more like this.

    SEO Ranking is an weighted average of all these. As for example 20% to tiltle relevancy, 15% to keywords density, 30% to PR like this. They changes the % and ranking varies a lot.

    Its my idea – what u think. Tell me –

  • SearchEnginesWeb

    >>>>>>>No word from Matt Cutts or Google yet on how exactly sites are targeted for Google’s change of opinion

    just look in your referrer logs archive for any or these links mention.ed in this post.

    Most of the sites under suspicion are probably high profile sites – or sites belonging to well known SEOs.

    But unfortunately, there are many false positives

  • Baked Joe

    How odd is it that is still a PR 7? I know they were hit with some sort of penalty, but it’s odd that if it really revolves around this talk, why would TLA remain a 7 when they’re kind of the target of the whole mess!

    Yes I’m baked, thanks.

  • Cajulies

    Damn! I went up in PR by 2 points, and I noticed that I’m no longer ranking for the only keyword I optimized for (which I was on the first page for but now I can’t be found anywhere). I’m sitll in the listing for my site title but this sucks, I didn’t do any paid links but I’m in some directories..crap this is completely messed up.

  • sbs reddy

    my site enjoyed PR 5 for almost 4to 5 years. Now it has come down to PR4. However traffic to my site since last 2 days jumped up by 25% at it is maintaining the trend. I have deleted some of the links given to my own sites and i have to observe how does it affect the rank in next update !!

  • iyiz

    it is impossible to understand paid links by google…

  • Sam Brown

    Oddly, none of my sites with paid text link ads dropped in PR, and two of my sites which previously had PR0 now have PR5. Perhaps they just got bumped up because of the PR Updates by Google? Not sure.

  • Terry Quested

    My main website took a pounding. I have no paid links and have never paid for a link. I do have a few thousand thousand incoming links from free directories, all of which I applied for manually over the last two years. Since my site is continually growing I can see no reason whatsoever for my PR drop. I was hoping for a rise to PR6 and instead got a drop to PR4 and all internal pages also took a one point drop. I have removed all external links from my main page, including the link to Google.
    I guess free directory links are useless as a very small recent wordpress blog I set up with just a dozen incoming links is now the same PR4 as my main site (which is bristling with unique content). This is total nonsense and Google has clearly got it wrong in my case.
    Also, I would like to say that a google sitemap also seems to be useless. Google generally gives the same PR to all internal pages and appears to totally ignores the relevant importance indication given in the sitemap.

  • Lorel

    >>>>SEO Ranking is an weighted average of all these. As for example 20% to tiltle relevancy, 15% to keywords density, 30% to PR like this. They changes the % and ranking varies a lot.

    I agree except I would add age of domain as a large ranking factor.

    Re the PR drop, because of observiing over 30 similar sites (some of which dropped and others didn’t) I also believe the demotion is a portion of a PR point.

    PR is not figured via 1 point but from like say PR 4.1 to PR 4.9. The demotion may have only dropped a portion of 1 PR so it looks like it’s still PR 4 but actually bordering on becoming a 3, i.e., a PR 4 site that actually is a 4.1 and then loosing a few links drops it down to a PR 3.

  • ADAC

    I think site like th one Terry Quested mentioned are a good example of the snowball effect this type of change would have.

    Even without ever paying for or selling links you can be affected. If several of your key high PR incoming links were affected(large drop in PR) then this would also affect you. Your change could be coming from several generations of sites higher.

  • Miami Real Estate

    I have a concern, if anyone can adress it? My page rank was 4 before this happened, but I believe I may have been punished by google for excessive reciprocal linking, which I have stopped. I used to be very high under the term miami real estate,but I have been pushed back to the 70th page for about 2 months or more now, although under the image search, my site is on the first page of most relevant search terms. I requested reinclusion. Any ideas? Im not an SEO guy, just a realtor.

  • Boris

    I thought that the uproar about the PR drop was all about ego. I never considered the income drop related to the drop. So the PR bitch is about money! Hmm… I can see clearly Now! THANKS

  • kh

    Miami Real Estate – Go to your nearest Catholic church and light as many candles as you can, though be careful not to burn the place down. Then confess your sins to Matt Cutts and promise never to try and make money outside of Google again. Only they are worthy.

    Man, what are you crying about. Google is not God. Forbes is a 4 PR and that’s what you are. You should be thankful. When are all you scared chickens going to wake up. Combined, you web publishers are far more powerful than any one organization on the web. Google is the most powerful now because you believe it. Believe in yourselves.

  • Vishal


    I would like to ask from google via you that i am not selling and buying link for my site..still google down my 2 sites PR . Is it fair for good sites that are not including it is market…even there are lots of site that are buying links from high pr site and google still not giving any kind of penalty to those site. Why google is behaveing like this and what kind of algo update is.

    This is good that google dont want that anyone can play with G-PR. So gooogle has to give PR back to good sites that are not include in buying and selling links.


  • Terry Quested

    I take note of what ADAC says, but the drop in my PR was not just that my directory links were downgraded. Even if Google ignored all of my links from directories I should still easily remain PR5. I was PENALISED by Google, presumably for having links from directories that were free but have now become paid directories.
    I have spent about an hour a day every day over the past two years submitting to directories. I now have an extra free hour a day as I will never submit to another directory in my life.
    The day of the directory is dead.
    I am not an SEO expert, but my understanding was that you were penalised for linking to bad sites but there was no penalty if bad sites link to you (you cannot somebody linking to you). Matt seems to have changed this fundamental.

  • Ainuddin

    Many of my sites had suffered possibly because they have a lot of incoming links from article directories and video sites. One of them was ranked among the top 10 by Google for the key phrase of “digital products”. Now no longer being ranked among the top 100.

  • Kerner

    We have seen that many sites with footer links where deranked by Google. That I understand, because of footer links are are made only for the search engines and not for the human visitors.

  • Nick

    Never sold links but have got PR lower (-1) ๐Ÿ™

  • Adrian

    The question is how far will they go with this?

  • Green Peace

    New PR uppdate will be soon I think, but it is not very important for page position.

  • DesireK2

    There will always be paid links that Google can’t detect, and smart link building can at least reduce the chances that competitors turn in such linkage. But that’s another league. I don’t think that Joe Webmaster has the skills to accomplish that, nor the budget to pay a SEO consultant who can do it. My posts addresses folks not able or willing to take the risks involved with paid links.

    When a site sells links via a public service leaving footprints, and all those brokers put trackable links, then this site’s owner, Webmaster or SEO slept the last years. In this case refunds caused by subsequently applied link condoms are unavoidable, and probably Google will approve a reconsideration request. By the way, the brokers deal with condomized links too, and lots of sites sell nofollow’ed links. Google has devalued paid links since 2003, probably even longer, hence dofollow’ed link trades dealt with zilch PageRank anyway. IANAL, but I doubt that it’s possible to win a case when the commodity both sites agreed over is a fiction and this fact was public knowledge at the time the contract was signed. Of course, full disclosure is a no-brainer.

    From the few sites suffering from deducted toolbar PR I visited recently, I could write the primitive algos to detect most of the paid links myself. I mean when a blog has blinking banners linked to hosting services and well known advertisers like that, links to text link brokers masked with tinyURL only, parts of the blogroll duplicated on tons of affiliated sites, pay for review buttons nofollow’ed or not …, then a blind, deaf and dumb monkey can detect link intents. I’m sure Google can do that algorithmically, and for this sort of links I posted the nofollow hack.

  • Portal Feeder

    It is really a confusing message that is being sent out by Google – and from the way they have gone about this update it seems to have been done primarily to spread doubt – without actually giving away much information.

    Hit people’s little green bar and everyone is screaming they’ve been penalized – evry link seller fears being banned and stops selling links (or cross linking in blog networks).

    But the fact remains that there are little reports in traffic loss or ranking drops – so what does it really matter?

    I recently did a survey on Digital Point and of those that were already buying links, 90% are continuing to do so.

    Now i’m pretty sure that educated link buyers will just ignore page rank and take other factors into account.

  • Nick

    Will people ask Google to re-update PR or something like that? We are ashamed by Google having no fault in links selling but being charged.


    After this update webmster should take their focus more to the content of their projects then to the links. projekts with lots of informative content have also lost -1 pr, but hold their positions into the serps. And thats the only thing that counts.


    I went from PR4 which i had no PR for 7 months(New blog). After 2 days I got PR2 and after a week I got PR0 wtf? ๐Ÿ™‚

    The only thing is i did sell text link ads and i removed them!

  • Sam

    I am confused about this page rank? Because i have a few sites that are ranking in google on page 1 with less PR than the other sites on page 3 or 4. But what exactly this PR is meant for?

    Still a lot people buy links and pay according to page rank!

  • Pet Accessories

    I think PageRank is not very important by now but I like to have a large ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Martin

    The update was ok for me, PR4. No matter, traffic is the most important goal for my work and everybody knows, that Pr doesnt influence this any more.
    Martin der SEO

  • Ton Seo

    Use Alexa instead. Alexa traffic stats are not influenced by Google and its corporate decisions, or algorithmic choices, and is instead based on actual traffic measurements. The only problem with Alexa is that is a sampling-based approach, but its coverage is steadily increasing and thereby getting more reliable.

  • Google PR Contrarian

    “The visible google page rank is a misleading short cut which we all use but which we shouldn’t. It’s a bad habit even glancing at that green bar.”

    I’ve said as much myself. But recently, I’ve developed a new view starting with the fact that page rank has recently been used by google is a novel way. They’ve used it as “warning shot”

    Google PR number is a useful measure of what it measures.

    The fact is that I’ve seen a very strong correlation over the last four years between my viewable page rank and my position in the search engines.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    Google & Matt Cutts have issued an update on their treatment of sites selling links, and their ongoing lobbying to designate paid links with a no-follow on the Google Webmaster Central Blog

  • SEO contrarians

    The visible google page rank is a misleading short cut which we all use but which we shouldn’t. It’s a bad habit even glancing at that green bar.

    I’ve said as much myself. But now, page rank has been used by google is a novel way….as a warning shot to those that google perceives are not “white hat” enough.

  • ved

    It is better to finish the concept of page rank. Your algorithms is different for one and different for another, doing partiality…

  • Scott for SEO

    With so many high ranking site showing low PageRank, I think all we should be asking Google to clarify this situation. Some sites have thousands of paid links, but they aren’t punished. If the link farm or commercial linking site is still highly ranked on Google, and several are, why should their customers be punished?

  • Terry Quested

    It should be obvious to everybody reading this blog that pagerank is now meaningless. I no longer use google but prefer Yahoo (or actually where you stand a chance of winning a prize). I used to display my pagerank on my site but no longer do so. I have replaced it with SEOmoz’s page strength. Their pagestrength give an accurate indication of the value of your website. And they also give indicators of exactly what they use to calculate your pagestrength – what a difference from Google!. Try it! You can also add the pagestrength indicator to your browser toolbar and scrap Google’s useless pagerank indicator. The only way that Google is going to understand that they are now a joke is when people stop using them.

  • Nofollow them all, let Google sort them out

    Wouldn’t it be true that formatting links SPECIFICALLY so that they look unpaid, to try to get them to pass page rank so you can accept increased payments for them, is only worth doing because a search engine (Google) exists?

    But does accepting increased payments for paid links that pass page rank mean you are making links for search engines to benefit yourself? Or, put another way, does making paid links “for users not search engines” mean formatting paid links appropriately, so as to not pass page rank/game search engines?

  • Kenneth Watt

    I wouldn’t mind so much about the PR as that’s really just a status thing when people look at the green bar, it’s like owning a BMW, nice but ultimately not required to get from A to B.

    What I do object to is Google having magically wiped out a whole load of traffic that we did receive for no apparent reason and with no means to contact them to talk to someone about it. I have tried.

    We don’t sell links that I am aware of but we do run some ads that aren’t Adwords and to be honest, should that really matter on how good a site is or how good and relevant the information is on it to the search query? But then as a busy webmaster running a business as well as a social site, do I have the time to vet every link on a large site, the answer is a simple no, I don’t.

    So, I have to assume that, if the traffic dropped after this update, primarily a drop from Google that somehow, the innocent are being punished with the guilty and, that’s not fair.


  • Manuel Gallego

    i never sold a link from my site, but this summer i put a link to my new girlffriend website about real estate: and from october i lost my pagerank from 5 to 0.
    i have send some messages to google to reconsider my site, but i have not received any response after 2 months. My traffic decreased 20% and continue decreasing. I have removed this link already from my site.
    I think google should try at least to contact with owner before to do this type of action.

  • Holger

    I think Google will clean the search results for a better relevance ranking. Is it like this?

  • Kelvin

    So does this mean that if I buy text links from, say,, my site won’t get penalized ?

  • Dizi

    Google must not stop link selling

    Because google must think about webmasters