The Oracle of Mountain View

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The recent PageRank™ updates by Google stirred up quite some talk within and outside the search engine marketing industry and opened room for many more or less far-fetched speculations about what this could mean.crystal ball gazer There is in my opinion no need to panic just yet, but it also does not mean that you should do nothing. I tried to create a list of facts followed by a few assumptions that are tied directly to the mentioned facts without going off too far into the realm of pure speculation.

Loren did a good post about the same subject already. You could consider this post supplemental to his.

Let us start with the facts we know for sure.

  1. Many sites saw in the recent weeks a significant drop in PageRank™, as in PR displayed in the Google Toolbar, which is separate from the PR used by Google internally as one of over hundred factors for ranking web search results.
  2. Google confirmed that they applied a PageRank™ penalty manually to sites who are selling links.
  3. Sites who are not selling links also saw a drop in PageRank™.
  4. The PageRank™ in the Google Toolbar is usually updated only every three months or so. It seems that they updated the Toolbar PageRank™ database out of their usual schedule several times in the last month alone.
  5. PageRank™ is only one of over hundred factors for ranking and plays only a minor role in the overall scheme of things. Other factors are much more significant for a websites ranking in the SERPS (search engine result pages). This changed over the years. PageRank™ was a major ranking factor in the past, even the biggest factor when they started their search engine in 1998. Their famous patent “The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hyper-textual Web Search Engine” is all about PageRank™.
  6. While PageRank™ does not play a major factor in ranking anymore so is it still play a major role in the evaluation of a website by third party advertising services. One type of services that uses PageRank™ to determine pricing for advertising are marketplace services that facilitate paid text links for improving search engine ranking.
  7. PageRank™ is the most prominent of only very few visible indicators to people outside the search engine marketing industry about the quality and importance of a web site for search engine ranking. Like with the Alexa ranking are normal non-search marketing professionals giving those types of indicators a higher value than they actually represent. This is due to marketing, which has often nothing much in common with boring and cold facts of the real-life. That is what marketing does.
  8. Most people who even enable the PageRank™ display in their Toolbar and look at the value displayed are individuals who have a website or have a stake in a website or are employed by the owner of a website and have something to do with marketing a website or have a financial interest in how successful a website is.
  9. People that fit the description of the above and by search engine marketing professionals are the type of people who notice a change like the one we have seen. Normal people using search engines and websites do not notice this or do not care very much. Since PageRank™ does not play critical role in ranking, are search engine results and traffic from search engines not much, if at all, affected by this change. This indicates that Google only wanted to send a message, an advance notice, probably even warning only to a certain group of people about things to come. The targeted group of people is given the chance to do something or to stop doing something to prevent or reduce the negative impact of the things to come for their website and business.
  10. The paid links issue is almost certainly playing a part in this, but does not have to be only one. Sites that did not sell text-links for search engine ranking purposes, but also saw a drop in PageRank™ might only be affected indirectly from this and will be affected indirectly by the things to come too.
  11. A site that did benefit from a high PageRank™ of other websites that were penalized will be affected indirectly by the penalty. This indirect penalty affects many innocent sites, but the impact varies from site to site and depends heavily on the websites inbound links profile. Actually all websites will be affected to some extend because of the nature of what PageRank™ is and the fact that all websites are connected with each other. The “six degrees of separation” principle applies to websites as it does to people.

I am certain that more websites are going to see a drop in PageRank™ in the weeks and months to come while the effect ripples through the whole internet.

There are also sites that were penalized directly by Google that did not do anything wrong, collateral damage so to speak. In those cases is it possible to contact Google for reevaluation to get the manually applied penalty removed from your website.

It is the right time of the year and the right time overall for a major Google ranking algorithm change and search index update. As a reminded, “Florida” happened in fall 2003 and “Jagger” in fall 2005 followed by “infrastructure update” dubbed “BigDaddy” right after “Jagger”. Fall 2007 seems to be a good time for another major Google algorithm update.

Websites who saw a severe drop in PageRank™ should look at their inbound links and should review their current link-building strategy.

Keep in mind that you have to look at things from a bigger perspective, beyond your own website.

If you saw a PageRank™ drop as a direct or indirect side effect of all this, you will probably be affected by the things that are likely to follow, but so is your competitor, if he was affected by the recent PageRank™ updates as well. If all sites in your space were affected by this update, chances are that they will be affected the same way by any other changes that might come. If everybody is affected the same, nothing changes overall.

For example, if the value of the Dollar drops compared to the value of the Euro and you are a company that does a lot of business with countries in the European Union, this drop affects you as much as your competitor who does equally as much business with the same countries. If you are not dealing with Euros in your business very much and so does your competitor, the drop will not have any impact on yours and your competitors business at all.

Carsten Cumbrowski
is the owner of the internet marketing resources site at and an independent internet marketing strategy consultant, writer and affiliate.

Carsten Cumbrowski has years of experience in Affiliate Marketing and knows both sides of the business as the Affiliate and Affiliate Manager. Carsten has over 10 years experience in Web Development and 20 years in programming and computers in general. He has a personal Internet Marketing Resources site at learn more about Carsten, check out the "About Page" at his web site. For additional contact options see this page.
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  • Xed

    Did you see that problogger has recovered is PR from 4 to 6? why you don´t have yours back again? any idea?

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Hi Xed, I mentioned in the post that some sites got penalized directly without doing anything wrong (collateral damage) and referred to the post about Problogger and what sites that fall intro that category can do to get the penalty removed.

    In the case of SEJ am I not so sure if it was a direct penalty or if it is the ripple effect, which I also mentioned. I am sure that Loren, who owns SEJ is looking into into and will contact Google, if it appears to be a direct penalty and not the mentioned ripple effect. I have not talked with him about that yet to be able to provide any details on that matter.


  • Sebastian

    The “did not do anything wrong” folks are well advised to check whether their understaning of clean linkage fits Google’s idea of non-paid links. I’ve seen so many examples of sites which Google warned via toolbar that had paid links as per Google’s definition. Of course these links may be legit, make business sense and all that. Unfortunately Google considers a honest link to a recommended sponsor paid, when the sponsor buys ad space too, or paid the blogger for a review.

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Hi Sebastian,

    The ripple effect can and probably will have impact on innocent sites too. This was also the case when Jagger and BigDaddy hit. I wanted to bring that across as well.

    However, you pointed out correctly that I see the PR change in the toolbar as a “shot across the bow” by Google to give webmasters and marketers a heads up of things to come.

  • CVOS man

    PR changes still seems to be in flux, this will really only matter if:

    A: it is permanent
    B: it affects your position

  • David Eaves

    Congratulations you have successfully put the fear of god into me, you owe me some sleeping pills Mr Cumbrowski. I haven’t got any paid links and I don’t sell links but I saw a PR drop from 6-4 I am very scared now.

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    There is no need to lose sleep over this David. Did you check out your competition? Did they also dropped? Did you contact Google to find out if you got penalized by them and are not just affected indirectly? See my reference to the Problogger case, Loren reported earlier about.

    If your competitors were not affected and if Google denies that you got penalized by them, then its time to worry and to check your inbound links and prepare yourself to change your link building strategy, if you have any.

    I hope that helps.

  • David Eaves

    Thanks, the vast majority of my competitors did drop, the only thing I can think of that might be frowned upon is that I have own a couple of directories that have site-wide links back to me, I also have a blog that does the same, I think I will get rid of these links.

  • http://na kevin

    how do you contact google and find out if you have been actually penalized for selling links. I did sell them years ago but once I found it was bad news i stopped. Also can you correct this meaning if you did sell or have links on your site can you remove them or put nofollow and ask google for re-evaluation. Or is this admitting guilt and now they can ban you?


  • CarstenCumbrowski


    I referred to a case in my post. Here is the link to it again. If you did not sell any links for sure or did anything else to violate Google’s guidelines, use the tools at Google’s webmaster central to make a re-inclusion request. I don’t see that form as admitting guilt, but you have to be careful and don’t just play the innocent and clueless, who actually did or worse, does something that violates their guidelines. You have to acknowledge that you do follow the guidelines.

    I would also counter anything in the form that implies guilt or admittance of wrong doing by a clarifying or correcting statements in the comments. You might also want to tell them why you used the console if you did not violate their guidelines. You could tell them that you believe that you got penalized by Google for something they might think you are doing, but what you do not.

    This is what I would do, but you are correct in your assumption that there is no good way to contact Google. They say that they notify some webmasters via the Webmaster Central Console, but they only do that in very few cases. They also don’t have a support or customer service department you can call or email.

    If you feel uncomfortable with the re-inclusion request form, use the feedback form instead. The problem with doing that is that it does not end up at the right department first like the re-inclusion request would. You will not know when or even if the correct department got your message or not. Not to mention, if they did something as a result of it, or not.

    I would hold off with this for a little while though and wait what will happen in the coming few weeks. More information will become available to give you a better idea about your particular case.

    In the meantime I would check your site for things that could be seen as something bad like a paid link (even if it is not) by an outsider who reviews the site. Check your inbound links. I would look for links from sites where it is known that they got penalized by Google for selling links. This will allow you to make a much more accurate assessment of your situation that you will know much better what you should or shouldn’t do as a consequence of it.

  • Frederrick Abrugart

    I think the best thing to do is to play by the ear rule; wait and see whats going to happen next.

    It is too early to speculate what is the ripple effect going to be like. For all you know the current page rank drop is just temporary, designed to give a stern FINAL warning to all sites, either if you sell or buy links

  • CarstenCumbrowski

    Hi Frederrick,

    I tried to clarify things a bit more in my comments already.

    Yes, I agree that you should not make big changes yet and I also said that you should observe the environment, where you are in, more closely; and have plans ready that are a result of your observations. Observations beyond the usual stuff that you normally check.

    There are some actions that can be taken and probably should be.

    Google sent out a message. If you are he intended recipient of that message, then you might want to listen. I believe though that the message did not have that many intended recipients and that many more just happened to “hear” it too.

    I hope this makes sense, in combination with my previous comments and my original post.

  • Altruist

    PR is only a one of the ranking factors. Its true