Aesthetic Google PageRank Update in Google Toolbars Worldwide!!!

Search Engine Land recently listed a bunch of sites that had their PageRank scores manually edited for selling links. Of course, if you are the publisher of one of these sites, you don't care about an algorithm relevancy score so meaningless that it is edited by hand. You care about traffic.

Rankings Never Changed

SERoundtable was on the list of sites which saw their toolbar PageRank scores reduced, but I just looked at some of the terms they were ranking for, and they are still right at or near the top of the results for everything they were ranking for, even the competitive terms.

Traffic Matters, PageRank Does Not

Watch the traffic stats for the sites listed in that Search Engine Land post. Google even provides large sites like the NYT over 20% of their traffic, so if these sites were really penalized you will see a plunge in traffic. If you do not see a plunge in traffic across these sites then toolbar PageRank scores are proved irrelevant as a measure of quality and trust.

Since When Are Publishing Networks Bad?

Many network blogs had their PageRank scores dropped too. Again, you can simply check the traffic stats to see if there is any real impact, or if Google is just polluting their Toolbar PageRank scores.

Since Google is demoting PageRank's viability as a site's global authority score perhaps this is a time for Yahoo to bring back WebRank, or Ask to launch something like CommunityRank. The Google-webmaster relationship is fraying. This presents an opportunity for whoever wants to take it.

Publishing is About Networks

If Google is penalizing blogs for being part of a network of sites, how long until they penalize IAC for owning 20 travel sites? Or for owning 100 thin lead generation education sites? Or BankRate for owning white label sites with similar names? Networks have always been a part of publishing based business models.

It seems someone or something inside of Google is melting down. Choppy times ahead for webmasters worldwide.

Published: October 24, 2007 by Aaron Wall in google


October 24, 2007 - 8:48pm

For the most part I would guess that most of the owners and employees of these sites have little to worry about. I doubt that their rankings were affected negatively, given the strength of many of the domains. I believe the major reason that this is causing a stir within the SEO community is the question of whether the links are still passing value. What are your thoughts on the paid links from these sites still passing value?

October 24, 2007 - 9:24pm

I think the only way to know is to test.

When I came up with the idea for ReviewMe, one of my theories was that even if central network operators prevented such votes from counting, those trusted publishers would still rank, and their RSS subscribers might also be willing to link and/or subscribe to the site that got exposure.

October 25, 2007 - 1:03am

you're right - traffic is what matters and I've not seen any changes in that. But I do think that Google is on a slippery slope with this one.

- How many sites can be interlinked? Some blog networks have been hit, some haven't (gawker for example).
- Where do you draw the line between having links to your other sites for seo and for usability?
- Are Google going to stop linking to all their subdomains without nofollow? Should they penalize Yahoo for interlinking between their network of sites?

Ultimately I don't care because it's not impacting my traffic. But the issue is that some people look at a site's PR to determine it's worth (when deciding whether to advertise (not just for text links), whether deciding to read or whether deciding to give respect/credibility). I personally don't do this any more - but many do. In this public penalty/shaming/setting of examples (or whatever it is) Google toy with legit businesses who are simply trying to give their readers access to other things that they've written. I could understand the selling of text links and was willing to make changes to accommodate them in that - but this goes too far IMHO and I'd actively support alternatives too.

October 25, 2007 - 6:31am

The limits will never be static and never be revealed. Anyone who has been on the web more than a couple years knows that these types of moves are arbitrary, misguided, uneven, and heavy-handed. I am quite shocked that they hit your site.

If anything, it shows that the Google engineering team is not as good at public relations as we might have once expected them to be. It also presents hope and opportunity for Yahoo and others who want to have a little class and respect the webmasters that provide them free content, propel their brand, and syndicate their ads.

Unfortunately I don't think Yahoo realizes this as the opportunity that it is. I almost wish I could work with Yahoo for a year to help them compete with Google on the brand and public relations front.

SEO Mash
October 25, 2007 - 1:20am

I've been think that exact same thing for a while now regarding this being a great time for someone to grab the bull by the horns and create competition for PageRank. There obviously is a strong demand for a means to rank the hierarchy of sites!

If I had the resources to do so, I would definitely create an Open Source Pagerank of sorts. The rank would be updated once a month like clockwork - no more of this guessing BS. The weight of factors that went into the calculation (domain age, backlinks, traffic, etc) would be voted on by webmasters and would adapt as decided by the collective group. Being held hostage by Google over PR and their own vested interests is ridiculous.

October 25, 2007 - 1:24am

Google is being Evil when they penalize people for selling links.

If another business wants to sponsor your site, you should be able to provide a text link to them without having to worry what google may do to penalize you.

Sponsorships occur all the time in the real world. Athletes get sponsored. Celebrities get sponsored. Buildings get sponsored. Shows get sponsored. Why can't your website/blog get sponsored?

Google doesn't want you doing this because it reduces their fat & juicy adsense profits.

October 25, 2007 - 8:19am

If selling links is penalized, then what about the various Web directories that basically charge you for adding a link to your site? They say, of course, that they charge you for reviewing your site, but isn't that the same thing?

October 25, 2007 - 8:33am

Some directories are good and some are of limited value. For background on that see:

Google just recently penalized a ton of lower quality directories and a few decent quality ones as well. The ones that are left standing today will probably last at least a few years before Google revisits the issue again.

October 25, 2007 - 9:57am

Aaron, thank you for your reply and for the great posts. This makes the issue of web directories more clear to me.

Lee Johnson
October 25, 2007 - 10:18am

MMM im dubious about the PageRank side of things. As Aaron says I think its just an aesthetic thing going on here. When I first read about this yesterday I was concerned as I work as the SEO Manager of the Iomart group and we sell directory listings, at the same time offer free listings too. This could have been a disaster for us as we are a very large business directory service. But looking into it in more detail it looks like its blogs that sell site-wide links that are getting hit with a down turn in PR. Google is becoming "the internet" all evolves round them and its a shame, they have too much power.

October 25, 2007 - 10:20am

I dunno...I find Google rankings very bizarre. A lot of shitty cookie-cutter sites have a PageRank when really they shouldn't be ranked at all. And then we have the way Google ranks their searches. Have a look at what's happening with Brad Callen's new "Affiliate Elite" software. His own site...his own URL...was stuck way back at Page 8 or something for the search term "affiliate elite". Poll position is taken by an unranked site - (and why Callen didn't secure that .org has me beat) with 42 lousy Yahoo links. The real AffiliateElite has only today made it to the first page at #6. I don't get it, I really don't. Full story here -

October 25, 2007 - 1:07pm

The thing I never get about Google not liking buying links is how is Adsense any different?

Aren't Adsense buyers *paying google* for links on other people's site?

So what's the difference here?

Sure some sites are paying for the PR push, but others are actually counting on traffic, which is no different than adsense.

To me it's Google trying to push out advertisers.

The reality is the "selling links" companies need a better measurement of site value than PR. Since there is no way to fully trust Alexa or Compete, why not simply place a piece of your own code on a "potential sellers" site for one month, get a 100% true gauge on their traffic and set a price. Then keep your code there to verify it stays at that level.

PR is just dumb as a gauge.

October 25, 2007 - 1:10pm

I think they are largely focused on the effect on organic SEO, but they conveniently forget that they already tore down that disconnect. I have got tons of links and follow on organic traffic as a side effect of buying their AdWords ads.

why not simply place a piece of your own code on a "potential sellers" site for one month, get a 100% true gauge on their traffic and set a price.

This requires the seller to trust the buyer not to do anything shady, plus the seller can buy junk traffic and/or run marketing campaigns and/or bots to inflate their traffic stats.

October 25, 2007 - 1:51pm

In Google Webmaster Tools, there is a way to contact them if we think we have been penalized... Do you think we could ask them and have an answer ? Maybe the team who is supposed to answer these requests would not even know the answer...

I have been penalized too from 5 to 3. I don't have a famous site, i don't belong to big blog networks. I just had some paid links and made SEO tutorials.

October 25, 2007 - 9:53pm

Hi Fran
Don't think of it as a penalty unless your rankings changed. Most people who saw a reduction in PageRank did not see any ranking changes.

October 25, 2007 - 10:36pm

I found this one very interesting

Joost was penalized and went from 6 to 5 but got back to a 6 after contacting the folks at google..

October 28, 2007 - 2:56am

My site has gone from about 9,000 backlinks to about 60,000 since the last PR update, and my PR Rank went from PR3 to PR0, however I am now in the top 5 for most of my keyword terms. So clearly toolbar page rank does not affect the SERPS.

What I think it might affect, is the ability for a sight to pass page rank to another site and or inbetween it's own pages. So if you had a PR3 site and now it's PR0, that means that your not going to pass much link authority on to a site you may be linking to (which would discourage a link buyer from advertising on your site).

However, If your not in the business of selling links for ads, then who the heck cares, with the exception that the inter linking of your own inner pages won't help increase your page authority much.

Jeff Preston
October 29, 2007 - 1:06am

My site's PR dropped from 6 to 5 although I am not selling links. I have links to friends like a blog roll, I wonder if Google thought I was selling links and hit me. I went from 2 -> 4 in the SERPS for my main phrase. The new number 3 site is a MFA site with a PR 1. Interesting update...

October 29, 2007 - 3:28am

If your PageRank only dropped by 1 and your rankings are faily constant (like you are still on the first page for the same words you were ranking for) then I think you were not hit by any hand penalty.

The PageRank of most pages naturally drops over time as new pages are added to the web. To be a PageRank 6 today you might need as many links as you needed to be a PageRank 7 toward the end of last year. And maybe that same link equity would have been a PageRank 8 a couple years ago.

Arizona Home Builder
October 29, 2007 - 7:12pm

We never had Pagerank and now have a PR of 2, but our SERPs dropped dramatically and our homepage doesn't show up. Where we penalized? Should we get rid of any purchased links?

October 29, 2007 - 8:56pm

I can't do too many site reviews as I am trying to rewrite my book and have lots of stuff I am behind on.

You might be filtered for having too many reciprocal links (which is common in real estate), or filtered for using too much similar anchor text, other similar automated filters/penalties, but it is hard to say what is wrong without doing an in depth review of your site.

If your PageRank went up you probably were not hand penalized, etc.

July 4, 2008 - 6:30pm


I had a question I'm sure you, or perhaps one of your readers, could answer. Our website, has a PR4 for the website, which isn't awesome, but not bad for a relatively new site I guess.

The question is, our blog ( has no PR, even though our blog gets more traffic than the site itself on some days (some days we have 5,00m-7,000) visitors to the blog.

Why does our blog not show any PR, and is there something we're doing wrong there? How can that be fixed, or I guess the better question, what should we be doing correctly.

Thanks very much!!

Christopher Rees
Palaestra Training

July 5, 2008 - 3:30am

they only update visible pagerank scores about once every 3 months. the fact that your blog is getting decent traffic shows that you have pagerank, but it is not showing in the toolbar yet.

platejno narejdane
October 27, 2009 - 2:56pm

A few weeks ago expired three months from the last update, but still not new.

October 27, 2009 - 6:46pm

Yup. Google likes to be consistently doing so they noise up the SEO market and lower the level of public discourse in the industry. Both smart and dirty of them. ;)

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