The blogosphere was going crazy last week with rumors about the sudden Pagerank drops of several authority sites like Problogger or The Washington Post. Soon enough lots of theories made the round which ranged from being punished because of selling links to being in a blog network that would list all of its sites in the sidebar.
I don't blame Google for doing this although my website was affected as well. What I blame them for is the lack of transparency. There was no announcement, no blog entry, nothing at all that would shed light into the darkness. Some webmasters changed the layout of their sites and removed paid links and other links hoping that this would be the right move to please the search giant.
Matt Cutts, the head of the Google webspam team, clarified the situation today by writing an email, a short one that is, to Search Engine Journal:
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.
The source is trustworthy enough so that it is most likely that the email is legit. What Matt is saying here is that sites were punished because they were either selling links or having forward links on their website.
The explanation why some sites got punished who were not selling links at the time of the punishment was most likely because they were selling links in the past. This was the case for Problogger.com for instance who stopped selling links months ago.
This explains why some Pagerank drops were reversed just a few days later.
Webmasters should be very careful in my opinion, there is no confirmation that this will be the only punishment for websites. It could get worse, especially if Google decides to hurt the position in the Search Engine.
Advertising revenue is falling fast across the Internet, and independently-run sites like Ghacks are hit hardest by it. The advertising model in its current form is coming to an end, and we have to find other ways to continue operating this site.
We are committed to keeping our content free and independent, which means no paywalls, no sponsored posts, no annoying ad formats (video ads) or subscription fees.
If you like our content, and would like to help, please consider making a contribution:
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.