Why Did My PageRank Drop? Google: You Are Selling Links!

Nov 19, 2013 • 8:24 am | comments (36) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

Google PageRankI always find it interesting when people come into the Google Webmaster Help and complain about issues with Google and it turns out they were obviously doing something against Google's webmaster guidelines.

The webmaster said:

I checked my pagerank recently (I hadn't done it for a couple of months) and was surprised to see it dropped from 6 to 3.

I haven't done anything differently since I created my blog some 10 years ago, i do have a couple of ads but I had them for a long time and stayed at PR6 for years.

I do have also a lot of pictures but that's part of the interest of my stories. My readership (which is high) doesn't seem to fall with the new lowered ranking but still, it's surprising.

Google's response from John Mueller was that he was selling links and passing PageRank without adding the nofollow.

John wrote:

I'd recommend checking the Webmaster Tools manual action section to find out more. In this case, it's a matter of links on your website to other websites, for example the "Wholesale Home Products" link in the sidebar. It's fine to have ads on a website, but to avoid those ads from skewing search, we recommend using the "rel=nofollow" markup to prevent them from passing PageRank. If you choose to change that, then you can let us know about this in Webmaster Tools (in the manual action section).

You can find out more about this at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en

I am not sure why this surprises me, but it does.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Previous story: Want To Speak At SMX Israel? Here Is How...


Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 01:37 pm

Hi Barry, What do you think?? As I check your website(www.seroundtable.com) and find your all external link are Do-follow, it doesn't matter it related to news or anywhere? But your pagerank is still not falling after passing juice.. Why?? How it can be possible??? I edited it, wrongly type Nofollow. Now replace it Do-Follow.

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 01:38 pm

What is my PageRank value and how do you know it isn’t passing juice?

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 01:40 pm

Updated previous comment. Now answer plz!!

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 01:41 pm

Huh, I am even more confused.

Marie Haynes

11/19/2013 02:33 pm

I'm seeing a lot more people talking about getting outbound link penalty notices lately. I wonder if Google is ramping up on sending out these messages?

Nick Ker

11/19/2013 02:40 pm

Google could try to reduce some of this type of thing by making it mandatory to read the Webmaster Guidelines before posting to the forums. Really, they should make it mandatory before you can use Webmaster Tools or Google Analytics, too. So many people are totally unaware that such a thing exists. But I guess it is like a EULA or TOS agreement - few people actually read it and just click OK. Maybe a short quiz on the guidelines would work?


11/19/2013 02:48 pm

Just imagine being a small business owner who is also a webmaster with no knowledge of SEO. Must be a really frustrating life. The internet should be a place where anyone can run a website without having to live in Google's concentration camp.

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 02:51 pm

You got me wrong! I means if page passes outbound dofollow link, then it is also passing juice to the other site. And as per Google, if you are giving dofollow link to other side for any reason, your page vlaue will also pass. Then how some sites which are giving dofollow outbound link to others websites almost in every post, hold the decent PR? Like your website. What is the mystery behind it?? OR Google check how trust and worthy site where you pass juice for any reason. BTW, I wasn't discussing about page value, was talking about PR previously.

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 02:52 pm

Still don’t know what you are saying, I am so sorry.

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 02:58 pm

Links which you are referring in post SIR.

Stephane Brault

11/19/2013 03:15 pm

Basically, your outgoing links are "do-follow" and he's asking why you don't get a penalty for this...

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 03:16 pm

My paid links are nofollow.

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 03:18 pm

As expected!!

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 03:21 pm

And why such a decent PR(6) after this. I just wanted to know the technique.

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 03:22 pm

I am not selling links that dofollow.

Stephane Brault

11/19/2013 03:24 pm

Because he got legitimate links from over 15K domains! Just post great, relevant content often, get social and that's mostly it. https://ahrefs.com/site-explorer/overview/subdomains/www.seroundtable.com

Nick Ker

11/19/2013 03:27 pm

Nobody has to live in Google's concentration camp. But if you want to appear in Google's search engine results, you simply have to follow their rules.

Stephane Brault

11/19/2013 03:27 pm

I don't see how the links in the post will alter Google's search results. Do you think that Google's forum will rank better in Google's search results for "Google Webmaster Help" because of this link?

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 03:28 pm

Yes, it is good enough.

Barry Schwartz

11/19/2013 03:28 pm

I should nofollow every outbound link? :-)

Gaurav Srivastava

11/19/2013 03:29 pm

Means everyone can give dofollow link to other website with relevancy, but no sell. But, how Google knows link are selling if both sites are big brand?? BTW, thx for reply.

Stephane Brault

11/19/2013 03:33 pm

As long as the links are relevant to your site/page topic and do not contain keyword-rich anchors, you're fine.

Tomás de Teresa

11/19/2013 05:05 pm

Maybe I missed something but, does this mean that if you get a penalty your PR is updated? PR has not been updated since february, has it?


11/19/2013 05:40 pm

It's a little more complex then that Nick. 1/3 of all global advertising is controlled by Google and their 67% search marketshare makes it more than an option to appear in Google's search results. Instead of questioning why Google has become a concentration camp, people should question why government agencies allow Google to gain an even tighter stranglehold on ecommerce by continually utilizing their dominance and acquisitions to expand. After all, we can't blame a company that wants to grow but we can blame regulators that don't want to regulate a $1 trillion a year industry that has become anti-small business.

Nick Ker

11/19/2013 08:59 pm

OK, people keep throwing around that claim that Google is anti small business - but nobody ever seems to have any proof of that. They simply say things like "(insert well established company here) takes up too many of the top spots while my startup that offers the exact same thing for the same prices and is totally unknown can't get a break" or the old "Google penalized my site so they must hate small businesses", forgetting that they broke the freakin rules to get that penalty. Google, like just about any other business that allows the public to use its services, has rules. If you don't follow the rules, you don't get the free exposure that Google offers. Organic search is an awesome opportunity for a good business of any size get what amounts to free advertising - as long as those rules are followed. It isn't Google's responsibility to make sure every kid gets a trophy, or that every business gets the same exposure. Like in the offline world, you usually have to work hard to make good things happen. If you have no hope of ever being able to offer something competitive, or aren't patient enough to wait until you can rank organically without trying to cheat Google's system, you always have the option of paying for Adwords. Seems like a pretty fair deal to me.


11/19/2013 09:44 pm

ha, yes! especially your own link to rustybrick. (just kidding)


11/19/2013 09:57 pm

Nick, why do you assume everything is about rules or that some sort of irrefutable proof exists that Google is anti-small business? Can you prove they are not? No. The serps tell the whole story. For example, I know a business owner that has a very good link profile, good content and is nowhere to be found in Google despite having a great BBB rating, awesome reviews on Angies List and is referenced by manufacturers of some very well known (branded) companies. Did I mention their website has been around since the early 90s and their competitors are not ranking in Google either? What ranks in Google instead? Yelp, BBB, YP and some other directory types of sites. None of the companies that compete with this company are ranking in Google either. It's as if Google wiped them all out. If you can't see this as an Adwords driven set of search results, let me be more clear... If you sell a service then directory review sites are ranking in Google instead of you and your competitors. If you sell products, Amazon, eBay and YouTube sites are ranking instead of you or your competitors. You must have some sort of information site Nick, or are wearing blinders, because Google has squeezed just about everyone else out of the serps. And the problem is not confined to just one business but is widespread.

Nick Ker

11/19/2013 11:14 pm

No, the SERPs do not tell your story for you. Are you going to actually give the example or do you want me to just accept your anonymous hypothetical as "proof"? "Good link profile" and "good content" can mean vastly different things to different people. Some think "good content" simply means it wasn't stolen, and "good link profile" means they paid good money for those links. You made the claim, burden of proof is on you. And it is pretty hard to prove a negative. Can you prove you did not murder anyone within the last ten days? I work for several different small businesses, most of which are either some type of service, or ecommerce. For the ecomm sites, sometimes they are in fact outranked by something like Amazon. Amazon might take spot #1, but client will often be somewhere between 2 and 6. Not exactly anti-small business to be included in the page one short list. Are my ecommerce clients better businesses than Amazon? Maybe. Better known? No, not yet anyway. Do they always rank on page one just below Amazon? No, and there is always a real reason for that. For service businesses, if your BBB listing is outranking your site, you are doing something wrong. Some might argue that review sites may actually be the best result in some niches - information about a lot of good businesses allowing the searcher to make his own decision, rather than having Google decide who the "best (keyword) in (your town)" is. I am not wearing blinders at all. I make a living by thoroughly analyzing exactly why sites are not ranking well, and fixing the problems when possible. In the dozens of sites I have audited for ranking problems, I have not seen one that didn't have some real reason for not outranking whoever is at the top. That reason has never been "Google wants to destroy small businesses". Usually it is more like the site, or sometimes even the business, does not deserve to be #1 for a number of reasons. That seems to be what a lot of people don't get - Google's mission in organic search is to show users the best, most popular and most relevant results. Ideally, the number one result would be a combination of all three. Just because a website owner wants to be number one, doesn't mean the site deserves it. If the content isn't so good, if the site doesn't always work as it should, if it is coded poorly, or if the owner or SEO has gone on a link spamming spree - it isn't going to come out on top. I didn't initially comment so I would have the opportunity to bash some sites, or praise google. I just couldn't let @pixelrage:disqus compare having to follow Google's Webmaster Guidelines to being in a concentration camp without pointing out the absurdity of that idea. You can do whatever you like with your site, but if you want it to appear on that famous website that starts with a G, you have to follow G's guidelines. Nobody dies.

PM Fiorini

11/20/2013 04:47 am

You are truly an annoying noob. Sorry!

Ardala Evans

11/20/2013 03:31 pm

This is a great conversation, but I still don't understand how people are seeing their PageRank move up or down right now as Google has said that PageRank to the toolbar is broken. So right now we are seeing PageRank values from February as mentioned in the first comment by Tomas.


11/20/2013 04:17 pm

...and what are these "rules," beyond the typical enigmatic pointers from Matt Cutts that continually show no results when applied? Or Google's flip flopping from one year to the next?


11/20/2013 04:20 pm

Nick, your statement "No, the SERPs do not tell your story for you." is really troubling. If you believe that somehow your perception influences what I see, then you have some serious problems. But you are so far off base in what else you wrote that there is no sense wasting my time commenting on what you have written in this latest response. Have a good day.


11/20/2013 04:58 pm

I think the point is that you are saying you see something, but you aren't showing anyone what you are seeing. If you would post a URL for this site that you say is being unfairly treated by Google along with the search keywords you say show this evidence, it would make your claim much more believable.


11/20/2013 05:01 pm

Webmaster Guidelines maybe? https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/35769?hl=en


11/21/2013 04:19 am

What does Google mean that this site in question is "selling links" ?How about sites that link to other sites by adding codes from those sites to pages on their website. Is it also selling links? Some directories ask their subscribers to add some codes to a page on website, those codes contain link that point from those sites to those directories' websites . Is this practice in violation to Google guidelines? Does it mount to selling links?

Ashish Ahuja

11/21/2013 07:23 pm

I have seen downward movement of PR for some domains even though PR has not been updated, these PR downgrades generally happen to domains with sidebar links (link selling), expired domains (PR no longer relevant) etc.

blog comments powered by Disqus