Google PageRank Penalties For Network Blogs

It appears this morning that Google has issued pagerank penalties on network blogs. This was first brought to my attention by Darren over on his blog who saw his blog drop from a pagerank 7 to a pagerank 4. Interestingly, Problogger.com is a solid pagerank 6 and it redirects to problgger.net, so I don’t know entirely what to make of that.

I’ve seen Technosailor drop from a solid pagerank 6 to a pagerank 3 in most cases. Engadget was dropped from a 7 to a 5. Copyblogger also was dropped from a 7 to a 4.

A number of people have emailed, Skyped or Twittered looking for an explanation of this. I am not Google so I can only offer speculation. If I had to guess, it comes down to nofollow not being applied to “permanent links”. Last month, we saw Google penalize people selling Text links without nofollow added. This month, we are seeing networks who links among themselves penalized.

This is where I find tremendous fault with this Google action. If you remember back to six months ago, all our b5 blogs linked to all other b5 blogs. It was a tremendously lengthy and unwieldy blogroll. We recognized at that time that for practical reasons, as well as search engine purposes, we needed to keep the blogroll limited to relevant links. Thus entered our second version blogroll which now presents relevant blogs within our network based on the channels they are in. I think it’s safe to assume that people interested in Lindsay Lohan, might very well be interested in Brad Pitt or Britney Spears. Likewise, people who like First Person shooters are probably gamers interested in breaking video games news from one of the worlds leading sources. Folks wanting to know about Apple products might also be interested in iPhone discussions over at Cellphone9.

Makes sense right?

Google doesn’t like it. But here’s my beef. Google’s algorithm, as tremendous as it is, doesn’t consider common sense like this. Either that or there was some anti-spam vigilante assuming that blogroll links are spam regardless of the topic and manually culling from the index.

At b5media, we are weighing how we want to respond to this. Either we give in to Google and let them dictate what we do and have the unenviable position of losing pagerank and possibly advertising dollars, or we take the stand that quality content is quality content regardless of Google and that our content will speak for itself. We still produce millions of pages of content per month. We still have respect in the community. We still have advertisers recognizing that these sites are valuable assets to leverage to get their campaigns out on.

I’m interested in your take on this blood bath. Please weigh in.

Update: Duncan Riley weighs in at TechCrunch

The move by Google could well cause many smaller blog networks, including a number with funding, to close given their heavy reliance on text link ads and related sales that depend on strong Google page ranks for each site. Although traffic alone can and does sell ads on bigger sites, a drop from say PR7 to PR4 in one example makes the ad sell that much more difficult, particularly on blogs with little traffic. I’d suggest that the Deadpool will soon see a number of new entrants.

Deadpool is a little extreme but he makes a good point.

Update: Video comments!

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Aaron Brazell

Aaron Brazell is a Baltimore, MD-based WordPress developer, a co-founder at WP Engine, WordPress core contributor and author. He wrote the book WordPress Bible and has been publishing on the web since 2000. You can follow him on Twitter, on his personal blog and view his photography at The Aperture Filter.

23 thoughts on “Google PageRank Penalties For Network Blogs”

  1. I don’t give a rip about any site’s Google Page Rank; I just want to read interesting, timely and well-written stuff, preferably by someone who interacts with his/her audience.

    We are smarter than the machine.

    Here’s a thought: maybe selling ads is no longer a sustainable, sensible way to fund a business.

    I’m personally getting quite sick of the marketing drumbeat in my world; I pay for ad-free satellite radio & listen to public radio, I usually mute ads on TV, I rarely/never click ads on Web sites, I’m sick of magazines like “Vogue” that load down my mailbox with their ad-heavy issues and I pay to read “Salon” with fewer ads.

    If we didn’t fund our businesses with ad revenue, would we care about Google Page Rank?

    Of course, if there was a simple alternative to ads we’d no doubt be using it, but I hope someone’s thinking very hard about this before I become Amish. :)

  2. It’s a slippery slope. This is the same line as Google’s take on selling Text Link Ads, and their engine or not, they are over the line. Google wants to control anything positive coming out of a link, earnings, link juice, etc. And they can leverage the power and brand of Google to “blackmail” webmasters to bow down to Google’s way of thinking. Google’s bread and butter is AdSense and selling Text Links eats into that, so now they can use the power to make selling links bad. And it’s do what Google says or they will make you disappear. It’s bad business and evil.

  3. But Tony-

    This site, and many of the others who lost PR weren’t selling text links. We’ve had that bloodbath earlier this month and I personally don’t disagree with that particular update. THIS one on the other hand is asinine as people like myself and Brian Clark and Darren Rowse and the people at Engadget and others ARE producing valuable content that deserves all the weight and authority they had.

  4. Aaron,

    We were talking back and forth on Twitter. I guess I don’t see what you’re so upset about. Like Sheila above, I could care less about what the PR of your site is. Maybe you do, but you haven’t really justified why.

    I wrote an article about this. Click on my name in the link if you care to read it.

    Anyway, i think you write quality content. Ever stop to think that other people do too? Maybe their page rank went up at the expense of yours? I don’t know – I just know that i will continue to read your site because I like the articles. I didn’t find you through Google or any Google related property.

  5. William, what part of this line isn’t clear:

    Either we give in to Google and let them dictate what we do and have the unenviable position of losing pagerank and possibly advertising dollars, or we take the stand that quality content is quality content regardless of Google and that our content will speak for itself.

    PR means nothing for readers. However it can affect ad revenue.

  6. Yeah, maybe it’s time to get rid of the ads – I’m tired of landing in linkfarms anyhow.

    This is the problem with a free web – here’s a “novel” idea – paid subscriptions for quality content.

    What? Then think of it like this? Paid magazine subscriptions have better content than those “free” industry trade-rags.

  7. it’s classic FUD whack a few high profile sites scare everyone else into compliance.

    Are you going to continue to be google’s b*tch and let them tell you how to run your business … especially when they are a competitior selling advertising

  8. Great way to go, Aaron. Here in Brazil blogger too are largely dependent on Google ads and the discussion isn’t considering important things: people want our content just like Sheila says…
    I used to be PR 4 – and profit little from the blog. Loved your reflection: Either we give in to Google and let them dictate what we do and have the unenviable position of losing pagerank and possibly advertising dollars, or we take the stand that quality content is quality content regardless of Google and that our content will speak for itself.
    I’ve already made my choice: my content should speak for itself.

  9. “PR means nothing for readers. However it can affect ad revenue.”

    I’m a bit confused. If you do not sell links, why would the drop in PR affect ad revenue?

  10. I wonder… what will the long-term effect of “rel=nofollow” be on Google itself?

    I an increasing occurrence of sweeping, wholesale and automated edits of all external links in enormous content archives to append “rel=nofollow.”

    Fast forward a few Google Dances…

    As the world hoards its page rank by employing automated “nofollow ” appendage, I suspect the global “landscape” will evolve to look like millions of island sites, appearing unlinked to Google’s algorithm.

    A true link passing page rank and a credible “vote” might be the exception, only coming from sister sites and legacy static HTML pages that are too labor intensive to edit.

    Jim

  11. This is all about Big G flexing their muscles, hitting some high profile sites and basically showing everyone that they rule the roost.

    “How dare you have the temerity to use an alternative advertising resource. We created AdSense, don’t you know? It’s perfectly good enough for you, young man, and if you think you can get away with earning a few dollars from someone else you’ve got another thing coming..”

    Well nuts to you, Google. Advertising networks will simply come up with an alternative metric to score pages for ad rates. Simple as that. This decrease in PR isn’t going to stop me from using alternatives to AdSense and I hope it doesn’t stop anyone else either.

    They like to give off the impression that this is all about paid links. It’s not so stop treating us like idiots, Big G…

  12. Awords is the biggest paid link and interlinking system out there.

    Millions of scraper adsense sites and parked domains that the average user clicks on because they are unaware of what kind of site it is. And half of the “adsense” sites link to each other.

    Yet, USEFULL blogs and sites are getting penalized. I LOVE interlinking. If I am on Blog 1 and see a story I am intersted in I will follow the link and read the story. That is the way the web is supposed to work.

    I think google is going about this all wrong. But what can you do when it is a 300lb gorilla.

  13. This is the penalty of having one company ruling the world. Although the intention is always good, this nonstop-growing set of strict rules will make things even worse. Can you imagine in a couple of years the 90-page list of Dos and Donts? Scary.

  14. See, my point is more that Google is going to start angling against any advertising that’s not AdSense. What’s next? Your banner ads are going to get you penalized because it makes for bad search results.

    Google is building its monopoly. One day its going to be you are either with Google or not. And those who aren’t are going to find their sites removed from Google.

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