pr.gifAbout a month ago, Google’s latest pagerank updates saw a number of major international news sites, A-list bloggers and local sites have their rankings slashed. There was speculation in the international blogosphere that Google’s move had to do with the legitimate practice of sites selling paid links, however this is unconfirmed as Google has yet to comment on the move.

Pagerank is the formula Google uses to determine the order in which search results appear. The move has created an international outcry amongst many site owners as pagerank is often regarded (incorrectly) as an indication of the quality of the site and many online businesses rely heavily on Google for referral traffic.

Google’s algorithms, specifically pagerank, is murky territory and the subject of ongoing speculation, mainly by online marketers and Search Engine Optimisers (SEO). There are legitimate SEO practitioners out there, but it’s often regarded as somewhat of a dark art — and is often full of obfuscation. Despite many claims to contrary (people will tell you they know), no-one but Google’s inner circle actually knows how Google’s ever-evolving search algorithms work.

Internationally, the pagerank changes hit major international online players that include The Washington Post, Forbes, including world-renown blogs such as Engadget, Joystiq, and The Unofficial Apple Weblog. The WashingtonPost.com’s pagerank at one stage went down to a lowly 5/10, but I see its now back to 8/10. Engadget still sits at 5/10.

M&G Online recovers from pagerank of 4, back to 7
In South Africa, there were a few sites that appeared to have been affected by the pagerank slash. Some of the prominent sites include the Mail & Guardian Online, News24, MyADSL, Bid or Buy and Jump shopping. Some of these sites however have since recovered their pageranks.

The biggest hit site of them all appeared to be the Mail & Guardian Online, one of the country’s ten biggest online publishers and the site which I happen to run. About a month ago, the site’s pagerank was halved, from a high of 7 down to 4. The site which rakes in almost half-a-million monthly uniques and 4-million page impressions at one stage had a lower pageRank than this, my very own blog (Pagerank: 5) which gets a fraction of a fraction of the traffic the M&G Online gets.

We suspect we were penalised by Google as a result of the links we sell on the site in our advertiser and online services. Link sales are regarded as legitimate part of the advertising sales package sites offer to their advertisers. However it is regarded as an illegal practice by Google if used to boost pagerank of other sites.

In order to fix this we spoke to local Google representatives, who advised us to fix the problem via Google webmaster. So we signed up to Google webmaster, verified our site, made a few changes to it and submitted a “reconsideration request”. How we fixed the problem was to add “no follow” tags to our advertiser and online services links sections, which Google deems to be illegal by virtue of these links boosting other sites’ pageranks. It seemed to have worked, because within a few weeks we noticed that our page rank had recovered to a 7/10.

More on the issue here:
Google Changing the PageRank Algorithm?
The Google PageRank Massacre
Is Google’s PageRank algorithm changing?

5 Responses to “SA sites caught up in Google PageRank 'carnage'”
  1. I have found this post while searching Google and I am glad I found it. Thanks for this article Matt.

  2. Thanks to the article, The links from CommentLuv, will count as backlinks for all search engines

  3. @ RPM — glad I was able to help. Nice that it was done on the same day too :-)

  4. My SciScoop site took a hit, went down to a PR6 then a PR4 and has now bounced most of the way back up again. The only change I made was to remove the word sponsor from the sidebar. We’re still accepting advertising of most kinds

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  5. Thanks a bunch for this great blog Matthew. We followed your advice and were upgraded within one day!

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