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Google is lowering the Green Bar on websites that are selling links - or so that seems to be the reason. The SEO blogging world is buzzing with the news. 26 October 2007]. And the official Google Blog post about it 1 December 2007 - Information about Buying and Selling Links. And Matt Cutts blog post Selling links that pass page rank.
Directories have been especially hit
This SearchMasters website is still a Google PR5 and as at a day later, there has been a second tier worldwide update, now SearchMasters is a PR4] - Most of the links to external websites are on pages that are themed to that websites theme - my articles that I write about clients to promote their websites.
An interesting note from Matt Cutts on the Google webmaster central blog 3 December 2007
In general, I wouldn't worry at all about having a portfolio and linking to your clients. Now if you have thousands of clients and all their sites are really spammy or keyword-stuffed, then I might worry a bit, but it doesn't sound like that would be an issue for you.
Two PR Updates
One update on 26 October 2007 taking sites that sold links to PR less two or more, and a day later 27 Otober the remainder of websites were updated. The PR of most of those websites/pages down one point.
I blog a number of time a month - I have Google PR on a 22 September post, and not on a 9 October post - looks like it is updating pages the cutoff for this months update was around a month. Other blogs have talked about a 3 October cutoff, and that cutoff being one of the closest to PR update time.
Interesting - the Google PR of the 22 September post on New Zealand Immigration Medicals is a Google PR4 - same as my home page. This really does not make sense. Yet its a page that has only just been given PR. The articles pages should have a PR2-3. So there is something funny going on somewhere.
First Tier Update
I have a number of external links on my Time2Dine website, and it has dropped from a PR5 to a PR3. In general, the page is promoting SEO clients. What is a paid link? We certainly need to be a whole lot more careful about how we promote clients so they don’t look like paid links. Articles about clients seems a “proper” way of doing this.
While some are saying that its a manual update on various people’s websites, it seems that its an algorithic update, where people’s sites/pages are dropped a number of points, where their pages are linking to sites not in the same theme.
The rankings of the pages in the search results are not changing, so it looks like the PR change is being separated from the SERP ranking algorithms.
SearchEngineWatch - What is the purpose of the page rank update?
Aaron Wall argues that the Google PR is becoming meaningless, and so there should be another quality mark introduced by a competitor. It is traffic that counts, and traffic is not changing. Google is seeming to punish websites that are part of a network of websites. But is a network of websites necessarily bad??? Isn’t it just part of business???
29 October 2007 - Matt Cutts confirms that the lower first tier update was a result of Google’s campaign against paid linking and advertising links which influence PageRank.
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.
SearchNewz 8 Nov 2007 Selling Paid Links PageRank Death
SearchNewz - 15 Nov 2007 Is Google going to expand its punishments of paid links
SearchNews - 19 Nov 2007 Google Makes More Enemies
Search Engine Journal - Reference to “official” word from Google - 23 Nov 2007 Google says selling links can harm a sites ranking - until now, its been mostly just the green bar that has been lower. Rankings have not been as effected.
According to Google - why you should report paid links
Google works hard to ensure that it fully discounts links intended to manipulate search engine results, such excessive link exchanges and purchased links that pass PageRank.
Yes, I am continuing to add links onto this post. They are all good reads, and I personally am reading them and learning… from them. This is a very alive area in the search engine community.
update 19 Dec 2007
"Matt, using VPN, surfed into Google's network (without showing the audience his screen) to come up with the internal number of links the site was actually being credited for towards rankings. The number? Three links."
This is an extreme example of what has been the reality of paid links for a long time. Google is very good at detecting and filtering paid links.
When Matt said a while back that they were catching 95% of paid links already, the text link industry and their flacks in the blogosphere jumped all over it, accused Matt of lying, trying to use FUD to control webmasters, etc.
Here’s the truth: the paid text link industry has become nothing but a big scam. Those who profit by it, and there are many, don’t want to admit that. They want to shift the discussion and attention away from the truth.
Here’s the truth: renting links has never been a “standard and accepted SEO practice.” Bob Massa remembers. Danny Sullivan remembers. No amount of spin and noise on the part of the link peddlers can change the reality of the situation.
If you want links, build something worth linking to and market the hell out of it. It’s easier, it’s cheaper, and it works.
Dan Thies http://www.seofaststart.com
http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/01/03/speculation-about-a-new-google-filter *Is There an Anchor Text Problem?* 3 Jan 2008
Aaron Wall put up a post about a new Google filter that causes people with high ranking terms to be bumped down to position #6. There is also a thread at Webmaster World about this phenomenon. This is still reasonably speculative in nature, but there are a lot of people who have seen this.
Aaron offers some really interesting speculation about why this may be occurring. The most interesting theory was the notion that it was an anchor text problem. Here is what Aaron had to say:
I think this issue is likely tied to a stagnant link profile with a too tightly aligned anchor text profile, with the anchor text being overly-optimized when compared against competing sites.
Whether or not this is occurring now, this makes complete sense. It is well within Google’s (or any other search engine’s) ability to detect an unusually high density of one form of anchor text to a given domain. For example, if your site is called yourdomain.com, and you sell widgets, and the anchor text in 48 or your 65 links says ??Widgets on Sale??, this is not natural.