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When PageRank Abandons a Blog: What To Do When You Lose Google PageRank

photo: credit

photo: credit

Dear Readers,

For two years I built PageRank on my college community blog. When I awoke Monday to check the Gmail, my PageRank was a zero.

In this post I’d like to explain what happened and how to protect yourself too against swings in PageRank.

As you know I’ve spent a lot of time discussing how to increase PageRank. For us bloggers a healthy PR can mean the difference between steak or Ramen noodles for dinner.

Yet, my reasons for losing PageRank might really surprise you. You might be doing these things too!

Request to you: I’m about to reveal some personal experiences another blogger of my caliber would never dare to. As such, it would be awesome to hear what you think, or even more awesome to hear your own story! Remember, we’re a community and often speak openly on personal business!

Which blog lost it?

The blog in question here is one I worked started back in my university days called Honest College. It was hit Monday morning, after which I had to scramble about to see what went wrong. Turns out it was linking to a few too many sources.

Problem? Yes. But the problem came from doing everyday blogging activities and networking in ways we all might try. In this post I’ll explain everything, in a more revealing light that other bloggers would dare.

This is not another post about Penguin or Panda updates. There are blogs out there covering Google updates with much more authority and skill. It would be a waste of our time to copy them.

Instead I’d like to help you secure PageRank you’ve built by adding lines of defense to your blogging fortress. If you’ve got something good going with Google organic Search, even if you don’t care much for SEO, it’s time to start protecting yourself against risks.

Is my blog in the graveyard yet? Not quite

That would be a very good question. The answer is no, it’s in more of a limbo land I picture somewhere out on Google Island. Given I’ve been buried in so much CSS lately I figured I’d do a CSS representation of how things stand over on the university blog. If this makes sense just scream at me in the comments.

#honestcollege {

PageRank-transformation: -4;
PageRank-current: 0;
Guest-posters: 0 angry;
Earnings: -100 monthly;
Analytics traffic: -1000monthly;
}

I think in any normal browser this CSS would render as pretty much screwed, and if this were my only blog I’d probably be back staring out the window depressed while watching The OC.

The full scoop of what happened

Before we dive into exact strategies to protect your PageRank, let me answer a few obvious questions I bet you have now…

Why did I lose my PageRank?
I guess I should have known it would happen. I would say I lost my PageRank due to networking and building relationships early in blogging. Google would say I lost PR due to “unnatural links,” which is actually among the worst violations Google can hand you. It means my blog linked to too many blogs and websites in other niches.

This is a clip of the email message I got from Webmaster Central:

It wasn't me, I swear! ;]

It wasn’t me, I swear! ;]

Where did it go?
My PageRank, according to Google, is stored in a vault off on Google Island where it’s been converted into food for exotic animals. No, JK, my former PR has actually already been redistributed through the Eigenvalue formula within the Search algorithm and doled out to other blogs. That’s the frustrating part!

Do I feel guilty or ashamed for what I did 2 years ago?
Yes and no. Yes for not limiting my networking and link swapping, but no because my goal was honest and ambitious. As a new blogger I had messages I needed to get out and swapping links with bigger sites was a good and honest way to accomplish this. At least back then it was. Doing so meant more clicks and higher rankings. I never bought or sold anything to get ahead of Search or another blogger – I hardly had the budget!

How did I remedy the problem?
I removed all the random links and images I thought could be causing this problem (blogrolls and advertisements for example) and stored them safely in my WordPress backend. Then I updated Google.

Will I get it back?
Short answer, yes I certainly plan to, but keep reading.

What’s the “grey area” of Google penalties?
Unfortunately Google is off busy attacking real spam sites. When a site like mine meets a spamming criteria, it can get nailed. This stinks. However, I know there exists a grey area of good sites and bad sites that my blog sits in as it gets reviewed. I would hope it makes it over to the “white area” as it publishes hundreds of articles a year by good and decent guest writers and constantly gets good reviews from readers. If it does fall of the map (I don’t think it will) I can take some consolation knowing it gave not just me but tons of others a window into the goodness blogging adds online.

But, we’ll have to wait and see. Keep ya posted.

A small silver lining

My college community blog has been a big focus of my attention for several years. That might change now and I can’t deny there was a lot of pacing and cursing on Monday morning. The blog simply might never come back.

Dear Blogger on the other hand improved after Penguin 2.1! More traffic, larger email club – partially due to enormous shares on the Year 1 Recap – and more random comments in posts I’ve practically forgotten about ;)

It’s really encouraging to see gains in the right direction. Google performs these updates to reduce webspam and “blogging about blogging” being such a hot niche is definitely filled with spammers.

While I’d never ever wish for a sites downfall (don’t get those people who attack other sites backlinks…waste of time) it is comforting to know Penguin has done some good.

I recently sent out this Tweet explaining how one site’s loss is another site’s gain:

How to guard against PageRank losses (20 techniques)

Now I think would be a good time to do another long-form old-fashioned strategy-list :D

There are always new traffic strategies emerging which will keep you out of the graveyard. But that’s not all. I jotted down 20 steps to avoid risk too. Do these today to build walls around your blog. As usual, just reference an item number in the comments if you’d like more specific guidance.

I’ve ***tripled starred*** hot topics I haven’t fully covered for you as of yet!

  1. Enter a new niche
    If you plan this out right it will secure you with a new SEO profile. Then when Google attacks or shifts one keyword department you can go weather the storm somewhere sunnier!
  2. ***Consult***
    If your blog has gained recognition and is being mentioned around the web, it’s time for you to consult. This brings business to your offline life – good business which can occupy your time in a time of crisis.
  3. Convert visitors to community members
    When I started expanding my blogging portfolio after HonestCollege, I was well aware it may one day crumble like the Roman Empire. So I invested a dollar into Aweber for their free trial and started building my own tribe in order to keep a “backup” community somewhere. I had no idea how to do this but knew it could be done.
  4. ***Read each day***
    In order to plan for your blog’s future it’s important to invest as much into creating and marketing your content as you do each day reading successful testimonials on top niche blogs. All the top bloggers do this by morning and night.
  5. Build everlasting links in niche guest-posts
    Quality links in guest posts are one area Google spam teams will probably never touch. These links are great because they basically follow exact guidelines for organic linking, where the author is linking to a relevant sources simply because they “want to.”
  6. Join forums
    There are plenty of good forums for all your blogging needs in traffic, design and more that will tell you the forecast before it plays out. Join a few, bookmark them in your browser, and post each morning. You’d be amazed how rewarding this is.
  7. Start a new blog
    You don’t have to plan ferociously. The most important thing is a good strong domain name and a ***three-post launch!***
  8. ***Stop comparing yourself to other blogs***
    Because some blogs will always be further ahead. Take what you can back to homebase and ditch the rest.
  9. ***Corner a niche (or several)***
    If you’ve written 100 posts within your niche surely posts are more popular. Figure out why, they ask yourself if you’d like to focus more on these topics. Doing so can build fortresses around your blog next time the Penguins attack.
  10. Create a multi-author blog
    Aside from adding more fresh content to Google, this expands your team. Maybe someone will be an SEO expert!
  11. Hire interns
    Lots of students out there need experience in online publishing. Post an add on your local Craigslist or CareerFinder – these individuals can be quite helpful with social media promotion.
  12. Focus on Google+ and Twitter
    Google+ is a great place to meet people as smart and talented as you, while Twitter is still arguably the number one tool to bring instant traffic back to the blog. Share at the right times and you’ll get good shares and more followers.
  13. Build WordPress blogs for others
    Do you even know how valuable WordPress (and general blogging) skills are nowadays? Leveraging your ability to quickly start a blog can mean new clients, more inter-linking, and more income.
  14. Quality links over quantity
    Look inside your personal network for someone working at a lofty online publication, then proceed to hound them with daily emails and Facebook chats.
  15. ***Respond to emails right away***
    This accelerates your networking efforts and leaves more time for writing posts.
  16. Learn direct response copy
    It results in more shares…that’s all I’m going to say!
  17. Avoid ad programs
    Advertising networks nowadays can be a waste of time. I’m not saying ditch forever. What do you think?
  18. Write cool comments at Dear Blogger
    The comments here are proven to increase these articles in SERPs, which means more people seeing your amazing comment!
  19. Find a favorite SEO blog
    I know, many of you are writers and creatives with little interest in this Search engine science. A little knowledge over your peers can go along way.
  20. Hunt for new income streams
    Along the lines of entering a new niche or consulting, hunting for new income streams is always wise. I’d love to hear how you go about accomplishing this one!

Whewie! Was that 20? Hope you enjoyed that list!

Other notes

I really hate putting in an other notes section but when you have crucial information you want folks to read but don’t know where to put it you sometimes have no choice.

  • ♨ First note: If a site of yours is penalized by Google, it would be smart to quickly remove links from it pointing to your other sites
  • ♨ Second note: PageRank drops and Alexa rankings are by no means related in the present time, but are related over time if you don’t fix the former.
  • ♨ Third note: Has anyone out there experienced a lightning-fast successful PageRank review request yet?

The usual discussion

Being mistaken for a spamming site is nothing to laugh about. It can hurt months or years of blogging work. If you were hit, you must revise your site, request review, then (if you’re generally honest) tell your readers and advertisers exactly what happened.

Here’s a Tweet of me chatting it up with good frenemy Matt Cutts. To answer your frequent questions, no, I haven’t met him and we don’t go mini-golfing on the weekends :)

If done in a timely fashion, these recovery actions can bolster relationships. It’s not easy, but sending an email blast or writing a whole post like this one can really help clear up your stance on blogging issues.

Now be brave. Do you think some blogs out in cyberspace should be hit by Search updates? Are you on Google’s side or the average bloggers’?

Please take a moment to drop off your own expert observations for the community.



Good news to the community! We've helped you successfully setup so many WordPress blogs that we can now offer an improved discount. Read more about the new Dear Blogger hosting plan discounts and learn how to make a WordPress self-hosted blog. Love, peace, and blogging to all in 2014.



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34 comments, add some wisdom...


  1. kris says:

    My PR has gone down on some pages but I’m not sure exactly because I wasn’t following it that closely.

    I used to have traffic of 1200-2000 per day. And now it’s down to 400 per day.

    Can you tell quickly if I have a linking problem or do I just need to get more frequent content going?

    Thank you in advance for any guidance!

  2. Subodh says:

    Hi Greg,

    How are you doing?

    From where did you get the screenshot of Google’s msg – unnatural outbound links? I tried looking up in Webmasters but didn’t find.

    One of my blogs saw a decrease in PR from 2 to 1 in the latest update. Just want to figure out what happened.

  3. Dinesh says:

    Penalized heavily for backlinking and the whole SEO has been damaged, now I plan to clean up my blog by trashing out posts with high interlinking and make a fresh start
    http://freeworld.co.in/

    • Greg Narayan says:

      Glad you’re on a better track.

      Have you thought of starting a new whole blog all together? You could leverage your old blog for backlinks (just the good ones) then.

  4. Jeanne says:

    I am totally clueless about SEO, so I enjoyed this as I need to learn this obviously. I have been blogging since 2006 and have had a 5pr for many, many years ( also popular twitter, youtube , fb accts etc etc) I was shocked to just discover it is now a 4 . Why and how can I fix that and get my 5 back?

    • Greg Narayan says:

      Hey Jeanne!

      Welcome to the blog. I just spent about 30 minutes over there. WHAT?! You travel more than the president! Or something…(can’t think of a good travel analogy)

      How do you guys do it?

      So with PR what most-likely happened was links to your site were devalued. Penguin 2.1 did this earlier this month. Links on blogrolls, roundups, etc, like this one: http://nomadicsamuel.com/top100travelblogs

      Yet, you are featured by the likes of NYTimes, Huff Post, theGuardian and more. Are these online or print?

      Let me know, I’m happy to help you mount a PageRank revamping campaign or help with general SEO.

      Keep up the great work,

      The Blogger (Greg)

      • Jeanne says:

        Thanks so much Greg! Cute…we have a unique travel life for sure and live the dream on $23/day pp. Slow travel is a big key and traveling light. We learn as we go and figure if there is a will , there is a way! ;)

        So are you saying being listed as a top blogger on things like nomadic samuels works against me as far as google is concerned and page rank?

        Funny, most of the top bloggers in travel are there. Are they all punished?

        I found out there that I have high domain authority and page authority, but I really just blog and have no idea about these stat things. It is primarily a labor of love and to keep a record for my daughter. I am a non-geek…who some how ended up knowing a lot of early adopter types because I was early to Twitter and our very first youtube video went viral etc.

        Most everything I write lands on google first page, so that is helpful,…but then I have been blogging a long time and accidentally find myself a pioneer in travel and travel blogging. My daughter too who is likely the only blond 12 year old American fluent as a native in Spanish and Mandarin etc.

        Print and online for NYTimes and Guardian, BBC etc etc. I can write any time I want for huffington post but I don’t much because of time primarily. I actually prefer to be unplugged as much as possible…and combining world travel, blogging and homeschooling is a challenge to say the least. AND I have been dealing with a serious health issue ever since I broke/paralyzed my arm biking the Danube…which keeps me offline.

        How much does it cost for your help? How do I know it will help? I get emails all the time about people wanting to help me with SEO, but I never know who to trust and obviously we have a tiny budget.

        • Jeanne says:

          BTW soultravelers3 is on typepad because wordpress was just waaay too hard for me. I am that much of an ungeek and def NOT a digital native.

          I didn’t even learn to type very long before I started the blog…the internet made me learn typing finally. LOL BUT you will never find me texting and I refuse to learn how to use a cell phone ( we don;t own a smart phone and I have never used an app).

          I have an innovator, divergent thinker kind of mind…often a pioneer and original in life..but am old school in many ways like real food and slow travel.

          Kind of like Calculus, I had hoped to avoid SEO and google analytics. ;) Not my thing…and I am retired after all.

          • Daniele says:

            Jeanne,
            You’re a real inspiration for me.
            In an era where everyone is obsessed about SEO and Google results, you’re proving that passion and quality is what’s needed to make a GREAT blog.

            Thanks!

            • Greg Narayan says:

              This is amazing gals. I have to say I’m surprised you didn’t get a PR6 Jeanne. Must have been the no WordPress thing ;) Will shoot over an email with more on SEO and PR.

              “The internet made me learn typing finally” :)

            • jeanne says:

              So appreciate hearing that Daniele! I do agree passion and quality are important keys to blogging.

              • Greg Narayan says:

                Ditto to Daniele.

                Jeanne – figure I’ll post my PR advice here as it will make this post more valuable (based on my brilliant comment SEO theory).

                After doing some extensive research, here is what I found causing the drop from 5->4.

                1) Outbound links on a page. The page you lost PR on was homepage. Reducing outbound links here or adding rel=”nofollow” is the biggest thing you can do, far as I can see.

                2) Link devaluation. You weren’t penalized for mentions on sites like above, but those links could have become less valuable. If you HAD been linked from content farms or sketchy publications that WOULD hurt you, but I’d bet your links are all genuine. Not a big factor or really within your control.

                3) Structure. You don’t have a sitemap generator. On WordPress you can get a plugin for this that allows search engines to more quickly and thoroughly index your blog. This helped me get PR3 then 4 here pretty quickly. Medium factor.

                4) Can’t remember the 4th item, must not have been crucial (aha remember now! Permalinks, not too important). I’d focus on #1 then see if TypePad offers a sitemap generator plugin type of thing for free.

                What do you think?

                • Jeanne says:

                  Thanks Greg!

                  I don’t know how to see or change that no follow thing. Do you know where I would find info on that for typepad?

                  I actually thought I was no follow.

                  I don’t think i have any outbound links on my homepage…just two links to my blog that gives more detailed info for those who might want it.

                  Soooooo need to redo by homepage…just haven’t had time.

                  Do you know any Typepad savvy SEO types by chance?

                  Thanks again!

                  J

                  • Greg Narayan says:

                    Jeanne, hey!

                    So yeah, making internal and external links on your homepage “nofollow” will improve your homepage’s PR. If you notice, the PR on blog posts and subpages are less, naturally. It’s (nearly) always like that.

                    Can you edit the HTML on your homepage? It looks great to me, no need to fully redo, but if you can edit the HTML, add this a rel=”nofollow” after your link. It looks like this:

                    ….a href=”http://www.somelink.com” rel=”nofollow”….

                    That keeps the link working but hides it from bots.

                    You’re totally not going to have time for this though :)

  5. I don’t even know if I have a pagerank. My blog is a free blog. How do I get one?

  6. Daniele says:

    Hi Greg,

    Great post here, thanks for sharing the experience and the suggestions.

    What about number 16, ‘Learn direct response copy”?
    I don’t know what that means.

    Thanks!

  7. Nosa E Nosa says:

    Hello Greg,

    It’s nice to be here once again, I am surprised how always make read your entire article from start to finish. It not something I enjoy as I am usually bored before I can complete reading most other articles.

    The 20-points you raised are all fantastic, I kind-of like the SEO part, I think subscribing to an authority SEO blog makes lot of sense. You can never tell, just a little tip can be the saving grace of one’s blog from a disaster.

    Really nice article and worth reading. Thanks.

  8. Thanks for the opened and honest post.

    Same like you. I’ve been expecting a PR penalization here which you know my first blog: http://www.TechandProject.com

    Sold many paid links at the time when it gains decent amount of traffic but still PR is 3.

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