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.
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:
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:
There are no gaps in Search. One site's loss is another site's gain. New post on #PageRank landing soon…
— Greg Narayan (@gregnarayan) October 10, 2013
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 😀
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!
- 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!
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.
- 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.
- ***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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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!***
- ***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.
- ***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.
- Create a multi-author blog
Aside from adding more fresh content to Google, this expands your team. Maybe someone will be an SEO expert!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- ***Respond to emails right away***
This accelerates your networking efforts and leaves more time for writing posts.
- Learn direct response copy
It results in more shares…that’s all I’m going to say!
- Avoid ad programs
Advertising networks nowadays can be a waste of time. I’m not saying ditch forever. What do you think?
- 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!
- 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.
- 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!
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
— Greg Narayan (@gregnarayan) October 9, 2013
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.