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Reasons for a PageRank drop

Reasons for a PageRank drop - answered by Matt Cutts

Summary:

PageRank may drop for a few reasons: firstly, it is possible that there were a few reputable websites that previously linked to you and now stopped linking; another possible reason is that you changed your website architecture and now there’s a problem with the internal linking or with canonicalization; lastly, the most common reason why you might experience a PageRank drop is because of a penalty. Selling links that pass PageRank is a quality guidelines violation – you should remove those links and submit a reconsideration request. Although the drop might only affect Google Toolbar sometimes (and not search rankings yet) – it’s a strong indicator that you should immediately stop the deceptive behavior.

 

Matt's answer:

I use Google Toolbar to monitor PageRank. I read on the Internet that it gives old and quite unreliable data. Can I have reliable real-time PageRank information about the sites I administer? And how can I identify causes of a PageRank drop?

 

The information that you get from the Google toolbar is updated about three or four times a year. And the reason why we don’t provide it every single day is because we don’t want webmasters to get obsessed with the green in the Google toolbar and not pay the attention that should be spent on titles, and accessibility, and good content, and all those kinds of things.

 

A lot of people, if you show them just the PageRank and update it every day, they’re just going to focus on that. We didn’t want that kind of obsession or backlink obsession to take hold, where people would only pay attention to the PageRank and the toolbar.

 

About the question that it’s quite unreliable – it’s not unreliable. It’s just rounded to a 0 to 10 sort of scale. So there’s nothing unreliable about that necessarily.

 

How can I identify the causes of a PageRank drop?

 

If the only PageRank that you had, for example, was from one very reputable link, and then that site stopped linking to you, that could lead to a drop in PageRank. If you’ve done something really weird with your internal linking and your canonicalization is very strange, so we don’t know, maybe there is a completely different site on www versus non-www, so those kinds of canonicalization issues – that can also lead to a PageRank drop.

 

One of the most common reasons we see for a PageRank drop, at least in the Google toolbar, is if a site is selling links. If your PageRank dropped by 30% all of a sudden and you were selling links that passed PageRank, the reason for that is:

 

Selling links that pass PageRank violates our quality guidelines

 

And if you think about it – it’s a pretty understandable thing. It’s a lot like payola in the sense that you give somebody money and then you get a mention. And it’s not adequately disclosed to the search engine. If some site is doing that, that can account for a drop in the toolbar PageRank.

 

If that’s what might have happened, then all you have to do is remove the links that you were selling, and then do a reconsideration request and say “Hey, I was selling links. They passed PageRank. I saw my PageRank dropped and so I’ve removed those links. You can verify it. And please let me regain my trust with Google”. If we see that things look good, and it looks like there’s a good faith effort there, and we’re reasonably convinced that the selling of PageRank won’t happen again, for example, then oftentimes, your PageRank will return. So, hope that helps a little bit with some of these common PageRank questions.


by Matt Cutts - Google's Head of Search Quality Team

 

Original video: