Larry Brauner

To the surprise of many, a Google PageRank update occurred late September, a month earlier than expected. I saw the page rank of many of my blog posts move up, and I also saw the page rank of a friend’s site move down.

A Google PageRank update hadn’t been expected until October. The previous re-evaluation took place in July according to an apparent every three months pattern. Needless to say Google’s action raised many eyebrows.

On Saturday night the 4th of October I installed the Google XML Sitemap Plugin on a client’s Wordpress blog. While in the installing mood, I also installed the Google Toolbar on my Firefox browser. That’s when I noticed that something was up.

I looked at the page rank of a bunch of my blog posts and at the ranking of my friend’s site. It appeared that Google had rolled back pagerank to July’s numbers, an action would raise even more eyebrows.

Detailed investigation revealed that Google substantially revised but did not completely reverse their September page rank update.

What is Google PageRank?

In case you’re unfamiliar with page rank and wondering why so many people are obsessed with it, I’ll try to explain.

Website owners want their web pages listed at the top of the major search engines. They want lots of targeted visitors landing on their sites, and search engines are a great way to attract them.

Keyword research and optimization are important, but the use of keywords isn’t the only determining success factor. A web page’s authority is just as important, especially with Google.

Authority is determined by the quantity and quality of backlinks, links from other pages on your site or other sites. Backlink quality depends on the authority and the relevance of the linking web page.

Google’s rating of authority is called PageRank after Larry Page, Google’s founder. Google PageRank, or PR for short, is a number between 0 and 10. A PageRank of 10 is the best, but even a PR 5 isn’t easy to obtain.

Since Google PageRank is a key component of search engine optimization, and since page rank depends on receiving favorable outside attention, website owners and SEO professionals put enormous effort into cultivating relationships with relevant and authoritative sites that can link to them.

Back on the Link Farm

A note of caution: Buying links and link exchange strategies can backfire. Search engines are on the lookout for sneaky SEO strategies.

As with keyword stuffing discussed in Keywords Demystified, link farms and other linking schemes can also incur harsh penalties including search engine delisting.

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31 Responses to “Google Reverses Recent PageRank Update”

  1. Tom Mangone on October 7th, 2008 10:06 pm

    Great information about ranking…hit everything on the head with regard to linking with other good websites. Did not see anything about how farming on your website hurts your Google ranking.

  2. Debbie Morgan on October 7th, 2008 11:11 pm

    Hi Larry!

    I was very much aware that Google updated their PageRank. My site which had been a PR 2 for almost two years is now a PR

    I am very pleased!

    Thanks, Larry, for a great article.


  3. Larry Brauner on October 7th, 2008 11:24 pm

    @Tom You’re right. Running a link farm and posting your link in somebody else’s are both bad ideas.

    @Deb If you look at your PageRank again, you’ll see that yours also got rolled back.

  4. dan on October 8th, 2008 12:56 am

    Nice information, and I wish it were true for me, but mine was not rolled back to July’s numbers.

    My page rank before the update in July was 3 for my main index page… after the update it went to 2… and now its at 1.

    I’m still not sure why it keeps going down, but oh well.

  5. Google Analytics on October 8th, 2008 1:14 pm


    I’m glad you did this post on the Google page rank roll back. I think it will help many people to better understand what happened.

    Mm PR stayed the same, which was disappointing. After all the work, I was hoping it would go up.

    Maybe next time.

    By the way, I finished my 3-part series on Google analytics and have linked to the first one above.



  6. Luke Zet on October 8th, 2008 11:50 pm

    Although Google lowered my page rank on one step, it didn’t really roll back to the July stats in my situation. Strange any-way during the first rankings of blogs Google can give a sudden boost in rankings, but only for some period of time. Should be a clever trick - cause people get tied to Google and start to understand its position on the net.

  7. Mitch on October 9th, 2008 12:55 am

    Unfortunately, they didn’t roll any of my sites back, and all of them dropped at least one point in the latest run. Very disappointing indeed, especially since my traffic is up.

  8. Pembrokeshire on October 9th, 2008 11:17 am

    Our Directory has been operating now for about a year we now have a PR of 4 and all our links pages are PR 3. We offer free advertising for Pembrokeshire Businesses in return for a link back to our directory from their sites. We also link to sites that may be of interest to the people of the area. One thing I hate is people asking for links and offering links back to the directory from sites other than the ones they ask to link to. The spam button is pressed then and hopefully no more emails from them.

  9. George Cozma on October 10th, 2008 6:51 am

    I tend to believe that the Google PageRank is somewhat overrated. It is just onne factor in hundreds which decide on the SERPs.

    Of course, the fact that my website went from unranked to PR0 might factor in my analysis too :)

    But my blog is not even a month old, so no real surprise here.

    Nonetheless, I do get some decent traffic from Google, and from pretty competitive keyword phrases too.

    Regards, George

  10. Larry Brauner on October 10th, 2008 8:10 am

    Hi George,

    It’s true that Google PageRank is only one factor out of many, but each time my page rank has increased, my Google search engine visitors more than doubled — immediately.

    All other things being egual I’d rather have a higher Google PageRank than a lower one. :)

    Notwithstanding my success with Google, my MSN Live standing seems to be even higher.

    MSN has me in the top ten SERPs about twice as often as Google.

  11. Kenny Ritchie on October 10th, 2008 4:58 pm

    Excellent post and comments guys. There doen’t seem to be any clear cut conclusions, but paradox seems to be part of life on the Net.

    But I would obviously agree that I would like my page rank to be higher.

  12. TeasasTips on October 11th, 2008 6:58 pm

    I knew it wouldn’t last… It wasn’t time for it according to Google’s Matt Cutts.

  13. marly on October 18th, 2008 11:38 pm

    It is nice to know my blog got PR also. I hope it will stay forever. :)

  14. Larry Brauner on October 18th, 2008 11:46 pm

    I see Marly that your Google PageRank is 2. I hope it will continue to go up. :)

  15. squeaky on November 2nd, 2008 10:55 pm

    From what I saw, I believe that they did a rollback. Some sites that I have links on gained pagerank and then reverted back.

    My blog didn’t change as far as pagerank, but gained backlinks and then reverted back as well.

    Not sure what Google is doing, but there were many sites which where new and got PR 3 and PR 4, without much content. My blog stayed at a PR 3 with lots of new content. Doesn’t make sense, but what is new!

  16. Leonardo Medina on December 11th, 2008 12:36 am

    Has it happened ever before? To be honest, I haven’t heard about reversal of PR and this is something very strange to me.

    Anyhow, why would they need to do so?

  17. Larry Brauner on December 11th, 2008 12:44 am

    It was very strange.

    Google didn’t reverse all page rank changes.

    Why Google reversed the ones that they reversed we’ll probably never know.

  18. dancing for beginners on January 25th, 2009 7:20 am

    Everything is possible in these days and we should expect all wonders from The giant. I think there is nothing wrong if you are original and always do the right thing. I know many people who [do all sorts of things] just to raise their PR. They buy links, and they do illegal things. I am not annoyed because none of my sites lost or gained PR.

  19. Diseñador on February 13th, 2009 7:54 am

    I do not know if Google updated the page rank, but I already have for more than a year a PR 4. Every time Google does not raise it, it’s more difficult to attract visitors to our site. Seems to me hat Google wants all the web traffic for themselves. It’s difficult to compete. I am trying to get by with income from Google Adsense, but really earn a pittance. If I had a PR 5, I could attract more visitors.


  20. ed hardy on March 7th, 2009 11:03 am

    Nowadays, my page rank is really very unchanged. I haven’t seen any changes since many months. Neither have any of my sites gained nor lost position. Despite low PR, many of my sites are holding very good positions in SERPs and have lot more traffic than before. I am not worried about PR anymore.

  21. Larry Brauner on March 7th, 2009 10:13 pm

    My recent experience Ed with Google Page Rank has been roughly the same.

  22. futurich on March 13th, 2009 4:51 pm

    Speaking of pagerank… what happened to MSN’s page rank?

  23. Larry Brauner on March 13th, 2009 6:10 pm

    MSN Live Search is relatively inconsequential compared to Google Search.

    Don’t know if anybody would worry too much about a Yahoo! or MSN page rank.

  24. Roger on March 14th, 2009 4:38 pm

    On many webmaster forums, I have been reading some threads regarding spending money to gain PR. I think that is just a stupid thing now. There were times when PR was very vital but now social media has changed everything and even our way of blogging.

  25. tiffany replica on March 26th, 2009 7:28 am

    Although this post is about a PR reversal, I am going to ask something other than that.

    I have seen many sites whose inner pages have PR greater than the home page. I am wondering what is the logic behind that. I even know some sites whose home page PR is 0 and inner pages have 3-4.

    I think that is something very disturbing for me. Can someone explain it?

  26. Larry Brauner on March 26th, 2009 11:26 am

    Hi Tiffany,

    This disturbs you because you think that “inner pages” are in some way subordinate to the overall site. This is definitely not the case.

    Search engines don’t think in terms of sites, main pages and inner pages. They only think in terms of pages. Period.

    Every page on the Internet that is indexed by a search engine is judged as if it’s an entire website on its own.

    Therefore every page needs to be independently optimized and promoted based its particular content.

    Nevertheless, for the overall health of a site, the pages need to be connected through the use of some sort of site map.

    Hope this explanation helps.

  27. Neetu Sharma on April 2nd, 2009 8:24 am


    Now after 3 months from 31st Dec 08, Google finally update my site’s PR as on 2nd April 09.

  28. ed hardy on April 23rd, 2009 3:04 am

    Larry, You are very right. This is something which I came to know after a long time. I think that we should optimize our pages for different terms but not more than 2-3 keywords a page. This effects a lot and we should care about it.

  29. Lehigh Valley Web design on May 24th, 2009 3:05 am

    I don’t think PageRank is as important as it used to be. I see sites moving up the rankings from backlinks with a high Alexa rating but no pagerank.

  30. Allan on June 20th, 2009 1:19 pm

    This is in response to person right above mine. I think Google PR is very important in many ways. Ultimately, sites with high PR mean that they are not new and they have enough weight to be ranked high. I read many blogs stating that it is just a green bar but for me it is more than that.

  31. Larry Brauner on June 20th, 2009 10:48 pm

    I tend to agree with Allan.

    Of course page rank isn’t the only SEO success factor, but it is very important.

    Google Friend Connect may very well be a critical success factor in the future, so I recently installed it on my blog sidebar. Please join.

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