More Than Scratch The Surface has finally been penalised by Google. I noticed today that my toolbar PageRank has dropped from PR4 to PR0. It appears to only be a toolbar PR penalty – I am still in the same place in the SERPs.
I say finally, because I’ve been watching other sites get penalised, while mine remained untouched. The cause of my penalty: two sponsored posts I wrote about three months ago. Until now, Google hadn’t noticed them.
Like RT, I’ve said goodbye to PayPerPost. I only did two sponsored posts and it’s almost 3 months since the last one. I initially stopped doing them because I couldn’t find any fitting the subject of this blog. Then, as more and more blogs were penalised by Google, I decided to hold off doing any more.
I thought about adding nofollow to the links when Terence Chang recently lost his toolbar PR. I’m not sure why I didn’t. If I’m honest, I guess I thought that if Google hadn’t already penalised me, then they must have missed me. So if you are thinking about fixing any issues on your site, do it today!
I’ve now added nofollow to the links and requested reconsideration via Google’s Webmaster Tools. Now, I wait and hope my toolbar PR is restored.
Why Am I Worried About Toolbar PR?
Cynics will be asking why I’m so worried about toolbar PR, given my somewhat anti-Google stance on previous posts, such as Final Thoughts On The PageRank Debacle and I Signed Up For PayPerPost.
There are several reasons for my change of stance:
- Originally, I was angry that so many fine bloggers were penalised for what was normal practice. It felt like Google was being very unfair. I’ll admit I didn’t know anything about Google’s Terms Of Service at the time. Since then, I’ve come to realise that Google had stated that the nofollow tag must be added to paid reviews and advertising. I still feel that Google should have communicated this better to the average blogger before penalising them, but in hindsight, they could have reduced real PR rather than just toolbar PR. A turning point in my attitude came when I read a well-considered defence of Google.
- I originally thought, like many others, that I didn’t need Google. I’ve since come to realise that although it may be possible to have a successful site without Google search traffic, this traffic is where most of the money is. Search engine visitors are the one who are most likely to click ads or buy something (whether from Adsense or Amazon). Turning your back on Google’s search traffic has to be considered as shooting yourself in the foot. If I value the search traffic, I have to play by Google’s rules. I’m now happy to do so: In fact only 3 days ago, I turned down an approach to buy links on my site.
- I was making very little from Adsense at the time and it appeared that sponsored posts were a better option. This may indeed be the case for some blogs, but I’ve come to understand Adsense much better since then. As I’ve learnt more about Adsense, it’s started performing better – and it’ll only get better as my site grows. Long term, Adsense is a better option.
- Although toolbar PR is pretty much irrelevant (it’s your real PR and position in the SERPs that really matter), most people don’t realise that. Why is that important? Well, it’d important if I wanted to sell links or write sponsored posts, because they’re based on toolbar PR, but I’m not going to do that! However, I’ll be moving to Brisbane in about 3 months and I’ll be looking for a web-related job. You never know, a PR4 website may help me get such a job, a PR0 site probably won’t!
I didn’t have to post this. Google don’t care whether I make this post or not. I could have just requested reconsideration quietly without mentioning it and most people wouldn’t have noticed. But that’s not my way. If I feel I’ve made a mistake, I’ll put my hand up and admit it.
In the past I’ve said things that were anti-Google and pro-sponsored posts. At the time I believed what I said and there is an element of truth in those statements. It may be that for some people, sponsored posts are the best way to monetize their sites. It’s quick and easy money for a small blog, while Adsense won’t start working well until you’ve built your blog up and you understand how it works a little better.
However, I’ve come to realise that in the bigger picture, Google search traffic is a very important element of a successful site. It’s not something I want to lose, so I’ll play by Google’s rules. Today, I’ve only lost my toolbar PR, tomorrow it may be my real PageRank and my position in the SERPs.