Google reminds me why I blog

EDIT: As of 30 Nov 2007, I’ve noticed my page rank has gone back up to 5! So looks like Google re-inclusion works. We are back in business and traffic has never been better!
There has been a lot of crazy things happening in my life in the last quarter of 2007. The problem was that I was so damn busy that I did not have the time to update readers for what has been happening. So not only was I bogged down daily with work, I had to finalised the Dandelion Exhibition and at the same time finish my Un-p3 Wave concept for this exhibition entry.
Not only that something major also happened to this blog. Sometime at the end of October or early November the Page Rank of Design Sojourn dropped from 5/10 to 3/10. It felt like a dagger through my heart, however I had so much on my plate then that I just could not deal with it. But whenever I had some down time I was researching on why my Page Rank had drop when it was a steady 5 all along. It’s only now that I have some time to really think about this issue and make some hard decisions.
Before we go on, just what is this Page Rank (PR) thing? According to Ian Rogers:

So what is PageRank?
In short PageRank is a “vote”, by all the other pages on the Web, about how important a page is. A link to a page counts as a vote of support. If there’s no link there’s no support (but it’s an abstention from voting rather than a vote against the page).

So in other words, when one of you dear readers link to a post on my site, it indicates that you find my writings noteworthy, and thus casting a vote of confidence in my favour. Not only that, we can extrapolate to say that if 2 sites have the same information but one Site A has a higher (good) PR, while the other Site B does not, the site with a better page rank will come up on top the other Site B in Google’s search engine. Check out Google’s write up on how it indexes your site.
During my research I stumble on a great article by Darren Rowse (of Problogger fame) who adviced patience and going back to basics. I have decided to follow his advice and spent most of this month monitoring my website traffic, researching and keeping an eye on what other bloggers were doing as a result of this so called “fiasco”. Also strange enough the many blogs like Copyblogger or Problogger failed to mentioned that after this “bru-ha-ha” their PR actually quickly returned to what it was before. So much of the ranting and raving is really inaccurate.
Interestingly enough, for this entire month, traffic to Design Sojourn continued to be steady. Of the 47% of total visitors send by search engines, Google owns a whopping 82% share. Of this 82%, 79% are new readers, and infact it is up by 6.35%! So as a result of this experiment, there does not seem to have been any effect by this PR drop in real terms. So everything was going to be “hunky dory” and I was prepared to live with my PR drop especially since I was still ranking highly on the Google search results under certain keywords.
However a few events in the last week had made me change my mind.
After reading the fact that Google does not look to kindly on Text Link Ads (Paid linking), I emailed Text Link Ads to ask them if I could add a “rel=nofollow” to my paid text links. With their response to my email and a recent “confidential” publisher email they sent to me, it dawned to me that through my own naivety I was selling my Page Rank to other sites. Suffice to say, I was just uncomfortable with their new publisher “terms and conditions”.
Furthermore while looking at how to get my PR back up I discovered that Matt Cutts has said through an update:

…we now refer to it as a “reconsideration request.” Why? Well, not every spam penalty results in removal from Google’s index, so “reconsideration” is more accurate than “reinclusion.”

Considering this together with Google disliking paid links, I concluded while I was still in the index, I was penalized by a reduction in Page Rank. Furthermore based on what I gather PR is meant to represent, a drop in my PR could be seen as a tarnish in my reputation. Darren Rowse has also echoed my sentiment by his interview with Sydney Morning Herald where he said:

“It [the PageRank] does say something about my credibility and reputation – in a similar way to anyone ranking anything,” he said.

So I was at a cross roads, do I keep my current site as it is with the revenue from the paid links just paying for the upkeep of the site but living with a tarnish on my reputation? Or drop my paid links and hope to get a “reinclusion” to bring my PR back to 5?
At the end of the day I asked myself? Why do I blog? It has never been about the money. I blog to increase my learning, meet like minded people and most importantly I blog to solidify my reputation as a designer. I think at the end of the day, for designers, having a good reputation is priceless. A good one is difficult to build, while once you have one it is too easily lost in a blink of an eyelid. In our ranking/statistics crazed society, having a PR penalization is something I cannot afford despite growing evidence that PR is essentially meaningless.
So last night, I finally made the hard decision to remove the paid links that used to be in the grey bar at the top of this page. Don’t get me wrong, I firmly support internet advertising as it keeps this and many other sites alive. But if its sole purpose is to “game” the system, then I want no part of it. Also, I have not quite decided if I will run any more Ads other than Google’s Adsense, and more research on my part what is an acceptable format needs to be done. I am however interested to know your take on this issue and of my decisions. I look forward to all of your responses.
I like to also thank fellow design blogger David Airey for additional advice on this matter and helping me get to the crux of the problem.

  • DT

    December 4, 2007 at 9:59 pm Reply

    Hi David,
    It’s not too late my friend! To like this site to your blog just add the site’s address to your blogroll and you are set!
    Do email me if you need any more help setting up your blog. Please keep in touch.

  • David

    December 4, 2007 at 3:28 pm Reply

    This is a little late, but hey, I love your site.. even if I dont know how to link it from my blog =[

  • DT

    November 23, 2007 at 8:31 am Reply

    Hi Aen,
    Heh-heh, not for long I bet. So do be careful. They have hit all the high traffic sites and are slowly filtering down to the smaller sites. I suspect they are hand editing it so they will eventually get to you.
    I was find in the first round but got hit in the 2nd or 3rd. Its now in round 5.
    Hi Aaron,
    Thanks for your comments. Personally I always like to ask “if Google polices the internet, who polices Google?”. While they have a good conduct policy, I cant help thinking that occasionally it does get stretched, especially as they have their own advertising system in Adsense.

  • Aaron ::

    November 23, 2007 at 6:54 am Reply

    I personally have no problem with advertising – if it pays the bills thats fine by me – but I do think it can cheapen your own product, whatever that may be? I guess it depends on WHY you blog: if you blog to make money, then advertising is part and parcel of that; but if you blog for self promotion purposes I think the value of YOU, your product, by far outweighs any small proceeds that a bit of adsense and/or TLA can generate.
    With regards the the Google PR debacle, I have sympathy with Google, I think they have a valid point. But I completely disagree with the way they position themselves as judge, jury and executioner of the internet. They have too much power and with that power should come a responsibility that all too often isn’t there.

  • Aen

    November 23, 2007 at 2:00 am Reply

    I have been using TLA for close to 3 months, it pays better than Adsense for my site with little traffic. My PR has been 5 since last year and it’s still 5.
    Makes me think twice though abotu havign TLA though, though it keeps a steady amoutn of funds in my PayPal account and I use that to make easy domain purchases.

  • DT

    November 22, 2007 at 11:28 am Reply

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks for your comments and your words of encouragement.
    I think we can safely make a guess that any means to pass page rank (via Pay-reviews, Paid Links etc) will be black marked by Google.
    My confusion really is, what is an acceptable forms of advertising in Google’s Eyes? It seems to be direct ad sales between website owner and advertiser is allowed (125×125 banners etc.) and anything with a broker in-between is not. Even then direct sales can resort to lowered PR is you have too many.
    Anyways do keep doing what you do, I often visit your site for information when I and down, and the fact that you are accessible keeps me coming back. Thanks.

  • Andy Beard

    November 22, 2007 at 12:12 am Reply

    It is a tough decision to make, and to be honest if I just had paid links in the sidebar, I would probably remove them or look for a nofollow alternative.
    However I want the issue with compensated reviews, whether direct compensation or affiliate links that pass PageRank 100% cleared up once and for all, with a level playing field. The only way to achieve that is to stand my ground.

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