Last week, I noticed that the PageRank of Wiep.net dropped from 4 to 2. The PR of all internal pages, such as the Link Value Factors, dropped with two points as well, so this is clearly a manual PageRank penalty. After discussing this with several folks, the only reason I can think of why this happened is the footer of my blog (this design is a free WP Theme). It’s either that, or it’s because I haven’t been blogging a lot lately and this is Matt‘s way to let me know that I should post more often :)
First of all I want to stress out that I personally couldn’t care less about this penalty and this is not an “I want my PageRank back!” scream. I wouldn’t even care if Google turned it into a PR0, a greyed out PR or even a red or purple PageRank, but I do care about the reason why. If this PageRank penalty is because of the links in the footer (it actually is my only website that’s 100% clean :P ), it’s wrong for several reasons.
1. Lots of WP templates work with ‘sponsored by’ footer and/ or blogroll links and lots of mom and pop bloggers have never heard of either paid links, Matt Cutts, or even Google. Others may think that PageRank is directly related to their rankings and will turn hysterical if they see that their PR has been lowered because of factors that they don’t know is wrong.
In stead of lowering the rankings of the advertisers, Google thinks it’s more appropriate to lower the toolbar PR of template users who -in some cases, not in my case!- don’t even know they’re doing something wrong.
2. How about ‘designed by’ links? Can your PR get lowered because of linking to your website designer as well? This is pretty much the same.
3. This actually is a penalty for linking to irrelevant websites. Besides using the WP template, I never accepted any form of payment or whatsoever, so technically, the links aren’t even paid ones.
4. Indirectly, Google’s telling people which website template they can use and which ones they can’t. It’s either breaking the template’s conditions of use (leaving the links up is mandatory), risking a lowered PageRank, or following the Rules Of Google.
Some have suggested to nofollow or remove the links in the footer and to do a reinclusion request, but I’ve decided not to. In stead, I’ll do exactly what I said I will do my footer; I’ll leave the links up (which is mandatory when you use the template) until I have a new design. Do you have designing skills that rock and some spare time? Drop me a note and you might just end up with a ‘designed by’ footer link. From a PR2 blog…
Until then, does someone have a green pen, so I can fill up the void on my toolbar?