Google has gone through an unprecedented upheaval this month. As we reported on October 24 Google downgraded the page rank of a broad range of blogs.
The scary thing is that they’ve done another page rank update again, the third in a month. This is an unprecedented move by Google; normally they update page rank once every three months, sometimes not that often. Never before have they done it three times in a month. We originally reported that the changes were related to link farming, but the latest change would suggest that it might be related to paid links, but with Google taking three attempts to get it right.
EnjoyPerth.net is a fairly innocuous blog that posts on events in the capital of Western Australia. The site is a couple of years old, and although it might not be doing amazing numbers, it was well targeted to its niche. Around 70% of EnjoyPerth’s traffic came from Google searches for events in Perth, not an unremarkable number in an age where Google holds 60-90% of the search market depending on which country you are looking at.
2 weeks ago EnjoyPerth was unindexed by Google. When I say unindexed I mean that it totally disappeared from Google. A site search shows that it has been complete removed; you get sites linking in but not the site itself.
So what was EnjoyPerth’s crime? I asked a leading SEO expert who asked to remain nameless, this is what he said:
In my experience Google usually won’t knock you out algorithmically for selling links, someone has to report you or an engineer has to come across you one way or another. While some of the links are travel/Perth related it’s hard to make that claim with things like games and dating. This is a text book example of the two tiered justice system that Google employs. The San Jose Mercury News can sell more links for more money but Google can’t pull them out of the index because it would make them look foolish, but they can certainly pull out lesser known web publishers.
Text link ads have been the bread and butter for many a small blog owner for the last couple of years. Even before Text-Link-Ads.com (a TechCrunch sponsor) the Weblogs Inc network was direct selling text links. In this case of EnjoyPerth sold links, and it may have killed their Google indexation.
I’ve spoken to the owner of EnjoyPerth and she’s going to drop her text link sales and re-submit the site to Google. I can only hope that they are benevolent enough to put the site back into their directory. Overall though an interesting question arises, not just for EnjoyPerth but for all of us: is it healthy that we are all so reliant on Google. Are we better off for Google’s domination? would we be better off with stronger competition? I’d think that at least in EnjoyPerth’s case that the world would have been better without Google’s dominance.