Someone is watching
Google appears to have updated its PageRank calculations in such a way to penalize sites that sell links or link heavily within its own networks, reports Forbes.
When webmasters for sites including TechCrunch, Engadget, Washingtonpost.com and others woke up Thursday morning, they found their PageRank numbers had dropped, sometimes substantially.
Pagerank is a rough indication of how "important" a site is in related Google search results.
In some cases, the sites affected were ones that sell links to others. Some marketers buy links on highly-ranked sites in an effort to boost their own site's rankings, since the rank of sites linking to a given site impacts PageRank as well.
Sites in networks that link to each other often also seem to have been penalized.
The move may only have impacted public numbers for the affected sites and not Google's internal numbers. If that's the case, this is a warning shot across the bow by Google, encouraging sites to change their ways before serious consequences occur.
Google has taken a strong stance against link-buying recently.
Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land has a list of high-profile sites that saw their PageRank drop dramatically as a result.