Google is now a major – arguably the major – force driving
news sites. As a result, sites’ PageRank is utterly crucial for any business
model. Right now, Google seems to be slashing the PageRank of a lot of blogs,
and some news sites seem to have been caught up in the carnage, most notably
that of the Washington Post, which has dropped to a PageRank
of just 5 from a PageRank of 7 literally overnight.
A PageRank of 5 is atrocious, and essentially means that Washington Post news
stories will not show up in any Google searches – certainly not on the
first page, anyway, which is the only page that matters. PageRank is a little-understood
and precious thing, and it can vary enormously even across the relatively small
universe of authoritative news sites. Here’s some examples:
nytimes.com, wsj.com, ft.com: PR8
portfolio.com: PR 7
bloomberg.com: PR 6
washingtonpost.com, forbes.com: PR 5
No one outside Google really knows how these things are calculated: it’s a
very closely-kept secret. But clearly Forbes and the Washington Post are going
to have some very unhappy website managers this morning, who will spend the
next few weeks scrambling to get their old PageRank back.
Update: Fixing this could be as simple as inserting
"nofollow" code into all the links to advertisers on the site, says
Shawn Smith. Let’s hope so, for the Washington Post’s sake!