Blogger Lisa Buben of Inspire to Thrive woke up one morning recently and found that she’d been penalized by Google and, as a result, her PageRank went from 3 to 0 overnight. “I did not have any links for sale or link schemes. So what else would cause a Google Penalty like this to happen and why did Google changed my pagerank overnight?”

Before submitting a reconsideration request to Google, Buben has installed a new plugin called WP External Links to add the “nofollow” attribute (she’d read about how sites like Wikipedia changed all their links to nofollow).

Buben’s experience is a good reminder to be sure sponsored post links and guest posts with outbound links are set to “nofollow” (she wondered if a contributor post may have been the cause of the penalty). “Followed links with keyword rich anchor text could be another cause, which is why I made my comments nofollow for now.”

What about dofollow? Matt [Cutts] does say “They can have a negative impact…” I guess hints are more like ”written in stone” coming from Matt Cutts. The other hint I’m starting to hear is about guest blogging. Some say it will be a spammy practice. Will you put the brakes on guest blogging next? I wish Matt would be more upfront with us instead of going around the bush giving us a hint here or there. I’d love it spelled out for all of us. Instead of it can, say it will! Not so wishy washy Matt, please.

Visit Open Site Explorer to see all your exterior links and check your “dofollow” attributes. Buben suggests following six steps to check why your PageRank may be down as a result of a Google penalty:

  • Scan Your website via WordFence
  • Check your visits count as a drop in visits may be indicative of SEO issues other than follow or nofollow links
  • Check your Alexa ranking
  • Check your Domain Authority
  • Check for spammy commenters (Buben believes dofollow comments may have been the cause of a penalty)

Read Buben’s full post here. For more information, see “Google Penalty: No Get Out of Jail Free Card” by Patricia Weber.