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The Mystery of the Missing PageRank Part One – Have You Lost Your PR and Are You Banned?

Keller Hawthorne | March 25, 2010 | 17 Comments
Search Engine Optimization
The Mystery of the Missing PageRank Part One – Have You Lost Your PR and Are You Banned?
This post is part [part not set] of 2 in the series...
The Mystery of the Missing PageRank

Was It Spammers In the Ballroom with the Lead Pipe? It’s possible, but I’m not 100% sure. Let me explain…

In mid-February, one of my blog readers happened to notice that my PageRank had suddenly disappeared. I took a look and sure enough – a grey bar – not even a zero! I went from a PR of 6 on my home page to a big fat GREY BAR!

My initial reaction was to assume it was a glitch in the toolbar. I was confident it would reappear within a few days. One week later, my PR was still missing. I stayed calm and again assumed it was a glitch in Google’s system.

It has now been over one month since this issue began and still my PR has yet to return. I’ve spent the last few weeks investigating the issue. I’ve come across several interesting bits of info, including the possibility of my site being harmed by other sites.

In this article series I plan to discuss with you:

  • Whether or not your PageRank has actually been removed
  • Steps I’ve taken to investigate my PageRank issue
  • Steps I’ve taken to resolve my PageRank issue

For part one, I’ll begin with helping you determine if you’ve lost your PR (grey bar), if you’ve been banned and if you should be concerned.

Have You Really Lost Your PageRank – Was It Removed Entirely?

If you happen to find yourself in a PR debacle, the first thing you need to do is determine if you’ve actually lost PageRank. There are occasional glitches with Toolbar PR and even Google’s PR system. This means you may notice a sudden drop or removal of PR for a day, week, month or longer, but it can reappear.

Also, it’s important to note whether you’ve dropped in PR or your PR has been removed entirely. These are two VERY different things.

PageRank Drop

If you’ve dropped in PR, you may have gone from having a PageRank of 5 to a 2. This means Google has reevaluated your PageRank and determined your web page is worthy of a 2 now. It’s important to note that you still HAVE PageRank – your page has merely dropped in value.

You may also drop to a zero. In this case, your PR toolbar will still appear white – not grey. PR Checkers will inform you that you have a PR of 0. You are still ranked however.

A standard PageRank drop will occur during normal Google PR updates. This is important to understand because if you suddenly dropped in PR today, but there wasn’t a Google PR update today, your drop may very well be a temporary glitch.

As I write this post, Google’s last PR update was New Years Eve 2009.

PageRank Removal

Losing your PageRank entirely is a whole other thing. PageRank removal can happen at any time and may have something to do with your website being deemed to have done something wrong (something that is against Google’s guidelines).

If you’ve lost all of your PageRank, your PR toolbar will appear grey. A PR Checker will inform you that your PageRank is N/A (not available). Please remember this as you need to distinguish N/A from a PageRank of 0 – there is a difference.

PageRank 0 = Your ARE Ranked (White Bar)

PageRank N/A = You are NOT Ranked (Grey Bar)

What Does a Grey PageRank Bar (PageRank N/A) Mean?

Did you know that your website once displayed a grey PR bar? All brand new websites do – if your site is new, it hasn’t been evaluated yet and will have a N/A PageRank. This is quite normal.

However, if you once had PR and now show a grey bar, you may very well have lost your PR. Here are the most common reasons your PR will display as N/A (grey bar):

  • Your website is new and unranked
  • Temporary slow server connection with Google, toolbar or PR checker
  • There is a glitch in the system
  • You might be in trouble
  • You’ve been banned from the search engine

Have You Been Banned?

It’s really important to note that just because your PR is N/A (grey bar), it does NOT mean you’ve been banned from Google’s search engine. In my case, I still show up in the rankings and still to this day receive traffic from Google daily. So, I have not been banned even though my PR is gone. However, if Google thinks I’ve done something wrong, I may be banned in the future.

So, how do you know if you’ve been banned? It’s important not to go by your PageRank when determining this. Instead, search for your site in Google. Better yet, do a site search to ensure your web pages are still indexed. If they are, you most likely have NOT been banned.

To do a Site Search in Google, search for your site in the following way:

When Should You Worry About Your PageRank?

This may sound hard to believe, but you really don’t need to worry about your PR if you still have rankings in Google’s search engine and your website is following Google’s guidelines. Your PR removal may very well be a glitch that will resolve itself in time.

The time to start worrying is:

  • If you lose your search engine rankings
  • Your site is no longer indexed in Google
  • Lots of time has passed since you lost your PR – my opinion

In my case, the amount of time that has passed has caused me to worry. Though I still have my rankings and I’m still indexed, it’s a very uncomfortable feeling knowing the PR of every page on my blog has been removed. Since it’s been over a month since this issue began, I’ve decided to focus some of my time on resolving the issue.

Why Investigate Your PR Issue?

So, if you’re still indexed in Google and you still have rankings, why investigate a PR issue? Well, something could actually be wrong with your website. Perhaps you broke one of Google’s guidelines without realizing it or a spammer has hacked/messed with your website in some way. You might not be banned from the search engine today, but you might be tomorrow. It’s best to look into things now rather than wait for something worse to happen.

Tip!In December 2009, one of my clients suddenly lost all of her PageRank – she was grey barred. After investigating the issue a little further, she discovered that a hacker had added code to the footer of her website. This code was made up of tons of spammer links. Interestingly, none of the code displayed on the site – you could only see it if you looked at her site’s source code. After I removed the code for her, she got in contact with Google and regained all of her PageRank.

However, please remember that glitches do happen. Don’t panic right off the bat. If it’s been less than 72 hours since you noticed the issue, remain calm – it could be temporary.


  • Remember, it’s important to note whether or not your site still shows up in Google when determining if you’ve been banned or not.
  • A grey bar does NOT mean you’ve been banned and could very well be a temporary glitch or other issue.
  • There is a difference between a PR of 0 and a PR of N/A – one has a white bar and one has a grey bar. One means you’re ranked and one means you’re not ranked.
  • Try not to panic if you notice a PR issue – it could be a temporary issue.

Now that you’ve determined whether or not you’ve actually lost all of your PageRank, it’s important to begin investigating the issue. In Part 2, I will explain the exact steps I took to look into my PR issue, including how I contacted Google.

Has Your PageRank Ever Been Removed? Were You Banned from Google’s Search Engine or Was It a Glitch?

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This post is only one part of our discussion. Check out the other parts below:

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