Something odd is definitely going on at Google. The site I run on behalf of the company I work for has been jumping between page 1 and page 4, on a competitive keyword, for the last 2 or 3 weeks but now seems to have settled at the lower position. Prior to that it was stuck near the top of page 2. At the same time the PageRank has gone up from 2 to 3.
GWT is now telling me that I have 29 inbound links, whereas before it varied between 1100 and 1200. Whatís more none of the links itís showing are to my homepage; it seems to be totally disregarding them. Granted, I have submitted my site to directories and these may well have been devalued but I did have some real quality inbounds, including one from The Times newspaper.
Mrkay, what you described is just about exactly what happened with several competitive keywords that I look after, except for the PR change. My lost of inbound links in WMT were not very significant, yet the rankings have tanked. In fact, a couple sites that are now ranked in the 1st page for one of my keywords only have about 25 backlinks according to a Site Explorer check, and they aren't from sites that I'd consider high quality. Compared to my site with backlinks in the thousands but is now on the 4th page and beyond, I really don't know what to think. And it's happening to both singular and plural forms of my keywords as well as just one form. It looks a bit erratic. Whatever changes occurred, it's big and I get this sinking feeling that it might stay this way for the foreseeable future.