yosmc - 10:31 am on May 27, 2010 (gmt 0)
Thanks for the reply. I guess maybe I should have defined more precisely what I meant by getting "hit hard". I maintained my ranking, it's just that Google removed the "visible toolbar PR" (in other words, I kept the traffic, but lost the ability to fully monetize on it). Some advertisers I lost for good, the others I had to convince that the white PR bar doesn't mean my site will vanish tomorrow. Ironically, I don't think I lost the other advertisers because my ads are nofollowed - I lost them because they can go elsewhere and buy "unprotected" links for the same money. Which also means that most of them don't even buy my explanation that a higher force changed the rules of advertising - to them, it is just me who shot his own foot (I guess that's what you call "adding insult to injury").
So that's what I was wondering about the "900 pound gorilla" - their pages (especially since we're not talking main page) could be easily stripped of visible toolbar PR without the search engine looking broken. But that's not happening. Even if Google does ignore the PR that is passed through the ads on their page (which I doubt), that's not the same thing. I guess the main point is that nobody actually ever sells *Pagerank*. What you sell is the "unprotected" link on a page with a high toolbar PR. To Google that may seem like hairsplitting, but to any webmaster that's a HUGE difference. In one case, Google destroys the sellable product, in the other case they don't. Among other things, that grossly distorts competition (talking budgets and the ability of sites to survive!).
Every now and then I'm wondering if I shouldn't just go ahead and put the unprotected links where they used to be. But given the "many tools" Google has, I guess that's out of question.
On a more productive end: Knowing Google (well, at least a bit) I wouldn't be that surprised if, by their own standards, they are actually being consistent. E.g. if you have a site dealing with red widgets, and the ads are for blue widgets, they take away the visible Pagerank, but if the ads are for red widgets as well, they only discount the link (something like that). Do you happen to be aware of any such theories floating around?