I finally figured it out.

I originally thought that the reason for Google’s PageRank smackdown had to do with me selling paid links and paid reviews on Beyond the Rhetoric, but that didn’t explain why my main freelance writing site would get demoted down to PR0 as well. As a result, I felt that I didn’t understand Google PageRank anymore.

Well, it turns out that some stupid hacker got into the backend and started editing a whole bunch of my files. Based on a little bit of research, this probably happened before I migrated my site to BlueFur and I’ll tell you why in a second.

The hackers attacked both my blog and my freelance writing site, planting a whole series of hidden links to porn sites and porn-related sites. Hidden links are an obvious no-no in Google’s books. For the blog, these appeared in the footer as links using white font, blending in with the white background. I deleted those when Matt brought them to my attention. And then yesterday, I discovered that a bunch of hidden links were placed on MichaelKwan.com too. The difference is that they were placed within a division (between <div> tags) that were way off the screen (negative numbers).

What made matters strange is that all of these most recent hidden links were to pages on a museum directory site. I told Matt about these and he said that the hackers likely got to them too and set up a series of redirects. Upon further inspection, the museum directory site is hosted by Dreamhost, the hosting company that had previously hosted my blog too. What this could mean is that the hacker got into the root FTP or something, gaining access to everyone on that server.

I haven’t really touched my freelance writing site since moving to BlueFur, so it means that the site has been carrying that code this whole time. Having removed all these links from both the blog and the main site, I wonder if the next Google PageRank update will bring good news to me. Whatever the case, I recommend that you all have a careful look through your sites for any strange code or hidden links, because you could be the victim of an attack without even knowing it.