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Wednesday, November 09, 2005

If the current indications are correct, we may be looking at the end of
reciprocal linking as a method of building rank and link popularity, at least as
far as Google is concerned.



The latest 'Google Dance', nicknamed 'Jagger', has caused major concern by those
suffering loss of position on the top ranks of the search engine's listings. So
we decided to take a close look at what is happening and see what we could
learn.



We have a few small websites that have a limited number of
links. These sites are used mostly for research and testing of
our primary business in Web Analytics. By analyzing these sites,
we were able to quickly get an idea of what is happening in
Google's Jagger Update, which is still in progress at the time
of this writing.




By using our web analytics tools, we were able to look at the
history of visits by the bots and the links to these small
sites. We had to go back as far as January in order to build a
picture of Google's actions. Our software also allows us to look
at all links from the SEs, not just those shown by using the
browser's 'link:' command. Google only reports some of the links
to your site, not all.




Here is what we have seen:




Like many other sites, we noticed a sharp drop in rank in our
test sites around the first of July. They lost about 40% of
their previous link popularity and moved down sharply in rank.
Also, duplicate links on a single site disappeared. We now only
showed one link from each linking site.




As Jagger started, unlike many others we have seen complain
about Google's actions and timing, our sites stayed rather
stable. Evidently they had already suffered their major losses.
However, there was a small increase in the number of links. This
caught our attention. We had expected that, like many others, we
would experience further disruptions to our link structure.




But when we examined these links, we were surprised to see that
not one of them had been listed with Google a few weeks earlier.
Not one. Our research showed that these links had been live in
Google's archive, but none had shown up publicly before now. It
appeared that there was some sort of 'aging' process taking
place, but this may just be coincidental. It is more likely that
older links disappeared because the host site was lost in the
shuffle and our links no longer appeared 'relevant'.




The other thing we noticed was that not one of these new links
was listed on our reciprocal links pages. In other words, all
reciprocal links had vanished. We think that this is because
Google is down-grading or eliminating reciprocal links as a
measure of popularity. This does make sense, actually. Reciprocal
links are a method of falsifying popularity. Sort of a cheap
method of buying a link, if you want to think of it that way.



If your web sites have suffered from the latest 'dance', you may
want to take a look at the type and source of your links. If
they are mostly from link exchanges, you are probably looking at
the reason for your move down the list on the search engines.



During the second week of the Jagger Update, a few of our
reciprocal links did come back up. However, we also noticed that
these were from places where we had highly relevant content.
They came from articles where we discussed our area of
expertise: Web Analytics, or from forums where we had relevant
threads. So we feel that these links came back because of
content, not linking.




The other group that came back up was one-way inbound text
links, regardless of the originating web site. These links also
had strong relevance to our web analytics business. In other
words, they contained keywords and/or phrases related to our
site and its business.




This research has us now re-evaluating our linking strategy. We
urge others to do the same.




We are now concentrating only on building strong one-way inbound
links. We are focusing on publicity, articles, directories, and
other direct methods of building our image and consumer
awareness.



In addition, we are also looking for associated but non
competing firms like web developers, Search Engine Marketers,
SEOs, web site owners and designers to partner with us to build
direct business relationships and the resulting inbound links.
This strategy may not be the fastest method of building links,
but we feel it is rock solid and within the spirit of good
business practices. The best thing is that it is search engine
independent.




We will no longer worry about chasing (or beating) the search
engines and their ever changing algorithms. That is a fool's
game we are sure to lose.




Instead, we will focus on building rock solid links and
popularity with the group that counts: our customers. By
focusing on beating our competition and providing a top quality
product, plenty of educational information and relevant content,
we are sure to move up and stay at the top of the search engine
rankings.




It's something to think about.





Will Moore is a web analytics specialist with over 20 years of
hardware, software and web development experience. He has sat on
the ANSII and ISO standards committees, been a speaker at major
technical conferences in the US, Europe, China and Singapore and
has written numerous articles on various technical subjects.
Visit Web Stats Gold at (http://www.webstatsgold.com/) for more
articles and information on web analytics. You may contact him
at will@webstatsgold.com.



by: Shawna Seigel



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