Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Do Link Exchanges Work?

The more I look at Google's latest Jagger Update, the more it appears we may be at the end of the popular reciprocal linking. This was the easiest way to build page rank.

The latest move by Google, called Jagger, is causing quite a stir in the SEO community. Sites, which formally had top positions in Google, because of reciprocal linking have suffered huge position losses.

Here's what I found.

There was a sharp drop in search engine ranking around the first part of July. I estimate the loss to be around 40%, mostly due to fewer links being attributed in the Google search engine. These same sites also showed a loss in duplicate links. Google now reported only one link per domain.

With the implementation of Jagger many complained their links were not counted and their pager and plummeted. One thing that may account for losing links is the fact that with Jagger some sites dropped out of the search engine. Google no longer considered these relevant.

On the other hand, it just could be that Google no longer considers links at all. This makes the most sense to me, because reciprocal links are really a method of falsifying popularity. It's the lazy man's way, or should I say, "was" the lazy man's way to great page rank.

If your site has lost page ranked or popularity with the latest move at Google, I suggest first checking out your links. During the latest shuffle, some links to some pages, have actually returned. Webmasters are telling me that these are on pages that have highly valuable content.

Links that probably won't disappear are those that actually link for a purpose other than page ranking. Those linked for the reason of pointing someone to your great content, those with strong relevance, generally stayed.

So what should you do?

Reconsider your linking. Concentrate on strong inbound links that link to you, because of your strong valuable content. This may not be the fastest strategy to get higher search engine positions or higher page rank, but it's good business practice and is a solid way to put your site on top in the long run.

Google still says on their website:

We understand that these changes can be confusing. If your site's well linked to others on the web, it's likely that we'll add it again during our next crawl. While we can't guarantee that any page will consistently appear in our index or appear with a particular rank, our Webmaster Guidelines, available at, offer helpful tips for maintaining a crawler-friendly site. Following these recommendations should increase the likelihood that your site will show up consistently in our search results.

Should you try to outguess the search engines? No! They change their algorithms more often than you think. You'll never win.

Here's what you should focus on:

Build rock solid links, and keep your content valuable.
Focus on beating your competition by educating your audience.

So it gets back to the basics - keeping content relevant, of value. It's what I've been preaching all along.

Fancy ways to gain popularity come and go, but what will keep you on top are basic principles, and one thing I've learned is that principles...never change.

Dave Jackson
Naples, FL

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