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

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Key to a Great Website

I've always written that yes, Content is King, but I've added that the content MUST be content of value. Well, just what does that mean, "content of value". It is just what it says.

I used to say it doesn't take a rocket scientist to tell between a great website and a website of little value. But the more I am asked to consult sites for AdSense use, the more I am convinced that many people don't "get it".

We recently had a major hurricane roll through Naples. Now we're pretty used to keeping one eye on The Weather Channel here, so when Wilma took a turn for us, we took it seriously. Most boarded up their homes, the rest left town. One thing we could do little about was the trees.

I grinned as I watched my neighbor hire a crew to trim his beautiful trees back to stubs. I thought, Marc, you're over reacting. But guess who did the right thing? Marc's trees didn't fall when Wilma struck. Why not?

Two things I want you to learn here.

1. Many sites have very little value, very little in substance (roots) to keep them solidly placed in a storm of information.
2. Probably the best way to get back to basics is by trimming your site back to a stub. Get rid of fluff - anything that keeps your site from being linear to your visitor.

My trees fell in the storm. Their root system was shallow and Florida is made of sand. I would have been served best to trim them, get them down to a few specific branches with little resistance to the winds of a hurricane.

Make sure your website contains structure. Build on a theme and do not add anything that would deviate from the theme or main idea of the site. Visitors will not tolerate fluff. They want to walk away with "value". Give them value and they'll come back. Become useful.

Tell a friend about these tips, but only after you've taken a look at your sites and done some serious trimming.

Thanks for your time,
Dave Jackson