Google’s latest update, named Jagger by Brett Tabke of WebmasterWorld, appears to have dropped site rankings dramatically of those that relied heavily on reciprocal linking schemes and especially those that gained most of their inbound links from limited networks of sites controlled by single companies. Some firms routinely sold those links or marketing firms that had provided links from their own network of sites to clients.
This type of artificial link inflation has clearly been downgraded by Google in the Jagger update and many sites participating in extensive purchased links as well as marketing network links have been dropped dramatically in rankings of competitive phrases they previously did very well for.
Some of my own clients that had extensive reciprocal linking schemes in place have dropped in rank quite seriously. They naturally come running to me to ask why. When I point to their reciprocal links directory, full of non-relevant reciprocal linking partners, they can barely believe me that it would drop their rank so severely. When I remind them that I had very early in our relationship suggested that they drop those link directories from their site, it is difficult NOT to smile while saying “I told you so” to them.
One client had recently agreed to a substantial writing project to add extensive copy and additional textual material on their industry and products to their site. They were ranking on page three of results at Google previous to the Jagger update and I had convinced them that that position could be improved by adding about 20 pages of focused and highly relevant copy to their site. I completed that project a few weeks ago and we’re waiting for review and editing for the new section to go live.
Meanwhile, Google completed the Jagger update and this same client has dropped dramatically in rank for their most coveted keyword phrases. Why? They had been participating in a large link agreement with a single network of sites – a network that was not relevant to their industry or their products – but with thousands of links throughout the network pointing one-way links to them using anchor text with their keyword phrases included. Now that network has been recognized in the latest Google algorithm changes and the client site is no longer rewarded for those thousands of links. They lost their page three position and have dropped entirely off the charts.
But – and I’m smiling here – as soon as we go live with the 20 new pages of highly relevant and focused copy that I just completed for them, I’m sure they’ll bounce back in the rankings as soon as the new section is indexed and ranked where highly relevant and useful copy belongs. This will clearly demonstrate the value of that added copy and is likely to guarantee that we continue with the additional 30 pages of valuable industry and product content I had previously recommended. More industry focused and highly relevant content means better rankings.
I’ve long insisted in my online ramblings that reciprocal linking is a form of insanity. Thankfully, now Google has agreed and clients are returning to have me save their position on the SERP’s. We’ll first do what I recommended several years ago and begin seeking one-way inbound links from relevant vertical directories, industry news sites and client partners and vendors. Then we’ll add substantial relevant textual copy – both original content and industry news, how-to’s and reviews contributed by partners and vendors.
Once they bounce back in rankings due to the added content and new worthwhile links, I’ll be smiling again along with my clients. Maybe they’ll believe me more readily when I tell them not to look for quick fixes and easy answers. Because it’s more expensive and time consuming to do things well (add relevant content and seek one-way inbound links) than to look for the latest simple tricks to game the system.