Friday, November 04, 2005

Jagger or Jäger? Google’s Update Unraveled

After the past week, you may feel like you need a bottle of Jägermeister (Jäger) to digest the recent Google update. There’s even been some naming discussion by Danny Sullivan, Brett Tabke, Matt Cutts and others. While each has provided ample reasoning for their proposed name, I find Brett’s reasoning most compelling, so I’ll use Jagger.

What does the Jagger Update really mean? Matt Cutts has been providing regular “weather updates” on his blog, and based on that, reading I’ve done, and experience with our clients, Jagger seems to be an effort to increase the proportion of relevant content in the Google SERPs by removing some of the spam.

Some of the most widely discussed elements include:

Hidden text, especially text that is hidden in CSS or DIV layers
Paid linking or reciprocal linking that is considered outside of “Google Quality Guidelines”
Using internal links or anchor text as one’s sole source of optimization

For more commentary, try SearchEngineWatch and WebMasterWorld, but keep in mind this is all just speculation. Only Google has all the answers.

As for my personal take, I’ve investigated the impact Jagger has had on our clients so far, and what I’ve found definitely supports the commentary I’ve been reading.

Very few of our clients have seen any impact to their rankings as a result of this update, and we’ve identified one or more of the above mentioned techniques in use for those clients that have been affected. While we screen clients’ programs carefully to eliminate spam techniques, they sometimes slip by, or are added after we initiate the program.

In one particular situation, a client participated in a link building effort they believed would enhance their SEM campaign, not hinder it - and found it was quite the opposite when Jagger hit.

All that being said, the update isn’t over yet. So while we’ve certainly made it through the eye of the storm, the hurricane’s still a-blowin’. GoogleGuy, engineer at Google and frequent poster to WebmasterWorld, wants us to think about Jagger as three updates in one:

“I believe that our webspam team has taken a first pass through the Jagger1 feedback and acted on a majority of the spam reports. The quality team may wait until Jagger3 is visible somewhere before delving into the non-spam index feedback. If things stay on the same schedule (which I can’t promise, but I’ll keep you posted if I learn more), Jagger3 might be visible at one data center next week.

”So should you panic? Not as long as you’re implementing best practice SEO techniques. Notice that most all of the techniques listed above are considered “spam practices”? Sure, internal linking and anchor text aren’t spam, but over using them or using them as the only method of optimization is certainly not a best practice.

If you’re an SEO, what do you tell your clients or VP of Marketing about a shift like this?

The answer’s easy. If you’ve been following best practices and aren’t engaging in any spammy link practices, you’re probably fine.

If you have noticed a shift in your rankings and are sure that you don’t have any of the above tactics implemented in your program, it’s best to just wait it out. Since the update isn’t over yet, it’s very possible that your site will go back to where it was – and that includes dramatic increases in rankings as well.

If you or your clients’ rankings have fallen dramatically, ask them if they’re engaging in any of the practices listed above. If they are, it’s a good idea to go ahead and remove the offending content, as the Jagger 3 update might pick up the change faster than normal indexing will later.

Here at WebSourced, we’re also riding out the changes, and so far very few of our clients have been affected. For those that have, we’re employing the strategy outlined above, and continuing to optimize with best practices in the meantime.

If you’re an algoholic, you’ve just gotten the lowdown. Go and relax with a little Jäger.

- Jenny “Weather Analyst” Halasz

2 comments:

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