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:: Jagger Algo Update

Part 1:

If there is one thing Search Engine Marketers and website owners fear - it is a major algorithm update, especially by Google. Well, much as we may like it not to happen, its here. Google has recently done a major algorithm update, nick named “Jagger” update series.

Google does minor algorithm updates almost on a monthly basis and once in a while, it implements a major algorithm update. The last major Google algorithm update happened in November 2003 called the Florida update which created quite a stir with website rankings.

Like the Florida update the Jagger update has done the much feared “blender” act. It has churned the top-ranking websites and turned it into a list of unrecognizable pulp.

Google has been a hot-favorite amongst the web community searching for information. Most feel that the search results have always been highly relevant. It would be therefore safe to assume that whatever algorithm Google has, works just fine. So why does Google need to re-engineer its perfect-looking algo so drastically? Has it not heard the saying don't fix what aint broke”? From Google's standpoint, the reason is simple and valid. Well, for starters, web is ever-evolving and the algo always need to be adjusted in order to provide the best of results. Google engineered an algo, which it believes will reward good sites and rank them well for its viewers.

Google, like most other search engines, keeps this algo a closely guarded secret to prevent it from being exploited. However, the SEO community is constantly at work trying to rank their sites well. Using calculated guesswork, logical thinking, special tests and extensive trial-and-error methods, they gradually figure out what the algorithm likes and dislikes. Armed with this knowledge, it is not difficult to work on websites to rank them high in SERP (Search Engine Result Pages), irrespective of whether the site deserves to rank at the top or not. This kind of algorithm abuse results in ‘less than desirable' websites displacing good sites from the top ranks, contaminating the Google index. Consequently, following the /Kaizen /philosophy, Google needs to re-engineer its algorithms to keep, what it believes are bad sites, out of its top ranks. Naturally, major algorithm updates upset the current high-ranking websites & sends a lot of SEO professionals back to their work-bench in order to start all over again.

What is interesting to note is the timing of the algorithm update. When Google updated its algorithm in November 2003, there were large scale allegations by website owners that Google intentionally upset the rankings of popular websites just before the Christmas shopping season to force them into buying Google AdWords paid advertising in order to sustain the visitor traffic. While Google claims that the algo update decisions are not influenced by the AdWords team, it is difficult to understand why they would once again choose a critical timing just before Christmas shopping season to update their algorithm. The stakes are very high and its business after all. Google earned $1.57 Billion in Q3 of 2005. If 2003 pre-Christmas algorithm update effect is any indication, I estimate that Google would record revenues of over $2.05 Billion in Q4 of 2005.

Part 2:

This is the second part of the Google Jagger update discussion. The first part of this article discussed the overview of how and why Google needs to update its website ranking algorithms periodically. This article shall discuss the specific areas the Jagger update has altered in the Google algorithm.

Sources at Google claim that the changes we see are part of 3-phase update (Jagger1 Jagger2 & Jagger3). At the time of writing this article, we are in the completion stage of Jagger2 update. The Jagger3 update is expected to be rolled out over the next few weeks.

The Jagger 1 update pre-shocks actually started with a string of back-link updates that began in September 2005 and continued into middle of October 2005. In mid October, Google updated its PageRank database for public view. Usually updated once a quarter, the PR update always creates a stir. While most SEO professionals heavily play-down the importance of PR in ranking, the legacy of its importance is so deep-rooted in the minds of most webmasters, that it is difficult to shake it off as an insignificant ranking parameter.

It is believed that the Jagger 2 update is now complete and replicated to all the data centers of Google. However, you may still notice some fluctuations in the rankings as things stabilize for each update. We are now at the threshold of the 3rd phase of the Jagger update, which is expected to initiate sometime in the second week of November 2005.

From what we have studied so far, Google has re-engineered several aspects of its algorithm. Amongst other aspects we will know as things roll out, we believe it has altered the impact of the following:-

1. Value of incoming links
2. Value of anchor text
3. Content on page of incoming links
4. Keyword repetitions in anchor text
5. Age of the incoming links
6. Nature of sites linking to you
7. Directory links
8. Speed and volume of incoming links created
9. Value of reciprocal links
10. Impact of outbound links / links page on your website
11. Sandbox effect / age of your site, domain registration date
12. Size of your site's content
13. Addition and frequency of fresh content update
14. Canonical / sub domains, sub-sub domains
15. Multiple domains on same IP numbers
16. Duplicate content on same site or on multiple domains
17. Over-optimization, excessive text markup
18. Irrational use of CSS

We are studying various aspects of the Jagger algo update and are closely monitoring the impact of changes in each of the above mentioned parameters and many more not mentioned here. We shall be discussing the impact of each of these aspects in the next parts of this article, which are likely to be written once the Jagger3 update and our study of it is complete.

In the meanwhile, we'd like to give out a word of caution – If you have suffered drop in your website rankings do not do any drastic changes on your website until the Jagger3 update is fully implemented and stabilized. There is a delicate balance and inter-dependence of all these parameters that can bring back your ranks once the Jagger3 update is completed.

Article by Atul Gupta @


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