Earlier today Matt Cutts posted on his blog an Indexing Timeline as a way to provide information about what’s been going on since the ‘Big Daddy’ Update as far as pages being dropped from the Google index and not reappearing as fast some as webmasters might like. He did a little more than that in revealing a little about what Google thinks about link quality.
The post though long in Matt’s own words is well worth the read including the comments after the post. Matt summarized his reasons for the post as twofold.
First, I believe the crawl/index team certainly has enough machines to do its job, and we definitely aren’t dropping documents because we’re “out of space.” The second point is that we continue to listen to webmaster feedback to improve our search.
Regardless of how your site is doing when it comes to the Google index Matt revealed some interesting things about links and especially the kind of links that are losing favor with Google. In many places throughout the post Matt mentions that the quality of links is important and conversely that a lack of quality in links was a big reason many pages were dropped from the index and why sites might not be spidered as often in the past.
After looking at the example sites, I could tell the issue in a few minutes. The sites that fit “no pages in Bigdaddy” criteria were sites where our algorithms had very low trust in the inlinks or the outlinks of that site. Examples that might cause that include excessive reciprocal links, linking to spammy neighborhoods on the web, or link buying/selling.
Did Matt just mention trust as in TrustRank? That part about reciprocal links seems pretty clear. For years webmasters have been trading links in an effort to boost their PageRank and their ranking in the search results. The problem is that while a certain amount of link trading is natural most of it isn’t. There’s little reason why visitors to a site about real estate would be interested in seeing links for a site about African safaris. Sure people looking to buy property may also go on safari in Africa, but they’re generally not going to be interested in the safari at the same moment they’re checking prices about houses for sale.
Reciprocal linking and other types of link exchanges are mainly an unnatural phenomenon. Again that doesn’t mean there’s never a good reason to trade links, but more often than not it’s done just to manipulate the algorithm. The search engines want the results to search queries to be relevant to that query. They want to see natural linking patterns and not artificial ones.
More from Matt about the outbound links on your site
I’d think about the quality of your links if you’d prefer to have more pages crawled. As these indexing changes have rolled out, we’ve improving how we handle reciprocal link exchanges and link buying/selling.
if you were getting crawled more before and you’re trading a bunch of reciprocal links, don’t be surprised if the new crawler has different crawl priorities and doesn’t crawl as much.
Strong words about Google’s current feelings about link trading. Much of Matt’s comments are said solely about how links affect indexing, but if reciprocal linking isn’t good for getting your web pages indexing how do you think those same links will affect where your pages rank?
Matt also indicated that if you want quality inbound links you probably want to have original content and not a bunch of affiliate links standing in for original content. Hmm? Original content to attract visitors and links. There’s a novel idea. The search engines are changing. They are catching more and more link manipulation as they caught keyword stuffing and other spammy on-page techniques. Does that mean they’ve caught it all? No and they probably never will catch it all, but they are trying so think twice before placing just any link on your site.
Matt also gave out some good advice about internal linking. He mentioned that you should try to use PageRank well on your site and that organizing your site into a tree structure with a certain amount of fanout at each level is a good way of doing that.
Just one last quote from Matt’s comments midway down the page to hammer home the point.
So as far as “when is Google going to get real about schemes to game the engine so that natural links that are earned are rewarded,” I think that we’re continually making progress on judging which links are higher-quality.
There’s more good info from Matt in the post itself as well as the comments and like I mentioned at the start of this post it’s worth a read. Now it does need to be mentioned that Matt works for Google so he’s not exactly speaking for any other search engine. Matt also isn’t going to just tell everyone how the algorithm works so some of this may be what he and Google would want you to do and maybe hoping if we all take Matt’s advice it’ll make their jobs a little easier. Still there’s a lot of evidence to back up everything Matt says here and as far as the other search engines go they may not be Google, but they seem to want to be more Googlelike.
On another note I happened across this SEO Crossword Puzzle last night ans thought you might want to have a look. It’s not too difficult and the Ajax interface is kind of fun and it will prove to be a fun way to occupy yourself when you need a diversion for a few minutes. Enjoy.