Copyright © 2005 Jason OConnor
Oak Web Works, LLC
Starting somewhere between September 22 and November 17, 2005,
Google launched a major update to their search algorithm which
shook up the search engine optimization (SEO) community and
millions of website rankings. The update has been named Jagger
and is apparently finished.
The keywords that people used to find your site with in Google
may not be producing as many visits any more because the Jagger
changes caused your rankings to plummet. Of course many people
have seen their rankings stay the same or improve in Jagger's
If your site's rankings have decreased, what can be done to get
back to where you were or better in the post-Jagger Google world?
There are still a lot of questions to be sure, but there are some
good beginnings of answers as well. Since this update was rolled
out over months and in three distinct phases, it has been much
more difficult to determine what factors have been given more
weight or less.
For instance, IBL (inbound links to your site) have always been
important to achieve high rankings in Google. But there are many
different kinds of IBL's. Link trades, where you put my link on
your site and I put your link on my site may be less valuable
than a one-way link. This has been the case for a while, but is
the importance of each changed now since Jagger? Probably. I
don't know all the answers, and I don't think anyone knows all
the answers save the people at the 'plex (short for Google-plex).
What are some theories? Here are some of the top ones, but I am
not saying they are necessarily true or false. And this is not a
full list, there are most likely numerous other factors that
affect Google rankings after Jagger that no one has recognized at
all yet. The following list consists of ideas I have read online,
which I spend hours each day doing, or some of our own hard-
earned observations using the large number of clients' websites
in many different industries to learn from. Read the following
with a grain of salt, which is always a good idea when reading
any articles or forum posts about SEO or Jagger.
Things That Could Possibly HELP You More In Jagger's Aftermath
* Aged Domains - Sites with domains that are older rank better
now - the older the domain, the better its rankings with all
other things being equal. (This is probably true to some
* Very Relevant Links - IBL (inbound links) and OBL (outbound
links) relevancy is more important after Jagger. This means
that if you point to related sites or you get links from
other sites that are related to your website, you may rank
better after Jagger with all other things being equal.
(This is probably true to some degree as well).
* Links From Trusted Sites Help - TrustRank (or a similar
concept) is more important than ever after Jagger. TrustRank
is a concept that says if you get a link pointing to your
site that is highly trusted by Google (trusted either
programmatically or by human editors), then you will rank
better with all other things being equal. (See
* Variety of Links - Links from .edu and .org websites are good
for increasing your rankings and are more important than
ever. (It's vital to get links form a wide variety of
websites. Just like your investing, you need to diversify
your IBL's. (This has probably been true even before Jagger).
* Aged Links - The older the link that points to your site,
the more weight it's given now. (This also has probably
been true even before Jagger).
* Embedded Links - Links that are embedded in sentences and
paragraphs instead of stand-alone links are weighted more
heavily now. (This may be true soon if not already).
* Article Links - Articles are what directories had been a year
or two ago for link building. Links from the author by-line
or within the article that point back to your site will
positively affect your rankings. (And this is one reason
I've chosen to write this article).
* Fresh & Unique Content - Now, more than ever, regularly
updated and added ordinal content will help your rankings.
(This is almost definitely true.)
* Be a Big Guy - If you are a big behemoth site like Wikipedia,
Yahoo, AOL, Ebay, Amazon, etc., you will rank better than you
did before Jagger.
* High Traffic & Stickiness - User popularity statistics now,
or will soon, affect rankings. In other words, user actions
on your website, like how long they stay (stickiness), how
many pages they visit, and even how many people visit your
site in a given period, can all affect how Google ranks your
site. (This may be true soon if not already).
Things That Could Possibly Not Help You Anymore, or May Even HURT
You More In Jagger's Aftermath
* Duplicate Content - Any kind of duplicate content can hurt
your rankings. Some say this only refers to other sites
having the same content as you while others say even
duplicate content within your own site can be bad. I find
the latter hard to believe since all sites have repeating
slogans, phrases, checkout instructions, or any number
of other duplicate sentences within the same site. (Use
http://www.copyscape.com/ to find people who are stealing
your original written content and publishing it on their
* Hidden Text - Hidden text within your html, in
CSS, or comments, can negatively affect your rankings.
(This is something you should never do).
* Footer Links – Some say links in the footer are disregarded
now. (This is one we have found no evidence for).
* Directory Links - Links from directories are weighted less
now. (This is one we have found no evidence for, but is most
likely true or will be soon)
* Decreased Rate of Link Building - The speed and volume of
inbound link creation to your site from other websites, if
changed, can negatively affect your rankings more so now.
(This one is most likely true too).
* Reciprocal Links - Reciprocal link trades are worth less
then they were before or are worth nothing now. (It's
probably true that they are at least worth less now).
* Linking to Bad Neighborhoods - Reciprocal link trades hurt
your rankings when you link to sites that are considered
'bad neighborhoods' by Google, such as link farms or sites
that are banned by Google. (This is most likely true and
has been for a while).
* Link Schemes - Participating in link schemes such as Co-ops
or Link Vault can hurt your ranking more than help them.
(I have not found any evidence of this so far for my client's
sites, but this could be true).
Again, I don't think anyone outside Google knows which of these
factors above are true or false, and how each one affects a given
keyword phrase's ranking. In fact, that's the idea. Google
doesn't want people 'gaming' their system. There are so many
variables that need to be considered that it is very difficult to
figure out which ones affect what.
So, what do you do now if your site's ranking have dropped since
If your site was ranking well in the Google SERP's (search engine
ranking position) before Jagger, then it was nowhere to be found
right after Jagger hit, and now your site has still not bounced
back at all, then you probably tripped a filter, got penalized or
even banned. You may have duplicate content on another site, or
someone copied a lot of your content, or you may have canonical
issue (where yoursite.com and www.yoursite.com are considered two
different sites by Google causing it to look like duplicate
content). You may have hidden text, or keyword stuffed your pages
or any number of other things. You're definitely going to need
more knowledge than this article can give you to get your
Some say that Google updates have happened before around the same
time of year, and many sites that tanked came back after the
first of the year. I don't know if this is true, we'll just have
to wait and see. For those who have still not rebounded, this may
be nice to know.
Interestingly, most of our clients' sites either stayed the same
or improved after Jagger. Our own company site improved. But
unfortunately, a few of our other clients saw some decreases in
their rankings right after Jagger, and have since rebounded, but
not at quite the same pre-Jagger levels. Here's what we did for
* Scoured their site for bad outgoing links and made sure that
each site they linked to was indexed by Google and was not
trying to game Google. Any questionable links were deleted
immediately. But we did not get rid of all our link partners,
we just culled.
* Determined the ratio of the different types of incoming links
to learn where improvements were needed. In other words, we
determined the percentage of links to their site that were
link trades, one-way links from related sites, one-ways from
unrelated sites, link advertisements, directory links, forum
signature links and more. We then advised them to increase
their one-way related inbound links that are embedded in
sentences, and not concentrate so much on link trades and
stop getting one-way unrelated link development altogether.
* Cleaned up the HTML on every page, made sure all tags were
closed and that there was no extraneous code on any page.
* Took out any inadvertent hidden text. one client had keywords
in comment tags in their HTML that we deleted.
* Decreased file size of pages, by taking out old links and
superfluous verbiage, and by re-optimizing the .gif's and
* Wrote much more succinct Meta descriptions and on-page
* Made sure that every title tag on every page within the site
* Coached them about the importance of continually developing
good, quality, original content.
* Brainstormed ways in which their sites could entice other
webmasters to link to them because of what their site offers,
such as good content, free Web tools, articles and many other
things. This is called natural linking and what Google regards
as the only legitimate way to build links. Therefore, this is
We tried to look at the overall link development strategy, the
value of their site, and the quality of the site, both the
content quality and the html quality. A clean, simple, fast-
loading site with natural links pointing to it from a variety of
other related websites, some .org's and .edu's, others from
trusted authority sites, and many from small related websites,
that adds fresh and unique content daily, will rank well in
Google over time and won't be affected by any update, including
The best way for you to learn what to do in Jagger's aftermath is
to read articles like this, participate in forums that discuss
these topics, and most importantly, by experimenting with your
own sites to see what works. This takes time and patience. So
does building quality sites that have things to offer and that
subsequently get natural links. But it's all worth it.
Jason OConnor is president of Oak Web Works, LLC
http://www.OakWebWorks.com, a full-service Web firm. He also
runs Get Your Tickets: http://www.BestShowTicketsLasVegas.com