Edinburgh Web Development

Google speed limit

by Iain Wilson

30 March 2006

Google speed limitIn the business world, nothing can be done quick enough. Doesn't matter if it's getting that order, moving office or launching that new product. Everyone wants things yesterday.

Websites are no exception. When you decide you need to improve the ranking of your website, you want it done fast!

It has always taken time to improve Google rankings because of things like the old periodic Google Dance update and a delay filter in recognising links. But these days you must exercise as much possible of that rare commodity - patience!

In the old days (maybe a couple of years ago), you could start a link campaign and build up hundreds or even thousands of links in a very short period of time. You'd have to wait a little while for Google to recognise some of the links, but in 1-2 months you could be pretty sure that those links would take effect and your rank rise.

Recently though, we've seen evidence of what looks like two areas where Google have placed extra importance when deciding to give your links credit or not.

  • How much site and link activity there has been in the past
  • How old the links to the site are

Recent site activity Quite often we are asked to rescue a site that has had absolutely no recent on-page (amendments to the site) or off-page (other sites linking to it) activity.

In a particular case around six months ago, the site had been around for a couple of years and had very little activity. It was indexed by Google and ranked on the first page for the title of the site, which was quite specialised and non-competitive. Starting gently with a few site amendments and a few links, we suddenly found that the site had dropped to page 200 in the rankings for the non-competitive title!

Why did this happen? Well, like all things related to search engines, no-one can be 100% positive, but it seems Google had become much more sensitive to activity on non-active sites and perceived the new links and content as potential spam, so they bumped the site down.

This situation prevailed for around 3 months. The Google spider visited most days and would look at the home page and the sitemap every time and occasionally spidered through the pages. Then we moved up, retained and passed the previous rankings and when we last looked, were #3 on Google for the new competitive term we were targeting.

Age of links Google never show you all the links they have recorded against your site, for all sorts of reasons, but it looks like the age of the link also counts for something in their algorithm - a new link is worth less than an established one.

We have recently seen situations where Google acknowledges existing recent links, no new links are set, yet over time the ranking improves. Of course this rise could be to do with other factors, such as unsolicited links and activities on other sites, but we've seen this happen too often to consider it coincidence.

So what should you do? Well, the lesson here is - keep your site active with good content and you won't have too many problems! If you regularly update your site, Google will

  • Rate you higher - a changing site is a dynamic company in their eyes
  • Visit you regularly - Google wants good content as much as you want ranking
  • Index your new pages more quickly
  • Not penalise or 'sandbox' new links

And people will want to link to you, thereby increasing your standing.

However, if your site has been dormant for a long time, improving things slowly is the best medicine.

  • Spread any changes over a few weeks if possible
  • Make sure Google has visited and indexed new content before adding more
  • Add 1-2 links a week for a month
  • Increase the links exponentially over a period of 6 months
  • Be patient!

Otherwise, start digging in your pockets for Pay-per-click!

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