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Sometime between September 22 and November 17, 2005, Google launched a major update to its search algorithm, shaking up the search engine optimization (SEO) community—and millions of Web site 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 aftermath, too.

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, and not a lot of answers. But there are some good beginnings of answers. 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, inbound links (or IBL, in trade talk) to your site have always been important to achieve high rankings in Google. But there are many different kinds of IBLs. 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 since Jagger?

Probably. I don't know all the answers. In fact, I don't think anyone knows all the answers (save the people at Googleplex).

What are some theories? Here are my best guesses, based on my online research and client observations. Read the following with a grain of salt, however (always a good idea when reading any articles or forum posts about Jagger or SEO itself, in fact).

Ways Jagger Might Help You

  • 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.

  • Very relevant links—IBL and outbound link (OBL) 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 site, you may rank better after Jagger, with all other things being equal.

  • 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 all other things being equal. (See http://www.vldb.org/conf/2004/RS15P3.PDF).

  • Variety of links—Links from .edu and .org sites are good for increasing your rankings and are more important than ever. It's vital to get links form a wide variety of Web sites. Just like your investing, you need to diversify your IBLs. (This was probably true before Jagger.)

  • Aged links—The older the link that points to your site, the more weight it's given now. (Also probably true 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 not be true yet, but it's likely to be true soon.)

  • Article links—Articles are what directories had been a year or two ago for link building. Links from the author byline or within the article that point back to your site will positively affect your rankings.

  • Fresh and unique content—Now, more than ever, regularly updated and added original content will help your rankings.

  • Be a big guy—If you are a behemoth site like Wikipedia, Yahoo, AOL, eBay, Amazon, etc., you will rank better than you did before Jagger.

  • High traffic and stickiness—User popularity statistics now, or will soon, affect rankings. In other words, user actions on your Web site, 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.

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Jason OConnor is president of Oak Web Works (www.oakwebworks.com). Reach him at jason@oakWebworks.com.