Jagger: Targeting Low-Quality Links

Jagger rolled out over three months, from September to November 2005; with the more substantial changes occurring in October. The update continued Google’s fight against low-quality or unnatural links such as link exchanges or reciprocal links, paid links, and those from link farms.

What’s It For

With this update and previous ones such as Austin which also cracked down on link farms, Google ensures that the pages are ranking honestly while sites that practice questionable tactics are either devalued or out of the index entirely. This initiative continues the search engine’s emphasis on relevance.

Here are the black hat methods of acquiring low-quality links:

  • Link Exchanges – Also known as reciprocal links, this tactic involves two entities agreeing to feature each other’s link on their site. While it may be a typical by-product of the web especially between authoritative websites, some abuse this practice through excessive exchanges only for the sake of cross-linking and no longer providing value to the users.
  • Paid Links – These are the ads you post on your site that affect its ranking. It’s not against Google’s guidelines to have advertisements on your website, but you should ensure that each paid link has a nofollow attribute or must be redirected to an intermediate page with a robots.txt file that blocks it from being crawled through by search engines.
  • Link Farms – Link farms are a group of websites that link to each other. It’s a form of spamdexing or spamming Google’s index and a problematic link building scheme that only brings you low-quality links. Basically, it’s a link exchange on a massive scale that involves several websites banding together to game the system.

What Were Its Effects

Webmasters flocked to forums to discuss what happened to their sites after each of the Jagger updates. A lot of websites lost their top positions in the SERPs especially if their link building strategies resulted in low-quality links. Some got confused over what elements Google wants them to tweak in their websites. Meanwhile, others were even kicked out of the index for no apparent reason.

What It Means for You

Google Webmaster Guidelines continue to discourage link schemes, which are tactics to produce links that aim to manipulate a site’s ranking on the SERPs. Examples of link schemes are buying or selling links that pass PageRank, excessive link exchanges, massive article marketing or guest posting campaigns, and using software to automate the creation of links to your site.

There are two main types of link penalty:

  • Manual Link Spam Penalty It occurs when someone from Google applies the penalty manually after reviewing your site’s link profile. The review may have been caused by a spam report, suspicious activity in your link profile, or being in a competitive niche that’s continuously monitored by the team. If Google decides to hit you with a manual penalty, you typically get a notification in the Google Search Console.
  • Algorithmic Link Spam Penalty In contrast, this penalty is applied automatically on your link profile. While you may not receive a notification from the search engine that your site has been penalized, you’ll know since you’ll experience a considerable drop in your organic traffic. More extreme cases have led to websites being de-indexed entirely.

Here are ways to get high-quality links and avoid Google’s penalty:

  • Guest Blogging – This practice is a link exchange within Google’s guidelines since your partner site has the option to confirm or decline your contribution. Moreover, they also have full editorial control over the links included in the content.
  • Directory Submissions – You can submit to directories or an online catalog of websites that review submissions and, consequently, reject low-quality sites since this means that they preserve their editorial control and quality.
  • Press Release Distribution – If you can, craft press releases and send them out to relevant sites to spark a conversation with your current subscribers and introduce your brand to a new set of audience. It’s less about the original link, but more on the distribution.
  • Blog Commenting – Read blog posts that are relevant to your niche and share your thoughts by finding clever ways to incorporate your target link in the comment. Keep it insightful and classy since the words you use and how you deliver them act as a reflection of your brand.
  • Community Sites Posting – Community sites such as niche forums can also be valuable locations to place your links. Of course, similar to commenting on blogs, you should make sure that the opinion you share is in line with the theme or subject of the post.