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Linking conundrum
How to beat 'old' sites

 11:19 am on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

google now seems to be devaluing the endless reciprocal links and counting one-way, incoming links as a more genuine measure of a site's importance.

my conundrum:

our main competitor has been online for 6 years. back in those good ol' days, the word reciprocal was not a buzz word. people gave links freely without a demanding tit for tat. in fact, our competitor has NEVER had a links page in which to reciprocate. but this still didn't stop the websites of back then giving him a link.

many of these links are still active and all count as a 'one-way' vote for his site.

As a relatively new site - oct 1999 - we wrote to all of these sites when we launched, asking for a link. of course, by now reciprocation was the name of the game. and although we managed to contact almost all of the sites which link to our competitor, and succeeding in getting a link to us as well, these sites had 'wised up' and wanted a reciprocal link in return.


our site has 200 links going to it and 200 links reciprocating.
his site has 200 links going to it and not one reciprocal on his part.

he scores higher and ranks higher in google.

now the real annoying bit for us...

aside from actually taking down clients who have left him (i wish that were a joke) he has made no updates for the last year

whereas we have the magic 'freshbot', loads of up to date, relevant content and are adding new clients regularly


off page sources count LOADS more than on page content for ranking.

how on earth do we solve this conundrum? I am tearing my hair out :-(

anyone who managed it this far, thanks for reading :)




 11:19 am on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)


he has only been above us in google since the 'dreaded' september update.


 11:29 am on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

You could try adding some highly themed one way links to dilute your 100% reciprocal status.
BTW, G devaluing reciprocals, is this a gut feeling or what?


 11:31 am on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Keep adding links...if the competitor lies stagnet, becoming complacent with his site, you can motor right on by (again) and he will never catch up.

Develop an add link submission form & link to this site icon to a page providing various icons & text anchors.

Add your URL to your email signature files and a tag line casually noting the link exchange.

With every single email you send that "casual link exchange" tag goes with it.

note: A client recently got two PR9 links from two different and very prominent non-profits orgs.

An email I sent (with the sig file) was clicked - and then sent to a friend, to a friend, to a friend... who happened to be a very influential expert in the field, and the links start popping up all over the place (including the 9's).


 2:42 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Try to add more content if possible. A lot of it! I know of a site with only 28 links, pagerank 4 and top in search engines thanks to a lot of content. If you add content and new pages, your internal linking will also contribute to linkpop if you do it right. Cheers!

[edited by: Susanne at 3:41 pm (utc) on Dec. 21, 2002]


 3:32 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)


"BTW, G devaluing reciprocals, is this a gut feeling or what?"

yeah a gut feeling. because:

1) we actually have 450 links going to us, he has only 220 - but none of his are reciprocal, and many of ours are. in fact most of the links he has also go to our site, but ours are reciprocal.

2) we have far more and better content (50 pages vs. 2000). so the only area in which he 'beats' us is in the 'one-way' links.

what exactly do you mean with "highly themed one way links"?

do you mean links out of our site to sites which don't link back to us?


you mean carry on swapping links with sites of similar interest? that's something we thought didn't carry as much weight with big G as of last few updates.

...the 'more links the merrier' sort of thing...?


we're pretty good on the content front - and as said in first post, our homepage has magic fresh date on it, due to at least 4 x weekly news updates.

it is so depressing for us, because obviously content is not king in this case.

our competitor has 50 static pages which have not changed in years :-(


many thanks all of you for input, am looking forward to your replies,



 3:39 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

I would forget about your competitor and what they may and not be doing and concentrate on your site. As suggested, just keep improving it.

With your out bound links... have you optimised them to include the key phrases in common with your site and theirs?

It's pretty powerful to craft text link titles and neat descriptions for each and everyone.


 3:45 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Saw you mention this recently in another thread. I've NEVER thought about it, and will definitely sit down and fine tune my link pages. Amazing how one still learns something new here almost every week. Thanks for the tip and Merry Christmas! :)


 3:52 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

You're welcome, I'll send you the bill ;)
Merry christmas to you as well and to all.


 3:59 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

*do you mean links out of our site to sites which don't link back to us?*

Strangely enough, yes ;-) and use Excell's keyphrase suggestion.


 8:40 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

many thanks to you all...

...looks like back to the link drawing board. as susanne says, you learn something new every week!

thanks 'n happy christmas everyone :)


 9:59 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)


you mean carry on swapping links with sites of similar interest? that's something we thought didn't carry as much weight with big G as of last few updates.

...the 'more links the merrier' sort of thing...?

Getting links is the important part -- obviously needing to provide a reciprocal backlink reducing the effect of inbound links, but generally this is the only way you get them.

troels nybo nielsen

 10:36 pm on Dec 21, 2002 (gmt 0)

Remember: Your linking structure with both internal and outbound links are for the joy of your visitors. And some of your visitors are webmasters. I once received an inbound link from a webmaster who explicitly told me that he liked my way of having relevant quality outbound links integrated in the main text and cautiously annotating them.


 1:11 am on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

You mentioned the quantity of links you and your competitor have, but you didnīt say anything about the quality (PR) of those links. Have you gone through the links to see if, out of those 200 your competitor have, a few donīt come from high PR pages?
How do your Page Ranks compare? Remember that, as the graphical PR (the one we see with the toolbar) grows, the larger the difference in real PR can be, and so the difference in rankings.
I think that other factors should be analyzed before jumping to the conclusion that one-way links are better than reciprocals.


 1:43 am on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I completely agree with julinho's suggestions, and would also suggest analyzing the anchor text of the inbound links.

If your competitor has more links with relevant keywords pointing to their site than your own, this could also be a major contributing factor in their superior rankings.


 12:42 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

If your competitor has more links with relevant keywords pointing to their site than your own, this could also be a major contributing factor in their superior rankings.

that's something i haven't really looked at thoroughly - but from what i can see in google's links, most anchor texts simply use our domain names, which are both of our company names and contain the targeted keyword as the first word. def. needs more investigation though.

as of last month's update he has gone up to pr6. whereas we (after two months of pr6 in august and september) have stayed at pr 5 for the last two months.

Quality of links
as regards the quality of links. i have checked both of our incoming links in google, and all the ones of his that i can see, we have as well. (apart from a few really old sites, whom it is impossible to contact as they no longer have anyone webmastering - these do not look important though).

we also have ones which he doesn't have, like bbc.co.uk webguide and yahoo.co.uk cool site. but in spite of these 'good' links, he still ranks higher and has higher page rank:

that is one of the major reasons why i feel the non-reciprocity factor of links counts higher...

he simply has no links going back out of his site. they are all incoming, except a few external ones which use a cgi link counter and probably won't count anyway.


well, after all that, and having had a good think, I'm all for excell's suggestion - concentrate on improving our own site and let our competitors worry about themselves :)
carry on adding relevant up to date content, with appropriate links - make the best surfing experience possible. rome wasn't built in a day!

cheers all, that's already cheering me up!


 1:28 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

I would review the type of content you offer compared to the quality of your competitors content. All things being equal I really think content rules. He is probably winning because Google has a classified him as more of an authority on the subject. Usually when I see this happening it is due to the difference in information being presented via content. Also, if you have similiar content you may have to put a different twist on your presentation.


 2:21 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

He is probably winning because Google has a classified him as more of an authority on the subject

hi thomas,

thanks for input, but his site has no content which has changed significantly in the last 6 years. it is more yellow pages style directory listings, whereas we write text!

we also have the 'fresh' listing in google and are spidered heavily every month. he has never had fresh listing.

if, in this case google was ranking on content, it would make a mockery of the algo. and that is simply not true.

Still i've just investigated more..... our competitor's site has only 18 words on the index page! and some of those are the copyright notice and telephone number.

the rest of the site has NO english text on it - just graphical links to clients - that is something i never knew before, as his site is in 3 languages (like ours) - and in the other two languages he has 'some' text

in fact when i put on the english language only preference on google, he is not on the first page :) (didn't know that! but of course how many surfers use preferences?)

but when 'any language' is used, he not only has #1 with his homepage (in a non-english language), he also has an indented #2 with his english language index2.html (a page that doesn't even show for an english-language only search)

so..... either he is cloaking, and delivering some major text heavy pages to google spider, or which imo i think more likely,

non-reciprocal links count higher in google than reciprocal links and than content at the mo.

p.s. the moral of this story is, i am going to add to google's 2003 wishlist - no more indented results please and make it easy to choose language preferences!


 3:19 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

i think before i get too complaintive ;-) which wasn't really the reason for the thread, these things have come out of it:

1) i have to look for more deeply into the links which head into both site, anchor text and all.
2) i have to go over our outbound links, again with emphasis on anchor text.
2) continue putting up content on my own site, and stop worrying too much about competitors.

still, sure did feel good getting a lot off my chest! :)

many thanks all for the contributions, especially the bit about the linking.

[edit] just read marcia's 'the google whine celler' LOL - that's where this post was heading ;) [/edit]


 3:45 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

One of the things I've been doing lately is teaming up with others who have high PR sites/pages and doing selective one directional linking.

I have sites with PR6 rankings that are not desparate for reciprocal links, and I team up with folks similarly situated. That way, we cross fertilize one another's sites without having to engage in reciprocal linking.

I can link to someone else's site B from a PR6 page in my site A. Site B doesn't link back to my site A, but his/her PR6 site C links to my newly launched site D from which I don't link back to their site C.

This only makes sense if you both have high ranking sites and are unlikely to become bad neighborhoods.


 4:03 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

Hi Jamie, actually this wasnít a whine discussion at all and in fact I see it as a great example of how to carry on a Google related issue. You presented your problem and evidence to support your theory and then other members jumped in with comments and suggestions, you then processed and responded to their suggestions.

I agree completely with your summation as well. Weíve been talking about the importance of anchor text for both incoming and outgoing links for some time and I am really seeing the positive outcome of sites that apply this to their efforts.

One way to test this is something Iíve done and thatís go in and evaluate and change as necessary all anchor text on your site, making no other changes that month and see how that changes not only your rankings but the quality of the traffic that begins to find you. Watch your logs. Also check your keywords on google with the allinanchor: keyword search. You may want to note where your competitor comes up with that search. During that month then re contact all your link partners with a revised anchor text if necessary and let them know how youíve updated theirs. Make note of how that helps in your following months update and again in your logs.

Iíve suggested more than once that it really helps me if I come up with 6-8 titles/descriptions that I use on a rotating basis for submissions to directories and in establishing link partnerships. Each is created with first the keywords and then the audience in mind. If I have a product that appeals to women in general, stay-at-home moms, and the home business then my title/description for each audience will reflect that. In this way not only do I gain strength for my keyword but also for my audience, which really helps with searches. In other cases where the audience isnít as crucial then just the variation of the titles/descriptions helps fine-tune the authority Iím attempting to generate for the site, strengthening the peripheral searches.


 5:09 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

jamie, is he ranking higher for his index page, interior site pages, or both? Also, how does his internal navigation structure compare with yours, and how about the PR of interior pages?

What I'm getting at is that you have to look at how Page Rank is distributed through a site, for one thing. Another factor to look at is the correspondence between the links to and between interior pages and their correlation with on-page factors.

A few adjustments of the optimization factors right on the site itself can make a substantial difference in rankings without any changes in inbound links, irregardless of homepage PR.

As long as the site has good PR and a lot of good links already, I'd look at link text, internal PR distributon and on-page factors first.


 7:32 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

hi paynt,


the rotating link title/description sounds like an excellent idea. have to try this. that's quality research!

we have a lot of pages with a variety of off-site links - mostly to advertisers' own websites. i have a feeling these really need going over - outgoing anchortext is not an area i have ever paid attention to before.

unfortunately, monitoring traffic from google from month to month is very difficult. our traffic is seasonal and increases from year to year. there is no yardstick, so the results of fine tuning can only be guestimated.

our % referals from google has been a steady 31% (+/- 1%) over the last year - regardless of fluctuations between position #1 and #2 for our chosen keyword. this is of course only a % and is therefore dependant upon positions in other engines such as msn (which also fluctuate).


i've just had a real look at his structure:

index.html (spanish)
links to > index2.html (english)
and to > index3.html (german)

each of these three pages has 1 link to each of his 13 topics:

each of the 13 topics has a link back to each of the indexes.

although his site has an index page for each language, there is only one page for each of the 13 sub category pages (i.e. all three languages on one page)

his index page is PR6.
all second level pages are PR5.
all third level pages are PR4.

it is a very vertical system of linking. you go back and forth as opposed to sideways. there is no way of jumping from one topic to another. you have to go back 'home' and choose another.

he ranks at #1 with his spanish index.html page and has an indent at #2 with his english-language index2.html. we are at #3 with our english index.html

our site on the other hand...

has a global navigation bar on the lefthand side which gives access to the 25 or so main topics. most of these topics are then divided into further sub topics - so each topic has its own homepage with further deeper links. no page is more than 3 clicks from the homepage.

our site is large (2000 plus pages if clients are included), and we have always wanted to make the surfer's route through the site as easy and quick as possible. apart from the global navbar on the left, we also include a 'related links' at the bottom of each page and other interesting ones in the right hand sidebar (i love the way the bbc do this).

our homepage is PR5
nearly all of the topics are PR5
sub topics are PR4 and onwards down to PR3 / 2 for our deepest pages.

we know our navigation works (even if i do say so myself ;-) - we have an average page view per visitor of 7, and our advertising clients are very happy with results.

(getting in deep now ;-)

since we launched the site in late 1999 we have been #1 in google for our keyword.

i have always been a firm believer in what's good for the surfer is good for the google - and boy have i read this here many, many times (including from GG) - and this has ALWAYS worked for us up until the dreaded September update, where we dropped to #2, behind the competitor mentioned above.

our site is content based. we have written a lot, and each link is text.

his site is all graphical. all links are graphical

so, having gone through all this....

....i realise now that i am confused ;)

this has been great research marcia, i have never looked at his and our page like this, but in all honesty, how can a site with

a) little or no text
b) purely graphical links
c) no regular updates

be google's #1 page for any topic - let alone the #1 site for an information search

this is why i still come back to my theory that incoming links play the more important role in ranking at the moment


 8:18 pm on Dec 22, 2002 (gmt 0)

>outgoing anchortext is not an area i have ever paid attention to before.

It's only tiny sites in a not too competitive area, but I've got two long-neglected PR4 links pages sitting in the top ten, positioned head of a site with over 1500 inbound links that's PR6. One hasn't even got the internal links to it showing. In this case it's a matter of simple, basic on page optimization, one of the keywords in the file name - and outbound link text. The site they link to is sitting right ahead of them. :)


 7:33 am on Dec 23, 2002 (gmt 0)

wish me luck :)

thanks and happy christmas!


 10:27 am on Dec 29, 2002 (gmt 0)


i've just by chance stumbled on this allinanchor post [webmasterworld.com]

and finally grasp what you are all going on about (doh!)

i've searched for our main keyword using allinanchor and the normal keyword search, and the results for the top 10 are identical.

ahaaaaa! :):):)

right - off to reanchor my site ;)

many thanks all!


 3:46 pm on Dec 30, 2002 (gmt 0)

I thought I would just throw this little tidbit in to illustrate the importance of context links in Google.

Many months ago, a site I had set up a link exchange went out of business. The site has a keyword in its domain and has lots of backlinks to it. Virtually all of the backlinks to this site have the keyword in it too.

Now, four months later, this site sitll ranks in the top 10 for its primary keyword. This, despite that all the site consists of is one page with a cute "out of business" graphic on it and two words in the Alt Text (which, ironically, actually show up in Google!).

What is so wierd about this is how can a site, with two words in the Alt Text and one graphic, be in the top 10 for a popular search term in Google (120,000 searches according to the Overture tool, at least).

To me, this does show one serious weakness in Googles algorithim. At least for this particular keyword, Google obviously applies no logic to factoring in content. If it did, this site would be no where to be found since it has no content at all!

In any event, it does highlight the importance of keywords in URL and keywords in inbound anchors from other sites.


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