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Is Google Forsaking The Webmaster?

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Google may be tired of Webmasters taking advantage of its sensitive algorithms through link abuse and repeated keyword digs. With no one else to turn to, the engine that launched a million splogs, might turn its back on Webmasters, trusting visitors and Web directories with less scarlet reputations instead.

The topic on the collective conscious of webmasters lately (and perpetually) is what kind of changes Google is making to its algorithm. Of course none can confirm, but many suspect that traffic, user trust, and the measured value of referring links (including reputable directories) are playing significant roles in search engine rankings.

The apparent shift would include more emphasis on visitors to a website than other factors easily gamed by black hatters. Holistically, this means that not only are inbound links important to ranking, but who links, how often links are clicked by users, how long they stay at a website, and the extent of their activity at the site.

The most interesting of the recent speculations is the quality of certain references (or inbound links). If it is true that the number of links to a website is being devalued because of link farms and so-called “made for AdSense” pages, then the valuation eventually needs to be put on the reference, not the link itself.

This reintroduces the discussion on directories. Though many have recently denounced the effectiveness of directory listings such as DMOZ, others are reviving the idea that if the quality of link is important, then the directory will regain its glory.

Directory-submission.net’s Pankaj Gupta argues that since Google mentions both the Yahoo Directory and the Open Directory (DMOZ) in its Webmaster Guidelines, then they must be “editorial votes of quality. These trusted links’ are the type a site needs to both break out of the sandbox,’ and to rank highly in the current (hard to crack) Google.”

How do you determine if a directory might be considered a “trusted source?” Search Engine Journal’s Loren Baker suggests snubbing second-tier directories that are obvious spam machines:

“Besides red flags like sitewide links in questionable directories, before submitting your site also look at the quality of the other sites listed in random and popular categories. If expired sites, site maps, spammy sites or made for AdSense’ pages are listed – it’s best to blacklist such directories from your link building marketing plan.”

Loren follows with a list of respected directories other than DMOZ and Yahoo.

It should be no surprise that in the competitive world of search, engines need to shift from quantitative to qualitative examination. Trusted directories are one way of measuring that, as is finding a way to measure user trust and popularity. A hot topic at Webmaster World is how traffic patterns may impact SERPs.

“The Google Toolbar, Google Analytics and click monitoring on the SERPs,” begins travisk, “give Google an incredible picture of where people are going, what pages they stay on, what sites they frequently return to and where they go when they leave.”

The first comment in the forum thread illustrates the new concept. After reviewing how search engines have been gamed by keywords and inbound links, lammert suggests the influence is shifting from Webmaster to visitor”

“Now the only source left to be trusted is the visitor. To make this functional, Google first had to introduce tools which make it possible to communicate information from the visitor back to Google. And yes, webmasters will find ways to abuse this system also, although it will be more difficult than with the previous two systems.”

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Is Google Forsaking The Webmaster?
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