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The Da Linki Code – The Truth Behind Links And Google

It’s been a crazy week. Between attending Search Engine Strategies Toronto, “DemoCamp Toronto”: (thanks again for the invite “Ken”: and the “Sympatico MSN Digital Ad Summit 06”:, I’ve learned and seen too much to digest.
One of the moments that is still nibbling at me is the power of reciprocated links in relation to Google Juice. At Search Engine Strategies Toronto, there was a Link Strategies panel that included Rae Hoffman of “Sugarrae”: Hoffman is superb at getting links and clearly knows much more about the topic than I do. Hoffman asserted that reciprocated links are all but irrelevant to the smarter search engines. I posted in more details the chain of events here: “Rae Hoffman On Links At Search Engine Strategies Toronto”: along with her full (and unedited) response here: “Rae Hoffman Responds”:
It turns out that understanding linking or even how search engines rank results is harder than breaking The Da Vinci Code.
In less than three days since my initial posting, it has secured the number three position in Google when you search for the term “rae hoffman” (no quote marks needed). It appears ahead of her core domain site. I’m stumped.

I agree with Hoffman that “rae hoffman” is not a competitive term, highly searched term, or a commercial term, but I can’t understand how one paragraph with her name in it will rank higher than her own website?
My only justification for this Google Juice is the few (but powerful) reciprocated links that I have from other notable people. But, I’m not Dan Brown, so I’m not sure.
I thought I would start a discussion here at One Degree to get your thoughts. Is my one posting more relevant than her entire website? What made that post rocket to the top of Google? How does Google define relevancy?
Lastly, I don’t want to hear the stock “Google uses hundred of different variables to define relevancy and reciprocated links is one of them.” I’m not being a search engine snob here, but I worked for one of the first meta-search engines and I know how some of this stuff works. I believe their “secret sauce” is as unique as the recipe for Coke, but I know that the One Degree community has some good insights and value add.
Who will crack The Da Linki Code?


  1. Jeff Coleman
    Jeff Coleman May 2, 2006

    Is it not TIME that has contributed here…was not your entry more recent? Wouldn’t a more recent article have more relevance for readers? Just throwing that out there…

  2. Chris Biber
    Chris Biber May 2, 2006

    Your ranking for the term is not that surprising, given that
    – Rae’s own web site mentions her name only 6 times (and most backlinks likely aren’t using her name)
    – Your own entry, on the other hand, mentions her name more often than that on one page (in the title, the headline, some outbound links etc.)
    – I would also agree that time plays a role

  3. Marc Poirier
    Marc Poirier May 2, 2006

    There is something webmasters used to refer to as “freshbot”. I haven’t heard much about it recently so it maybe obsolete now, and I don’t spend too much time looking at bot visits anymore. Freshbot is a special instance of the googlebot that actively seeks out fresh content and gives it a temporary boost in the results. This boost lasts only for a matter of days or maybe weeks.
    That may explain the result you’re getting.
    However, I don’t think that’s why you rank above her own site.
    I searched for the exact match “rae hoffman” on Google, and there are only 767 documents indexed for. That is a very low number of competing documents.
    The title tag is very important factor in the ranking algorithms of all major engines. You actually have the “rae hoffman” as the first words in your title tag.
    Further, there are only 35 documents with “rae hoffman” in the title tag, 2 of them are from your blog.
    Finally, your blog has at least 135 backlinks and a Google PageRank of 6. Her home page is only PR 2. That means you are passing much more “Google Juice” to your blog entry than her home page receives from other sites.
    Honestly, I could not imagine how she would rank above you in the current state of things.
    However, she is a very well known and well respected consultant, but most people in the industry refer to her as Sugar Rae, not as Rae Hoffman.
    Incidentally, she ranks #1 for that term.

  4. Chris Adams
    Chris Adams May 2, 2006

    Jeff – you are correct. Time has a factor in search engine rankings.
    This is why news worthy and timely press releases need to be utilized in your online marketing mix. I have performed many tests in Google over the last two years and I have found that optimized press releases rank high in the short term and then start to drop in the rankings over time (within a week).
    Additionally, if you employ xml syndication services in your press release delivery, then another factor to include in this mix would be the popularity of the news site that picks up your release. This can add another positive relevancy factor to how long your press release sits in the top rankings – based on a keyword phrase.

  5. Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel May 2, 2006

    I wonder if time has anything to do with it. More than likely, it’s the reverse. The older the site the more “grand fathered” it should be into Google with better rankings. I see the newness of it working in Google News… hmmm….

  6. Rae
    Rae May 4, 2006

    There are a lot of factors at play here, as I mentioned in my response before. In addition to what I mentioned in that…
    You said: “The older the site the more “grand fathered” it should be into Google with better rankings.”
    Your site is the older site. is a little more than a year old – registered in March 2005 (compared to your domain being registered in 2000) as I went by a prior username. Up until two months ago, the site was basically a one page placeholder so that I had something to put in my profile and a public email address to use not connected to any of my business ventures. I had never “developed” links to it and there was no content there worth linking to – I think it had about 30 links two months ago before I launched the blog. So, in addition to the fact that you have an older domain, your links are much older as well (and old links count for something, recip or not). You can see the current link count for sugarrae in Yahoo that has been obtained in the last two months since launching the blog. The last PR update (not that I put much stock into toolbar PR) was prior to any link dev or the blog launch.
    There may also be some issues at play due to a few newer 301’s pointing at sugarrae (all legit LOL). I stress the word *may* – been seeing some weird things in Google in regards to and those redirects. Only time will tell.
    As someone else mentioned above, the majority of my links have “Rae” or “sugarrae” as the anchor. And as I said, the mjority of these links are less than 2 months old.
    You said: “Hoffman asserted that reciprocated links are all but irrelevant to the smarter search engines.”
    Actually, I think you may have misinterpreted that. What I said was that reciprocal linking could no longer be a SOLE strategy for ranking in Google and that they needed to be one part of a much larger, and very solid marketing plan. I stressed this by saying new sites, in competitive markets, were not gaining Google favor by reciprocals alone.
    Someone else mentioned that my name only appears on my blog six times. I wanted to point out that on the homepage, it only appears once in the 3,400+ words on the page – near the bottom from the spider’s viewpoint.
    I wish “rae hoffman” was worth all this speculation – but I’m just not that competitive. 😉

  7. Mitch Joel
    Mitch Joel May 4, 2006

    This discussion reminds me of Search Engine Strategies Toronto. We are all trying to understand the hows and whys of search engine ranking (hence the title of my post, The Da Linki Code), and I’m finding it fascinating to see people, from all walks of internet marketing, get in the fray and spill their guts.
    Search Engines (and Google) algorithms are certainly the “secret sauce” of our generation, and I don’t think we’ll soon figure it out. In the meantime, let’s keep this long tail riot on search engines going.
    Does anyone disagree with the feedback above? Have we missed anything?

  8. Organic Man
    Organic Man September 12, 2006

    Yes, the other factor that has been missed is that as each new comment is added the “freshness” factor is increased so long as it remains relevent and supports the optimisation of the page it will boost the ranking further.
    The fact that I am posting here now some 3 months after the initial comment will no doubt take away any stagnation factor that has crept in since the last burts of posts back in May and, no doubt that applies to all search engines and not just Google.

  9. Concert Tickets
    Concert Tickets March 9, 2007

    Man. Google is the bane of my existence. They’re always changing things up. This most recent change in effect since the 1st is just nasty.

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