Confused About Google’s Index, Link Dampening & No. of Links?
September 23, 2006 • Glenn Murray
I recently received another ‘please help’ email from a gentleman named Ian who runs an adventure company in Tanzania. Ian was concerned about the effect of a variety of issues including indexing and link dampening, and was desperate for help. Unfortunately, he had read some fairly misleading articles in the past, so he had a somewhat mixed up understanding of the factors at play. Because I suspect he’s not alone in his concern and confusion, I decided to publish the details of our discussion.
Ian’s email consisted of several questions. I’ve listed each separately below, followed by my response.
Q: When I search for the number of backlinks to my site using “link:www.betheladventure.co.uk”, I see only 23 results. It appears that only 23 of our backlinks have survived Google’s dampening link filter. Is there a time delay before they are credited to a site? ”
A: Firstly, I think you may have the dampening link filter a little confused. According to the dampening link filter theory, your links are found and recognized by Google, you just don’t get the full benefit from them until a given period of time has elapsed. The dampening link filter (if it exists) doesn’t stop links from appearing in Google’s results when you search for them. (The only reason your backlinks might not appear in a Google search is if Google hasn’t yet indexed the pages containing the links.) Also, don’t worry too much about things like the dampening link filter. For a start, it’s far from established / accepted fact. Many well regarded SEO experts don’t believe in it at all. Furthermore, even if it does exist, it only affects those businesses with the budget to generate the huge numbers (hundreds or thousands probably) of links reputedly required to trigger it. If your number of backlinks suddenly increases by 20, that’s no problem.
And secondly, don’t believe everything Google tells you. By searching for “link:www.betheladventure.co.uk”, you generally only see a small percentage of actual links to your site. The best way to search for links is to search for just the URL “www.bethaladventure.co.uk” , then on the page that displays next, select “Find web pages that contain the term “www.bethaladventure.co.uk” “. When you do it this way, you’ll see all the pages that contain your URL. In most cases, the URL will be an active link (or at least it should be, and you should ask them to make it so). When you do this search, you’ll see that your site has about 169 links, not 23.
Q: Another question is about indexed pages (using site:www.betheladventure.co.uk). I understand this is a record of pages that have been changed. I had 32, it went down to 28 and now this morning it is down to 26. Do they only keep the pages for a month or is there more to the indexed pages than I realized?
A: The number of indexed pages is simply the number of pages on your website that Google ‘knows about’. Theoretically, the only time the age of a page comes into play is when the page is too young*, i.e. Google spiders haven’t visited it yet, or Google hasn’t updated its index. As to why the reported number of indexed pages is reducing, I suspect it’s just a temporary shift. The number of results in Google’s searches varies pretty much constantly.
*Actually, technically speaking, it has been suggested that Google is not capable of indexing all 11.5 billion pages currently believed to be online (and the 10 million more that are added every day), and that as it indexes new pages, old pages are pushed out of the index. (This is a very rough description of the theory – if it’s happening at all, it’s likely to be far more complicated than this.) If this is happening, it may explain why the reported number of indexed pages is reducing. Although I think it’s a long shot, a good way to deal with it is to maintain high quality content, to keep increasing it, to keep generating backlinks, and to generate a Google sitemap which you can do automatically with a free Google Sitemap Generator.
I know there’s a lot of confusion surrounding these issues, so I hope you’ve found this exchange helpful.