1. Introduction – about Google
Unless you are a web surfer in the true meaning of the concept, if you are reading this, I am almost certain that you know Google. Or, you think you know Google. You are probably aware that Google is a “search engine”, that almost 80% of the internet searches in the world are done through Google. If you are a metro- or uber-geek, you probably know that the term “to google” became part of the English language, as in “she googled her high school boyfriends”. And if you are really, really on top of things all trivia and have Wikipedia as your browser’s home page, you might even know that the name “Google” is a play on the word “Googol”, which was coined by Milton Sirotta, nine-year-old nephew of U.S. mathematician Edward Kasner in 1938, to refer to the number represented by 1 followed by one hundred zeros. But here’s one piece of geek trivia that you might not know: The “Google” spelling is also used in “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams, in which one of Deep Thought’s designers asks, “And are you not,” said Fook, leaning anxiously forward, “a greater analyst than the Googleplex Star Thinker in the Seventh Galaxy of Light and Ingenuity which can calculate the trajectory of every single dust particle throughout a five-week Dangrabad Beta sand blizzard?”
2. Everflux – what is that?
Some obscure “Glossary of SEO terms” (SEO = Search Engine Optimization) defines the Everflux as “An anomaly by which pages can quickly appear and then disappear in Google page rankings. Usually occurs to newly added webpages.”
Basically, Everflux refers to the constant change in Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), while Google constantly scours the web looking for “minty fresh” content, changing their index accordingly.
In plain English, occasionally, ranks go up or down randomly, link popularity is completely lost, pages that have been indexed for years just vanish and are nowhere to be found in Google and other similar Outer Limits phenomena. Most people whose income depends proportionally on their potential customers’ ability to find them via a Google search, may think their business is destroyed, they are ruined, and I can clearly see why.
According to forums at Webmasterworld, the first sightings of the phenomenon took place in July 2002. Later that year, the following speculation on Everflux emerged: “Lastly, they could be working on the index, rolling indexes back, switching parts of the index, backing up parts of the index, rewriting some offending part of the index, deleting parts of an index – or a multitude of other actions or problems that only Google could know about.”
Legend has it that there is one ex-Google employee who goes by the name of Googleguy, who posts in related forums. He offered this explanation: “As we do a full crawl of the web, we find most of the sites from our fresh crawl and put them in our regular index. My advice on our fresh crawl is to view it as a nice “bonus” on top of Google’s deep index. Users can always search our full index, but sometimes we can serve up even fresher pages as an extra nicety.”
Google introduced a “fresh crawl” process to make their results as relevant and as fresh as possible. It runs each day. The purpose of the daily fresh crawl is to update Web pages in the index that change regularly. This allows Google to provide results that are up-to-date with current events.
Google also does one major update per month, which generally begins anywhere from around the 19th or 20th of the month to approximately the 28th of the month. The update process continues for several days, with search results appearing to fluctuate as the update continues. Once the update has been completed, the new data migrates to Google’s partner sites. The main reason for the fluctuation is that Google employs several sites that have to be synchronized (in popular terms). While this process takes place, search results might seem to jump and information might seem to disappear and re-appear. It is similar in concept with the idea of DNS propagation.
The regular monthly crawl takes place at different times for different web sites. The results of this crawl are generally reflected at the time of the following update.
For a number of months, beginning early Summer 2002, spidering of sites and changes have been observed to be going on all month, in between the regular monthly updates. This has come to be known as Everflux, and represents Google’s continuing desire and efforts to keep their search relevant, of high quality, and “minty fresh.”
Everflux is another evolutionary step in the process of offering the most recent and relevant snapshot of the web to the public. Google is adding to their value as a search tool by giving their index some of the same qualities as what is being indexed. That is, the more fluid and adaptable an index of the web is, the more accurately it will be able to reflect the fluid and adaptable nature of the web.
These of you who analyze web logs probably notice that traffic surges for certain search terms on certain days. For example, say you create a page on the web (or as the younger generation refers to it these days – you make a blog entry) about a movie which is just coming out on DVD and the “fresh crawl” daily process visits your site and makes note of it. Because of its relevance in time (overly simplified: sort results by pagerank and date), your page climbs to the top of the SERPs for a few days. Eventually, though, the story falls off your homepage and is replaced by another story about another movie which is soon gobbled by Google’s robot. Meanwhile, the long-standing sites regarding that particular movie regain their dominant positions in the SERPs. This is Everflux in full action.
As I am writing this article, there are reports of a potentially calmer Everflux coming to a browser near you. Google has very recently performed an update to their software, dubbed “Jagger”. It appears that “Jagger” affected Everflux, but things started to slow down. It has been reported that the most interesting effect of “Jagger” on rankings has been diminishing the effect of reciprocal linking as a measure of popularity. It looks like “Jagger” has negated the hard work of thousands of website owners. The result is expensive linking campaigns that lead to high rankings and high revenues have plummeted. On the other hand, article submission seems to have come through the “Jagger” update apparently safe and sound. I believe this is happening because Google has put more emphasis on one way links.
The moral of the “Jagger” update story? Make sure that you do not follow the fads and the top new found ranking factors of the search engine algorithm. If you have all your eggs in one basket, I promise you, Google is sure to trip you up eventually. So, diversify your ranking efforts and generally, try to follow the very basic rules that webmasters have been hearing since the beginning of the web: design your website for users, not for Google and not for robots. Make sure every page has a unique title (you know, the tag), don’t put a Google of keywords in the title, just one or a few that reflect the content of that page. Make sure every page has different content and different title. Most of us, myself included, get lazy or just copy and paste pages and forget to change the title – Google’s software sees all that and does not forgive. Make use of the old-fashioned tag, that is the “Header” tag. Google considers it to be polite to have paragraph headings. Don’t use images for titles, or anything text.
Google does not care about your images and does not consider a page full of images to be useful – they put a lot of emphasis on good old text. Use the description tag (read about Meta Tags if you don’t know what I’m talking about) and the keyword tags. Do not keyword-spam, do not use gateways, do not hide text (you know, white text on white background). Basically, play nice, a-la late 90s pure HTML websites. If all this is too complex, hire a SEO consultant at the very least. An analogy is the stock market. If you know what you’re doing, you know what you’re doing – basically, you follow the rules and play nice. If you don’t know what you’re doing, yes you can dabble, but most people have an adviser to avoid the ups and downs of the market shift. In the Google world, we call this shift Everflux.
3. Conclusion – don’t be scared of the big bad Everflux
Even if you don’t own and/or design and/or run your own website, it’s interesting to see how all the information collected by humanity over centuries is put into place inside a so called index of indexes. It is interesting to see how the exponential increase in information that has to be indexed presents real challenges to a process that started as a mere science experiment and evolved into a cultural phenomenon. It is also interesting to see how the people at the steering wheel deal with such challenges and the creative solutions they come up with in order to tame the information overload monster that can literally eat it all, if unleashed.
Now if you do own, operate, design websites and if your paying bills on time process depends on the above mentioned process, it can be really frightening, as incertitude is the main enemy of happiness as we know it. The advice we get from the most famous gurus (found in forums postings, of course) unanimously suggest the following: “don’t go hacking your pages to bits on account of Google’s Everflux.” In other words, it’s not something to freak out about, but it’s still something a well rounded webmaster should understand. As always, I believe that while you might not be able to control a process, your happiness will benefit dramatically from just the mere idea of understanding that process. If you can’t beat it, join it – in other words, learn how to understand it and live with it.
4. Conclusion – about Google
Someone should really write a book entitled The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Googling and start it with an excerpt from Google’s own “Information for Webmasters”
[…] “Don’t Panic.” Just do the normal things you should do:
1. Create a great site.
2. Submit your site to Google on our “add url” form.
3. Get a link from the Open Directory Project or other directories (Yahoo, etc.).
4. Don’t panic if your site takes a little while to show up in google. Be patient, and start to look around the web–there’s lots of great advice about improving your site for users and search engines.
Hope this helps,