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Search Engines, Backlinks, and Latency

Besides knowing your visitors, an important part of maintaining your blog includes knowing how your visitors found your blog. And that involves monitoring the inlinks to your blog. Inlinks can be either dynamic (search engine result page hits), or static (bookmarks, blogrolls, feeds, linklists, and text based links in other peoples blogs and web sites).

Dynamic inlinks are important, because that's how people find our blogs initially (though after the random access from "Next Blog", which now is irrelevant to posting volume). Static inlinks, on the other hand, are truly exciting. Each static inlink represents a real person out there in The Web, who thought enough of our contribution (at some time) that they will say to their readers
Hey! Here's a blog like mine, with more content that you may want to read!

When you see static inlinks, you know that your blog is truly a part of the Web, not just the Internet (and no, the two aren't the same!).

To help us recognise static inlinks, and to help us connect our blogs and web sites in exciting ways, Blogger and other web hosts provide backlinks. Backlinks are the result of extracts from the search engines, periodically run by the web site host, identifying links to our blogs from other web sites. Since they involve extracted data from the search engines, they involve latency, which makes them inherently inaccurate. This latency is similar to to search engine result page (SERP) inaccuracy, which also leads to dissatisfied visitors.

If you use Google Webmaster Tools, or a similar search engine / web site relationship monitoring procedure, you'll observe these details.
  1. Very few blogs are indexed daily. Not all blogs (or web sites) are indexed even weekly. Many SERP hits to our blogs may have been indexed months ago, and are alive in cache only.
  2. Blogger, and other web site hosts, doesn't extract backlink data from the search engines every day either.
  3. Each spider visit doesn't re index the entire blog. Many visits may just index the main page of the blog, with occasional visits following the archive and other sidebar links, and maybe the various text based internal links to other blog posts.

If you examine the inlinks, in your backlink list for a given post, you may notice that some links are not from an individual post in somebody else's blog, but the main page itself. Some main page entries may originate from blogroll or linklist entries being indexed, others from text inlinks - but text inlinks indexed as part of a post on the main page. With blogs being indexed more regularly from the main page only (#3 above), this should be statistically expected.

Unfortunately, indexed main page inlinks are not permanent. If you publish posts to your blog, you'll note that the content of your main page will change regularly. So will the content of other blogs, including the ones which contain inlinks to your blog. This will include static inlinks to your blog, which your web site host indexes as backlinks, when they are embedded in post text.

The backlink on your blog today (maybe from a search engine extract from last month, run by your web site host earlier this week) may refer to a main page post on a blog that's months old. By now, the post on the other blog, that included a link to your blog, was archived long ago, and won't be on the main page of the other blog. And the link to your blog won't be there either.

The other blog may still include a link to your blog, in the original post - but that post won't be indexed by the search engines, if the other web site is mainly indexed from its main page. There's no fraudulent intent of the publisher of the other blog. The search engine only indexes the other blog from its main page. There's no fraudulent intent of the publisher of the search engine.

Blogger lists inlinks to your blog that existed once, long ago. There's no fraudulent intent by Blogger either.

If you're in the habit of following your backlinks, you have probably seen this effect, though never reasoned out its true cause. Some of you may see this as a flaw in the backlink concept. It's not a flaw that can be avoided, unfortunately. And it's certainly not a problem that can be fixed by Blogger.

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