Google Dance
By Sean Burns

As I write this, Google is "dancing". Therefore, I thought I'd explain what this process actually is. Many of you will already know, but if you don't, here it is.

Google does a deep crawl once a month. By deep crawl, I mean that it heads out into the internet and gets information from every single page that it can find. It does this by checking out pages that are already in it's index and by following links to new ones. Generally, the deep crawl takes five days. It will often start near the second of each month but was late in February - possibly because Google were setting up a new data center. Therefore, the crawl will be late this month also.

After they have finished their crawl, they spend around three weeks doing some calculations. Mostly, this focuses on working out a PageRank for each page. They also do some checking of their database and maybe change their algorithm slightly or add new spam checking "abilities".

After this period, they update their database. This is referred to as the Google Dance. It will usually take place at the end of a month but the February update was late due to the deep crawl being late. Therefore, the current dance involves information that they picked up in February.

It is generally referred to as a "dance" because rankings can move around a lot whilst they are updating their database.

The database update will usually take around five days.

Whilst the dance is happening, you will usually see no change in results if you just visit http://www.google.com. However, you can see what is happening by visiting http://www2.google.com or http://www3.google.com. The information contained on these servers is usually the new data that is "dancing". This can change a lot during the dance and is not really stable until the dance is completed.

Another way to check on what is happening is to go to http://www.google-dance.com and do a search selecting all 8 data centers. This shows that their information is unstable. It's also a good way to see when the dance has finished. If all of the servers have exactly the same results then the dance is over. If any of them are different, Google is "dancing".

Now, one of the most important parts of the dance for webmasters is seeing what has happened to their PageRank. BTW, download the Google Toolbar if you don't already have it - http://toolbar.google.com. Usually, the PR of pages in their database is not updated until the end of the dance. Many people expect to see this change at the start but it often doesn't. It actually fluctuates quite a lot whilst Google is dancing. I saw three different PRs for one of my pages on the same day this week.

So, once the dance is over, everything at Google becomes relatively stable. It is then that you should check your rankings, try to optimize your PR and so on. You only have a few days after the dance is finished to make changes to your site before Google starts crawling again. Now, Google does freshen it's database during the month so any on page factors can be adjusted without worrying about the deep crawl but things like PR are not recalculated during the month so it can be very important to make sure that this is right before the deep crawl.

I hope this has helped you to understand the way that Google works on a month to month basis.

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Sean Burns is the author of Search Engine Rankings Revealed - http://www.webmastersreference.com/rankings_revealed. This eBook provides a step by step guide to helping the search engines send you traffic. His sites received almost 1 million highly targeted visitors from search engines last year. Rankings Revealed will show you how to do it.
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