18 Nov 2014

How to Assess the Authority of a Website Without PageRank

November 18, 2014Link Building

As an SEO expert or even a new link builder, attempting to build the popularity and authority of your client’s website can be very challenging given Google’s heavy restrictions and punishments on black hat tactics. What may seem like a great outlet where you can share a new piece of content or resource listing can also possibly be unhealthy and potentially detrimental for your backlink profile. New tools are often adopted into SEO best practices and others have gone away. Google PageRank Toolbar, a common tool once heavily relied on in determining a site’s authority, may be just one of those that may have become obsolete.

Is PageRank Dead?

In October of this year, Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land pondered is “Google Toolbar PageRank Finally & Officially Dead?” Predictions on the extinction of this tool stemmed from Google’s Matt Cutts’ earlier implications of no planned updates to the Google Toolbar PageRank back in 2013. But confusion abounded when John Mueller of Google Switzerland in October made reference to PageRank updates in a Google Webmaster hangout stating that “PageRank is something that we haven’t updated in over a year now and we’re probably not going to be updating it moving forward – at least in the Toolbar PageRank.”

What’s up with PageRank today?

Developed by Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin at Stanford, PageRank is a quality metric that Google implemented to determine a page’s value, importance and reliability on the web. A value of 0 to 10 is established for a page to help measure its importance. This was done in an effort to help the search engine determine what should rank in its engine, however PageRank doesn’t directly affect a website’s ranking. For example, a website could have a PR 4 and rank above a site that has a PR 8 authority for the same keyword query.

PageRank is becoming less valued by SEO experts as evidence proves that Google PageRank tools don’t work appropriately and aren’t updated frequently. For example, the homepage of a .GOV website that we ran through the PR Toolbar currently indicates a “PR 0” value versus another tool, PagerankChecker, values that same website at a “PR 5.” Even our own homepage was ranking at “PR 0” last week on the PR Toolbar and is now back up to “PR4;” which indicates the wobbly temperament of this tool. How are you supposed to find link earning opportunities when you can’t rely on the information?

PageRank Toolbar

Good Links vs. Bad Links:

As mentioned, PageRank is only one of many attributes that SEO experts consider when evaluating sites for increased ranking potential. But since that isn’t going to be updated anytime soon, it’s high time to look into other ways to assess a website for content or link opportunities. Majestic SEO’s Citation to Trust Flow is steadily growing in popularity as a way to measure the quality of a profile based on the Majestic Million domains. Alexa Ranking and SEMrush are also great resources to pull site analytics from. As with PageRank, one metric cannot solely determine overall quality, and every webmaster should consider several other factors when assessing the authority of their website.

From our desks to yours, the following Link Quality Checklist is a great resource we use when evaluating the quality of a site and potential link or content placement opportunities:

  • Relevance – Are the links and content relevant to the topic of the site?
  • DA (domain authority) – Should be at least 30+.
  • DO FOLLOW – Site should contain a healthy mix of outbound links with DO FOLLOW & NO FOLLOW tags.
  • Spammy links – Site should not have any content or links to the following: Payday Loan – Advanced search command – site:verticalmeasures.com “payday loan”, Online Casino – Advanced search command – site:verticalmeasures.com “online casino”, Porn – Advanced search command – site:verticalmeasures.com “porn”, Pills – Advanced search command – site:verticalmeasures.com “pills”
  • Indexed in Search Engines – Site should show up in search results. Beware of multiple results with duplicate content.
  • Advertisements – The site should have fewer than 3 ads above the fold.
  • No Infolinks – Can slow down a page’s load time and may result in broken pages.
  • No Partner Links – Need to be relevant and cannot include other sites within a network.
  • Authors – Site should have multiple contributors if they accept guest posts.
  • Design – The site must not be a site wholly dedicated to Adsense and or a site that exists solely for content placement and link building.
  • Frequency of posts on site – The site should feature a steady pace of posts from the first post to present with at least 1 post per week being the norm.
  • In Content – Link must be in-content, no author bios.  Link may reside in a ‘list’ on the content page.
  • ESL – No spun content or English as a second language sites.  Content to be relevant to the anchor text/landing page.
  • Disclosure – The site must not disclose that they take payments for placing content. Also cannot say “PR Friendly”.
  • Traffic – The site should have monthly traffic.
  • Root Domain The content should be placed within 3 levels of the root domain.
  • Social Mentions – Does the site have social mentions?  Twitter, FB, Pinterest, G+, and others

We’ve put this checklist into a Google doc so it’s easy for you to print or download…get it below!

Future Predictions:

While Moz’s Domain Authority tool is still one of the primary key metrics in determining a site’s value, it too soon may land on Google’s algorithmic cutting room floor if they decide to block or minimize the number of signals Moz uses to calculate the strength of a website. Although DA scores are updated fairly regularly (about every 3 to 4 weeks), there’s really no telling if Google wishes to shake anyone off their trail. Social signals are great for building your brand and increasing website traffic. We will probably see more content promotion via multiple channels including social media, but at least for now, they won’t have any impact on SERP’s or be incorporated into the Google algorithms. Mobile responsiveness will also be a huge optimization hurdle for websites and should yield more visibility in the organic traffic search results.

Bottom line, focus on a great User Experience and you’ll stay on top – PageRank or no PageRank.

8 Comments

  • sred canada Nov 19, 2014

    I also noticed this problem but your post now gives me confirmation of this. I often review blogs to see the page rank. But now I know about it. Thanks for sharing a nice article.

  • Andy Franco Nov 19, 2014

    Thanks for your comment. Glad to help! Lots of ways to assess a website’s authority.

  • Sam Carr Nov 20, 2014

    Great post, Andy, and I completely agree – the toolbar has been very inconsistent lately. Hopefully, all the other metrics and tools will be enough for us to determine websites’ quality.

  • Andy Franco Nov 20, 2014

    Thanks Sam! We find this checklist very useful in our day to day since it’s difficult to keep track of all of the tools and resources out there. Appreciate your comment.

  • Roman Prokopchuk Nov 20, 2014

    If you want to get an idea in literally a minute use open site explorer to check the domain authority like mentioned above of the site and majesticseo to find out the citation and trust flow. I agree a deeper dive is needed because just because a domain authority is high, there may be issues to watch out for. You can take those numbers just on face value, but a deeper in depth dive almost an audit is needed to really see how strong the domain is including the mentioned in the blog.

  • kennedy Nov 24, 2014

    It is not subject of an argument when it comes to importance of SEO in every business whether it is big or small. SEO tradition has been changed over the years, now it’s not only about optimizing your pages but also connecting with the people.

  • Andy Franco Nov 25, 2014

    Thanks for connecting with us Kennedy. Excellent point! Engagement is a huge part of SEO and social channels are also helping us to bring those conversations to the masses.

  • Andy Franco Nov 25, 2014

    Thanks for sharing Roman. Glad this post relates to your own professional experience. Keep the great tips coming!