Looking Beyond Google PageRank: Alternative SEO Metrics

Apr 10 2011 by Modestos Siotos | 44 Comments

When it comes to SEO, Google’s PageRank (PR), which is the most used SEO ranking metric, is vague and unhelpful. Although most SEOs would agree that it’s an indication of a page’s popularity (or power), it’s unclear why that’s so or exactly how popular a ranked website is.

For example, for a website with a PR of 7 — and as a point of reference, this website has a PR of 6 — most people would assume it’s a popular, and thus powerful, website.

But that’s not always the case, and there are quite a lot of exceptions.

Issues with Using PageRank as an SEO Metric

There are many problems with using PageRank as a measure of how popular and search engine-friendly a website is.

The current PR value for a website could be based on data that’s anywhere from a day to a year old, so it’s not indicative of the website’s current search engine-friendliness. It all depends on when the PR for that website was last updated. If a new person took over the website and wreaked havoc on its SEO, it could still display a high PR rank when you check it.

Because PR is presumably logarithmic, two websites that have the same PageRank are likely to be miles apart when it comes to ranking power. So, a high PR doesn’t necessarily mean that a page is valuable and authoritative. Conversely, a low (or even non-existent) PR doesn’t mean that a page’s value for backlinks to your site is low.

Thus, SEOs are relying less and less on PR.

Other SEO Metrics

Because PageRank has its weaknesses, SEO professionals have looked to other metrics to gauge a website’s SEO effectiveness. The following are some of them.

Domain Authority

The domain authority of a website is based on a number of factors such as its age and how many inbound links point to it. You can use SEOmoz to determine domain authority.

Domain Trust

A domain name’s domain trust is a metric that shows how many trusted domains point to it. You can use a tool like Domain Trust Tool to determine your site’s domain trust value.

MozRank

This is equivalent to Google’s PageRank but based on SEOmoz algorithms.

Number of Backlinks

The number of external web pages that link to a website provides insights on the site’s authority. For this, you can use Yahoo! Site Explorer.

Indexing

A non-indexed website means it’s invisible to search engines like Google. There are a few ways to figure out whether a website has been indexed.

One way is simply to just search for a website’s domain name in Google to see if it appears there.

If it doesn’t, it may not yet have been indexed or it may have been removed for shady SEO practices.

Secondly, you should also check whether internal web pages are being indexed (not just the root domain URL). Find an older web page, and copy and paste a phrase from it in Google. If it appears in the search engine results pages (SERPs), then it’s very likely that your post will remain indexed for a long time, which is the case for websites with good internal linking.

Social Media Popularity

The number of retweets, Facebook Likes, comments and so on gives an indication of a website’s popularity. This is under the assumption that social proof denotes a website’s quality and trustworthiness.

The bigger the website’s audience, the greater the chance that links will come in naturally. The more links your post gets, the more power the page will accumulate and the more valuable the links on the page will become over time (again, regardless of PageRank).

nofollow Links

A backlink to your website with a rel="nofollow" attribute is not as powerful as one without, and some SEO professionals believe that links with nofollow attributes have no value at all.

Useful Tools for Going Beyond PageRank

What follows is a short list of SEO tools for measuring a website’s SEO effectiveness.

SEOmoz Toolbar

This free Chrome or Firefox extension presents many SEO metrics at a glance. It even shows page load times of a web page, a relatively new ranking factor that Google now uses.

Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer

This web tool measures a URLs popularity and backlinks. The free version can reveal up to 10,000 links categorized under "external," "followed" or "301," (this indicates a redirect page, which affects a URL’s search ranking).

Majestic SEO

Majestic SEO

This tool provides information about top backlinks, top referring domains, anchor text distribution, backlinks history (along with backlinks discovery graphs) and more.

Case Example

How about some real-world use cases of these metrics? Now that you’re familiar with other SEO metrics besides PR, as well as some tools to help you measure them, let’s analyze a couple of websites.

Let’s compare two websites in a similar niche: Techlineinfo (PageRank of 7) and TechieMania (PageRank of 1).

Going by PR alone, one would assume that the former (Techlineinfo) is a more authoritative website than its competition.

Using the SEOmoz Toolbar, we see the following:

Here is a comparison of the two websites in Open Site Explorer:

Looking at the other SEO metrics, we see that:

  • TechieMania has a much higher number of links and root domains
  • TechieMania has a higher number for domain trust
  • TechieMania has a higher number for both page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA)
  • Posts on TechieMania get many more retweets, Facebook Likes and comments
  • TechieMania has a much greater number of external, followed and total links

If we compare the two websites using Majestic SEO, it’s obvious that TechieMania has far more referring domains:

Here is a comparison using tweets as traffic indicators:

TechieMania’s top three posts were retweeted much more than Techlineinfo’s, which suggests:

  • Perhaps more users find TechieMania’s content more useful than Techlineinfo’s
  • TechieMania receives more traffic, hence the higher number of retweets
  • Techlineinfo’s latest post has 0 comments, which is an indicator of poor traffic

A post published on TechieMania will get more traction, and thus over time will become more powerful, especially if users naturally link to it.

Summary

Using Google’s PageRank as an end-all-be-all measure of a website’s SEO success can blind you from other things that might be affecting your search engine rankings. There are many other signals, most of which are tangible and informative, that you can use to see if improvements in your SEO efforts need to be made.

Related Content

About the Author

Modestos Siotos is a UK-based SEO consultant who regularly blogs on Connect, a UK digital marketing blog. If you’d like to connect with him follow him on Twitter.

44 Comments

Pablo

April 10th, 2011

As google is probably going to remove the PageRank metrics, that’s an excellent article ! Retweeted!

Lawrence Snow

April 10th, 2011

Hi Modi, great information. Thanks for sharing. I totally agree with you. What are your thoughts on using Alexa as well?

Jeff Goins

April 10th, 2011

Great article. However, I’m wary to use retweets as a necessary indicator of success all the time, as that is just another metric. Like commenting, it doesn’t necessarily mean that people didn’t find value in your content.

nathan

April 10th, 2011

Thanks for this, I was just starting to wonder about my Page Rank. I saw that it can take half a year for it to be generatedm why such a long time?

Ill be taking a look at some of these useful links.

Many thanks
Nathan

Adrian

April 10th, 2011

I don’t like Page Rank, it’s not update more than 1 year i think, and new site who has 1 year, gave page rank = 0, not serious..

Bill

April 10th, 2011

Great article, it saved a lot of time for gathering software for seo. thank you

Glen Quinn

April 10th, 2011

nice article dude – I blog about seo as well and found this interesting.

Theo

April 10th, 2011

Search engine results(SERP), are more important than page rank, nice artikle!

Adrian

April 10th, 2011

Meh I dont really agree with most of this, domain age is a good indicator, so is the backlink count, social media popularity too – everything else especially the seomoz indicators are kind of hokey IMO. I’d trust pagerank and these other things over seomoz stuff any day. They provide great services though, dont get me wrong.

Ali Qayyum

April 10th, 2011

nice article , nice to know, Page Rank metrics is not important
thanks for sharing

lmcrusher

April 10th, 2011

Now the site, I feel the link in terms of change, many people still value the pr.I hopes Google more and more perfect

dilbag koundal

April 11th, 2011

REally great work by techmania.. :)

Praveen

April 11th, 2011

Wowww…techmania featured here…nice article Modi…easly understandable :-D

Techgyo

April 11th, 2011

Sathis of TechieMania manages his blog very well. I regularly visit there and everytime I get new stuffs to read.

Sunil Sheoran @TechTipsDigital

April 11th, 2011

That’s a great article and I am personally a fan of TechieMania founder! This blog has been alive only for 11 months so far but it’s grown very fast.

Saksham

April 11th, 2011

Great research Modi. I think TechieMania’s users don’t link back to his posts even though they like it. On the contrary they link to techlineinfo’s blog. Techlineinfo has a good number of backlinks from many popular high PR sites!

Suraj

April 11th, 2011

PR is really small factor which affects the ranking, but yes it also shows that quality of of content. Some times I get confused how all edu sites get good PR without any extra efforts.
Social media is essential because now days Google trying to collect all data, I experienced that if our article goes viral on twitter and facebook then it’s ranking increase for few keywords.

Avangelist

April 11th, 2011

I’m with Adrian here, I don’t agree with a great deal of this but as with many six revision posts it goes some way to explaining how to source a tool but not why and how to use it.

Here’s what I would say is a workflow:

Website isn’t selling enough socks.
Want to know why so invest in overpriced guff like seomoz.
look at lots of heatmaps and see people are click where you expected them to.
Spend weeks looking at spreadsheets and fail to resolve issue.
Continue to print reports each month without knowing what to do with the data.

The key is knowing what to do with the information:
Is changing a link from blue to gree really going to help? how will the tools you invest in make those decisions and will they tell you if your decision is right?

Jahangir

April 11th, 2011

Along with Yahoo site explorer I recommend Google webmasters tools too as it also gives detailed information about your site SEO, links, errors and everything.

Albany SEO

April 11th, 2011

Some of this stuff is “right”, but you’re just scratching the surface.

First, there are a lot of other tools you can use to balance out your research. SEOmoz is great, but sticking to one interpretation of the data is bound to cause you some trouble.

Check out sites like the following for additional info:
alexa.com
semrush.com
seobook.com (has a great rankings plugin for FireFox)
SpyFu.com

Second, your idea about indexing is just scratching the surface. Being indexed is good, being DEEPLY indexed is better.

Try this: type site:yourwebsiteURL into google. The number of resulting pages is a decent indicator of how MUCH of your website is indexed, not just IF it is indexed.

Third – no talk of rankings? Isn’t that the real SEO metric that everyone is actually concerned about?

Techlineinfo

April 11th, 2011

Hi, I am Sujith,
Techlineinfo is my blog and case study is very interesting but not surprising. Came across this post through a FB share.
The relationship between traffic and PR is a known factor and already hot discussions are available in webmaster forums/blogs. For example Facebook is a PR 10 site, it doesn’t mean that in all search queries Facebook will stand top.
I know a single page PR-7 site without any contents then can anyone compare that site with some other sites in terms of traffic?.
On public demand I have already specified the story of PR and its importance. One thing I can say, more than 70% of my traffic is from Google only. News type articles of my site get good position in Google and instant traffic. I don’t know whether it is due to PR or not.
Then coming to comments, tweets FB share etc.Techlineinfo is a nofollow blog and I have not installed Comment Luv plugin hence other bloggers will not get the benefit of link juice only through commenting.
I am neither a professional blogger nor an SEO specialist. Blogging is not my primary job or source of income. Just started blogging as a hobby and never ran behind PR or similar SEO factors. Presently I don’t have much time to maintain the blog properly .
This GPR has placed a big burden over me in the form of expectations and misconceptions. Many bloggers have asked me about my poor Alexa Rank (Earlier it was above 100K). After that I started commenting on webmaster/SEO blogs and forums which brought down Alexa considerably and some more exposure in blogging world also. A single post in Myblogguest fetches some guest bloggers too.
Anyway thanks for featuring here, may not be in a positive side but I am taking this in that way only.
Suggestions are always welcome.
Regards

shenoyjoseph

April 11th, 2011

seo and tweets plays important role in blog traffic

Janice Schwarz

April 11th, 2011

What is most frustrating is explaining to clients how little PR really reflects how well their SEO is working. My attitude is: are you getting new clients/sales? Are you meeting sales goals? Yes? Then it’s working. Forget PR.

Bluetricks

April 11th, 2011

Very gud article I like it..!! thanks

NYWM

April 11th, 2011

That was actually pretty awesome! But are you saying that PageRank just doesn’t matter? I mean using it as a metric doesn’t make much sense but knowing, knowing that your getting a backlink from pr 6 site compared to a pr 2 site is a HUGE difference.

Granted you may get more traffic from the lower pr site (like in your casestudy). But your Anchor Text from the higher pr site is more valuable.

Agree disagree?

Bapun

April 11th, 2011

Great article. Nice observations there.

Modi Mann

April 11th, 2011

I totally disagree NYWM. To begin with, technically speaking there are no PR6 or PR2 sites, just PR6 and PR2 pages.

A link on a site with a PR6 homepage alone is not neccessarily valuable.

-How can you know when that Google PageRank value was updated? It could be anything from 1 day up to six months or even more.

-How can you know that in the next Toolbar PR update it won’t drop down to 5, 4 or even lower?

-How do you know it isn’t a dropped domain without looking at the register’s info and the backlinks? Dropped domains can completely lose their high PR after they’ve changed ownership.

If you read the post carefully, I suggest that a link from techiemania (with a PR1 homepage) is more valuable compared to a link from techlineinfo (PR6). The former will pass more link juice (real PageRank) to the destination page.

Modi Mann

April 11th, 2011

@albany SEO (great name…)

With regards to indexation, you’re absolutely right that deep indexation is very important but figuring out whether the homepage is indexed is the first thing to do. A link on a site that isn’t indexed from Google is pointless. Looking at the cache timestamp for the homepage can also be useful, as a date from last month or longer is a bad indicator for deep indexation.

About site:yourwebsiteURL into google as a decent indicator of how MUCH of your website is indexed, I wouldn’t agree. That would give you a figure of how many pages have been indexed but how would you know what percentage of the overall number of pages that figure would represent? A large number doesn’t necessarily mean that the site’s indexation is awesome. Besides, I believe that in a large site (or blog) chances are that overtime a very deep page may get de-indexed. Look at what happens with some very old archived blog posts in WordPress for example. There are small, powerful sites too with a small number of pages.

Tech Crates

April 12th, 2011

Exactly…PR is of no use ! But building trust, esp in advertisers is quite hard without the PR… Like the comparison between two blogs :-)

NYWM

April 12th, 2011

@modi, sorry i meant page. I see what your saying but you are throwing a lot of variables as well. What if all those variables are false, its a page rank 6 page and your the only link on the page?

From a traffic human view, the techiemania is better, but from a robot algorithm view (speaking in the present tense) would the pr6 page link be better?

What if it’s not a homepage?

I’m talking right now too, maybe 6 months down the line that drops but you still have that link juice from that page. (of course you’ll still have to continue to build links from other sites anyway)

Modi Mann

April 12th, 2011

@modi
What I’m saying is that what is good for humans will eventually be good for the search engines too. A post with many comments, re-tweets and facebook likes is much more likely to get links too compared to a post with low social signals indications. Links pass real PR (not the one you see in the toolbar) and a page can mature over time as it aquires more and more links, thus link juice. For that to happen, visibility is very important and here I am referring to human traffic. Crawlers don’t link to pages, humans do…

tech84

April 13th, 2011

Nice article, good heads up on the alternative tools other than big G’s ranking system.

fazal mayar

April 13th, 2011

Those are good tips. I now know that domain authority is based on a lot of factors. :)

Mark @ Alchemy United

April 13th, 2011

Good issue to raise, thanks Modi.

Objective and accurate or not, many of these matter because they matter to Google & company. Like it or not, we have to be mindful of them. That said, it’s just as important (if not more so) to (try to) measure the quality of visitors. More isn’t necessarily better. Better is better. That should be the Holy Grail, not Google’s PR.

For (an extreme) example, an e-comm site can get thousands of visits and zero sales. Or one hundred visits and one hundred sales. Which is better?

These various metrics attempt to measure the quality of a site, but as mentioned, they are more often than not somewhat over-rated. On the other hand, they do not measure the quality of the visitor relative to the site itself, or even within a competitive niche, subset of some universe, etc. There’s no context. Context of any stat is always important. Without context a statistic is meaningless.

Finally, if we’re going to use tweet counts as something meaningful then we’re all in trouble. My gawd, that doesn’t even mean the person read the article. But more importantly, it also does not mean they liked it. The tweet could say, “This article sucks.” That number means one thing and one thing only…someone tweeted it. Why? We can’t say, so how can we use it in some meaningful way?

I do like to be as SEO savvy as I can. But these quirks and accepted myths do seem to give the discipline a less than ideal reputation, eh?

savvinovan

April 13th, 2011

Thank you for sharing.
I’m only check my google PR before this article :).

Modi Mann

April 14th, 2011

@Mark

You’ve raised some good points and a I agree with most of them. I would like to clarify though that the post is about the value of a page or site from purely a link building angle.

Indeed,a site with thousands of visits may not make any money but it would probably appear as more authoritative than the one the profitable one with very few visits.High traffic sites tend to gain links naturally and the number of tweets and likes are a factor of popularity.

If you have a look at http://sixrevisions.com/content-strategy/5-common-seo-mistakes-with-web-page-titles/ you will see that the fact that the post got retweeted 700+ times resulted in a good number of inbound links, thus passed more authority to the page.

Mark

April 15th, 2011

Good overview and some of the tools will come in useful. Would like to have seen more about Domain Authority, still not sure about how much effect this has on ranking?

Cool Boy

April 15th, 2011

I agree more viral content makes a website possess more page authority. High PR does not indicate if the website has enough potential to be on the top of the rankings. More domains linking towards a website means more popularity and reliability for the website

Eric

April 20th, 2011

I stopped paying attention to Google’s PR some time ago because of the reasons you mentioned. That said, there’s a lot of great information you presented, along with some awesome tools to help people focus on other metrics that are far more meaningful. Keep up the good work!

Melanie Phung

April 21st, 2011

It’s great to have a discussion about different ways to measure SEO success, but there are a few misstatements or poorly worded bits here that could lead non-SEOs down the wrong path.

Just a couple of clarifications to help folks who may be new to SEO:

The article talks about “PageRank” when you mean “Toolbar PageRank” — they are profoundly different things — which then leads to confusion when you say PageRank “is the most used SEO ranking metric”. Are you talking about TBRP or PR?

Because if you mean the former then that’s wrong because I know of almost no reputable SEO who uses TBPR as any sort of success metric (almost everyone I know calls it “useless green pixels” for some of the reasons you stated). If you mean the latter, then that’s wrong because while PageRank IS still a very important ranking *factor*, it’s not used as a metric because we have no way of knowing what true PR is. It’s a secret sauce algorithm inside a larger secret sauce algorithm.

You also say that people are “using PageRank as a measure of how popular and search engine-friendly a website is,” which is again a profound misunderstanding of what PageRank is. It’s one measure of authority (and authority isn’t the be all and end all of rankings), but has nothing to do with search engine friendliness.

Indexing as a metric is also really squishy. There’s been a lot of discussion about over-indexing as an issue with the latest Farmer Update (i.e., a low ratio of “good” pages to total pages in the index can actually send a *poor* quality signal) so you don’t want to fixate on increasing your indexed pages. That said, SEOs know that Google doesn’t give complete data, so Yahoo Site Explorer is a better tool for looking at indexed pages (point 1), and point 2: if you are going to query Google for your indexed pages, you need to use the “site:” operator, not just plug your domain into the search box, since that pulls up mentions of your domain as well.

If we’re talking about actual SEO metrics, then I’m surprised there’s not more discussion of a metric that actually matters: qualified traffic.

Most of the tools identified above have value in terms of helping to inform a strategy and execution plan, but without strategy and tactics, it’s all just data porn. Metrics are how you measure your success: TBPR is a useless metric, but tools that generate their own numeric values of domain authority don’t provide any useful measure of success either. They might show you if you’re doing the right things, but the only real success metric is if your SEO efforts generate substantive traffic that converts.

(apologies in advance for any typos: I typed in a hurry)

kombizz

June 1st, 2011

Thank you for sharing this informative article.
Indeed it is very handy.

ukash

July 18th, 2011

hey hi everyone..
get google page rank is very hard and long a way
You have to keep write and write or add some good contents in your web site and ofcourse get nice qualty backlinks from out or inside website !!
inside backlinks are first class backlinks in web world. That means search enginees looks your web site like this ” oh yeah this website is working on hard, let we check and visit often ”
try it and you will see whats difference..;) bye

Petter

August 15th, 2011

This is very informative.

Quality is always good.
PR is quiet hard to get, but has been easier nowdays I think.

keep building content and quality backlinks.

Madhav Tripathi

December 13th, 2011

I am happy to see techiemania here. It is a good website for marketing and online money making.

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