Since Google is being unrelenting about giving up its secret algorithm (wouldn’t that throw a wrench in our industry if it did?), we have to be content with the tools we have to work with. That being said, the buzzword across countless web pages is “PageRank.” While this is an example from Fiverr, we see this kind of thing all across the web every day while looking for good sites to try and earn a backlink.
Well that would be great, if it actually meant everything.
I don’t want to upset the tens of thousands of webmasters who covet their PR like Golem calls out for his precious ring, but the truth of the matter is that PR – as a metric – has been pushed aside by SEOmoz’s Domain Authority. I’ll quickly break down what the two metrics measure below.
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Commonly referred to as PR, PageRank is a metric with the ranges from 0-10 that is used to indicate the level of trust or popularity a page has based on the number and value of links pointing to it. This means a page with higher PR of say, 6, will pass on more authority than a page with a PR of 2. PR is factored by Google and is only one of over 200 factors that determine the search giant’s rankings.
This is a metric developed by SEOmoz that attempts to measure (you guessed it…) the authority of an entire domain rather than individual pages on said domain, and it tries to give a sense of how strong the domain is. Domain Authority (DA) is measured on a sliding scale of 0-100, which means that increasing a sites DA from 50 to 60 is much harder than jumping up from 10 to 20. Taken from SEOmoz’s Domain Authority page, DA attempts to answer the question of how strong a page/site is in terms of helping them rank for queries in Google’s SERPs.
So What Has Changed?
When PageRank was introduced in the late 90s it became a major ranking factor for Google. Carrying on throughout the early 2000s (and still today), PR was heavily targeted by SEOs and it was the metric to base a sites value on; relevancy, spam, quality, none of it really mattered as long as you could get a link on a high PR site. If you could get a link on a PR 8 site (for example), your PR would jump up drastically and you would be ranking extremely well.
This made using PR as an SEO metric valuable and useful to a point of dependency. While Google still uses their own PageRank metric that factors into the search rankings, the algorithm has grown and been refined a considerable amount since PR could drastically influence a site’s rankings. With this change comes a change in the tools we use to measure sites.
Domain Authority Tells a Bigger Story
PageRank is great for seeing a quick snapshot of how a site getting linked to, but that’s where it stops. Domain Authority, on the other hand, is a much bigger picture of the site’s overall SEO performance and quality. I see sites every day that feature weak content, poor layouts, and are generally spammy but they can still have decent PR scores in the 4-6 range, and if it was 2002 I would have tried to get a link to my site on them. But then I look at their DA and I see that it’s only in the 10-30 range. Right away this shows me that the site is somehow influencing the PR tools to show either a skewed image, or they are engaging in black hat link building schemes and will (with any luck) be penalized if they haven’t been already.
Since DA shows how a domain is expected to perform overall within Google’s SERPs, it can tell you much more at a glance than a simpler metric like PR does. Comparing PR and DA is a lot like comparing a single ingredient to an entire recipe. While the PR might be nice by itself, once everything gets put together and you have the finished product the result is much better with the DA.
PR is Limiting
When you focus on PR as the main metric you limit yourself in a number of different ways. Link builders either limit themselves by cutting out a large portion of relevant sites that would be great places for links only because the sites didn’t have a high enough PR. Or they limit their long term effectiveness by targeting sites that are far removed from their niche only because the site has a decent PR.
Webmasters limit themselves when they try to build up their PR because they lose focus of the important aspects of their site. Their readers, customers, or visitors don’t care what the PR is – they just want a good experience and PR doesn’t take into account a sites content, bounce rate, keyword density, anchor text, and a host of other factors. It only measures the PageRank coming to it from other linking sites. The focus of the site switches from the user to the metric which is never a good thing.
I’m not saying you should discount PageRank completely, you just shouldn’t be using it as the main metric. It’s dangerous to only use a single metric, but if you are going to, Domain Authority is your safest bet as far as anyone is concerned. It boils down dozens of ranking factors from backlinks to onsite SEO and puts it into an easy to gauge numeric metric. This simple number might not look like a lot, but a lot more goes into it than does PageRank and there isn’t nearly as much confusion about DA than compared to PR.