Ding Dong, the PageRank Toolbar is Dead

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Appropriate KPIs for organic search campaigns has altered considerably over the past few years in-line with changes to Google’s guidelines and the SEO landscape as a whole. For a while now, SEO has started to become less about hero keywords and link quantities and more about the quality of your website in terms of content, link equity and user experience.

This is why no-one at Gravytrain was overly surprised when Google announced that they would be eliminating their archaic PageRank toolbar. For those not in the know, the PageRank toolbar originally showed users how “important” Google viewed a webpage from 1-10:

PageRank Toolbar

Back in 2011 Google stated that:

“PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.”

That was 5 years ago, before the Panda and, more importantly, Penguin algorithm updates which targeted spam and ill-gotten backlink profiles. We know today that the “number” of links is not necessary important when it comes to SEO and that the “assumption… that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites” is generally wrong.

This statement and the creation of the PageRank toolbar could be said to be the cause of black hat SEO tactics that Google has spent the past few years desperately trying to get rid of. It’s also led to a widespread belief that PageRank is an appropriate KPI for search marketing campaigns, which we now know isn’t true.

Google is making a statement by removing the PageRank toolbar, eliminating old-school digital tactics in favour of more modern strategies. This has therefore raised questions over another metric commonly used to determine the quality of a website – Domain Authority (commonly referred to as “DA”). This is Moz’s own version of PageRank and has numerous similarities in the way it is calculated:

“Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. Use Domain Authority when comparing one site to another or tracking the “strength” of your website over time. We calculate this metric by combining all of our other link metrics—linking root domains, number of total links, MozRank, MozTrust, etc.—into a single score.”

From this statement we can see that Moz are using a sample of data from a select amount of websites available to them in order to calculate Domain Authorities across the web. This therefore means DA scores are a sample of a sample that may or may not always correlate with Google’s algorithm, but they are as close as we can get.

Don’t get me wrong, being able to quickly see information about a website’s potential authority and backlink profile is beneficial to SEOs, however it needs to be used wisely. Diagnostic metrics such as Domain Authority can provide a useful indication of how your website is performing, however it should never take priority over core KPIs such as the amount of revenue your site is making month on month.

KPIs for organic search can be varied and far-reaching depending on your business and your strategy, however I hope this article has proved that some are much more useful than others. Instead of worrying how others view you on the web, concentrate on the facts: traffic levels, a healthy backlink profile, market share and, most importantly, organic revenue.

Photo by Danny Sullivan / CC BY 2.0