I’ve never been a big fan of Google’s Toolbar PageRank (TBPR) because, as you may know, it’s a metric that isn’t updated very often. It’s also been thrown around too much as a metric that gauges quality — and I’ve been doing this long enough to know that many lower-TBPR sites/pages (and new sites with no TBPR) can be incredibly beneficial for sending you traffic that converts.
Relying on TBPR to determine suitable link partners eliminates loads of good stuff. Let’s say that there’s a great new post that’s unranked, and it would be a perfect fit for your site, but since it has no TBPR yet, you just move on. That post could get tweeted 10k times, and if you’d had a link there, you could have potentially gotten 50 new customers.
For one thing, there are quality alternative metrics, such as the various ones used by Majestic, Ahrefs, Open Site Explorer and Link Research Tools. Let’s look at how these metrics are calculated, taking it from the source (mostly so I don’t get it wrong). After that, we’ll see how the numbers stack up across a few different sites.
Note: I do understand that you can’t always easily compare metrics because the way they are calculated is totally unique. The Ahrefs metrics, for example, can’t easily be compared to something like Majestic’s Citation Flow. However, the purpose of all this is to show you which metrics exist and could be used to gauge value/authority of link partners, no matter how you get the links. The ones that I have chosen may not be the best ones for you, but again, we’re just trying to look at the fact that there are alternatives to Google’s TBPR.
Majestic has two “flow metrics” described as follows:
Flow Metrics are scores assigned to websites and URLs by algorithms run on Majestic SEO servers during the build of an index. Flow Metrics are expressed as numbers between 0 and 100, the higher the number, the stronger the signal. Flow Metrics are produced by studying how various metrics alter as they flow through the link graph. This technique provides an indication of how sites compare within the context of the Internet (or, at least, the part of the Internet we have crawled and indexed ).
Citation Flow: “Citation Flow is a Majestic SEO Flow Metric, which is weighted by the number citations to a given URL, or Domain.”
Trust Flow: “Trust Flow is a Majestic SEO Flow Metric, which is weighted by the number of clicks from a seed set of trusted sites to a given URL, or Domain.”
Ahref‘s Domain Rank and URL Rank are calculated as follows: “Ahrefs Rank measures the impact of all backlinks with different link juice to a given page. Every URL has its own AR.”
Domain Rank is measured on a scale from 0 to 100. I had some difficulty finding documentation about the scale for URL Rank, but I did find a good post about this as they tout the metrics as being something that “aims at solving the same tasks as Google PR.”
Open Site Explorer
Open Site Explorer uses Moz’s Domain Authority metric, which “predicts [a] domain’s ranking potential in the search engines based on an algorithmic combination of all link metrics.” It’s on a scale of 0 to 100.
Note: I used this instead of MozRank since their Domain Authority combines all of their link metrics.
Link Research Tools
Note: while the others use their own index, Link Research Tools does not.
Cemper PowerTrust “determines the quality of a domain according to its strength and trustworthiness.” The scale is 0 to 100.
Now that we’ve gotten a basic overview of how each tools works, it’s time to compare them. Let’s take a look at a few sites and see how the numbers stack up. One is this site, one is the SEO Chicks blog, one is Link Fish Media (my agency site), and one is the local site that we run.
Search Engine Land
- TBPR 7
- 74% Citation Flow, 68% Trust Flow (Majestic)
- Domain Authority 92 (Open Site Explorer)
- Domain Rank 99.9993 (Ahrefs)
- URL Rank 265 (Ahrefs)
- Cemper PowerTrust 49
SEO Chicks Site
- TBPR 5
- 42% Citation Flow, 33% Trust Flow (Majestic)
- Domain Authority 56 (Open Site Explorer)
- Domain Rank 99.8 (Ahrefs)
- URL Rank 460 (Ahrefs)
- Cemper PowerTrust 12
Link Fish Media Site
- TBPR 4
- 41% Citation Flow, 33% Trust Flow (Majestic)
- Domain Authority 46 (Open Site Explorer)
- Domain Rank 99.5 (Ahrefs)
- URL Rank 260 (Ahrefs)
- Cemper PowerTrust 4
Avant Greensboro Site
- TBPR 4
- 32% Citation Flow, 22% Trust Flow (Majestic)
- Domain Authority 28 (Open Site Explorer)
- Domain Rank 97 (Ahrefs)
- URL Rank 31 (Ahrefs)
- Cemper PowerTrust 2
Conflicting Metrics Mean Tough Choices
After looking this over, which metrics do you think are the best ones for you to use? And how do they measure up to the TBPR?
Amazon has the best Majestic metrics but has a lower TBPR than CNN. Search Engine Land and Wikipedia have the same PowerTrust but very different TBPR, Domain Authority, and Majestic metrics.
Avant Greensboro (highlighted in pink) is just shy of two years old and has the same TBPR as my agency’s site (Link Fish, highlighted in yellow), which is much older and has many more inbound links. If I had looked at just TBPR, I’d think they were both about equal in terms of their power. If I had looked deeper and looked at all these metrics, I’d say that Link Fish was the way to go because it has higher Majestic metrics. But, Avant Greensboro gets more traffic and the potential to convert someone seems higher to me, so… well, it’s confusing, is it not?
Now look at BBC vs. CNN (in blue and green, respectively). They have similar Majestic metrics and the same TBPR, but the PowerTrust is different. If I just relied on that, I’d think that a link off the BBC’s site would be better than one off CNN’s site.
Which Metrics Work For You?
How can you figure out which metric best represents the true value for your purposes?
Maybe you can’t. Maybe, as with other things that we seem to want to outsource to machines, we just have to use our heads and think. Some TBPR 6 sites are full of paid links and spam comments — and are possibly days away from being hit with an update or a penalty. Some unranked sites have amazing futures ahead of them.
There are obviously limitations present in a system that measures something on a scale of unranked to 10. Will these other metrics be better at helping us make choices about whether or not to pursue a link on a specific site? If so, which will you choose to rely on? For some people, it’s TBPR or nothing. For others, it’s Moz metrics maybe, or Majestic ones.
My advice when evaluating a link prospect is to consider what you’d want to see if you didn’t have access to any of the tools and metrics above:
- Natural fit for the link you want
- Good level of legitimate user engagement
- Decent social stats
- Unique content
- Good site age
- Ranks for its homepage/brand
- Blog is authored by someone with Google authorship
- Blog is updated regularly
- Contact information is present
I shudder at the idea of adding more metrics to my ever-changing list of what makes me like a site. But I can’t ignore the power of good sites for link building purposes, whether I’ve asked for a link there or just gotten one by a happy accident.
We wrote content for a client and saw zero rankings movement for two months — and then when we built 5 exact-match anchor-text links on TBPR 2+ pages, the rankings moved up 2 pages in a week and have remained there for the past two weeks. The non-TBPR metrics for those pages are all over the place. If I’d relied solely on those to make my decision, I doubt I’d have chosen half of the link prospects I did — even though, relevancy-wise, they’re dead-on perfect.
If Google does stop updating TBPR, what will you use to gauge a site’s quality? I’ll try to stick to the whole “Would I trust these guys with my credit card?” trick for as long as possible.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.