When you develop content for your sites or blogs, you will have this thought on how Google and other search engines determine the authority of a webpage? What are the factors which affects the rankings of a page on Google and other search engines? What can I do to ensure those factors are met and I continue to get traffic from search engines on a continued basis?
The rankings of a web page depends on the authority, relevancy and other “signals”. If all the other signals are same, it has been observed that more the authority of a page, better are it’s chances of ranking. I said “Chances” because nobody can guarantee whether a page is going to rank for a specific set of keywords or search terms. There is a chance that it may rank. There is an equal chance that it may not rank but it is a usual observation that more the authority of a web page, better are the chances of ranking in search engines for a given set of keywords or phrases.
How Google determines the authority of a webpage or website?
Now you would be curious to know how Google determines the authority of a webpage, website or domain name.
Fortunately or unfortunately, nobody has a clear and concise answer to this question. Nobody can predict how a search engine works and hence, there is no clear formula which determines how the authority of a webpage is determined. Google looks for 200 different signals and then determines the authority of a webpage. Also, these signals are reviewed on a continuous basis and hence what was authority once may not be authority tomorrow.
That said, I will give you some concepts on what are the metrics on how authority is usually determined, so you have an idea on what influences the authority of a page on Google eye’s.
The primitive way to measure authority of a page was PageRank. PageRank is a ranking algorithm which determines the “value” of a page, depending on the number and “quality” of back links it has. In this system, every page on the web had an “authority” which was determined by the amount and quality of back links it had from other sites.
This was way back in 2001 when Google started out and this has changed considerably overtime. As of now, we know the following things regarding how the authority of a page is determined
- There is no single authority metric to judge and measure the authority of a webpage. If we compare two pages, it is possible that one page may have good metric on specific areas while another page may have good metric in others. There is no single metric that defines the authority of a page. It’s a “Mix” of things.
- Content and links remain the top signals. More the links from other authority sites, better are the chances of rankings. It is a usual observation but it may not work in special circumstances. For example, if a webpage has lots of authority back links but loads slow and shows a lot of ads above the fold, it’s authority may reduce overtime. That authority may go to another webpage which has similar content, less links but provides a better overall user experience.
- Authority is page specific and not site specific or domain specific. You may have 100 pages on your website out of which 99 may have no authority. Your domain name or website may have no authority but it is possible that one page in your website has some critical information about something which attracts lots of users, links and provides a great user experience. In that case, that one page may have a good authority, even though your site’s domain name may have no authority at all. In short, “Authority” is page specific and not site specific.
- Age is not a very big factor in terms of generating and getting authority. Contrary to popular belief, age is not a huge factor since a new website has equal chances of ranking higher and command high authority, compared to an old website. Many people think that since their website is new, it cannot compete with existing players. That is not right. If your website has better content, better user experience and provides more value to readers, it is possible to beat an old player and get “Authority” naturally.
- Exact match domain names or keywords in domain names do not affect authority. In some cases, exact match domain names with an embedded keyword may get flagged as spam, if the site does not have great content in it. Do not use an exact match domain name thinking that keywords in domain name will look “Authoritative”. It’s wrong and completely unnecessary.
- Your website’s load time, user experience and user behavior affects authority. If your website loads slow, has lots of obtrusive ads, pop-ups and other things, it will reduce your site’s authority. It doesn’t matter if you have lots of great links to your site, that doesn’t cancel the effect. One good thing cannot cancel out a bad thing, similarly, if your site is unusable with lots of ads, it doesn’t matter how many quality links it has from other sites, the authority will eventually be affected and reduced.
- History of Content updates, links and activity affects authority. The historical data of a website affects its authority since the historical data is a good clue for search engines to figure out what this website is doing over a period of time. If you continue to publish great content, attract links naturally to your site, do all the good things over a period of time, it is imperative that the authority will improve over time. A good track record is a necessary element in generating and keeping authority of a website.
- Outbound links affects authority. Who you link to, with what anchor text and what you are doing with your links sends trust signals to search engines and it affects authority of your site as a whole as well as affects the page specific authority of a given webpage. So be careful whom you link to and review the site before you decide to link to them. A good question to ask here is — Will my readers benefit from the content where I am linking to? If yes, you should go ahead and if No, do not link to that site.
- Design, typography and readability affects authority. If your website’s design user friendly? Does it look good on a computer, mobile and tablet device? Does it have good typography? How readable is your website’s content? These are the things which affects authority. If your site has lots of quality links but somehow you messed up the design and now the content is unreadable, it will affect user behavior and will eventually lose authority.
- Usability affects authority. Is your website usable? Can users navigate across your site through internal links, navigation links, sitemaps, footer links, sidebar links and other sections without much friction? Can users search content on your site and quickly find what they are looking for? Did they get the answers and solutions for their problems? These are the things which affects authority to a great extent. A site with great content and links but very bad usability will eventually have a lesser authority compared to a site with similar content and good usability.
- Duplicate content affects authority. If your site has lots of duplicate content, your site’s authority will go down. It doesn’t matter if the content is syndicated from an external site or you have syndicated from another section of your own site, duplicate content is after all duplicate content. Your site should be free from duplicate content and if Google and other search engines see a lot of duplicate content on your site, it’s authority will go down the drain. Be careful.
- Content quality affects authority. Does your website has lots of low quality content? Did you publish lot of junk posts to gain rankings? Did you wrote content in a hurry, without taking care of best practices? If your website has lots of pages with low quality content, it will affect the authority of other pages on your website to some extent.
- Domain history affects authority. Although, keywords in a domain name does not have major effects in the authority of a webpage, but sometimes, the history of a domain name can have some impact on the authority of a webpage. Was the domain name earlier blacklisted? Are you the first person to buy that domain name? If not, what was the activity of that domain name? Did Google and other search engines found something suspicious on that domain name earlier? If yes, then it might affect the authority of your website so it is always a good practice to choose a domain name which was not used by someone else before. Which is the very reason why you should chose a brand-able domain name and not chose a very generic, keyword laden domain name. Indeed a good idea to check the whois information of that domain name before deciding to buy it.
These are some of the most important factors which affects the authority of a webpage. There are lots of other factors as well, but they are minor ones. Again, Google and other search engines will never tell the exact factors that determines the authority of a webpage since it would remain a business secret (and we firmly believe that’s how it should be).
But if you keep tabs on the above signals and maintain best practices, the authority of your website will grow overtime. It will take time, it won’t happen in a couple of years but one thing I can tell you is that if you keep doing these things on a continued basis – the authority of your website shall slowly grow overtime.
The theory of Replacement and “Evolution”
It is worthwhile to note the theory of replacement and evolution.
If you have a page on your website which gets tons of traffic from Google, you can say that you have created an “authority” page which get’s lots of love from search engines. That is right but then again, it is relative. Why? Because today you are getting that traffic does not mean you will continue to get that love forever. Tomorrow, someone will surely come with better content, better usability and better things and steal that authority from you.
That’s how the entire web works.
There is nothing that you can do about it – you cannot prevent others from creating better content and creating better solutions to common problems users encounter. The person who provides better content and better results to users will continue to gain authority and will push back that person who was the “earlier” authority. That’s how it is and that’s how it has always been.
Getting authority is difficult but keeping authority is way, way harder. You have to continuously work and update your site with content, solutions, answers and other things to keep the authority and prevent others from taking it away from you.