June 2nd, 2017

The confusing world of undefined metrics

The SEO world has traditionally been thought of as the darker corners of the marketing ecosystem, full of hard ‘dark arts’ and terminology. Sure it takes a little time to get your head around all of the various factors involved and the terminology can be overwhelming but at Yellowball we love to provide clarity on the subject. So here we are again, this time looking at the overarching SEO metrics available to you. Which ones are important, which ones are redundant and should you pay attention to them?

Painting in broad strokes, all of the metrics listed below (except PageRank) are relevant if you are running an SEO campaign. In the end they are metrics provided by major analytics tools so it really depends on your own preferences!

Provider: Google

PageRank
Let’s get the big one out of the way first. PageRank is Steve Stifler from the latter version of the American Pie franchise. Once relevant in a disruptive sense, Google no longer updates PageRank scores and as such this metric should not be a consideration nowadays (https://weareyellowball.com/seo/seo-glossary/pagerank/). Once upon a time it represented the link juice gained by a website from inbound links but was quick to be abused in order to manipulate search results.

Provider: Alexa

Alexa Rank

Owned by Amazon, Alexa provides analytics on site performance including their flagship metric ‘Alexa rank’. Much like PageRank, it was an interesting metric… many moons ago. It takes into account a combination of factors to determine a site’s popularity, with 1 being the most popular. Unless you are pushing for some of the top spaces we do not see much benefit in paying attention to this metric. Is it going to make a difference if you move up from 1,500,073 to 1,312,948?

As more complex metrics were released by the companies below, Alexa Rank fell out of favour.

Provider: MOZ

MOZ’s metrics are trusted globally and arguably the main rival to Majestic’s metrics in terms of use within the SEO community. Whilst Moz provide a wide variety of metrics available via both their paid and free tools, such as their Opportunity scale in Keyword Explorer, below we have listed 3 metrics from their Open Site Explorer tool which you are likely to come across:

Domain Authority & Page Authority

These authority metrics are calculations made by Moz to determine a website or page’s ability to rank. Moz say that the data is taken from their Mozscape web index with the score taking into around 40 factors including MozRank, MozTrust and associated link metrics. In plain English? Moz crunch a lot of data to give your website a score out of 100 (100 being the best) which should then correlate to your website’s ability to rank.

Is it useful? More useful than PageRank or Alexa Rank. It gives a useful score for both a domain and a website based on a variety of factors. As a quick snapshot it is an interesting metric and can be particularly relevant when conducting competitor research.

One of the issues experienced with DA and PA is that they update painfully slowly, in fact Open Site Explorer on the whole is noticeably slow to react to changes.

Spam Score

A relatively new metric added to the suite offered by Open Site Explorer, your Spam Score is out of 17 (0 being the optimum). This is particularly useful when starting an SEO campaign and creating a strategy. Moz thankfully provide an estimate alongside their Spam Score in the form of:

“we found x% of sites with y flags were penalized by Google”

They even highlight the ‘flag’. An example might be “Site Link Diversity is Low”. Enabling you to take quick action to get your Spam Score down to zero. Considering the dramatic negative effect that penalties can have this metric can be very valuable indeed!

Provider: MajesticSEO

Another giant of the web analytics game, MajesticSEO’s most well known metrics are Trust Flow and Citation Flow which make up their trademarked ‘Flow Metrics’. In a similar vein to Moz’s metrics they provide an overview of a website’s ability to rank. In fact, when they announced these metrics back in 2012 they admitted that they shared a ‘friendly rivalry’ (https://blog.majestic.com/development/flow-metrics/) with MOZ.

Trust Flow

This takes into account the quality of a website based upon how trustworthy the sites are that link to said site. What does this mean? The more trustworthy sites making up a website’s backlink profile, the better the Trust Flow.

Citation Flow

Together with Trust Flow, Citation Flow is one of the main components of MajesticSEO’s Flow Metrics algorithm. Citation flow takes into account the amount of links pointing to a URL which can therefore have an influence on how powerful gaining a link from that particular URL would be. This follows on from MajesticSEO’s previous AC Rank and was heralded as a more complex evaluation of a webpage’s link profile.

Provider: Ahrefs

Whilst Ahrefs is a large player in the world of analytics, many prefer the metrics provided by either MOZ or MajesticSEO. Ahrefs offer 3 different major metrics: Ahrefs URL Rating, Ahrefs Domain Rating and Ahrefs Rank.

Their URL rating and Domain rating are based on link profiles, much like Trust Flow and Citation Flow, with Ahrefs Rank commonly thought of as an alternative to the aforementioned Alexa Rank.

Other Considerations

We have provided commentary on the main analytics providers but as you may know, SEO is a discipline with a considerable amount of factors. As such, there are other metrics that you may want to consider when managing a campaign, although these are more specific rather than the overarching ones listed above:

– Page Load Speed (use Page Speed Insights, GT Metrix and Pingdom’s website speed test)
– Coding Errors (use W3C validator)
– Various crawl checks using Search Console

Which one should you use?

It really depends on your allegiance to brands. MOZ and MajesticSEO’s metrics are pretty evenly matched with Ahrefs bringing up the rear (although some would argue that they in fact give the most detailed metrics). MajesticSEO provide more graphical representation of their metrics which can be very handy, although the User Interface of Open Site Explorer is much easier to use.

Should you use them?

Yes. They are useful indicators of progress, providing valuable insight into the power of your links and (if using Moz) highlighting potential issues with your site’s SEO. But… and there is a but! You do not want to allow these metrics to supercede the most important data that you use to measure the success of a campaign. Remember that the majority of these tools allow you to see an indicative figure which points towards a website’s ability to rank. Whilst these figures are great for a number of actions, including competitor analysis and identifying link acquisition targets, they do not always directly correlate to money on the bottom line.

Ultimately, the most important metrics to track the success of a campaign will be rankings, website traffic from search and most importantly, website conversions directly from search. As they say, the proof is in the pudding!

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