While PageRank was a huge thing in SEO for years, it’s recently been laid to rest.
This happened in March of 2016, when Google killed off its Toolbar PageRank feature.
While PageRank didn’t have a huge user base before it was axed, there were a small handful of marketers and SEOs still using it, and those people will now need to find something to fill its place. The good news is that the death of PageRank is just another indicator of Google’s ongoing commitment to a “quality over quantity” model, wherein amazing content is rewarded.
The other piece of great news is that the post-PageRank world is anything but a desolate wasteland. Quite the opposite, in fact!
While PageRank had its devotees, most experts agree that it was an outdated and inefficient tool that wasn’t keeping up with the trajectory of online content and user experience. As such, it’s actually a good thing that it’s fallen by the wayside and made room for newer, more intuitive tools to take its place.
Alexa Ranking and Topical Trust Flow are two modern quality gauges that are the perfect candidates to restore reliable trust metrics and help both marketers and consumers interact with more reliable content.
We’re here today to talk about both. Ready?
The Slow Death of PageRank
If you’re sad to hear about PageRank heading out, you’re not the only one. Google had been slowly killing the tool for years, though.
Here’s a brief history:
PageRank was developed by Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the Founders of Google, at Stanford University in 1996. Originally, the tool was part of a larger research product relating to search and how it could be improved. At the time of its development, PageRank was revolutionary and heralded a whole new era, when web pages would be judged by the quality of their content rather than the concentration of their keywords.
The service eventually launched, with Google as its only user. Over time, though, other search engines saw that PageRank was improving accuracy and authority, and they started adopting the system into their algorithms. The program was short-lived, though, and soon started to come under fire.
Search Engine Roundtable reports that, in 2007, Google asked its webmasters to provide some feedback about the idea of axing PageRank. In 2009, Google stopped showing data from PageRank in its Webmaster Tools section.
In 2013, Matt Cutts officially alluded to the death of PR:
By 2016, PageRank was on its way out, and SEOs and marketers everywhere were turning to the next reliable quality metric. Although some were sad about the end of PageRank, most people realized that, as good as PageRank had been, it had its drawbacks.
Namely: quality could be faked, and even spammy web pages and websites could have PageRank if they knew how to game the system.
These shortcomings set the stage perfectly for the next big thing, lurking just over the horizon.
Topical Trust Flow: What You Need to Know
The thing that first stepped up to take PageRank’s place is known as Topical Trust Flow, a tool created by Majestic SEO. Essentially, Topical Trust Flow determines how trustworthy and authoritative a URL or domain is within its niche while also determining what the topic of the content is all about. It does this by determining a site’s topical relevance based on the links it enjoys with other relevant sites.
Unlike PageRank, the quality metrics within Trust Flow are difficult to fake, since it’s actually the content that links to a page that determines its Topical Trust Flow.
Topical Trust Flow came at just the right time: with more than fifty million content shares every day, and 58% of consumers reporting they trust editorial content, (according to Nielsen), the web was in dire need of a more reliable trust metric than PageRank.
How Does Trust Flow Work?
Trust Flow is one of Majestic’s most useful tools for SEO practitioners. Flow is calculated using a set of authoritative seed websites as a base. The further away your domain lies from those seed sites, the lower the Trust Flow is.
The set of authority sites measured link out to other great sites, which link out to yet more sites. The whole system works like an underground root system, relying on a complex network of connections and inbound messages to determine stability and reliability. Here’s a diagram from seoworx.net.au to demonstrate how it works:
If you’re still struggling to understand Trust Flow, think of it like this:
- Topical Trust Flow measures the quality of inbound links based on the quality of the links pointing to the site your links come from.
- If every one of your inbound links come from sites that already have high Trust Flow, your domain is also going to have a high Trust Flow.
This is because the sites your links come from are seen as reputable and reliable, thanks to the inbound links they’ve received.
Trust Flow can be a tough metric to manipulate, making it almost impossible to fake or inflate. As such, it’s a much more reliable trust metric than PageRank, which relied on data that could easily be faked.
3 Facts to Know About Topical Trust Flow
Here are three key truths about Trust Flow and how it operates in the complex online world:
1. Trust Flow Relies on Relevance
A topically-matched trust flow that is high means the sites your links are coming from also have links that are topically relevant.
2. Trust Flow Rewards Trustworthy Links
A high trust flow means your inbound links come from sites that have trustworthy links.
3. Trust Flow Looks for Topical Similarities
A domain’s ability to rank increases when it has topically matched links that come from websites that have topically matched links, too.
To help you further understand how these truths play out in the Trust Flow algorithm, here’s a diagram from Majestic SEO:
How Trust Flow Supports 5 Crucial Foundations of SEO
While it might be easy to write Trust Flow off as just another reliability metric, it’s actually a tool that takes into account the changing climate of the online world.
When Trust Flow was developed, Google’s evaluation process for websites was shifting away from simple variables, like keyword inclusion, and toward more complex metrics, like quality, relevance, and user-experience.
The Trust Flow metric understands this (since it was born alongside it) and allows site rankings based on value, which is, after all, the most important metric of the modern world. What’s more, Trust Flow supports the five main SEO trends of today. These are:
1. Inbound Links
For years, search engines have been shifting toward prioritizing sites that earn lots of high-quality inbound links. Not only is this is a sign of relevance, but it’s also an indicator that a site is high-quality, especially if the sites linking to it are high-quality. Trust Flow is built on this, and it will continue to reward sites that earn inbound links in the coming years.
2. User Experience
While the old PageRank model didn’t think much about a user’s experience on a given page, Trust Flow takes user behavior and mobile optimization into account, rewarding sites that are easy to navigate and mobile-friendly.
3. Valuable Content
The very name “Trust Flow” indicates that valuable, relevant, trustworthy content is what search engines now want to rank. Create more of this, and the Trust Flow gods will smile on you.
4. Social Media
As social media becomes an ever-more influential ranking metric, companies are starting to see that the human signals produced on sites like Facebook are having large impacts on their content strategies.
5. Increased Importance of Earned Links
There will always be people who take the shortest route possible and buy links. It’s getting harder and harder to rank with that approach, though, especially since algorithms like Trust Flow reward links that are earned rather than purchased. This means things like guest blogging, referrals, and organic mentions are the most valuable forms of links out there.
5 Valuable Ways to Start Capitalizing on Trust Flow Today
While the introduction of Trust Flow shook up the SEO world, most professionals have found that the system actually provides many more benefits than PageRank. With that in mind, here are 5 smart ways SEOs can start capitalizing on the Trust Flow system today:
1. Use Trust Flow to Locate Top Influencers
Social signals from platforms like Twitter, Pinterest, Google+ and Facebook are starting to play an increased role in search results, according to a Search Metrics Ranking Factor. This is making it easier to track down and connect with authority figures and top brands in your industry.
2. Use Trust Flow to Increase Conversions on Social Ads
If you’ve been having a tough time boosting the conversion rates on your social ads, you’ll love Trust Flow. Google’s display network handles more than 1 trillion impressions each month, and managed placements will now allow you to hand-select the sites where you want to display ads.
3. Optimize Your Content for Inbound Links
Remember that Trust Flow places priority on trustworthy, topically-related links. With this in mind, focus on optimizing your content. For what it’s worth, content with more than 3,000 words earns twice as many shares as shorter content!
4. Play on the Strength of Backlinks
Backlinks play a major role in Trust Flow, so make sure you’re making the most of your networking and connections to earn as many backlinks as possible to your site.
5. Use Trust Flow as Inspiration to Become an Authority in Your Niche
Trust Flow places massive importance on topical relevance, so use expert writing to showcase your knowledge in your industry. The more authoritative and relevant your content is, the more likely your pages will be to earn a high Trust Flow ranking.
Diving Into Alexa Ranking: A 101
At the risk of sounding a little overwhelming, Trust Flow isn’t the only player in this game. There’s also Alexa Rank – a relatively new trust metric, my team here at Express Writers started using Alexa in place of the MozBar to learn about a page’s authority.
Unfortunately, the MozBar, like PageRank, had a few issues. It almost never worked, froze up constantly, plus there were rumors about inaccuracy in the actual numbers – inflation by spammy sites.
While Moz has made a very public effort to address the issues with the MozBar, we’ve found Alexa Ranking to be a much more reliable and valuable trust metric.
Here’s some background:
- Alexa is an Amazon subsidiary founded in 1996. Thought of as a pioneer in analytical insight, Alexa combines information from the browsing behavior of people in the Alexa global data panel to offer information about traffic estimates and PageRank. To put it simply, Alexa serves as a representation of all the people using the web. It’s basically a census for the online world!
- Daily updates. Unlike some other trust metric tools, Alexa’s Traffic Ranks look back at data collected over the prior three-month period, and are updated daily.
This makes them highly comprehensive and, even better, incredibly accurate. Alexa does have a funny quirk, though: it’s the complete opposite of Google’s PageRank.
In Alexa, the lower a site’s score, the better it’s doing in terms of traffic and authority.
How Alexa Ranks Sites
Alexa uses a combination of pageviews and unique visitor numbers to rank a site.
“Unique Visitors” is the number of Alexa users who navigate to a site on any given day and “pageviews” indicates how many Alexa users put in URL requests for a given site. The ranking from there on out is pretty simple: the site with the most visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 on a worldwide and country-specific basis.
While Alexa provides intensely accurate rankings, it does only rank domains, which means you won’t find rankings for sub-domains or pages on a site.
How to Locate Your Alexa Rank
Know what else I love about Alexa?
It’s dead simple.
The easiest way to use it is to head to the ranking site, which you can find at http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo. Once you get to the site’s homepage, you can enter the URL you’d like to evaluate.
For example, here’s what Express Writers looks like (not too shabby as of March, 2017):
As another example of a site climbing close to the 1 (best ever) ranking, here’s Inc.com:
From there, Alexa will give you information on the site’s popularity in a given country and, if you pay for the premium version, insights about daily and monthly site visits and more.
Another Tool to Find Alexa: Use SEOquake
If you prefer not to visit the Alexa ranking site every time you need to evaluate a URL, download SEOquake.
SEOquake is a free tool that downloads right into your web browser and sets up in a matter of seconds.
When you Google URLs, SEOquake will give you their Alexa rank, as well as other valuable authority metrics. While SEOquake can look a bit intimidating at first, it’s a simple tool to use and can integrate with other tools, like SEMrush to provide even deeper trust metrics.
Establishing Site Authority: The Methods Have Changed but the Practice Remains Critical
While many people wonder why it’s so important to gauge a page’s quality before linking to it, content that draws on valuable, relevant content is deemed by both users and search engines as more valuable. While PageRank laid the foundation for this type of evaluation, it’s since fallen out of vogue.
Fortunately, newer and more advanced tools have stepped up to take its place.
Trust Flow has helped the web shift toward a “quality over quantity” model and made it more difficult for sites to fake quality.
Alexa Ranking, on the other hand, has provided a unique and up-to-date way for marketers, writers, and SEOs to immediately gauge a page’s relevance with the web as a whole.
These tools, along with the shifting attitude toward quality content, have made it easier than ever before to create reputable material that links into the wealth of helpful, relevant, trustworthy content on the web.
When writers and SEOs rely on quality content, the entire online atmosphere as a whole benefits from it.
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