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topical trust flow

How Topical Trust Flow & Alexa Ranking Has Replaced Page Rank

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While PageRank had its devotees, most experts agree that it was an outdated and inefficient tool that wasn’t keeping up with the trajectory of online content and user experience.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?

trust flow and alexa

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:

matt cutts on pagerank

Credit MySiteAuditor

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:

majestic trust flow

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

alexa ranking

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):

alexa ranking express writers

As another example of a site climbing close to the 1 (best ever) ranking, here’s Inc.com:

alexa ranking inc

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

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.

Looking for help managing and improving your online content? Browse our Content Shop today to find the perfect package for your company!

6 Ways to Recover If You’ve Lost Your Web Page Rankings

How are your web page rankings fairing? Have you sunk, swam or treaded water?

In one of our New Year’s blogs we discussed the tricks of SEO optimization as they applied to the latest and greatest Google algorithm updates. After seeing three major algorithm updates in 2013, it isn’t surprising to see 2014 already graced by yet another Google update.

Google Updates Its Page Layout Algorithm for Web Page Rankings

It was bound to happen. As the face of search engine optimization continues to evolve, Google unleashed their first algorithm update of 2014. According to Search Engine Land, the update specifically targets websites that are “top heavy” with ads.

Matt Cutts, Google’s lead of web spam, released the announcement on February 6, 2014, stating it was a “refresh” of Google’s Page Layout Algorithm, otherwise known as the Top Heavy Algorithm. This marks the third confirmed update to the algorithm, which aims to penalize websites featuring pages that are top-heavy with advertisements. What does this mean for you?

Simply put, if your website buries content under lots of ads, you were in trouble back in 2012. If you’re still cramming ads in above your content today, you’re about to end up in even more trouble. According to Search Engine Land, sites choosing to use overlay, pop-up and pop-under ads are not impacted by this algorithm.

How much top ad is too much? There doesn’t appear to be any set ruling. However, you should take into consideration how your page displays. Content should be the anchor of every page. Ads are simply additional icing, meant to decorate not overtake. Remember: Google’s updates are all about improving the user’s experience. Users want to see more beneficial content and fewer advertisements.

Google Shakes Up SERPs

Before refreshing the Page Layout Algorithm, Google made what DejanSEO called the 6th largest update in a year. It caused a search engine results page shake up that shook cyberspace like an earthquake for the first time in a year. DejanSEO reported a culmination of “a massive 2.91 roos.”

What exactly did the cyber earthquake do? Near as we can tell, it shook up and rearranged where many websites placed on the SERPs. A prime example of this comes from Search Engine Journal, where Hin Lai shares the shocking news that after the quake their website dropped nearly 130 spots.

Maintaining Your SERPs

The updates to algorithms in 2014 beg the question we posed in the opener: how are your search rankings fairing? Have you sunk, swam or treaded water?

If you’ve managed to tread water, then you’re obviously doing something at least partially right. And you’re likely breathing a sigh of relief, thanking the search engine gods. Breaking even is always better than coming up short. Now, how do you improve?

If you’ve swam so far this year, then your search rankings have risen; you’ve definitely got the hang of 2014 SEO. However, if you’ve had the unpleasant experience of sinking, you’re no doubt trying to claw upward. You need air, and you need it now, before the first quarter of the year is out. Survival instincts are kicking in!

But can you raise the submarine before the first quarter of 2014 passes? After all, isn’t Google hardcore about penalizing offenders, keeping their heads held staunching underwater to teach them a hard learned lesson? Based on Hin Lai’s experience, you might not feel your head held underwater for too long.

Lessons Learned Early in 2014

Once Lai realized the search ranking drop looming before him, he did something not all of us would think to do at a moment of crisis: create a timeline of events. Google’s first update of 2014 hit on January 8th, and at Search Engine Land Lai recorded the following timeline:

  1. “January 9th – Site was hit by the penalty and dropped from rank 5 to rank 124.
  2. January 19th – Investigations led to having a PRO exact match anchor text link removed.
  3. January 26th – Monitored the results of actually saw a further drop of about 60 places since the link was removed. Fell to rank 101 at this point.
  4. January 28th – Decided to change the URL to avoid using my exact keyword. 301 redirected the old URL to the new one so that existing link juice would flow through.
  5. January 30th – Huge jump back to page 1, woohoo!
  6. February 1st – Site climbs to rank 6.
  7. February 4th – Site climbs further up to rank 5.”

As you can see, the website seems to have been able to regain ranking almost as abruptly as it was stripped of it due to good changes—the kind that Google smiled favorably upon. So, what can we learn from this example? How can you recover from falling search rankings in 2014?

6 Means of Repairing a Sinking Ship

We can learn a lot from what Lai did to recover his rankings. He points out some interesting lessons, and we’d like to expand on these lessons (or means of repairing the sinking ship):

  1. Lesson 1: Content is, yet isn’t the king. We’ve talked a lot about how content is king this year. We’ve discussed the need to put your audience first, tailor to their needs, educate, inform, compel and engage. Content needs to be well written and properly formatted. It needs to rival traditional editorial standards. And that’s why you should consider getting an industry copywriter. While quality content is an essential to a well-planned SEO strategy this year, it cannot be your sole savior. Take Lai, for example. He had immaculate, quality content and still his rankings got hit. Invest in quality content, view it as kingly, but do not allow it to stand alone. The King on the chessboard is the key to the game, but he cannot stand without his army.
  2. Lesson 2: You can pass all link juice via 301 redirects. We take this lesson directly from Lai’s experience. He points out that Matt Cutts publically stated “all link juice is passed through a 301 redirect.” Many still question whether or not this works, and the answer should be clear. Cutts says it does. Lai’s website managed to jump nearly 130 spots, landing on page one of the SERP. Says Lai, “There is no way this could have happened without having all that link juice flowing from my newly redirected backlinks.”
  3. Lesson 3: You can pass link juice immediately via 301 redirects. Did you notice how Lai’s website reclaimed rankings almost instantly upon his 301 redirect action? It’s been spread around the Internet as fact that link juice takes time to become effective. Lai’s timeline seems to prove this fact to be a myth. From the time of the redirect setup and landing back on page one of the SERPs, a meager 2 days passed. Based on the evidence, it seems link juice via 301 redirects takes effect almost instantaneously.
  4. Lesson 4: Google is forgiving. Your search rankings have fallen since the 1st of the year. You’re ready to do whatever is necessary to make them rise, but discouragement sets in as you think, what is the use? I’ll be penalized for at least 30 to 60 days, maybe longer. Why should I bother implementing changes right now? No pity parties! We are all weathering the changes in the SEO world, albeit some better than others. In truth we’ve all found ourselves far down the rankings list at one time or another. Most of us have tried something new and watched our ranking drop. But we’ve all recovered. You can too. Based on Lai’s timeline, his implemented changes saw tangible search rankings results within a few days—not months! If your rankings have dropped since the 8th of January, it seems Google is feeling forgiving and not holding this specific penalty over your head for an extended period of time.
  5. Lesson 5: Beware of over-optimizing your header tags. According to Lai, “[my] test indicates to me that we want to now avoid overusing…keyword[s] in the header tags.” It appears that keyword variations work better in header tags than the keywords themselves. This goes right along the lines of keywords becoming less robotically utilized in 2014.
  6. Lesson 6: Natural flow vs. robotics. Let’s face it; some of us are still struggling with how to use keywords. They used to be the bread and butter of SEO, but now they’re the seasoning. If there’s one thing Lai’s example can teach us, it’s that Google is a big fan of natural flow. As you strive to improve your search rankings, the best fix currently available to you is good old natural flow.

Understanding Natural Flow

What is a natural flow? When it comes to content, it’s that euphoric flow that makes an entire piece of content sing. You can start reading at the top and feel amazed when you reach the bottom because the flow was so coherent and smooth that you didn’t realize you just read the entire piece. A natural flow is also present when you can read a piece of content out loud without stumbling over awkward word usage, oddly constructed phrases or long sentences that lose you.

When it comes to search engine optimization, one way we achieve natural flow is through well written, quality content. But as pointed out, you cannot rely solely on content. So, just what does look “natural” in the eyes of Google? Here are a few ideas, based on Lai’s experience:

  • Don’t link for the sake of linking. Backlinking is obviously a powerful tool, but if the link doesn’t make sense in the content it will appear spammy. Google doesn’t like spammy; it’s not natural.
  • Secure and use a branded domain name. Not only does it look credible, but it screams credible.
  • Create and publish a thorough About Us page. This is the perfect opportunity to incorporate some amazing content with natural flow while sharing a story that creates a favorable user experience.
  • Create and use social media channels, and link them to your website. Social media is HUGE this year. You cannot skimp here. Social interactions are natural, human interactions. They build credibility and search rankings.
  • Create and publish a Privacy Policy and Terms page.
  • Don’t focus on keywords. Let them slide in naturally where appropriate. Do not force them.

Diversity Is the Key

The true takeaway point is that there is no single, all-powerful ingredient to increasing your search rankings. If you’ve experienced setbacks this year, you can turn it around—likely before the end of the first quarter. The key is making the right changes. As you institute changes, take a lesson from Lai and record an event timeline. This simple tool will allow you to determine whether or not the changes you make are truly in your best interests and generating results.

Search engine optimization for search rankings is all about diversity and balance in 2014. If you familiarize yourself with the current SEO trends and do your best to incorporate all aspects of SEO, you will see search ranking results. In fact, it’s probable the websites successfully weathering the New Year have adopted and used a diverse set of SEO tools based on current news and trends. It’s also likely that such websites are manned by companies who focus on their audience, and do everything in their power to provide the best user experience possible.

Are you one of the elite weathering the New Year with solid search rankings? What steps have you taken to batten down your hatches and ensure your ship is sea worthy in the search ranking sea? If you’ve experienced success, or successfully pulled your ship from the depths of the sea this year, share your experience. Together, we will make a stronger Internet in 2014; an Internet populated by fantastic user experiences, compelling and engaging content and—most importantly—the increase in sales and search rankings that we all want to see!