Website owners are always looking for a way to gauge the success of their SEO strategies, and rightfully so. After all, they’ve invested quite a bit of time and money in site optimization and link building, and they want to see that work pay off. For many website owners, PageRank still seems to be the coveted brass ring at the end of the SEO carousel, and they see scoring pride of place at the top of a Google search result as the only true indicator of their business’ success. But the internet is constantly changing, and the metrics that once defined a successful SEO strategy are changing along with it.
In short, PageRank is still a metric to consider when measuring a website’s success. However, it’s not the only measure and we must go beyond PR. PageRank is still good for a “raw” snapshot of how that particular page measures up to more popular sites, but it’s not the key performance indicator it once was.
Why PageRank is Not the Only Definition of Success
There are a number of reasons why PageRank may not be the best measure of a business’ online success. First and foremost, the very nature of search results has changed since PageRank was introduced, and many times over with Google updates. With the ever advancing sophistication of search algorithms, and the increased availability of data, we are seeing search results becoming customized for each and every individual user.
Search engines now consider the user’s internet history, search preferences, location, and more. If the user is logged into a Facebook or Google+ account, that information is also used to customize the search results for any given query. This provides a much better online experience for the user, but it means that results will vary greatly for the same search term depending on who is making the request.
PageRank is now determined more by the user’s interests and online history than by the business’ SEO techniques. It’s simply a raw indication of link popularity these days.
Secondly, page rankings are prone to fluctuation at the best of times. The internet is in a constant state of flux, and new content is always being added. Consequently, what ranks for a given keyword or phrase is going to be constantly changing as well.
Moreover, search engine algorithms are always being updated and tweaked to provide the most relevant search results. The natural interaction of changing search algorithms and online content means that page rankings are bound to fluctuate. These factors are out of the webmaster’s control, and trying to game them will not make the website or the business any more successful.
Finally, ranking for the wrong search terms is no indication of a website’s online success. Many black hat SEOs might guarantee a high PageRank, and may even be able to deliver on that promise through “fake PR”. Pride of place on an SERP is only valuable if it’s for a search term that people are actually using.
If Not PageRank, Than What?
If we accept that PageRank can no longer be the only definition of a website’s success, than what should a website owner consider? Google themselves have spent the last few years trying to shift webmasters and SEOs attention away from PR and onto metrics that are more indicative of a website’s success. They suggest that website owners consider the following metrics when assessing their online success.
- Domain Authority
- Page Authority
- Conversion Rate
- Bounce Rate
- Click-Through Rate
- Keyword Traffic
These areas provide a more comprehensive view on a website’s performance than PR alone. Some are also updated daily or weekly and others monthly, giving webmasters a steady stream of valuable information to help them gauge their site’s online performance, and make any necessary changes.
At best, information on a site’s PageRank is updated two to three times a year, which is too slow a turn around time to really help website owners respond to any changes in performance. Keeping track of Conversion, Bounce and CTR rates is easy, and they can be tracked using either Google Analytics or Webmaster Tools.
The changing face of the internet has made it a much more fluid, and user responsive, environment. While PageRank was once a clear measure of a website’s performance, today other factors are much more indicative of a business’ online success. The time has come to look at the way users interact with a website, and how it performs in real time, rather than where it ranks on a given Google search.