Sometimes when people are looking for a backlink, they’ll try to evaluate the value of the link by looking at the source website’s “metrics”. Metrics many people in the SEO industry use include Citation Flow, Domain Authority, Trust Flow, Spam Score, Page Authority, Alexa Rank, PageRank, Authority Score, Ahrefs Rank, Page Score, Domain Score, Trust Score and more.
These metrics are very useful, BUT… Please do not make the mistake of using them as a sole metric to determine the value of a backlink. This would be a flawed strategy, and none of these metrics are perfect.
Below I’ll cover what these metrics are and are not useful for, but first, let’s start with some basic history.
A very basic history of links.
Once upon a time, long long ago, before there were search engines like AltaVista, people used links to (drumroll) drive traffic or cite relevant sources in their content.
When the first search engines were invented, many used links to rank websites. The way this started was “more links, better rankings”.
And, as of 2018, links are much more complicated than: “High authority link, better website”.
Search engines have drastically evolved since the old days. I know if I had a search engine, I would want it to evaluate links based on how natural they appear, and a natural link looks just like they did 25 years ago back when legitimate links were used to (drumroll) drive traffic or cite relevant sources in their content.
What these metrics are and are not useful for.
How I use them.
When I look at a domain to take a quick guess at how “powerful” it is, I look at its “Domain Authority” or “Trust Score”. I normally use Trust Flow as this is Semrush’s metric and I’m normally logged in to Semrush when poking around. If I’m not logged in, I’ll check the “Domain Authority” for free here. Normally, when looking at a site’s links in Semrush, I’ll simply sort links by the highest Trust Score first and glance down the list, looking at the referring domains. While this only allows me to see a fraction of the picture, this sampling generally gives me a good idea of the type of links linking to a site. If I see nothing terribly spammy, I then move on to see if the domain in question ranks.
Checking a site’s rankings – the best way to evaluate a site.
The best way to evaluate a website’s health is to simply see how well it ranks in Google search, with the exception of sites which are on “thin ice” (websites can rank well which are about to get whacked by an algorithm update, especially if they’re in a “network” of related site or partaking in a PBN). You can usually figure out what a site is attempting to rank well for in under 10 seconds by looking either at the home page or one of the other main pages of the site. If the site is trying to rank well for “Purple Kitchen Appliances”, you can simply open a new Chrome incognito window and type in Purple Kitchen Appliances to see what pops up. Depending on how competitive the term is, you should see the website listed on page 1 or 2.
I had no idea how popular Purple Kitchen Appliances were until I just Googled it.. That is indeed shocking – I’ve never even SEEN a purple appliance yet there are indeed purple toasters, dishes, pots and pans and Keurig coffee makers.
Anyways, checking a site’s rankings is LIGHTYEARS more important than any random number a computer spits out at me. This is essentially a search engine telling you THEIR opinion of the site. I’ve seen hundreds, if not thousands of sites which rank TERRIBLY which have fantastic “metrics”.
Proof metrics can’t measure much.
As I just stated in the above paragraph, I’ve seen many websites which have great metrics, yet rank terribly.
The most recent examples of this are the THOUSANDS of health websites which got hammered on the August 2018 Google Broad Core Algorithm Update. They all have wonderful metrics, but they are getting slaughtered. I for one sure as heck don’t want any links from a site which Google doesn’t trust. Would you?
If you’d like to see some of these sites for yourself, just Google something like “herbal remedies for mental health”, scroll down to page 5 or 6, and check out the metrics on any of these sites. You can see the historical decline in traffic on these sites as well.
So much for metrics!
Here are some sites with great metrics, and I could share 150 more screenshots, but you get the point:
One more case where metrics are useless.
Another problem many people face who try to get links based on “metrics” and “scores” alone is that they begin focusing on JUST the metric. You could get a link in the footer of a site or the resources page of a site and it’ll be worth FAR less if it isn’t used in context. Also, if the site is all about kangaroos and it is suddenly linking out to a page about orthodontics it is unlikely to carry much weight either.
But wait, there’s more.
Actually, I’ll stop here. There are dozens of uses and misuses for metrics. Different companies have different metrics, to find out what each of the metrics means which were mentioned at the intro of this article, simply google them.
In a perfect world, you’ll have no control of your links.
If you haven’t guessed by now, getting great links means obtaining contextually relevant links from relevant websites. This occurs naturally when people reference things on your website.
In 2000 – 2010, people linked out freely all the time. These days, people are much more paranoid and links are much harder to get. In many niches, building links is indeed mandatory, and getting good links from powerful, related websites is important.
As evidenced above, just looking at metrics alone can do more harm than good. Every day, I am contacted by people who mention metrics. They all have different opinions, and unfortunately, many people think good metrics mean good websites. That’s just not the case, and simply looking at a score of 1-100 isn’t going to tell you much. That’s kind of like buying a house based on a score of 1 – 100. There are just a lot more factors to be concerned about.
While I like many of the tools above, and many are unique and can indeed be used in conjunction with each other to do some cool things, but using common sense is much better for the simple task of evaluating a site’s health.