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Friday, June 27, 2014

Past vs. Current Ways to Identify an Authority Site

Back in the day, you could usually depend on top listings to be authorities. However, that's when we started to manipulate the web in various ways.

In 2004 I could rank just about any site that I worked on through cloaking, for example. Given a truly poor site that was not user-friendly, was full of nothing but boring product descriptions, and wasn't one I'd ever buy a thing from, I could help them easily make money.

Today, it's much harder as there have are frequent algorithm updates that are designed to combat the latest overused technique, sometimes completely screwing up and accidentally pushing decent sites further down into the results pages. Some people still rely on metrics such as Google's Toolbar PageRank or MozRank to determine a site's authority, but it's simply too easy to employ methods that mean most metrics are about as reliable as Alexa.

These days we have social signals to consider, which can be manipulated too of course, but genuine user engagement through social media channels and the site itself is discernible if you take the time to check it out.

You have to work harder than you did years ago, because now, you can't just trust that someone with 15,000 Twitter followers has legitimately gained those followers by being an authority. You may find a post that has 500 tweets and zero comments, and when you dig into who tweeted the post, you'll see that they're mostly automated spam accounts.

Today, as much as I hate to say it, you simply can't rely on any metrics to identify an authority site. You have to do the hard work and dig into it.

You can't use a tool to accurately find these sites all the time. If you spend some time on the site and trust it, it's probably the type of authority you're looking for.

What are the right signals of trust then? For me, social engagement is key. If a site has regularly updated content that is well liked, with people tweeting it, Facebooking it, spreading it on Google Plus, and commenting, that's a great sign that the community trusts it.

I'm big on looking at everyone's backlinks (naturally) so if you're well versed in digging into that, go for it, but many people aren't into that and don't have the time, so for those guys, social is your best bet I think.

via Julie Joyce

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