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Are there Google PageRank alternatives?

| Posted in category Google Search News

On October 06 webmaster and SEO discussion boards were boiling with "Google PageRank update is under way", "PR on my sites is n/a", "Google discards PR" and similar threads. In fact, Google engineers decided to change the toolbar query URL from{gchecksum}&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&features=Rank&q=info:{url|encode}


Non-native toolbars and tools were still using the old URL, which caused the verification errors and consequently heart attacks and other grave conditions with the webmasters who are using such tools to verify the PageRank of their websites.

For a long time PageRank (PR) has been a benchmark and equivalent of quality/ value for many people making money online: domainers (the guys who are selling dropped domains with PR) determine the price of the domains based on PR; link-sellers will also charge you based on the PR of the page, from which they are selling links; link-builders normally trade links of the same PR, etc. But what metrics we’d have to use if PR is discontinued? Are there any other good alternatives? (We are going to include only the metrics that may be obtained via reputable, relatively unbiased and time-proven sources in this post).

1. Link popularity statistics

Link popularity reflects the number of backlinks a particular website has. This metric is easy to apply and interpret: the more backlinks a website has the better, presumably, it is. On the other hand, link popularity is easy to manipulate and it does not reflect the quality of the domains linking in. Currently, the majority of tools and services are obtaining this data from Yahoo Site Explorer but Yahoo will discontinue it soon. Google link popularity data (it may be obtained using query) and Sites Linking in by Alexa are among other alternatives. But both have serious drawbacks. Google shows only a small fraction of the existing backlinks and the data is rarely updated. Alexa mainly relies on the data collected from its toolbar users and it ignores links from "low traffic" websites, i.e. Alexa as well as Google link popularity metrics are far from being precise.

2. Traffic Based Ranks

These metrics reflect the number of visitors of a website for a certain period of time and their engagement with it (page views). Such ranks are relative and tell you how a website performs in comparison with other websites included in the data base. A website with a better rank enjoys more traffic. From a SEO perspective such ranks may be misleading because they will take into account both the organic search engine traffic and paid traffic. Traffic ranks are calculated based on the data collected from specific panels of users (in most cases these are users of respective toolbars), as the result, substantial data may be accumulated only about large-scale websites, since they are more likely to be frequented by the toolbar users – smaller sites are missing out. Alexa, Compete, and Quantcast are the most widely used traffic based ranks.

3. Popularity in Social Networks

Social networks brought about a new phenomenon - "Likes" (the term is used by Facebook. Most social networks and Web 2.0 websites are using their own names for a similar action, e.g. "+1", "retweet", "Thumbs up") – these are votes cast by social networks users in favor of the noteworthy content. It’s about to be a perfect quality indicator since it reflects the preferences of real people. But it’s not universally applicable and here’s why. First, the initial sharer of the information should have a wide social circle for it to be noted by other users. In other words, if you have 3 friends on Facebook, who are your family members you are not going to hit 1K "Likes" soon. Second, the information should be viral and entertaining. Third, there are websites that people are not going to "Like" just because they don’t want the whole world to know what they’ve just bought from an online sex shop.

4. TrustRank

Individual developers and companies are attempting to create their own integral ranks (often called trust ranks) based on the combination of various factors like domain age, link popularity, number of visits, etc. But none of them is as simple, straightforward and easy to apply as PageRank. After all, they often lack trust themselves, the trust of the users.

Looks like PageRank is the only beacon in the changeable Internet space that helps webmasters around the globe to evaluate web pages.

How do you imagine the world without PageRank? What if on October 06, 2011 Google really discontinued it? Share your ideas in the comments section.

PS: While many software vendors are still poking with their scripts we are about to release an updated version of SEO PowerSuite adapted for the new toolbar URL. Don't forget to update your copy!

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