Page Rank Vs Domain Authority Vs Content Marketing Vs who knows what else

Everytime I blink things in SEO are called something new. This week I spent some time on the phone chatting with the agencies I appropriated pens and little tins of sweets from at this year’s Marketing Week Live. I always try at events like that to only talk to the companies I think I might have a need to work with but sometimes I will admit I am lured in by the promise of things like jelly sweets and free bottled water. As they make up the majority of my diet on conference days, I really don’t think I can be blamed for this.

Anyway, I only went for half of the second day of Marketing Week. I would have liked to have gone to more but the event happened in my first week back at work after three weeks travelled around Iceland and Norway, so I simply didn’t have the time to spare. I attended one of the sessions in the digital training space about useful content marketing tools (still need to check out that list) and another session which I thought was going to be all about digital trends in consumer life and ended up being more about selling in a new product, which is a move I always feel is dickishly misleading but whatever.

Anyway, in my job I am pretty much the only person who cares about SEO unless the sky is falling. I have a very talented team member who handles the CPC for me, and has absorbed search knowledge like the very talented sponge that he is, so my role is often taking the wider more strategic look as opposed to focussing on what can be done on this site right now to improve organic traffic.

I did one of eConsultancy‘s Advanced SEO courses a few years ago, but there’s been so many algorithm changes since then (hi Hummingbird **waves**) that my notes from that are only useful as historial information.

And so when one of the search agencies called me up and offered to look at one of my sites I said yes. And we did. Very helpful conversation, and I wish I had the immediate budgetary discretion to get them in but when I say I am the only person who cares about SEO that also means that I’m the only one who can see how X number of thousands a month could be justified for it.

Doesn’t mean I won’t try, but I’m getting away from the point.

My point is thus, we were talking and she said:

“Your site has a really good domain authority. Do you know what domain authority is?”

My answer: “I’m not sure, is it like PageRank?”

“No,” she replied, “that’s an old fashioned term, we all use Domain Authority now.”

And I let that one go because as multi-talented as I am knowing the right terms to use at any one time is often beyond me. I can explain what I mean and what I know, but at some point I’m going to be grasping for a word and will end up choosing one that’s not quite right, it’s just how my brain works.

But I was thinking about this throughout the afternoon. The phonecall inspired me to spend some time in my company’s basic Moz account, checking the status of brands and competitors and the more I focussed on SEO, the less sense it made.

PageRank was the original Google Algorithm – at least pre-Hummingbird. Named after Larry Page, it’s a way of calculating the worth of a website in terms of content, links to other worthwhile material and links from other worthwhile material. Yes, Google say it’s only one of the several hundred things they consider now when producing SERPS but still, it was there from the beginning and as far as I can tell it’s still there now in sone fashion – even if public rankings haven’t been updated for a while.

Domain Authority is a Moz statistic. Unlike PageRank, which is out of 10 and moderately static, Domain Authority is out of 100 and a lot more moveable.  Domain Authority, as far as I can see, is based off a lot of the same criteria as PageRank was/is.

In this era of personalised search I can see why we need a ranking system so we can see when/if the placement of our website on SERPs is improving. Keyword ranking tools are fallible and just looking at the percentage of traffic organic search is inherantly falliable because there are so many factors beyond your control.

Knowing if your site meets the required quality for search inclusion is important, and a ranking service gives you that.

But every second article I read seems to be asking if SEO is dead, when SEO is clearly not dead. I mean, maybe it would be more accurate now to call it Search Engine Marketing rather than Search Engine Optimisation, but SEO in my mind always can down to two things:

  • Thing 1 – quality content with a sensible title
  • Thing 2 – enbaling bots to find your quality content by getting people to link to it

Yes, there’s keywords and Google+ pages and Schema tags and little tricks about where is the page you should put the H1 or the meta description or whatever.

But at it’s core that’s what SEO/M always was – write something good and put it out there enough so it can be found.

These days that seems to be called Content Marketing – which I swear the meaning of has changed several times from referring to avertorials, socially sharable content and god nows what else.

But it’s all just words really. When I say PageRank I don’t necessarily just mean PageRank as used by Google – and so in that case Domain Authority is a better name, but it’s name from a search marketing company and while strong Domain Authority likely leads to strong SERP ranking, I say again that it’s a measure from a search agency and not a search engine, so can it really be all that trusted? It’s a best guess, and it’s a good guess, but there’s no guarantee it’ll mean anything to Google.

I don’t know, I may be worrying too much. Right now I have 27 sites in need of SEO/M attention and content marketing campaigns and there’s just me (and my talented minion) to do that. And search isn’t even near the top of my list in terms of important projects right now.

I just wish we could all agree what everything is called and stop writing articles about how things are dead. That’s just unhelpful.

PS. Don’t even get me started on the rise of conversational search and natural language. That’s a whole new ballgame.

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