In a Google podcast, Search off the Record, Googlers discussing spam digressed to discuss third party metrics and their impact on Google search rankings. They observed that improving the scores of third party metrics did not result in an improvement in search rankings and suggested expanding to a wider range of factors.
This part of the discussion involved Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst for Google, John Mueller and Duy Nguyen of Google’s Search Quality Team which focuses on catching spammy sites.
Third Party Domain Authority Metrics
Many tool and data companies provide metrics that help publishers compare their websites to other websites with a convenient metric that assigns a proprietary “authority” or “ranking” score to websites.
Some of these metrics use links and traffic (among other factors) to calculate an authority or ranking score.
The purpose of these metrics is to help publishers and SEOs do competitive analysis.
There are many publishers however who use these metrics as proof of site quality and will seek links from other sites with high 3rd party authority scores in order to improve their own authority scores.
What Google makes clear is that they’ve never seen a correlation between improving those third party metrics and a positive impact in search rankings.
Third Party Metrics and Search Rankings
Google’s John Mueller began this section of the podcast by remarking that many publishers focus on factors that have zero impact on search rankings.
[00:24:35] John Mueller:
“I think it’s also, like you said, one of those things where you don’t even know if it will actually help your site.
And potentially, it’ll just harm your site and then you’re just digging a bigger hole for yourself rather than working on something positive for your website to improve things for the long run.”
[00:24:56] Duy Nguyen:
“Yeah, an example of that that we observed was web masters or else spammers tend to focus on improving one or two particular metrics that are external, that we absolutely do not use.
They, for some reason, think that if they put on a lot of time and money in improving such scores, it would perform really well on Google Search. I’ve never seen a case where that actually work well.
And I find it pretty sad… because if all that time and money were spent on building up the websites with better user experience, more functionality, writing better quality content, producing high quality images, they’d probably do a lot better on Search and obviously a lot more sustainable for the site, itself.”
[00:25:43] John Mueller:
“Yeah. Okay, one area where I see where people, I don’t know, use that almost in a reasonable way is when it comes to monetizing their site, where they just want some externally visible metric to go to some advertising and say like, “Look, my site is actually pretty reasonably placed and if you spend some money with me, then I can get your message out to a broader audience.”
But it feels like… sometimes I see people in the forums just saying like, “I want to improve this metric.”
They don’t really want to focus on the site overall. They’re just like, “I just want to change this number from 7 to 25.
And I’m like, “Why?” It’s doesn’t change much.”
Don’t Focus on Just One Factor
Duy Nguyen next discusses the futility of focusing on one thing (like a third party metric) at the expense of focusing on the hundreds of actual ranking factors that have an impact on search performance.
Duy explains the benefits of focusing on a wide range of performance metrics.
Duy Nguyen: [00:26:33]
“Yeah, I love data, myself. I think the more data you have, the better you would be at your role, whatever that may be. As a site owner or an online marketer, I think it’s really great to have a bunch of metrics that you monitor and measure and try to improve as long as you don’t focus on one thing.
As a site owner, I used to look at bounce rate and time spent on pages all the time, for example, to know which content that are really hitting it off with my audience so I can
Or for some reason I find that nobody really discover our Contact or Support pages. Why is that? Do we have a problem there?
If people need to contact us, maybe we should just put it somewhere else, rewrite better content.
So yeah, as long as you don’t focus on one single thing because we have hundreds and hundreds of ranking signals. Focusing on one thing doesn’t mean you will improve it across
the board and would rank your site better.”
Search Rankings Depends on Hundreds of Signals
In order to improve search rankings it’s important to focus on a wide range of relevance and popularity signals.
Some publishers might focus on links but their content might lack authoritativeness.
Other publisher might focus on authoritative content but neglect to make the web pages user friendly.
Another publisher might do nearly everything right but neglect to adequately promote each article in order to encourage links.
Publishers might focus on building links but neglect to build an audience, relationships with readers, or relationships with influencers.
Sites that rank well for a limited time then bounce around between the first and second page of the search results sometimes are sites that are neglecting a certain part of site promotion, user experience, content quality or content relevance.
Sites that seem to be locked into the first position as if they owned it tend to be sites that address all aspects related to user experience, signals of popularity and topical focus.