There is more to SEO metrics than Domain Authority and organic traffic.
If this isn’t your first encounter with SEO, you’ve probably been introduced to tons of other metrics out there with no shortage of conveniently used acronyms. DA, PA, KD, CF, TF just to name a few.
Some SEO metrics are more relevant than others but, in the end, they are all here to help us during our SEO endeavors. Maybe you want to make a background check for a blog before doing blogger outreach, check the progress of your off-page and on-page SEO efforts, or you simply want to see how your website performs when compared to your top competitors. Understanding these SEO metrics will go a long way in helping you finish that kind of work.
By understanding, we mean that you need to know how to interpret them and be able to tell which metric hides behind which acronym.
So, if you wanted to see all the common SEO metrics neatly sorted and explained – you came to the right place.
Each metric is integrated into a prticular SEO tool. To make things easier to follow, we grouped them with the tools they are associated with.
This is where it all started. Probably the most used (and abused) metric on this list.
Google introduced PageRank as a way for the users to check the quality of the pages they are browsing. Not to mention that it was a big part of their algorithm for ranking pages overall.
It was represented with a little green bar on the Google Toolbar (as seen in the picture below) and hovering over it revealed a score that could have ranged from 0 to 10. Higher the score, stronger the site. It is also important to know that scaling wasn’t linear. It was much easier to improve your score from 3 to 4 then it was to move it from 8 to 9.
PageRank worked on the principle of votes. When a certain site linked to you it meant that it was giving you its vote. Not every vote was the same, though. Link from a site which had a high PageRank had much more influence than a vote from a low ranking website.
When word got around of this principle, the link manipulation was born. There was so much link selling and buying that it eventually ruined any objectivity this metric had. It was completely untrustworthy because of all the artificially inflated scores.
This whole paragraph was in the past tense since the Google itself stopped supporting PageRank and removed it from the Google Toolbar.
Even though PageRank wasn’t a success, links between sites remain an important factor for ranking sites and domains.
ASSOCIATED METRICS: DA, PA, mR, DmR, Mt, DmT
These metrics are the ones that you are probably the most familiar with. As you can guess from their names, they are developed by MOZ. On the table below you can see some of their characteristics.
Domain Authority is the metric that is the most often used and thrown around. It tries to predict how well will a certain website rank on search engines. It is calculated by combining other link metrics like MozRank, MozTrust, the number of total links, linking root domains etc. In the end, over 40 signals are transformed into a single score.
Next on the list is Page Authority. PA is a metric that tries to predict how will a given web page rank in Google’s search results. Its score is also based on similar factors as DA. The difference is that PA predicts the ranking strength of a single page, while DA measures the strength of entire domains or subdomains.
MozRank reflects the importance of any web page on the Internet. Pages can increase their MozRank by acquiring links from other sites. Higher quality links have a bigger impact on this metric than low-quality ones do. To put it more simply, lots of links from semi-popular pages will have the same effect as a few links from very popular sites.
Same things apply to Domain-Level MozRank, just on a grander scale. DmR is comparing domains instead of pages. It shows the popularity of one domain compared to all other domains on the web. Linking works the same too. When a link from a page on domain1 links to a page on domain2 it can be considered as a vote by domain1 for domain2.
MozTrust shows how trustworthy a webpage is compared to all other pages on the web. It can also be measured on domain level (DmT). It concentrates on link trust rather than on link popularity. This measure is increased by getting links from other sites with high MozTrust like government institutions or universities.
All MOZ metrics have logarithmic scaling. In other words, they scale the same as PageRank. Moving DA from 20 to 25 is relatively easy while getting it from 80 to 85 can be really challenging.
You can check all of these metrics using Moz Analytics, OSE, MozBar or some third-party apps that use their API. Only Moz Analytics will give you the access to every available metric. The picture below demonstrates available metrics you get with a free version of MozBar plugin.
ASSOCIATED METRICS: CF, TF, TR
Another tool for determining the authority of sites and blogs is MajesticSEO. For its ranking purposes, Majestic uses flow metrics that are updated on a daily basis.
Citation Flow (CF) is a metric for predicting influential a link in a site/blog might be, by considering the links that point to it. For example, a blog post is considered as influential as the number of domains linking to it. More links equal more influence. This metric is trying to translate the capacity of that post to have an impact on the readers interested in that niche.
Trust Flow (TF) is a metric for deciding how trustworthy the link is, by considering the quality of backlinks that point to the site/blog. A certain site will have a high TF if it has a lot of authoritative and trustworthy backlinks. In most cases, high TF means that a site features high-quality content. Both CF and TF value range from 0 to 100.
Trust flow of the site is always lower in number than the citation flow. If you think about it, it’s obvious why. CF takes all the links into a count while TF is considering only the ones that are trustworthy enough.
To determine the overall trust of a site you need to calculate its Trust Ratio (TR). Don’t worry, there is hardly any calculating involved. You simply need to divide TF with CF.
For example, let’s imagine a site that has CF=60 and TF=30. TR of that site would be 0.5 (30/60).
Trust Ratio ranges from 0 to 0.9. Technically, a site could have a TR of 1 but, in practice, it is almost impossible to increase your TR higher than 0.9.
If some site has high CF and a really low TF, that’s usually a big warning sign that screams low-quality backlinks.
Majestic has a visual way of presenting its data. The charts above show metrics for searchengineland.com. Every site and domain are represented by one dot. The chart on the left plots the flow metric values of the domains, while the right chart plots the flow metric of the pages that link to Search Engine Land. Darker spots mean more sites/domains with that particular ratio of TF and CF. For more details refer to the video below.
To check these metrics, go to MajesticSEO, type the URL of the site you want to check and hit search. Optionally, you can use Majestic Backlink Analyzer plug-in for Chrome or Firefox.
Majestic has its own youtube channel so if you want more detail check their video below:
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ASSOCIATED METRICS: Ahref rank, DR, UR, KD, Backlinks, Referring domains, Organic keywords, Organic traffic
As you can see, there is a lot to cover here. Let’s start with more straightforward metrics.
When you are logged in Ahrefs, if you look carefully, you’ll notice that almost every metric is accompanied with a brief explanation when hovered over i icon. This is really useful in your first interactions with the tool. Here is a picture with an example of explanation for Ahrefs Rank:
Next on the list are URL Rating (UR) and Domain Rating (DR). They are Ahrefs counterparts to MOZ’s Page Authority and Domain Authority. Both go from 0 to 100 and use the logarithmic scale.
URL Rating shows how strong is the backlink profile of the site you’re looking at. It started as a replacement for PageRank but, over the years, it evolved into a metric that has the highest possible correlation with Gooogle rankings. That means that pages with high UR rank better in search engines.
As you already guessed, Domain Rating shows how strong is the overall backlink profile of a given website. In most cases, sites with high DR are a great choice for building high-quality backlinks.
Backlinks are pretty self-explanatory. It’s a metric that shows the total number of backlinks that point to a certain website or URL. This is not the number of linking pages because one page can contain multiple backlinks.
Referring domains follow the same principle. It is a metric that shows the total number of unique referring domains that point to a target website or URL.
Organic keywords and Organic traffic
To understand next metrics, you need to know the basics of keywords. For the purpose of this explanation, let’s assume you’re an IT company and look at everything you write into Google Search as a keyword. You will notice that your position in search results changes depending on the phrase you have used. For example, when you typed in computer repairs, your website showed in 4th place in search results, while for cloud storage you couldn’t even find it on the first page results.
This leads us to Organic keywords, a measure that shows for how many different keywords a certain website or URL is ranking in first 100 in search results. If you go to Organic keywords tab, you can see those keywords and position in which the website shows for every specific keyword.
From the picture below you can see that if you write in Google search phrase backlink checker, ahref.com should appear in 7th place in search results (these results fluctuate so it may not be the case when you’re reading this).
While we are on the subject of organic keywords, I’d like to point your attention to the metric called Keyword Difficulty score (KD). It is represented in the picture above as the 4th column.
KD is one of the more recent metrics in Ahrefs’ arsenal. It is an approximation of how hard is to rank on the 1st page of Google search results for the chosen keyword. Again, the scale goes from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the harder it is to rank for it on the 1st page. Down below is a picture taken from one of their blog posts with their approximation on the difficulty scale.
This chart represents a rough estimation of how many referring domains each KD score refers to. If you want to rank on the first page with a keyword that has KD of 70, they estimate you will need around 200 referring domains.
You can’t talk about Organic keywords without Organic traffic. Organic traffic is an approximation of organic search traffic coming to a website or URL. The final score is based on monthly search volumes and position of the keywords that the selected site ranks for.
To get all of this sweet data go to Ahrefs site explorer. A fair warning, we are talking about paid tools here so if you want full access to all metrics, you will need to do some investing 🙂
This is one of the less known and hence less used metrics. And rightfully so since the data provided isn’t as in depth nor as accurate as in the examples above.
To save you the trouble of researching it out for yourself, it found its place on this list.
AlexaRank is calculated relying solely on the traffic. It is based on three months of aggregated historical traffic data of Alexa Toolbar users. It measures two quantities – the number of users who visit the site and the number of pages on the site viewed by those users. The final score is calculated by averaging those two quantities over time.
As you can see from the pictures above, at the time of writing this article (4/11/2016) Hubspot had AlexRank of 524 (improved by 237 places over the course of last three months).
There are two flaws to AlexaRank. First one is that the traffic is calculated based on Alexa Toolbar users. Since we have no way of knowing how many Alexa Toolbar users are out there, we can’t know for sure how well their browsing history correlates with internet users as a whole.
Even if that traffic does closely correlate, there is one more problem. The traffic quality. You can check the traffic numbers, but you can’t see anything about the quality or the source of that traffic.
Because of this, we wouldn’t take this metric too seriously for evaluating site’s authority. At best, it could be used as a tool for watching traffic trends.
If you’re still curious how your site fares on AlexaRank and you don’t want to install the toolbar, you can check it out here.
This concludes the overview of more popular SEO metrics. We skipped explaining how the tools work because that wasn’t the purpose of this post and we do want to leave some content free for future posts 🙂
If you’re doing SEO and/or blogging for a while, you probably noticed that there aren’t any words about SEMRUSH in this post. It is a fairly well-known tool for keyword research so I didn’t want to finish this without giving it an honorable mention. It uses some of the metrics already mentioned like the number of backlinks and referring domains, along with some pretty specific keyword related ones. Check out this article from ShoutMeLoud if you are interested in more details.
As a side note, we’d like to add that Majestic, Moz, and Ahrefs are all good choices for reviewing a website strength and its backlink profile. Even though some of their features overlap, the combined use of these tools is what will get you the complete picture of a certain page or a domain, which might be something you need for a full content marketing project.
However, they are not that cheap so it is important to note that even using just one of them can still get you enough relevant data for most of your link-building projects.
Before we wrap this up, we want to throw one disclaimer out there. All of the tools mentioned here have very powerful analytics in their own right. Metrics we touched on in this article are just the tip of the iceberg and do not represent the full extent of their features and capabilities.
Do you think we forgot to cover an important metric? Don’t be shy and let us know down below!