What to do with a low ranking site?
I was asked a seemingly simple question by a client today. Should low level sites he owns be scrapped and used for their backlinks by 301 redirecting the sites.
Simplest Answer: I think it’s hard to quantify if a site is low level.
Ultimateseo.org has a DA 19, that seems pretty low. But keep in mind it used to be a DA 40 before Moz changed it’s scoring. Keep also in mind that change in scoring showed no reflection in the site’s ranking. I recommend 301 redirecting based on anchor text not necessarily on the score a site earns.
Longer Answer: What backlinks should be 301 redirected from another domain?
While it is a Domain Authority 19 now it is a CF 34, and a TF 14. It has a DR 45, and a DS 24, TS 22, AS 36 ….. head spinning yet? As a reminder here are what those abbreviations mean … and to whom.
- DA is Domain Authority created by Moz
- CF is Citation Flow created by Majestic
- TF is Trust Flow created by Majestic
- DR is Domain Rank created by AHREFS
- DS is Domain Score created by SEMRush
- TS is Trust Score by SEMRush
- AS is Authority Score by SEMRush
DA is Unreliable To Me
The DA metric lost a lot of credence in my mind when they redid their formula, it made it more obvious that it’s just a number in a vacuum. What we saw after Moz released DA2.0 was as a DA40 became a DA19 it wasn’t reflective by what Google saw.
The day before this site ranked as it did the day after DA2.0. Google doesn’t use DA and what we care about is what does Google think about a site.
So Id say if we want to redirect 301 links we can …. and I do. But I do it because the anchor text is what I want, not because a site’s DA is low.
Assessing A Site’s SEO Value
When we assess if a site is high or low we have to consider all of the SEO metrics we have available and use these numbers together. Keep in mind they are not intended to be apples to apples. For instance Citation Flow is how influential a site appears where Trust Flow and Trust Score are meant to tell us how trustworthy a site is considered. AS is Authority Score which I lump in with CF. I think of DA, DR and DS as comparable metrics.
So assessing if this site is low or high I’d say we have the following metrics:
Overall scores: DA: 19 DR: 45 DS: 24
Trustworthiness: TF: 14 TS: 22
Authority: AS: 36 CF: 34
It’s also important to look at some of the raw indicators to understand the values we are seeing above. I use Majestic, SEMRush And Moz to answer these questions, and I always expect Majestic to have higher numbers because it crawls more of the web than Moz.
Moz likely would say they crawl more of the relevant web … but who are they to decide whats relevant and I dont care what they think is relevant … just what Google crawls.
Backlinks: So how many links to my site are there?
Backlinks . Moz: 18445 Majestic: 139903 SEMRush 1000000*
Backlinks are fine and dandy but keep in mind a million from one website vs a hundred from a hundred sites says something. So what is the “Domain Pop” … how many domains link to our site?
Domain Pop: MAJ 1302 SEMRush: 4,000
Domains can be owned and operated easily from the same cheap shared host. So how many seperate IP Addresses link to our site?
IP Pop: SEMRush 885 Majestic 905
These numbers above 885 and 905 seem a lot more comparable to each other than some of the other numbers.
Now consider a site that may have a DA: 50 vs Ultimate SEO’s DA: 19. I’m willing to bet 9 times out of 10 Ultimate SEO will out rank the other site as long as the other site has 500 or less domains on different IP addresses.
Better Backlinks and Best Backlinks
Now to be fair this explanation above is overly simplifying the answer. You may wonder how that could be … it seems rather complicated. Well ask yourself which site would you rank higher … a site that has a link to it from 20 research universities or a site that has 200 links to it from random weirdly named domains? Obviously the 20 research universities suggests a more authoritative and trustworthy site.
Authority On The Topic
But getting more complicated what if the page we are considering for ranking is about 2000 dance mixes. The 20 research universities are all medical schools and the anchor text reads “open heart surgery mortality rates” … do we think that the site should rank that high now…and how authoritative do we think the site is on dance remixes of 2000?
301 Backlinks Based On Backlinks Not Your Domain
So the best answer I can give for when to 301 redirect a domain or not is to ignore any one metric completely. If multiple numbers lead you to believe a site isn’t going to be good then sure consider each backlink individually. Keeping in mind what earned the site a low metric across the board IS mostly those backlinks.
If you find a .gov or .edu link using the anchor text you are after on another site then yes … thats the time to 301 redirect that backlink to the best content you have that is relevant to that anchor text. That last part is essential.
You can’t expect long term gains by redirecting a backlink to content that isn’t able to hold its own. User behavior is a big factor in Google’s ranking of a site. And it should be, you can’t prevent what you cant predict.
After all is said and done if no one stays on a site for more than 10 seconds or if they always click the result after yours in Google’s search results you must ask yourself why users hate your content.
And I mean it … people hate your content if you have 301 redirected, optimized your on page and studied your backlinks but users still go elsewhere. Google may rank you high for a time but without users liking your content and staying for awhile you will drop in rankings due to user behavior.
A Case Study of SEO Metrics And Rank
Here is a recently added FAQ to the Ultimate SEO FAQ section.
Let me show you how important it is….
Why is realtor.com not higher than zumper.com in the mobile search on the right? Consider these metrics
Realtor.com = Domain Score: 55 Trust Score 58 Alexa Rank 763 Registered 1996 Ads 3,900 Backlinks 57,000,000 Traffic Rank 108
Zumper.com = Domain Score: 37 Trust Score 44 Alexa Rank 17,000 Registered 2004 Ads 0 Backlinks 1,700,000 Traffic Rank 2830
In every metric realtor.com wins, so why is it below Zumper.com on the mobile search?
Site Speed Test on GTMetrix
Realtor.com Fails Speed
Zumper.com Passes Speed
So in this example we clearly see a more popular site beaten by a less established site and the single only factor the smaller site did better was speed. And we cant discount this as … well its only important in mobile. In case you missed it…
Now when we consider the facts above lets also dispel people’s over fascination for keywords and text optimization and position of frequency of words, the content length …. on-site SEO, the SEO of the 1990s as I call it… both sites present the same content to the desktop and mobile versions they just differ wildly in the speed. What are some of the reasons? Realtor.com decided to present 16 rows of 3 images of homes to visitors while Zumper shows 4 rows of 1 image …. and then additional rows load as you scroll down. Lazy Load and 1 image vs 3. Thats how they keep their requests to about a third of the realtor.com page.
What Are Requests?
I’d suggest you think of requests as if they are shots from a gun at your head. You need to avoid them! Less shots is a lot better…
Requests are literally requests of the server before the page can load. If I make a page with one image on it that is one request. Lets say I decide to replace that image with a slider with 5 slides, now I have 5 requests … the same page area but that cool feature increases the trips required of a computer to quadruple! Lets say now I add social media icons to the page … Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and an email icon …. small and just up in the right corner. That social media addition just added 5 more requests. Think about all the things on your page, they don’t all come together in one big Amazon package with a smile…. they are shipped to the computer individually. Now I have one page with 1 request and another with 10 and the initial difference isn’t much…that slider only displays one image at a time.
Latency And Requests
Servers don’t respond instantly…they take a little while to think and retrieve the requested resource and then it has to travel the distance from the server to your computer…may be at the speed of light, but light still takes time. This time is called latency. 50 milliseconds is a good latency.
If both servers in the FAQ had a 50 ms latency. We can assume that the
Realtor.com server will take 50 ms x 301 requests = 15050 ms or 15 seconds
Zumper.com server will take 50 ms x 134 requests = 6700 ms or 6 seconds
I hope this explains why you want to limit requests, and prioritize speed as much as you focus on keywords.
Ways To Decrease Requests
Do you need separate images? On ultimateseo.org I wanted to show my COMPTia certifications. I have 4 icons … I combined them to make one image. Thats 1/4 the requests but no change in user experience other than a quicker site.
Lazy Load also helps speed up the initial page load time. If “below the fold” you have a lot of images on a page … the page needs those images still to finish the load unless you institute lazy load which essentially tells the computer to load an image only when it is coming into view. This makes sense likely if you have 300 images on the page and plenty of them are scrolled far down….but all in all I’m on the fence on Lazy Load. I ran speed tests on the homepage of this site with Lazy Load on …. 3 tests results 2.3 seconds, 1.9 seconds and 1.9 seconds. I turned off lazy load, and reran the test and got 2.3 seconds, 1.9 seconds and 1.7 seconds. So technically the site loaded faster with Lazy Load off….keep in mind it take a bit of thinking for the server to implement it. This helps speed up a site drastically if there are a ton of images spread vertically…but not much in a normal page. What are the full implications on SEO when a site is crawled?
Its suggested by “Ask Yoast” that Lazy Load is fine for SEO and the images are rendered as Google scrolls down the page and indexes the content.
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