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page authority (Web page authority)

Page authority, in search engine optimization (SEO), is the value a search engine assigns a Web page. The higher the value, the more likely the search engine will return a Web page early in organic search results.

The consistent message from Google is “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines” and what little is known about how search engines assess authority supports that philosophy. The mathematical algorithms that determine page authority are a closely guarded secret to prevent website owners from trying to manipulate search results, but there are some factors that seem to influence how likely a Web page will appear on the first page of query results. The first and perhaps most important factor is PageRank, a numerical value that represents the number of high-quality Web pages that point to a specific Web page. Another factor that may influence PageRank is the domain upon which the article is hosted. An article posted on a highly-regarded news organization's domain, for example, is more likely to pass on page authority than that same article posted on an abandoned WordPress blog.

Search engines measure the quality of a page through an evolving set of machine learning algorithms that seek to mimic the way humans determine the quality of a Web page.  The level of quality is determined by both on-page and off-page ranking factors. On-page ranking factors are things that a Website publisher can control. They include things like creating useful content and linking to other useful, relevent content. Off-page ranking factors are ones that publishers cannot directly control. They include things like receiving links from other high-quality Web pages and positive reviews in social media. The off-page factors hold more weight since they are less likely to be influenced by a publisher trying to improve their rankings regardless of the quality of their page.

On-page ranking factors

Things that can help boost on-page ranking

  • The focus of the page's content topic is clear, it is useful or entertaining, it can be easily linked to and there is an appropriate mix of text, multi-media and advertising.
  • Keyword usage targets a single search intent, including variants. Keyword placement is natural.
  • The page's URL contains relevant keywords. The URL does not redirect.
  • The page links out to authoritative sources and provides the visitor with relevant content.
  • The page loads quickly; the faster the better.
  • The page is built to render in all browsers and is mobile-friendly.
  • The page is hosted on a site that has a logical heirarchy that can be navigated easily.
  • Page sections are identified (header, navigation, body, ads, footer) and white space is used appropriately.
  • The website the page is hosted on is a large site with a good reputation that publishes new content on a regular basis.

Things that can hurt on-page ranking

  • The page has HTML validation errors.
  • Keywords are used in an unnatural manner, a practice known as keyword stuffing.
  • Links on the page return 404 error messages.
  • Pages have no content or contain gibberish stuffed with keywords.
  • Content is repetitive or duplicated on other pages.
  • The content on the page is thin, meaning that there is not much content at all.
  • Content on the page is advertorial.
  • The page presents different content or URLs to human users and search engines, a practice known as cloaking.
  • Elements on the page behave in a way other than what the user expects.
  • The page contains hidden text or links.

Off-page ranking factors

Things that can help boost off-page ranking

  • The page has inbound links from a large number of high-quality websites.
  • Links pointing to the page contain relevant keywords and keyword variants.
  • The page is mentioned in social media by authoritative people who have a large numbers of followers.
  • The website the page is hosted is often cited as an authoritative source.

Things that can hurt off-page ranking

  • Inbound links to the page are from low-quality, spam sites.
  • The domain upon which the page is hosted has a poor reputation.
This was last updated in November 2015

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