The following discussion has been summarised from the 20th installment of +Dumb SEO Questions Google+ Hangout.
Asked by Pragya Sharma
Full Question: One of my competitors is ranking first or second for most of my keywords. SEOMoz displays my Page Authority as 55 and my competitor’s as 44. Both sites have a PageRank of 4, though his site doesn’t have content of more than 2.5 lines (mostly images). Also his total external links are 20 and mine are 2,280.
One difference is that he has over 2000 Facebook Likes, and I have around 200.
Is this the only reason for his ranking? Because all the other factors are in my favor.
How strongly do Facebook Likes affect rankings?
Dan Petrovic: If you use tools like SEOMoz’s Open Site Explorer or Majestic, you are not getting the metrics from the search engine. If Open Site Explorer displays your Page Authority as 55 and your competitors as 44, that is not an absolute measure.
At best, it’s an indicator of a slightly better Page Rank variation. These tools crawl the internet and try to simulate how Google measures your site. If your competitor is 44 and you are 55, that to me signifies that you are pretty close, and it could be that your competitor is slightly better in terms of actual ‘authority’.
Page Rank is an important metric, and it does hint to the strength of the site in terms of content and quality of inbound links, but it doesn’t reveal all metrics. One area to look at in SEOMoz is the anchor text breakdowns. If their anchor text is ‘better optimised’ then they could actually rank better, for example if all their anchor text is using a specific term. Though this could actually put you in a very high risk area in terms of being penalised. Finding the balance is difficult if you are trying to manipulate it.
I wouldn’t obsess over Facebook Likes.
Are Facebook Likes the only reason for your competitor ranking higher? No. Google is complex and there could be many reasons. Your website could be affected by Search Quality Filters. If some of your links have been devalued by a Penguin scan, or if some of your pages have affected your site’s overall quality, due to being low quality, repetitive or duplicate content pages, then you may be affected by Panda.
Don’t worry about one metric, it’s usually not that simple to determine why your competitor is out ranking you. I would try to determine whether you are being affected by any of the search filters. Look into the quality of the links pointing to your site, and look at the quality of your content pages.
Lyndon Na: Something else to consider is that the metrics that you see are only partial indicators of what’s going on. Your site is relatively new, and the other site is far older. Content does age: depending on the content, Google may give weight to the older content. Over time, you may catch up. Over time, Google may decide that your content is more authoritative. Though don’t expect miracles at the start.
Rob Maas: Though also consider that when you first start, Google can rank you a little harder than you normally deserve. Don’t sit back and relax and think that you’ve made it already.
Dan Petrovic: You’re talking about the honeymoon period.
Facebook Likes are not the only thing causing your competitor to rank higher. SEOmoz tools do not give you the entire picture in terms of page authority. Look at the quality of your sites incoming links, and look at the quality of your sites content, before you attempt to out-Like the competition. If your site is new, it may not be given the same weight as an older site. Over time, you can catch up.
Question addressed in Google Hangout: