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Page Authority: Beyond Backlinks

Page Authority Goes Beyond Backlinks

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The concept of “page authority” has long been associated with the number and quality of backlinks pointing to a page. This notion stems from the early days of search engines, when backlinks served as one of the primary signals of a page’s importance and authority on a given topic.

However, as search engines, specially Google, have evolved, the metrics for evaluating true page authority have expanded far beyond backlinks alone. While still relevant, backlinks now represent just one piece of the authority puzzle. The future of sustainable search visibility lies in developing holistic authority rooted in exceptional user experience.

The Origins and Evolution of “Page Authority”

Back in the 1990s and early 2000s, search engines like Google relied heavily on backlinks to approximate the importance and authority of a given web page. Pages linked to by many other reputable sites tended to rank higher in results.

This created an obsession in the SEO industry with amassing backlinks from anywhere possible, even if it meant purchasing low-quality links or spamming irrelevant websites. The mindset was that more backlinks equated to higher page authority and rankings.

As search engine algorithms matured, however, Google realized that not all backlinks were created equal. Low-quality links from spammy or irrelevant sites could actually hurt a page’s authority.

Google shifted to focus on the relevance and quality of backlinks by analyzing factors like:

  • The authority of the linking page itself based on its own merit and backlink profile.
  • The anchor text used in the link and its relationship to page content.
  • The overall link environment on a page, rewarding natural links versus excessive optimization.

This laid the foundation for Google’s next phase of evolution in evaluating page authority…

The Rise of E-E-A-T as a Ranking Factor(s)

As search algorithms evolve, backlinks alone provide an incomplete measure of authority.

In recent years, Google has placed increasing emphasis on “E-E-A-T” as a key factor in determining page authority and search rankings.

What is E-E-A-T?

E-E-A-T stands for:

  • Expertise
  • Experience
  • Authoritativeness
  • Trustworthiness

It refers to the depth of knowledge, expertise, and trustworthiness demonstrated by both the content of a page as well as the creator or site hosting that content.

Pages with strong E-E-A-T tend to provide more value to users by delivering accurate, in-depth information from credible sources. As a result, Google rewards them with higher authority and rankings.

Assessing E-E-A-T

But how does Google actually measure something as abstract as “expertise” or “trustworthiness”?

While the specifics of its ranking algorithms are closely guarded secrets, Google has provided guidance on some of the elements it analyzes to gauge E-E-A-T, including:

  • The expertise of the content creator: Are they an established authority on the topic? Do they have credentials or demonstrate extensive experience covering the subject?
  • Depth of content: Does the page offer thorough explanations and analysis beyond surface-level information?
  • Accuracy of information: Is the information well-researched and cited from reliable external sources?
  • “Real World” reputation signals: Does the site have positive reviews reflecting expertise and trustworthiness? Are other reputable sites linking to it organically?

Sample Scenario: A user searches for “managing high blood pressure”. Two results appear:

  • Article A: This article is written by a board-certified cardiologist with extensive clinical experience. The information is highly detailed with actionable lifestyle tips, medication explanations, and clear citations of peer-reviewed studies published in reputable medical journals.
  • Article B: This article appears on a general wellness blog. The author is not identified, and the content is a mix of basic advice and anecdotal recommendations without referencing any scientific sources.

E-E-A-T Consequence

Google’s algorithms would likely perceive Article A as having significantly higher E-E-A-T. This is due to these factors:

  • Experience: The cardiologist’s background and documented clinical experience demonstrate firsthand knowledge that goes beyond purely theoretical information.
  • Expertise: The article is clearly attributed to a doctor, establishing a high level of subject matter expertise.
  • Authoritativeness: The content is credible, thorough, and aligns with established medical knowledge in the field, likely reflecting years of training and practice.
  • Trustworthiness: The citations of reputable sources enhance the information’s reliability and trustworthiness.

Validation with Sources

  • Google Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines: Refer directly to Google’s guidelines, which prioritize information from credible sources and highlight the importance of demonstrating E-E-A-T [You can read it here]

Outcome

Article A with its stronger E-E-A-T signals is more likely to rank highly on SERPs for relevant searches related to managing high blood pressure. This is because it meets the needs of users looking for trustworthy and reliable health information.

Optimizing for Core Web Vitals: The User Experience Factor

E-E-A-T provides the foundation for authority and rankings, but optimizing user experience is the essential catalyst that brings pages to life.

Google has emphasized Core Web Vitals (CWVs) as key indicators of real-world user experience. Optimizing CWVs should be a top priority for all sites seeking to build sustainable page authority.

What Are Core Web Vitals?

Core Web Vitals are metrics that quantify three crucial aspects of user experience:

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): Measures loading performance – the time it takes for the main content of a page to load.
  • First Input Delay (FID): Tracks interactivity – how quickly a page responds to user input like clicks or taps.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Assesses visual stability – unexpected movement of page elements after loading.

By striving to optimize LCP, FID, and CLS, webmasters can dramatically improve user satisfaction.

For example, optimizing images, enabling compression, reducing JavaScript, and using a content delivery network can help pages load faster and score well on LCP.

The Impact of High CWVs on Rankings

Google has explicitly confirmed that high CWVs hurt search rankings. (Source: Google Support)

Poor performance on these metrics directly harms the user experience, leading to higher bounce rates and reduced time on site – signals that pages lack authority and value.

Conversely, pages with excellent CWVs provide a satisfying experience that engages users. As Google continues rolling out its “page experience” ranking updates, optimizing for CWVs will become even more critical.

Rethinking “Authority”: A Holistic View

Google algorithms evolution - guest posting - digital marketing - liverpool seo - organic traffic

As search algorithms evolve, backlinks alone provide an incomplete and outdated measure of authority. A holistic view embraces additional real-world signals including:

Organic Traffic and Engagement

High search visibility and organic traffic are strong validators that a page satisfies user intent. Pages earning substantial traffic through high rankings tend to be fulfilling and authoritative resources on a topic.

For example, when searching for “coffee brewing tips”, a page on a specialty coffee site outranking content from Nestle or Folgers could indicate greater authority despite less brand equity.

Metrics like time on page and low bounce rates also indicate that real users find value in content. Google is able to analyze user engagement signals to identify truly authoritative pages.

Natural Link Acquisition

The number of backlinks still matters, but focus should shift to links earned naturally over time rather than manipulated link building. If content is compelling, other sites will organically reference and recommend it.

For example, an in-depth guide to keyword research may organically gain links from related blogs and resources on SEO and content marketing, reflecting its authority on the topic.

Natural links from diverse sources – editorial sites, forums, social media etc. – are a far better indicator of authoritativeness than excessive optimization and link purchases.

Brand Equity and Recognition

Pages on established sites with strong brand recognition in their niche have inherent authority. For example, pages on MayoClinic.org on health topics carry more weight than lesser known sites.

Domain authority transfers to individual pages, rewarding sites that have built reputations as trusted resources on a given topic.

Analyzing competitors with stronger brands and domain authority in your space can reveal gaps presenting opportunity to build authority through high-quality content.

Best Practices for Building Sustainable Page Authority

With a holistic view of today’s page authority factors, here are some best practices to employ:

Prioritize User Experience

Optimize for Core Web Vitals and overall user satisfaction above all else. Fast load times, smooth interactivity, and stable layouts make pages feel authoritative.

Produce In-Depth, Original Content

Become a true expert on topics you cover by researching thoroughly and providing unique insights. Well-cited, accurate information demonstrates E-E-A-T.

Strategically Connect with Authority Sites

Rather than mass outreach, focus on earning links naturally from websites respected in your space. Quality beats quantity.

Adopt a Long-Term Mindset

Sustainable authoritativeness comes from a steady focus on optimizing real user experience rather than chasing temporary tricks and shortcuts. Keep E-E-A-T front and center.

Conclusion: The Future Lies in Holistic Authority Building

In today’s search landscape, true page authority extends far beyond the number of backlinks alone. While still relevant, backlinks now represent just one facet of authoritative signals based on real-world user experience.

By optimizing for E-E-A-T and Core Web Vitals first and foremost, pages can build holistic authoritativeness rooted in satisfying user intent with deep, trustworthy content. As Google’s algorithms continue to evolve, focusing on user experience will only grow more crucial.

The websites that thrive in the future will be those that embrace authority building as an ongoing process centered on expertise, quality content, and positive user engagement. With a comprehensive approach, sustainable high rankings and traffic will follow.

Backlinks retain influence, but must be earned through relevance rather than manipulation. The path to page authority is paved through remarkable user experience.

Jesus Guzman

M&G Speed Marketing LTD. CEO

Jesus Guzman is the CEO and founder of M&G Speed Marketing LTD, a digital marketing agency focused on rapidly growing businesses through strategies like SEO, PPC, social media, email campaigns, and website optimization. With an MBA and over 11 years of experience, Guzman combines his marketing expertise with web design skills to create captivating online experiences. His journey as an in-house SEO expert has given him insights into effective online marketing. Guzman is passionate about helping businesses achieve impressive growth through his honed skills. He has proud case studies to share and is eager to connect to take your business to the next level.