Authority, PageRank, Super Affiliates and other Superfluous Titles We Use to Gauge Status…

In an attempt to determine how the web defines authority, Chris Brogan opened the floor on a discussion that... well, seems to have no definitive answer. Even the 30+ comments from his readers only argue the fact that none of the usual metrics are a reliable source.

In a world of skewed ranking data, unreliable tools and fake social proof - just how do you go about measuring the Influence of a particular icon in your niche?

There have been several attempts to provide this data over the years, including: GuruDaq, Alexa Rankings, Google PageRank,, Yahoo Site Explorer, and even more recently: HubSpot's Website & Twitter Graders.

These tools can be used to help you:

  • Locate ideal affiliates
  • Perform competition analysis
  • Flesh out an advertising campaign
  • Find potential JV partners
  • Choose sites for content submission
  • Gauge buzz-ability for a viral marketing campaign

...etc. The problem is that the data is skewed, and that no set of metrics work across the board. All of these factors will vary between niches and micro-niches. To make it even more difficult, there are no set standards. In the end, all you're left with is a "guesstimate".

The first step is to have a very clear objective. Do you want general exposure and brand awareness, direct sales, high-value inbound links, super affiliates or JV partners? Once you know exactly what you're looking for, the next step is in-depth research. General points for consideration in your research might include:

- Blog: Comment-to-Post ratio
- Website: Number of inbound links / PageRank
- Publisher: Number of subscribers via email and/or RSS
- Affiliates: Success with similar campaigns

There are some obvious issues with each of these elements as a true gauge for influence, reach or authority.

PageRank is nothing more than a vanity tool. And I'm referring to TBPR (PageRank as shown in the Google Toolbar). It's unfortunate that people even use it as a gauge when determining which sites they will advertise on or do business with. True PageRank is a complex algorithm. What you see in the Google Toolbar is nothing more than a marketing gimmick.

Alexa Rankings are terribly skewed, and generally work in favor of more tech savvy niches. They rely on numbers gained through the Alexa toolbar. If you manage a popular community for boa snake owners, your target market probably does not use the Alexa toolbar.

Age of site/content is not relevant in all cases. Frequency of content is also not always relevant. Some content is evergreen, which cannot be compared to hot topics or news for example. Consider the type of content and the publishing model when looking at these as serious criteria.

Social Media status and other superfluous numbers may be a gauge for popularity, but not necessarily for influence or authority. People follow & friend for a number of reasons, including bribery & buzz. How those numbers were established, and the the response rate of those groups, are definitely points for consideration.

Subscriber Numbers, including email and RSS or both combined, carry the same requirement. There is no real way to know how many of those subscribers are loyal readers, or what type of relationship that publisher has with their readership... outside of viewing live stats, or testing it with a true message-to-market match.

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It's All Relative
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How you assign points to certain web properties is relative to your objective, and to the niche you are researching. The most important thing being that you compare apples to apples. You cant compare properties that offer "web design in hohenwald tennessee" to those that sell info products internationally, for example.

You also cant just compare any one blog to the other. You have to compare blogs that target an identical type of readership.

Your research needs to be niche-specific, and the general habits and behavior of the target market need to be considered as well.

The only true gauge is results.

You can gather a lot of information by using tools that give you data, skewed or not. The job is to compare this data and also use a bit of good old fashioned intuition. You should also subscribe to their newsletters or feeds, read the comments or feedback (if available), purchase and review their products as well as their follow-up system, and 'friend them' on social media sites.

Any of these 'spy tactics' can help you get a more well-rounded view of how they interact with their target market, and what kind of response they might receive in return.

All said and done, the only way to know which publishers and properties truly have Influence, Reach or Authority... is to test them. A true test requires identical campaigns on each property, with a close eye on the statistics.

Keep a spreadsheet of your research, and your results. Over time you will develop a highly valuable data bank of your own. With that in hand, you can easily weed out the 'junk' and continue to work with the properties & publishers that bring you results.


About Lynn Terry

Lynn Terry is a full-time Internet Marketer with over 17 years experience in online business. Subscribe to ClickNewz for the latest Internet Marketing trends & strategies, Lynn's unique case studies, creative marketing ideas, and candid reviews...moreΒ»


  1. Matt Hanson says:

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson

  2. I love your premise on this. You've got lots of great information and have distilled this very well for the affiliate crowd. Super great post!

  3. Clay Franklin

    Thanks for another timely article.
    I am off to work on my "very clear objective"
    PS: I am a new Elite member of SSWT .

  4. Rob Sellen


    Hear it??

    Come on even I can hear that nail being hit on the head!! πŸ˜‰


  5. I agree in regards to the PageRank, unfortunately, I don't see much of a change on the advertiser's view.

  6. @Susan - That's true for now, but will hopefully change in the near future. Google put a heavy hit on major text link companies (TLA specifically) last year that should help in getting that message across πŸ˜‰

  7. Peter R. Sherman says:

    Hi Lynn,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.

    And, as usual, are right πŸ™‚

    Best regards,

  8. Michael Rouse says:

    It's refreshing to see this topic written out so clearly πŸ™‚

    Sifting through the junk and truly appealing to your target market is something I'm sure we all ponder on an hourly basis. Well, maybe just me.

    Great post,


  9. Lyn

    This is probably the most honest post I've read in all the blogs from the last 6 months I've been doing my own internal tracking ( internal as in, between the ears ) I think you are spot on about doing your own testing, measuring and rely on your results...and intuition comes from that experience of results.

    Pleasure reading your posts.


  10. Melissa Ingold says:

    Great post Lynn! I agree with the Google page rank . . . too often we judge a website on that little number showing on the toolbar. It can be so misleading, but like Susan said, I'm not sure advertisers will stop using it to pick where they're going to advertise.

  11. Dennis Edell says:

    Excellent article Lynn, quite clear and well laid out.

    I too agree with the PR problem. I was recently out for 2 months due to accident and suffered a 1 point loss in the long run.

    We can say "I don't care, PR is useless now" all we want...truth is, it is still important in some key areas.

  12. This reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad when I was little and collected baseball cards. I used to be pull out the Beckett price guide and brag about how much my cards were "Worth". My dad would then always tell me that the cards are only really worth what someone is actually willing to pay for them. I think this can be applied to websites. You can get all the traffic you want and have a high page rank but the true value is in the amount of money you make through your advertising and how effective that advertising is for the people who buy it.

  13. create websites says:

    The fact is that 90% or more of websites you see for sale at the website-auction sites are complete scams. Sad but true. The numbers are all manipulated and you can't really verify them. So don't invest in anything you don't believe in the concept of and can find by your own search queries.

  14. The key to measuring your investments in social media is to first define what it is you are trying to do - are you trying to increase sales, improve the SEO of your site, get more new product ideas into your new product development funnel, trying to improve customer service.
    Mathew Hadley

    Social advertising

  15. Hi Lynn,

    Great Post. You probably know how many debates go on and on out there about how to measure authority...I think you hit it on the head....there is no one way, and all measurements are relative. You need to compare all factors and make an educated guess...right? Sandy

  16. Flash Design says:

    Lynn, thanks for explaining all the problems with statistic tools. I like your opinion on Page Rank. There are forums full of questions regarding raising PR or someone complaining their PR dropped.

    I actually experienced loss of PR while getting more traffic than before. My most important metric besides income was the number of visitors. Since then, I don't care about PR. I have also seen web sites with PR 2 having alexa rank of about 1500. If I had alexa rank of 1500 I wouldn't think about PR for one second πŸ˜€

    I guess the only real metric you can use are the results and income from the web page.

    Once again, thanks for a great post.

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