Is it rankings that produce website authority or website authority that produces rankings for SEO? Ultimately, which one is more important? Just like the conundrum about which came first the chicken or the egg, one could argue which has more long-term or short-term significance.
In the wake of Google’s last page rank update (something I think was to conceal dramatic new algorithms shifts), many websites are making their debut in the top 10 results out of left field. This is a clear example of those websites who focused on search engine result page positioning getting upstaged by web pages with more domain authority.
In order to compete, you need both; the reason being, you never know when the metrics will change and website authority provides insulation to stave temporal shifts in term weights or other operators being tweaked for relevance.
When search engines reweight the SERPs, (reassign the relevance model) many things that seemed as if they were rooted into the very fabric of the web can slip off into obscurity (past the first page or more) and have to battle it out with the new found relevant / newcomers.
For example, out of the blue today SEO blogger (a tool from Wordtracker) hits the first page for SEO in our datacenter. Is this typical? Absolutely not, when you look at the page in question with its 9 pages in the subdomain and 700+ deep links to that page, how could they simply pass up pages who have been rooted in the SERPs for years or struggling to raise the mark for relevance?
In essence, they did not…as it is a temporal rift that may or may not stick…
Yet, according to Google’s weighting method, the domain authority for the root folder (the main site wordtracker.com) has that type of authority and by them simply choosing to follow known aspects of optimization were able to funnel that into a specific relevance model capable or leap-frogging others who stood in between them and the top 10.
Think of authority like credit, the more you have the easier it is to distribute as you please to leverage other assets, which in this instance was a search engine result page position for the keyword SEO. Yesterday adobe ranked in the top 10 for a sparse mention of the word “SEO” in a tag and the day before that opencube.com with only 8 pages in their site referring to the keyword, so do you see the correlation?
As search engines look for other ways to ascertain the validity of their results, authority under the right circumstances can overcome weeks, months or even years of struggle to get to the top vs. just targeting keywords alone.
This leads to the million dollar question when considering that all metrics only have a limited time-line before replaced, that question being, is it better to focus on authority or rankings? Our vote is to focus on website authority (so you can rank any page you need to through leverage), but ultimately it’s up to you to decide.