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Authority vs. Popularity: What’s Better for Ranking?

Do you know the difference between authority and popularity? If you’re managing an affiliate site these are two terms you need to understand because they’re major factors in how Google determines page rankings. Determining which of these factors is more important can go a long ways towards driving more traffic to your sites.

Authority Sites

Authority sites are, in Google’s view, sites with lots of quality content related to a specific subject and outbound links to other authority sites. These sites are not necessarily the most heavily trafficked, but they’re big on content and relevant links. The operative word here is relevant. is a good example of an authority site. They’ve been around for a long time, they post up new content on a daily basis, and they’ve got lots of links to, and from, other high level poker sites. If they were linking to cooking sites or bicycling sites, it’s not likely they would come up first in a search for poker news. That, in a nutshell, is what makes an authority site.


For SEO purposes, popularity means a lot more than just how many visitors come to the site; though that’s measured, too. Google also factors in on-topic inbound and outbound links, bookmarks, clicks and site visit duration. A site with lots of visitors who didn’t stick around for long might not get as high a ranking as a site with fewer visitors but more links and longer visits.

Remember, relevancy mean a lot to Google and quality and popularity don’t have to go hand in hand. Think of it this way, a video file sharing site will probably rank very high in popularity because the average length of visit is pretty high. But they aren’t as likely to have a lot of outbound and inbound links, so they’d likely get a lower authority ranking.

Authority vs Popularity

Deciding whether to focus on authority or popularity isn’t easy. But if you’re looking to establish yourself as a major force in your niche, you should strive to become an authority site.

Unlike popularity, authority is something that web masters have a lot of control over. Establishing your properties as authority sites isn’t difficult, but it does take time. Most SEO experts agree that authority sites are usually at least three years old.

Sites that have a steady stream of relevant content are the only ones that will benefit from the authority metrics. Think of establishing authority as a big picture strategy that pays off in the long run.

There are plenty of methods for grabbing short term traffic boosts that boost your overall popularity, but most of them don’t do much for your customers. That’s not to say that popularity is a measurement of quality, it’s not. But popularity is not a metric that necessarily rewards quality.

Whether you’re going for popularity or authority, you need to be engaged in sharp, thoughtful SEO practices. If you’re still learning SEO, check out WordPress plugins inlike SEOpressor, that evaluate your code and give specific suggestions for improving your on page SEO. Most SEO plug-ins are under $100 and well worth the money.

Authority Adds Value

Becoming an authority site is something that’s good for both the webmaster and the players. After all, if your content is good enough for other authority sites to link to, your players are probably getting something out of it, too. You simply can’t go wrong when you’re regularly posting relevant, high quality, SEO-friendly content.

If you follow Google news, you know that the company is really emphasizing quality and authority in their regular Panda updates.

Developing those links to and from other authority sites takes time and it won’t happen unless you’re engaged in serious, non-stop marketing and search engine submissions. To streamline the process, some publishers rely on software suites like Search Engine Submitter. These products automatically submit, and resubmit, your site to a large number of search engines for maximum, worldwide exposure.

Can’t Fool Google

Grabbing a top page ranking isn’t easy and some web masters are tempted by shortcuts, work arounds and other attempt to fool Google. More often than not these methods are simply not worth the short term traffic boost. Google is big, smart company that identifies and eliminates these little scams very quickly. Publishers should stick to the rules and practice what’s known as white hat seo.

If you’re really struggling with SEO investing in a web based training course like Traffic Kaboom or Bring the Fresh that emphasize white hat SEO. Most courses like this offer not only training, but follow up advice through online forums and updated video tips.

Long Term Play

There’s no reason why an affiliate site can’t rank well in both popularity and authority, but it all hinges on good content and relevant backlinks. A clear focus on those two factors will pay off in higher traffic and revenue.

Do you think that authority is more important than popularity? Let us know on Search Engine Optimization forum.