Free SEO Course Offering Expert Training - Overestimating Domain Authority

If you ever paid for an SEO course run by an expert SEO training you to conquer the Intarweb, you’d be taught what you’ve known all along - that the two major factors Google uses to rank a page are relevance and value.

(Hey, if you decide to skip reading this long-ass free expert seo course training post, please do me a favor and at least read the last two short paragraphs.)

Relevance, How You Build It

For the uninitiated SEO course newbie, relevance is determined in part by what a page claims its about (e.g. page TITLE, on-page text, keywords in domain name, keywords in url) and what other people say its about (anchor text). If a page claims to be about “minestrone soup” but if everybody links to the page with the anchor text “cold pizza bought two days ago”, its not going to rank well for either of those terms. You can’t just claim to be Jimmy Kimmel if you’re calling up Mastercard; you need to prove it (e.g. social security number, driver’s license number, your favorite rock band while sleeping through classes at Ed W. Clark High School). Anchor text verifies who you say you are. Any basic free SEO training course worth its salt will teach you that.

Value, the other side of the Coin

Value, on the other hand, is determined primarily by PageRank. Put simply, Jim Boykin recommending one of your blog posts, for example, is a greater indication of value than some nameless guy on mentioning you.

According to a Google patent filed in 2004 titled Adaptive computation of ranking, calculating relevance is more computationally intensive than calculating value:

One approach to ranking documents involves examining the intrinsic content of each document or the back-link anchor text in parents to each document. This approach can be computationally intensive and often fails to assign highest ranks to the most important documents. Another approach to ranking involves examining the extrinsic relationships between documents, i.e. from the link structure of the directed graph…

Although link-based ranking techniques are improvements over prior techniques, in the case of an extremely large database, such as the World Wide Web which contains billions of pages, the computation of the ranks for all the pages can take considerable time.

(Emphasis mine)

That’s one strike against relevance.

Domain Strength Inflates Page Value?

In addition, some SEO experts claim that domain strength adds ranking power to a page. Rand Fishkin recently claimed that migrating (301 redirecting) his Web 2.0 piece from a relatively new domain to a directory under the wings of dramatically improved the page’s ranking. His page currently sits at 5th position for “Web 2.0.”

Peter Da Vanzo from V7N published a post today also supporting that claim, citing his recently published piece titled Free SEO Course: What Is Search Marketing?, which currently ranks 7th on Google for the term “seo course”, as evidence.

Peter didn’t mention the fact that his page isn’t unoptimized for the term “SEO course.” He’s got the term “FREE SEO course” in the blog title. He also has “SEO course” embedded in two H tags. There are 7 on-page occurances of the word “course” and 5 occurances of the term “SEO course.” He’s got words “free”, “seo”, “course” in the URL. He also has a couple of other domains (Search Engine Land included) linking to his post using the title, which validates the page’s own assertion as being about “free SEO course.” Finally, there’s an internal link from free SEO Course Part Six:Advanced Tips and Tricks pointing to the first installment of his SEO course series with the anchor text “free SEO course.”

I agree that a page published on a strong domain is likely to be more trusted. A new page on a new domain is like a new kid on the block that needs to pass a few tests before being accepted by the community. But does domain strength improve a page’s value? I’m not too sure.

PageRank per page on a domain with massive IBLs also tend to average out higher. In the Web 2.0 page’s case, Rand claims IBLs remained basically unchanged.

Page Value or Relevance? No-brainer: Be Valuable and Relevant

Many folks shooting down PageRank on forums and attributing power to relevance instead still seem to maintain that both trust and domain authority are important. However, domain authority, trust, and PageRank are metrics of page value, not relevance. Google uses both to rank pages, but which gives you more bang for your buck?

According to this TrustRank paper (PDF), as I posted over on cre8asiteforums, pages with higher PageRank tend to be displayed higher in search results. TrustRank algorithm targets high PageRank spam pages because they are more likely to be seen by users:

For example, say we have four pages p, q, r, and s, whose contents match a given set of query terms equally well [they’re equally relevant]. If the search engine uses PageRank to order the results, the page with highest rank, say p, will be displayed first, followed by the page with next highest rank, say q, and so on. Since it is more likely the user will be interested in pages p and q, as opposed to pages r and s (pages r and s may even appear on later result pages and may not even be seen by the user), it seems more useful to obtain accurate trust scores for pages p and q rather than for r and s.

In other words, theTrustRank paper attributes importance to both relevance and PageRank, where PageRank acts as a tie breaker when pages are equally relevant. How often Google finds equally relevant documents is another question, though. If that scenario seldom comes up, PageRank becomes a non-issue, because there are no ties to break.

But wait a minute - as Mike Grehan points out in his Topic Distillation paper (PDF):

..just because they are relevant doesn’t mean they are the most useful, or for that matter, the most important. Kleinberg himself calls this the “abundance problem” and states that the number of pages that could reasonably be returned as relevant is far too large for a human user to digest.

What You Get from this Free SEO Course Expert Training Post

My SEO blog is invisible compared to blogs like v7n, so if Peter is right, I can’t outrank him just by keyword spamming “seo course” all over this post or by gaining links to this post with “seo course” in the anchor text, because, according to him, “it’s not what you publish, it’s where.”

I disagree. If you’re still reading, please help me prove it. So far, I see 7+ links pointing to Peter’s free seo course post (according to If I can get at least 8 links pointing to this post with “seo course” somewhere in your anchor text, that should be enough to either prove or disprove my claim that what you publish and what people think of your page is as important if not more than where a page is published.

UPDATE: Red Cardinal left me kinda speechless with a generous post. Also thanks to megabluewave and irelandseomarketing for linking up. (Trackbacks are nofollow-free).

3/24/2007: Hmm, looks like Google dropped this page (guess I tripped a filter); it was ranking 7th for “free seo course” and 19th for “seo course.” But notice now Red Cardinal is ranking 7th for “free seo course” and 15th for “seo course.” :) Is his TBPR 6 home page helping him out? My TBPR 4 blog root is still ranking, but is ranking low, IMO mainly due to lack of keywords in the TITLE.

UPDATE: 4/9/2007. I outrank v7n for both keywords, at least temporarily. Read this for the full update.
UPDATE: I asked some IBLS to be removed, so don’t be surprised to see my site fall back in the SERPs.

P.S. For a stronger counterargument, see Rand’s piece on Parasite Hosting.

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16 Responses to “Free SEO Course Offering Expert Training - Overestimating Domain Authority”

  1. […] More about the Free SEO Course […]

    NOTE: Edited to remove keywords from the link text.

  2. It ranks number 3 for “Free SEO course” ;)

    My main point is that if I had published that course on a new domain, I would not be ranking well, and certainly not within a few days.

    The established level of trust, both with Google and with the community in the form of inbound linking from other trusted domains, is responsible for the pages rank.

    The content is a small part of the equation. It just needs to be on topic. The page isn’t optimised in a conventional sense (i.e. specific keyword density and placement) because it simply doesn’t need to be.

  3. Hey Peter,

    Nice job on ranking #3 for “free SEO course” lol. I’ll have to wait a few days (weeks?) to get indexed, but so far, on Google Blogsearch with results sorted by relevance, I’m #2 for “seo course training”, 7th for “seo course”, 1st for “expert seo course”, and 3rd for “free seo course.” Not that Google blogsearch ranking means shit, but whatev :D With all this OOP going on this page I may get smacked with a 950 penalty, who knows.

    What Mike Grehan described in his “rich gets richer” piece is the result of PageRank based ranking:

    “Since PageRank is query-independent it cannot by itself distinguish between pages that are authoritative in general and pages that are authoritative on the query topic. In particular a web-site that is authoritative in general may contain a page that matches a certain query but is not an authority on the topic of the query.”

    That’s how a “Britney Spears Naked” page on v7n ranks high even though v7n blog has nada to do with Britney Spears.

    Authority, according to the Hilltop paper, was thought up to counteract that problem, by calculating authority scores that are query-specific.

    So, according to the Hilltop paper, a site like v7n that may be scoring high for “dooors” or “rackforce reviews” won’t automatically score high for “seo course” just because the site is popular. If “expert” pages (e.g. Search Engine Land’s Search Cap, for example, which IMO qualifies as a page that’s “objective and diverse”, and “point to numerous non-affiliated pages on the subject”) link to v7n using “seo course” in the anchor text, then v7n may gain an authority score for “seo course.”

    I agree with the gist of your post, that a strong domain has an edge when it comes to getting crawled quicker, deeper, and more often. It also means that internal link juice transfers more weight, and the site gains organic links quicker. An IBL from a site that already gained Google’s trust, even if the link is on a low TBPR page, also means alot more than a higher TBPR link from a site with a low trust score.

    But does domain strength and “trust” automatically translate to higher rankings? We’ll see.

  4. Hey Halfdeck

    >>But does domain strength and “trust” automatically translate to higher rankings? We’ll see.

    I don’t think it does. But it certainly helps. A lot :)

  5. “But it certainly helps. A lot :)”

    Lol, ok, but I bet if you changed your post title to “Expensive SEO seminar” its ranking is going to tank :)

  6. […] Half SEO Notebook tends to disagree and he even challenged with an experiment that I will help him with by creating this link: seo course. What he is trying to do here is to rank higher than Peter on Google for these terms. Even if he gets one more inbound link than Peter, his theory claims that his page will be listed higher than Peter’s. I don’t think Half will succeed. […]

  7. (3/22/2007) My starting position for “free seo course” is #6, 2 spots below v7n which is still 3rd (its got an indented listing). For “seo course” I’m starting out 20th; V7n slipped a spot to 8th/9th. So far I just have 2 IBLs to this page (I could use a couple more). No IBLS reported within Webmaster Tools yet. With equal amount of backlinks with the right anchor text I still think I can outrank v7n.

  8. […] As Richard points out half deck is testing a theory about ranking a page based on relevance Vs. Pagerank. You can find out more on this by reading the Free SEO Course. […]

  9. Funny enough - this morning I see my post at #3, v7n at #4 & #5, and this post at #8 (, my location Ireland, no personalisation). Odd because I doubt I have many backlinks pointing at that post (I’m picked up by WebProNews but they wouldn’t have published that post). I’ll be honest and say that I have a lot of link love pointing at my blog that certainly pushes the posts up in the serps. My take from this - ranking is probably based on a very overlapping analysis of trust AND relevancy (the trust dial has probably been turned up a bit too much in recent times). If we all try to rank for an off-topic phrase from our seo/webmaster related blogs then we might get a different view of what’s going on. Anyone on for a post about dog collars?

  10. Richard, I’m seeing you at 5th right now on my DC, but yeah, you’re definitely climbing.

    “Odd because I doubt I have many backlinks pointing at that post”

    You read my mind. But you have a couple more links than you think:) (for one, if you look at the top of this post, you’ll notice a new link I added last night, though I doubt its picked up yet; this page’s cache is still a few days old)

    Because the phrase “free seo course” isn’t ultra competitive, keywords in TITLE is probably enough to get on page one/two, but from there, even relevant anchor text pointing at this post isn’t having an overwhelming effect in breaking into the top 5.

    So relevance isn’t always enough.

    V7n is slowly losing ground for “seo course.” Authority score hasn’t changed, relevance hasn’t changed. We do know his post has less PageRank than it started with.

    Then again, which ranks #1 for “free seo course” is ranking with TBPR 2 and a bagful of anchor text from low quality directory pages.

    Moral of the story?

    There are more than one way to skin a cat. If you look like Brad Pitt, you could be broke and still pick up chicks. But you can still score even if you look like Shrek if you got a winning personality and a steady income.

  11. Now using mcdar, I see Red Cardinal outranking v7n for both keywords on DC’s like V7n slipped from 7th to 14th (-7), while Red moved up to 10th. I also dropped from 19th to 26th (-7) spots. I haven’t posted anything new, so the drops are probably due to new competition, not a reduction in PageRank from publishing new posts like I said earlier.

    I do have a TBPR 4 page pointing right at Red’s post with no other links on the page except a copyright link (which I just removed).

  12. Hiya I just had to put in my 2 cents :)

    All the big time seos suck, simple. They are slow and out of date. They take weeks and months to do what i do in days. The best free seo course you can take is just getting in there and doing it. Real natural content can and does rank without links in minutes if you have half a brain.

    Hate to be such a stinker but….

    Peace Dude

    Mich in the Web


    Ok yeah the title is “Free SEO Course” lol but you’re straying off topic Mich. You’re right that sometimes people blow stuff out of proportion and content is key, and there are people out there overcharging for information they can get their hands on for free. And you’re right: some of the top SEOs talk a good game but they don’t have any experience managing a long term, successful SEO campaign.

    But there is SEO worth your money; its just hard to find.

  14. I think a lot of companies charge far too much for seo work and with that my policy is to keep costs down so that my charge to them is lower.

    I think free courses are great, because often it can show clients the complexities of seo and make them more willing to pay…perhaps!

  15. I have put a link to this post from my blog. I think giving free advise and links to possibly useful pages like this cannot hurt your credibility as a professional and can help your ranking under certain circumstances, since everybody looking for “free stuff” and finding your site may raise your credibility. The free-stuff people may someday buy your paid services, DrabDesign, the rate has been stated as about 2%, however since 97% of all statistical percentages are made up with no research at all, that number could be inflated… errr… or deflated. As long as you have something to say, and you say it, you will probably be chosen. My company, BlackbookCollection offers an SEO course, and our whole philosophy is just to give away as high-value SEO info as we can, which proves our product is valid.

  16. Hey, thanks for the link. I was talking to a well-known affiliate marketer the other day and he said giving out free trial software is a bad move because if there are technical issues with the software, 1) people won’t buy it 2) you’ll spend time providing tech support for people who didn’t buy the software. His recommendation was to just sell it and offer a money-back guarantee.

    The point of this post wasn’t to offer a free SEO course but to prove domain authority can be trumped by relevance signals.

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