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'Authority' status and the benefits it can bring.
How to obtain it, how to utilise it, and what it means.

 5:04 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Following on from an earlier thread about getting from #3 to #1 in the Google SERPs, earlier today someone pointed out something very interesting about 'authority' sites.

As a friend suggested today: "A good indicator of authority is when you see the list of links under the homepage URL listing".

What I would like to discuss with you folks is the factors that contribute to the achievement of 'authority' status as defined above, and what benefits/advantages this status affords.

In my own industry I know of only three sites which have the extra links under the homepage.

This is interesting for the following reasons:

1. One site dominates the SERPs. The site has been online since 2003 and has more content than any other site in the industry.
2. The other two sites have next to no content and are mass-produced, template-based sites from the same web design company.
3. Two of the three sites rank very poorly in the SERPs.
4 Two of the three sites have almost no backlinks.
5. The age of each domain is as follows: 11-Feb-2002, 03-Apr-2002, and 01-May-2003.

Based on the above, what appears to determine whether or not a particular site is awarded authority status?

Please post your own examples and whether you think 'authority' status is manually awarded, or whether it appears to be pot luck.

More importantly, once a particular site has been given authority status, does this mean it has far greater trust than its competitors?



 6:09 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)


where i come from - everywhere you look Wikipedia is #1

and to pass at wikipedia you have to cheat with pr, links and so on - and that will break your neck.

so i'm happy with my #2 and so i can wake up in the morning without to be afraid that my position could be lost in space :)

btw. in my field there is no authority with sitelinks - if i could pass Wikipedia - which is impossible - i would get them :)


 6:44 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Forget "authority status", cause there ain't no proof of such a critter. What you wnat to look into is "authority-like score" which those extra links seem unrelated to.

The difference between "status" and "score" is that one is binary, the other covers a range. Your site already has and authority-like score, but it might be rather low.

Google does not judge whether it is an actual authority, it judges how similar it is to what they have defined as the way an authority sould look.

You want lots of deep links from related sites, and some of them should be from sites with a high authority-like score.

And don't get to stuck on authority, it is only one of the factors. In many cases it is better to be linked to by an authority than it is to be the actual authority.


 6:57 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

Big Dave made some good comments. There is no way to become an 'authority' really. But strong deep links, age and content built up will make it so it would be pretty hard for you to change your ranking drastically with minor changes.

So I think once these factors play in heavily enough, you can make changes to your website whenever you feel like it and your SER won't ever really change.


 7:32 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

I really don’t know if the extra links under a site denote it as an “authority” or not. One thing I can say is we have a site that enjoys these links and ever since those links appeared its conversion rose dramatically. Chicken or the egg perhaps.


 7:35 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

If someone can suggest a better phrase to describe a site with the extra links, then please go ahead. 'Authority' is clearly not the 'authoritative' term ;)

I'm sure that Google must in some way favour/trust/respect said sites to give them this SERPs listing bonus ...


 8:00 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

i know those Sites with "sitelinks", which are hurt by the
The "minus thirty" penalty... [webmasterworld.com...]


 8:46 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

ugh. I hate giving my "authority" speech, but I like giving my authority rant, so here goes. :P

An authority site is an authority site regardless of where it ranks

And to be philosophical, An authority site just is.
There's no "trying" to be an authority, you either are one or not.

I'm working on a new website right now that will be an "authority"
Cause it will be the best in that industry. It will have, not a "little better" content. It will have "hands-down, no questions asked" better content than other sites in that niche. Same for resources, usability, depth or breath of information, etc.

Now, the question for the SEO/SEM is,
"3 years from now, this authority site will be not only authoritative but "trusted'. Depending on my current competition SERPS, do I want to use nothing but "white hat" techniques, which basically means set it up, post a few syndicated articles, PR releases, maybe a blog and forget about where it ranks. Or be more aggressive (and possibly off-set some trust early on, for quicker rankings) ie "grey-hat" and engage in accepted or non-accepted SEO techniques ie. tweak a title here, use some LSI there, build or buy some(or alot) links there, etc."

Either way, when people come to the site they will think "This is a bookmark, where-I-want-to-come, or recommmend my friends to go" site on the subject.

And as they say, "if you build it, the links will come"...at least the ones the give you Google's utter trust and are very hard, tho not impossible, to "fake".

There are subtle difference between "authority" and "trusted".
And while many of the signs are shared between the two, authority can not be.

Also know, "authority" and "trust" do not always equal rankings. For most little to above moderate competition keywords, an authoritative or trusted site will dominate it's SERPs. For tougher competition keywords, this is often not the case.

It's important to note the distinctions when "figuring out" why a site ranks or not.

So for most people, au authority site is built as a labor of love on the subject.
It's that "This is the site I wanted to find on the subject when I was looking for info, but couldn't" mindset.
It's that "what makes one piece of art a classic, and another average" type of mindset.
It's the "I'm going to super-duper, over-deliver to my customers/readers regardless of the income possibilities" type of mindset.

But most importantly, it doesn't take an authoritative website to rank #1.
"Trusted"? Yes, most likely. But not authoritative.
I suppose one has to have a certain ego to build that type of site as well.
An attitude of "I wanna be the best, and I want everyone to know it".

lol, make sense?


 9:19 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

In my field a site has just gained those coveted extra links under the link to the home page. I'm going to call these "official authority" sites since Google seems to regard them as authorities even if an expert in the field would not.

I thought it would be useful to do a comparison with some of your points, to see which are most important. Perhaps others could do the same and we could build up a clearer picture. I'll also do comparisons using my own site, since I don't have those extra links.

1a. One site dominates the SERPs.

This site has only recently moved to #1. Previously it's bounced around in second to third place. My own site (which doesn't have those extra links) has been as high as #5, but is now #8. I would have expected to see any "official authority" site like this in the #1 spot I don't recall seeing one that wasn't #1, but I may be mistaken.

1b. The site has been online since 2003

This one has been around since in 1997! Mine started in 2000. A site in a related field what has this "official authority" satus has been around since 1995. Age may be a key factor.

1c. and has more content than any other site in the industry.

The site has 69 pages (small!). Mine has 635. Size doesn't seem to be crucially important, either in ranking or in attaining "official authority" status.

2. The other two sites have next to no content and are mass-produced, template-based sites from the same web design company.

The site is hand-made, as are all the top 10 results in my field. But, anyway, this doesn't seem to be a factor.

3. Two of the three sites rank very poorly in the SERPs.

This one ranks #1.

4 Two of the three sites have almost no backlinks.

According to Yahoo this one has 12,033 backlinks. Mine has 33,585. So backlinks don't seem to be important.

Summary: Age seems to be the main factor. Ranking highly is important (I think). Size is less important. Backlinks are less important.

The site also has to have clearly demarcated sections. On both the site that's in my field and the site that's in a related field, the extra links are to pages at root level, eg:


Is this consistently seen in other "official authority" sites?

Anyone else have any thoughts?


 9:29 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

There is no way to become an 'authority' really.

Here's how I did it:

  • Learn the basics of HTML.
  • Build a site about something you know a lot about and love.
  • Keep the site simple, quick-loading, and easy to navigate.
  • Get a good, simple domain name that's easy to remember.
  • Spend thousands of hours making the site the best resource of its kind.
  • Add lots of quality, related links and ask for return links.
  • Publicize the site by being active on niche-related forums.
  • Where it's really appropriate, add links to it in Wikipedia.
  • Get a good digital camera and learn how to use it.
  • Keep improving the site every day.
  • Add some advertising to make your work pay off.
  • Learn what you can about SEO, but don't give yourself ulcers.
  • If you love your site and its focus, the work doesn't really feel like work.
  • chrisv1963

     10:37 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Great post Car_Guy! That's about how I did it to get my authority site.


     11:45 pm on Oct 13, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Authority = Brand name


     12:41 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    sandpetra: If anything, my industry demonstrates that quite the reverse is true. Two of the three sites that have the 'extra' links are well-known for bad business practice and extremely poor customer service. Neither has a 'brand name' as such - the industry is far too niche.


     12:53 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Brand names are great as far as "the masses" are concerned, but often, the real enthusiasts in a particular niche will find more in the offerings of lesser-known companies.

    One of the neat things about the Internet is the way it tends to level the playing field, in the sense that everyone has an opportunity to publicize their venture. As Matt Drudge said years ago, "I'm excited about the launch of this Internet medium. And again, freedom of the press belongs to anyone who owns one."


     1:01 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    The extra links have nothing to do with authority. They can usually be found for exact match of URL, which only implies obvious relevance, not authority.


     1:32 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    steveb: If indeed that is the case, then my industry is a bizarre exception to the rule. Of the fifty sites I have checked only three have the additional links under the main URL.

    Whether I check by exact URL or not - the majority of sites simply do not have these additional links.

    Are we definitely talking about the same thing?


     1:49 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Stop "trying" to spam the SERPs by finding the magic bullet...think harder about your visitors and how to best serve them...working to increase your conversions and site usability...

    This will take you further then hitting #1 ... AND .. because of your efforts...as your site becomes more popular in "your niche" .. then you actually have a better chance of hitting #1...(ah yes...the magic "I'm Feeling Lucky" traffic...I love it..!)

    AND if you have maximized your site's usability/conversions..then the additional traffic will only work to your advantage...


     3:39 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    "the majority of sites simply do not have these additional links"

    For what? What searches, what terms, what are the URLs?

    How can you make such a claim? How many thousands of searches did you do aimed at putting each domain in the best light?

    Not all domains get them, and not for every obvious reason, but they are easy to get.

    I should not have said they have "nothing" to do with authority, but when a domain called word1word2-word3 gets one for word1word2 word3 but not word1 word2 word3, the authority of the domain in this case is not a key determiner.


     4:29 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    >>>>Chicken or the egg perhaps<<<<<


    One big problem here is so much focus is on mfa informational sites when the real world is small business sites trying to carve a niche in the web.
    It's a whole different challenge.


     8:53 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    focus is on mfa informational sites when the real world is small business sites trying to carve a niche in the web

    Indeed there is a problem with focus but it has nothing to do with informational v. e-commmerce/product.

    As mentioned above, the focus is on the wrong thing.
    If you're running a business, stop "trying" to appear authoritative and be a business ie. make money.

    You're trying to game google. Just admit it. Be honest about it.
    And get into the business of gaming google.
    Businesses "game" consumers into spending money on something they probably don't absolutely need anyways. Let's get real about it.

    Out of the billions of possible keyword phrases one could rank for, the vast majority can be gamed for at least a first page listing, if not, a #1 ranking.

    Every once in a while, a labor of love coincides with making money, but being "an authority" is simply not the focus of most people. Making money ie. having a high SERP is. So focus on that.

    One doesn't even have to like the subject matter to rank high for a certain topic, nor be the authority on it.

    Let me repeat, people are confusing being authoritative which I consider a measure of the consumer's opinion with being trusted, a measure of Google's opinion.
    It's utterly important to understand the difference.


     9:20 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    "the majority of sites simply do not have these additional links"

    For what? What searches, what terms, what are the URLs?

    Um, TOS?

    How can you make such a claim? How many thousands of searches did you do aimed at putting each domain in the best light?

    I guess everyone on this forum has done (at least) thousands of searches and can verify that the vast majority of sites don't get these extra links, and that not every search brings up extra links anyway, even for the same site.

    Not all domains get them, and not for every obvious reason, but they are easy to get.

    Please do feel free to share your extpertise. How did you go about getting these extra links for your site?


     11:21 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    When it comes to authority - MSNDude [webmasterworld.com] kicked off this great thought provoking thread recently.


     11:59 am on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I guess whitenight, sandpetra and Car_Guy is right on spot with this.
    The "just for the love of it" site we have been making became authority i guess... for whatever we do it won't fall under number 5 for any of its related searches. And if we tweak it a little every half a year, it usually becomes #1.

    But you know... the focus was definately not on "ranking in google", that's for sure. We were making a site about a certain industry allright, but from an underground, indie, amateur, "designer" view... meaning we never cared for anything else, than what we put up for articles and pictures for ( great point on the digital camera! ), and that those who we wanted to read it, really do read it. But for example we did a lot of interviews with the greats of that specific area. Even though nobody read them at that time, these articles are now all over the SERPs... sometimes bypassing their own sites ;)

    Most of its success came from offline, word-of-mouth publicity.
    It's local, it's right on spot, and unique.

    After two years we were toying around with searches to see how on earth can we grab this much attention for such a unique / local aspect of an otherwise large industry.

    And we were like... top 3 for everything. Globally.
    Not that it brought us any money ( we wish ), but we still are.

    There are factors i think that made this a relative sucess... which are...

    It's unique... it's independent... it's obvioulsy hand-made ( HTML all over ), has a consistant design and layout that has been the same from the start, often deeplinked from elsewhere because of subjects/aspects/pictures many people care about but no one saw merit in posting them on the net ( except us, for we were very very obsessed with it )... a lot of offline networking... and i mean a lot... some things we were involved with were even on national TV ;)

    And it was our staff that got paid for that work even with this small piece of "advertising" involved, not vica versa.

    And if a site that has been around, cared for and about for years... gets noticed through many, many referrals online... it will more likely than not become a favourite of the SEs as well in my opinion.

    And gets away with everything :P.

    ( i know this is not the thread to mention this but that site had two identical versions on two different domains for two years now. You know, a mirror site... but server migration was delayed, later even canceled, so in the end they were on the same server, on the same IP as well. And it never saw a penalty. )


     12:38 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Adding to this interesting thread, what I think distinguishes an "authority" site from others is the ability to be in the top 5 results for a (really) generic keyword, and to be there for every other keyword containing the generic one. (That's the way I see it)

    Maintaining and developing such a site over the past 5 years, I noticed that it does not matter what SEO efforts you put in. What matters is your users. They are the ones who will make it an authority site by their trust and their daily visits.

    The funny thing is that my authority site started as a small personal blog and now some very big undisputed authority sites link to it with a description like "The no1 independent site about widgets". I did not request such a link... They put it up on their own, despite the fact that in a way we are competing against each other to get widgets' readers.

    The rule of thumb is to do some minimal SEO in the beggining and then solely focus on your site. That's what I did. And if I compare it to the ecommerce sites I've miserably tried to market (I am not SEO professional or anything) it has worked a treat. 3-4 years now it is top 10 for every keyword with the generic one. It seems that the users of the site have done all the "dirty" work for me...

    You know things like don't add it to wikipedia, let others do this for you. Focus on your site and not on how to cheat google.

    Considering that it is a 2-man operation proves that you do not need a budget of gazillions and an investment in infrastructure to achieve this. Just love and dedication on the subject!


     3:08 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Car guy's most important concept is IMO, this one:
    # Keep improving the site every day.

    Beyond that, build traffic, and BRAND. In the long term, branding is going to be nearly as important as SERPs, if not moreso. Push your logo or URL wherever you can. Add a tagline as well, like, widget.com, because we love widgets.

    The tagline is very important, but overlooked by even the most educated branding experts. The trend seems to be to use a different tagline every couple of years or so. But, to test the importance of a tagline, try this little quiz (all American companies, answers below):

    "We bring good things to light"
    "Everyday low prices"
    "An American Revolution"
    "Fair and Balanced"

    What you should see is that most people are able to identify at least three of the four companies just by their taglines. It's repetition that provides the key. Delivering the same message over and over and over drives the message into the mind of even the most passive potential customer.

    In the case of internet sites with particular business models focused on one aspect, they may be able to get away without a tagline, such as Google. If somebody says "search" many will automatically think "Google." Same goes for "auctions", though Christie's and Sotheby's may beg to differ, the word "Ebay" comes to mind, but ebay went further, branding itself as "the world's marketplace" and they stuck to that. Want proof? What do you associate with Yahoo? Nothing. Portal? Search? Maybe. They have no tagline or identity associated with a product or function. You see their stock price? Toilet.

    OK, here's the answers:

    Improve your site every day, but also commit to building traffic through BRANDING.

    Good luck.


     4:01 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    "authority" is a dated, ridiculus term when you are talking about most sites that rank well.


     4:15 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    fearlessrick: I agree with your comments 100%, and have given this much thought. Because of the nature of my industry however, I don't think a 'Tagline' would be appropriate. Moreover, it would be very difficult to choose something tasteful and memorable!

    Kirby: This dicussion is not about sites that rank well, but about why certain sites are given an added bonus in the form of additional links under the homepage URL in the SERPs.

    Whether this denotes 'authority' or not is a question I'm putting to you folks.

    How would you describe this phenomenon?


     4:23 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    As a friend suggested today: "A good indicator of authority is when you see the list of links under the homepage URL listing".

    As already mentioned by steveb, authority has nothing to do with the list of links under the homepage URL. The latter one is simply created by an automatic process (e.g. if you have the 1st position and more than two results under the top ten positions then additional links are displayed under the homepage URL).

    Moreover, using the term 'authority' without giving a precise definition is senseless. Of course, it makes sense to talk about an authority in a specific context. For example, one can talk about an authority in case of the Hilltop algorithm. On the other hand, this definition is meaningless if a different algorithm (as in the case of Google) is used. Therefore, one should precisely described what kind of authority one is referring to. (So far I haven't seen any hint which would indicate that Google is using any kind of authority system while there are many hints for a trust based algorithm.)


     4:36 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    doc_z: Two of the three sites I mention in my initial post do not have a Top Twenty position, let alone a Top Ten.

    That being the case, why do they have the these links under the homepage URL?

    Morevoer, if it's about having 'the 1st position and more than two results under the top ten positions', I'm seeing a lot of sites that are missing something which, by your definition, they should have.


     4:39 pm on Oct 14, 2006 (gmt 0)

    "This is the site I wanted to find on the subject when I was looking for info, but couldn't"

    This is exactly what I did in 1988. I'm sure the early date has helped me as well as the fact I have continued to add to it with new information.

    I suspect it might be some sort of authority/trusted site as pretty much any article ranks in the top 10 for related search phrases (often top 5) and even on the overall topic which is big (not my specific niche but the term for the hobby) the homepage ranks #5 with the one word search. This is amazing to me and the only reason I can think of is that I am getting some sort of authority/trusted credit. I'm always first if the key nich word is added. Nothing I do seems to change the ranking much.

    Now this is just speculation but I have to wonder if the fact that I link to related information on other sites in every article helps. The articles are set up so students or any visitor can go learn more. I know there are questions about outgoing links but I have to think their might be something to the idea that if they go to quality sites it will help.

    This 56 message thread spans 2 pages: 56 ( [1] 2 > >
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