Stop Using Domain Authority for SEO Backlinks

Google discontinued its PageRank browser tool in 2016. Since then, search engine optimizers have sought another measure of a site’s authority.

Indeed, links remain a key ranking factor, especially links from reputable sites. SEOs need a metric to know if a site is worth the effort of link solicitation.

So, we now have a hodgepodge of industry calculations to gauge a site’s trust and popularity.

Domain Authority

Moz was one of the first platforms to have its own web index, which in 2019 made it easy to replace two proprietary PageRank toolbars: Page Authority and Domain Authority. Both are a 100 point scale – the higher the score, the greater the authority.

Even now, Moz doesn’t explain much how it calculates these metrics. He offered a vague explanation at launch: “It’s based on data from the Mozscape Web Index and includes link counts, MozRank and MozTrust scores, and dozens of other factors.”

Majestic, another SEO platform, has also developed an early PageRank replacement. It’s called “Citation stream.” It measures the “power” of the website or link on a scale of 100 points.

The Ahrefs metric is called Ranking of the domain. It rates “the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of size and quality)”.

Rank of Semrushdiscussed below, is based on organic rankings.

Reliable metric?

Domain authority has nothing to do with Google. This alone makes it an unreliable metric for optimizing organic search rankings. Google’s equivalent is probably entirely different with its own formula, spam signals, page history, etc. We can only guess how Google determines the authority of a page.

Additionally, Google never used a domain-level metric in its ranking algorithm – only page-level metrics. Domain authority – the accumulation of all links pointing to that domain – never guarantees a high ranking, by Google.

Alternatives

There is no single way to measure the authority of a page. However, there are signals that infer the authority of a page.

  • Origin of traffic. Is the site getting clicks? From where? The best type of link is the one that generates visitors. SimilarWeb and Alexa estimate a site’s traffic and sources, much like other tools do.
  • Organic search rankings and traffic. A page (or site) that ranks well and drives organic traffic likely has a backlink profile (among other factors) preferred by Google. Semrush Rank is worth it in my experience because, again, it’s based on a site’s organic ranking. Ahrefs’ “traffic value” estimates the value of a domain’s organic traffic if it comes from pay-per-click ads. Ahrefs also estimates each page’s organic traffic, which is helpful.
  • Manual review. Finally, a quick glance at a page or site can almost always indicate whether it is trustworthy and therefore worth pursuing for backlinks. Are the authors real humans? Can you find the authors elsewhere, like on LinkedIn or other sites? Is there a transparent and informative “About Us” page?

Stop

Stop now if you’ve used Domain Authority to assess potential backlinks (or disavow them). Domain authority is not a reliable representation of a site’s reliability or ranking potential. There are better ways to assess, such as a manual exam.

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