The metrics which come from various SEO tools – be it Ahrefs, Moz, MajesticSEO or others – have been a hot topic ever since their conception.
Metrics, like Domain Authority (DA) from the Moz tool, have not been without their criticisms. Earlier this month, Moz announced they are going to roll out a major upgrade to the DA metric which they claim will make it more trustworthy.
However, there are some major inherent issues to using any metric in the way that DA is used. Here are some fundamental issues why many the industry are put off by this metric.
The problem with DA
One of the most significant problems is how the metric is misused. Novice SEOs are jumping on a metric (be it DA or something else) and focusing on this one metric. Commonly they will:
- Only aim to get links over a certain metric
- Focus on trying to get their DA number higher
You have a whole sector of the SEO industry focused on selling “high-DA” links. The problem is that determining the strength of a site, page or link by focusing on ONE metric like DA is both inaccurate and unreliable. Here’s why.
1. Third party metrics
Moz currently uses around 40 factors to calculate the DA score, including linking root domains and number of total links among others (which haven’t been fully disclosed). But, on the grand scheme of things, even this isn’t complex enough to accurately calculate the ranking ability of a domain, or the true strength of links coming from a domain.
Look, Google has been crawling the net since 1993. There’s a reason they are the runaway market leader in search tech. Their algorithms are thought to use (at least) 200 factors to assess page rankings. The sheer complexity of their RankBrain algorithm, the ever-changing nature of it, how it adapts, learns human linguistics – means you cannot possibly match it or make guesses or predictions, with a fairly simplistic metric system like DA. It’s just not complex enough to be as accurate.
2. It’s a prediction
Experiencing an increase or decrease in your DA does not directly correlate with a change in your rankings. It is a prediction. Nothing more. Just read this section from Moz.
“Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines…. Over 40 signals are included in this calculation… this metric is meant to approximate how competitive a given site is in Google.com”
3. Even PageRank was dropped for being too simplistic
PageRank was Google’s “secret sauce” metric released back in 2000. However, it has long since been dropped. The core reason? They didn’t want people focusing so much on a single metric.
Plus, PageRank alone would not ultimately determine where a site ranked. In reality, it was a combination of multiple factors along with the PageRank score. Trying to focus too much in this one score was a distraction.
Here’s an explanation from a Google employee which supports this hypothesis.
And various Google insiders like John Mueller, over many years, have said they have no such internal equivalent of a “website authority” score. Even if they secretly did have an equivalent which they use internally, the fact remains that a single score would never be enough to determine the value. It would always be a combination of multiple factors.
4. It can be manipulated
To some extent, even rankings on Google can be manipulated. As such, DA scores can also be manipulated. And I would bet it’s markedly easier to manipulate a DA score.
If you’re tempted by these “high-DA links” being sold online, you need to consider that measuring the value based on DA alone could be problematic if the DA is not an accurate representation of that link’s true value.
5. Relevance is what really matters
The problem with focusing on a metric like DA is also linked to the fact that people forget to focus on things which matter most when they’re link building or determining the value of a site or page… You know, things like:
- Is it a contextually relevant link?
- Is the content on the page valuable to visitors?
And to assess these, you don’t even need a metric system. What you do need is to determine it by eye (which is what most experienced manual outreach link builders do).
Or like Google has done by plunging billions of dollars into developing and continually improving an AI system which is capable of doing so!
I don’t want to turn this into a metric-bashing session. What I’m trying to point out is – don’t focus on DA to the point where you ignore other things.
I can see why others value DA so much. In an industry where there are so many intangibles, it can be a relief to find something tangible, like a score out of 100. Over the long term, it can be a fairly valid indicator on how you’re progressing on improving the site, how it ranks, the strength of its link profile, etc.
And I know that a lot of link builders use a baseline DA, and will only build links over a certain score. (e.g., building links with sites with a DA of 25 or more for instance). When used sensibly, it could help weed out what would be deemed low-quality sites, or site’s which don’t have much reach to focus on what would be deemed higher quality sites.
But having said that – it’s a thin line. You need to determine for yourself just how much you want to rely on metrics like DA. Use them sparingly and sensibly and make sure you don’t forget about the metrics which REALLY matter – traffic, engagement and relevance.
And you’ll make better leaps by focusing on those three factors instead.
I talk more about this issue in my latest YouTube video.
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