Domain Authority is a Vanity Metric Making You Lose Focus

Domain Authority—Like the Easter Bunny—Does Not Exist

There is a myopic focus on third party domain metrics that is undermining SEO efforts throughout the industry.  Moz Domain Authority (DA), Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR), and Majestic’s Trust Flow (TF) are not 1-to-1 measures of a site’s likelihood to rank, yet SEOs treat them as if they were.  In Facebook groups, on Twitter, and in conversation with other SEOs I constantly encounter marketers talking about successes in increasing Domain Authority, which indicates that they are likely using the wrong KPIs to measure progress and drive decision making. While these metrics are helpful in gaining a ballpark measurement of a site’s likelihood to rank or pass link juice, pursuing increases in these numbers is pointless.  Far too many marketers are wasting time and effort in doing what they can to “increase domain authority” despite the fact that Google has stated that they do not have a “domain authority-like” metric.

There is No Value in Tracking Your DA, DR, or TF as if It Were Your Credit Score.

In conversation with other SEOs and owners of websites, I often encounter a preoccupation with DA, DR, and TF.  Even “gurus” like Neil Patel will talk about doing things to raise the Domain Authority of a website, as if Google were referring to Moz to help rank websites.  This focus on increasing the DA that Moz assigns to a website is a distraction and a waste of time that could be better spent doing outreach, doing keyword research, or creating content.  There are benchmarks that we should be using, but DA shouldn’t be one of them.

I have written numerous times about the reliability of metrics such as DA, DR, and TF.  To start, they are manipulated very easily.  There are plenty of terrible throwaway PBNs that have metrics that would be considered “good” but show very little impact on rank when they link to other sites.  One can go on Fiverr and find pages of gigs selling “TF 15+” “DA 20+” links are great at raising your TF or DR, but do very little to rank your website.  Additionally, several of these tools are generating domain metrics based on incomplete data sets. Moz Open Site Explorer (OSE) and SEM Rush find a fraction of the links that our client sites have acquired, greatly hindering their ability to give any sort of accurate estimate of the site’s trustworthiness or “link juice.”  Ahrefs and Majestic often rate sites as having high DR or TF, only to see these sites outranked by other sites with markedly lower metrics.

The Traffic and Audience Size of a Website is What Matters

Here’s a question:

You’ve written a great, thought-provoking article on cigars and are in the process of pitching it to sites as a guest post.  You take a look at Moz and Ahrefs to determine which would be the preferable site for this post.

This is what you see:

Site A:

 

screenshot of site a domain authority

Site B:

site B domain authority is a vanity metric

Which one do you pick?

Site B has a higher DA and DR and may or may not drive link juice your way, but site A is more attractive.  To start, site A has higher estimated traffic because of the keywords that it ranks for, a much better indication of what Google thinks of it than Moz’s DA.  Additionally, site A is more likely to actually get you in front of readers, which should be just as high of a priority as driving link juice to your site.  It is a no-brainer that you should offer the guest post to site A, despite the fact that site B has higher DR and DA, but how many SEOs would actually do so?  Most would see the XX DA and jump on it without really questioning the correlation between this number and the link’s ability to help her site.

Pro Tip – Pay Attention to Ahrefs’ Estimated Traffic

When looking up a website in Ahrefs, the first number that you look at should be the daily traffic.  This number is nowhere near the actual amount of traffic that a site receives, but that’s not the point.  Ahrefs is tracking the keywords that the site ranks for, offering you an insight into its ability to pass link juice based on its performance on search engines, not its backlink profile. Moz’s and Ahrefs’ algorithms are very limited in comparison to Google’s and are limited in their ability to predict a site’s likelihood to rank or pass link juice.  However, their tracking of a site’s actual rank on Google is valuable, since this data is a reflection of Google’s take on the site.  By targeting sites that have higher estimated traffic, you will be able to better identify sites that can pass link juice than if you focus on DA, DR, of TF.

Do Not Use Third Party Metrics to as KPIs for Your Website

Raising your Domain Authority score 5 points is useful if you want to rank on Moz (if it ever launches its own search engine).  If you want to rank on Google, you should be tracking your site’s performance through Google Search Console and Google Analytics and you should be making decisions to drive impressions, average rank, referral traffic, time on page, or whatever benchmark works for your website.  Don’t treat your DA, TF, or DR as if it were Google’s PageRank score.

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