Big Changes Just Came to Ahrefs’ Domain Rating (DR)
For some time, it has been really easy to game the Ahrefs DR and Majestic’s TF. With Ahrefs’ new calculation of DR, it is likely to become much harder to pass a site off as having a strong backlink profile. There will be many more websites with DRs of 0-5 and a lot less with DRs of 15-30. The new calculation aims to stop reporting sites that do not rank well as having domain ranks in the same range as sites that do rank. As a result, you may find that your website’s DR has dropped dramatically; there is no reason to panic. Nothing has happened to your site’s backlink profile and you have not incurred a penalty—the only thing that has changed is the way that Ahrefs reports on your site.
Why This is Good
HELPS WITH COMPETITIVE ANALYSIS
To start, this will be very helpful to SEOs trying to do competitive analyses. How often do we look at a highly ranking website in Ahrefs and see that it has a domain rating of 30, which is roughly what we’re seeing for our new client’s, which is buried on page 8? Reporting to a client should be much easier now that we have metrics that better reflect the strength of the backlink profiles that are helping to position both the client and competitors.
HELPS DOMAIN BUYERS
Whether you’re trying to build a PBN, or you’re looking into buying a domain that was previously owned, or looking to purchase a website for income, it’s helpful to have accurate information about that website’s backlink profile. As of now, it can be difficult to glance at Ahrefs’ DR and tell whether a site has solid links coming from a variety of sources or if it has 50 links coming from different blogspot properties. With this change, it could save domain buyers some time by helping us to weed out sites that have a DR of 40 that is being driven by a bunch of garbage links.
Why This Doesn’t Matter
Ahrefs does not report to Google. It does not buy data from Google. It crawls the web and indexes it (similar to the way a search engine does). It is entirely possible to have a sky-high DR and still not rank, just as it is possible to rank a site with a DR of 30. Additionally, DR does not take into consideration the actual rankings of a website, which is a much better indicator of Google’s opinion of the site.
Skeptical? Here is a screenshot of a website that dominates the SERPs in the ubercompetitive legal niche. It ranks nationally and has generated tens of millions of dollars in cases for the firm:
A legal niche site with a DR of 42 should struggle to rank even in the local Philadelphia market, let alone throughout the country, yet there it is. There really are two lessons to be learned from this: first, not all of a site’s rank is driven by its backlinks. In the case of this site, which belongs to a competitor of my client, it once had a powerful PBN powering it and driving tons of traffic to it. Today, we think that it is still ranking thanks to the historical user data (he had a falling out with his SEO and no longer has the PBN). In other words, you can’t rely on DR as the “end all” of determining what it will take to overcome a competitor.
Second, although Ahrefs is working to improve this, it is still easy to manipulate these metrics. Seeing an increase or decrease in your DR isn’t something to worry or celebrate about; just throw some web 2.0 links to your site and you’ll see the number go up without any discernable change in Google rank. Don’t focus so much on your site’s DR and focus more on building links and good content.