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What Is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority

SEO is full of myths, half-truths, and as a constantly evolving industry, and outdated information as well. Website optimization guidelines can change overnight based on a single update to Google’s ranking algorithm. It doesn’t help that the details of that algorithm remain secret. Of course, a lot can be deduced from official information, SEO experience and constant experimentation, though with thousands of algorithm changes per year, or even every 3 hours on average, without constant monitoring and holistic analysis it’s easy to fall into the traps of rumors and hasty conclusions. One of the often misinterpreted variables in SEO is “domain authority”. What is it and to what extent can you rely on it for link building?

SEO – positioning of websites

Positions in search results depend on many factors – Google’s algorithm takes into account over 200 issues, related both to content and technology, as well as links directing to the domain. In a nutshell, SEO can be divided into two sections:

On-site SEO are actions we can perform on the site itself. These include updating and usually expanding the content on the page and saturating it with relevant keywords. Technical issues are also of great importance – loading speed, responsiveness, SSL certificate implementation, or issues related to UX (SXO).

Off-site SEO is based on building links that lead to a given domain. Theoretically, the more sites that hyperlink to a given site, the higher it ranks in search results – Google digitally applies its version of social proof to its rankings. Of course, the mechanics are a bit more complicated in the details – diversification of the link profile, for example, is important.

PageRank – An Indicator of Domain Strength

In the past, the approximate “power” of a domain could be checked quite easily using Google tools: the PageRank indicator, which with the help of a formula calculated the “quality” of a domain on the basis of links to it and links placed on the page. Links taken into account by the PR had to have the dofollow parameter (the division into dofollow and nofollow was introduced in 2005 – before that categorization did not exist, and the algorithm necessarily analyzed all the links).

Information about PageRank was located on the Google toolbar, and small site owners often placed banners with PR rank on their sites as an expression of digital prestige. Over time, PageRank was removed from Google Search Console and you couldn’t officially check a site’s PR score. Today, this score still has a significant impact on a page’s position in search results, but it’s only one of many factors that the algorithm takes into account.

Domain authority and other metrics

Due to Google hiding the PageRank value in 2016, figuring out the “strength” of a domain has become more complicated. Many SEO tools have created their own algorithms to evaluate this value. The issue of domain authority often arises in discussions – this is a ranking developed by Moz, which is based on the analysis of several factors. The score is indicated on a scale from 0 to 100, where a higher number means greater potential of the domain.

A similar tool, although obviously based on its own system of calculating values, is used by the popular service Ahrefs. It’s called Domain Rating and is based on the comparison of the link profile leading to the analyzed domain with other domains in Ahrefs database. As in the case of domain rating the result is given on a scale from 0 to 100.

Keep in mind when using Ahrefs – don’t confuse Domain Rating with URL Rating (UR) – the second indicator refers to quite similar mechanics (but uses a logarithmic scale), but analyzed is not the entire domain, but only a specific URL.

Domain authority vs. Google algorithm

Remember – both domain authority and domain rating (as well as other similar metrics calculated by other tools) are not official Google data. They are only approximate estimations, which should be treated only as a guideline, not a reliable factor. Google’s algorithm remains a secret of the Mountain View corporation – all commercial tools trying to recreate it on the basis of their own data are necessarily burdened with a large dose of conjecture and even randomness. Google itself admits this in the words of John Mueller, an expert on Google’s algorithm for many years – “high authority of a domain with links doesn’t guarantee high positions in the search engine”.

Ahrefs, Moz or Senuto are services so useful that no SEO specialist can ignore them – mastering such tools is the basis of a positioner’s work. There is no denying, however, that the key is proper interpretation of the data they contain. Commercial crawlers may not reach all links. What is more, they can be blocked from the page administrator level (whereas Google crawlers usually reach these subpages anyway). Many SEO agencies block the bots of tools such as Moz or Ahrefs so as not to give away their backlinks to competitors. This strategy of safety and protection of know-how at the same time doesn’t allow these tools to realistically evaluate the link profile. Domain authority is therefore only an estimated indicator, not a real value. DR can be a sensible indicator, however the analysis of each domain should be approached individually – only then will the SEO audit and subsequent positioning activities be able to extract the maximum potential from the website.

Not all SEO audits are equal

The first step in website positioning is always (or at least it should be) a detailed, specialized audit of the website by an experienced specialist who should bear in mind that despite the undeniable usefulness of the aforementioned commercial tools, many indications may be burdened with errors resulting from generalized statistical conclusions made by such tools. When analyzing a website profile, one should consider first of all the results that link building generates – i.e. the page’s position in SERPs.

For a bird’s eye assessment of your website positioning, strategic consulting, and a complete and professional SEO audit contact our team of specialists at Verseo, the leading provider of website optimization services in Central Easter Europe.

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