Why Domain Authority Shouldn’t Be The Only Way You Evaluate a Link

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The tweet above captures my thoughts regarding Domain Authority. It would seem others agree with me as well.

Too many in the industry are too hung up on the metric that seems to have become the standard.

Here are some of my reservations about Domain Authority:

  • Domain Authority can easily be faked

You can say the same about many metrics so I don’t think there will ever be a substitute for someone visiting the website and performing a review. There are many websites out there with a high Domain Authority that have been penalized by Google and/or exist solely for the purposes of posting “SEO articles” to. Give me an authentic website with a lower DA any day.

  • Google doesn’t take the metric into consideration

I like to think of ranking in Google as a 100m sprint. The metric that matters in this case would be the speed a runner can travel – the faster they go the better their time. Using Domain Authority is a lot like measuring the leg length of the sprinters. It could well be a barometer for who is going to win on the day but then again it may have no bearing whatsoever.

  • Moz (the company behind Domain Authority) appear to face frequent challenges to do with the complexity of updating the metric and ensuring their scoring algorithm is accurate.

We monitor Domain Authority across quite a large number of sites and we’ve observed huge swings (in both directions) as Moz rolls out updates. Sites which swing one way in an update might swing the other way in the next update. The team at Moz are clearly still fine-tuning how they score a domain’s perceived importance/strength.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the work that Moz put into the metric and everything they do for the wider internet marketing community but Domain Authority does have its limitations so I’m a keen advocate for looking at a link opportunity with a wider field of vision.

In the example I gave at the start of this email the two factors we consider to be most important are topical relevance and authenticity of a website.

We conduct a manual review of every single placement that we secure for a client. One of my team will visit the website and assess its suitability, relevance and overall “quality”.

What are we looking for?

  • Relevance – I tell my team to visit a website with the following question in mind: “Would a link on this website make sense to the average internet user?“.

We use this as our determiner of relevance because frankly our world and the internet is an interconnected place so to say a website about real estate must have links solely from other real estate websites probably isn’t possible but will also look quite unnatural. Relevance is quite a fluid concept so the question of what the average person might think is in my experience the most effective.

  • Suitability – this is another check that needs to be performed by a person because outreach is a delicate process and reaching a website that covers the topic you care about in a negative way can be a shortcut to having your email published and you/your client become the laughing stock of an industry.
  • Authenticity – I will be the first to admit that “authenticity” is a difficult concept to codify. In my experience you just can’t use factors like “X number of comments” or “Y number of social shares” because these vary hugely by industry.

Some industries are very social such as food and fitness whereas others are more old-school such as hunting and fishing. I don’t want to make sweeping generalizations but my point is that it isn’t wise to discount link opportunities based on some arbitrary social share count when the website could still be an excellent placement and offer huge amounts of referral traffic because their visitors prefer to share articles via email or will manually visit a website daily and review new links/content.

We do look at metrics as well but not in isolation. In most cases we are cross-referencing the metrics to identify potential red-flags i.e. high domain authority but low levels of indexation in Google or we’ll use metrics to corroborate our initial thoughts on a placement.

Let me finish by explaining why our guest posting service is sold based on Domain Authority. In most cases we negotiate with clients and offer different placement options if we think a lower DA website that has some other quality to it, is worth considering.

Our other services are based entirely on relevance and authenticity… we do set a minimum benchmark using Ahref’s Domain Rank as we’ve found this to be a much better indicator of a site’s value in terms of boosting rankings of a page or site.

We find that if everyone stops worrying about domain authority (or any one metric for that matter) the result is a set of authentic links that stand you in good stead for the future.

It also means you don’t miss out on links with other benefits like lower DA sites that can offer high levels of referral traffic such as the example in the tweet above.

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