Ahrefs is about to release a new formula for their Domain Rating. Although it definately looks like an improvement the fact remains that the calculation is still full of flaws that leaves you with a domain authority rating that that is, at best, just not very accurate.
So what is the problem?
In this post I will explain some of the problems with this, and similar types of domain authority ratings …
Big data is not (always) good data
In the good old days we could extract almost all the links Google have found to our websites and to some degree even in prioritized order. But as Google started to reduce the link data more and more it was clear that we needed some other sources of link data. And so we got Moz, Ahrefs and Majestic.
But one of the major problems with these services was – and is, that the data they collect is not the same as Google. We do not know if Google collect the same data and even less if they value it at all.
And with the increasing filtering Google is making on its link data the problem is getting bigger. We simply can’t be sure if the link data we get from the independent services is close to or far from what Google actually value.
Do Google use Domain Authority?
Naturally Google do not use the Ahrefs Domain Rank (DR) metrics, Moz’ Domain Authority (DA) or Majestics Trust Flow (TF) or Citation Flow (CF). But do Google have its own Domain Authority metric they use?
There is no bullet proof evidence or documentation of this but it is my professional experience – from more than 20 years of work with SEO, that Google does in fact assign some sort of domain authority and quality rating that can – and often appear to influence all pages on a site.
This is true not only for links but also other quality factores. In recent years we have seen how all pages on a (good) site can drop in rankings if thin pages, duplicate pages or ad-heavy pages get filtered out.
Google have never been very precise on this matter. They have sometimes stated that they do not use any sort of domain authority rating and at other times said they do.
But again – only our experience as SEO’s can tell if there is any real correlation between the independent link services domain ratings and what Google is using.
In my subjective experience Majestic is, with its Trust Flow and Citation Flow, the two metrics that come closest. Only time can tell if Ahrefs will get closer with its new algorithm.
Which links have value?
Even though Ahrefs is really trying to do its best to calculate the Domain Rating with its new algorithm I think they are wrong about number of things and missing the point of others.
- Ahrefs only include the first link from a unique domain. If you get additional links from that domain then it won’t increase your Domain Rating – they say. But that is not my experience. Off course, getting hundreds of links from one domain won’t increase your link authority with the same factor. But lets say you have one single link from an obscure, old archive page of the New York Times and you suddenly get a very prominent, content link from the front page, then I bet you that will increase your likelihood to rank better in Google!
- Ahrefs divide the link juice a site will pass based on pure math (as far as I can see). But this is not at all how I believe Google does it. They look at many more factors. They look at where the links appear and if anyone is clicking on them. Links that users on the site will actually see and respond to have a higher value. Just look at how little value side wide footer links give – compared to what it used to do.
- Ahrefs do not assign any value to NOFOLLOW links. However, in my experience Google actually do. Maybe not always but sometimes. And maybe not always directly but indirectly they do. A website with lots of great links and not what single NOFOLLOW links is clearly manipulated. It’s not natural and that is very easy for Google to spot. So even if you believe NOFOLLOW links have no direct value they do indirectly serve as an indicator of a natural link profile.
- And speaking of a natural link profile with the new Ahrefs Domain Rating they don’t appear to look at the big picture. Or in other words, they try to get the big picture from looking at and calculating all the individual link’s values. I just don’t think you can do it that way.
- My last comment for now is the lack of “wave” value of links – a link from a link from a link. Majestic does this and it is, in my humble experience, much more in line with how Google look at links.
Can you trust domain authority ratings at all?
The simple answer is no. At least if you only look at the domain rating as a way to judge a domain. Even Ahrefs recognise this limitation. A high quality site may have a low rating if its not so old. A spammy site can have a great rating if they are good at what they do. And we can’t be absolutely sure how Google judge them.
So take domain authority ratings with a grain of salt. Use them as an indication, correlate it with other data – from other services and your own testing’s. Do your homework and don’t just go the lazy way and trust one number.