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Domain Authority is an incredibly well-known metric throughout the SEO industry, but what exactly is the right way to use it? In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to welcome Cyrus Shepard as he explains both what’s new with the new Domain Authority 2.0 update, and how to best harness its power for your own SEO success.
Howdy, SEO fans. Welcome to a very special edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. I’m honored to be here today with Moz to talk about the new Domain Authority. I want to talk about how to use Domain Authority to do actual SEO.
What is Domain Authority?
Let’s start with a definition of what Domain Authority actually is because there’s a lot of confusion out there. A Domain Authority is a metric, from 1 to 100, which predicts how well a domain will rank in Google. Now let’s break that down a little bit and talk about some of the myths of Domain Authority.
Is Domain Authority a ranking factor? No, Domain Authority is not a ranking factor. Does Google use Domain Authority in its algorithm? No, Google does not use Domain Authority in its algorithm. Now Google may use some domain-like metrics based on links similar to Domain Authority, but they do not use Domain Authority itself. In fact, it’s best if you don’t bring it up with them. They don’t tend to like that very much.
So if it’s not a ranking factor, if Google doesn’t use it, what does Domain Authority actually do? It does one thing very, very well. It predicts rankings. That’s what it was built to do. That’s what it was designed to do, and it does that job very, very well. And because of that, we can use it for SEO in a lot of different ways. So Domain Authority has been around since 2010, about 8 years now, and since then it’s become a very popular metric, used and abused in different ways.
What’s New With Domain Authority 2.0?
So what’s new about the new Domain Authority that makes it so great and less likely to be abused and gives it so many more uses? Before I go into this, a big shout-out to two of the guys who helped develop this — Russ Jones and Neil Martinsen-Burrell — and many other smart people at Moz. Some of our search scientists did a tremendous job of updating this metric for 2019.
1. Bigger Link Index
So the first thing is the new Domain Authority is based on a new, bigger link index, and that is Link Explorer, which was released last year. It contains 35 trillion links. There are different ways of judging index sizes, but that is one of the biggest or if not the biggest link indexes publicly available that we know of.
Thirty-five trillion links, to give you an idea of how big that is, if you were to count one link per second, you would be counting for 1.1 million years. That’s a lot of links, and that’s how many links are in the index that the new Domain Authority is based upon. Second of all, it uses a new machine learning model. Now part of Domain Authority looks at Google rankings and uses machine learning to try to fit the model in to predict how those rankings are stacked.
2. New Machine Learning Model
Now the new Domain Authority not only looks at what’s winning in Google search, but it’s also looking at what’s not ranking in Google search. The old model used to just look at the winners. This makes it much more accurate at determining where you might fall or where any domain or URL might fall within that prediction.
3. Spam Score Incorporation
Next the new Domain Authority incorporates spam detection.
Spam Score is a proprietary Moz metric that looks at a bunch of on-page factors, and those have been incorporated into the new metric, which makes it much more reliable.
4. Detects Link Manipulation
It also, and this is very important, the new Domain Authority detects link manipulation. This is people that are buying and selling links, PBNs, things like that.
It’s much better. In fact, Russ Jones, in a recent webinar, said that link buyers with the new Domain Authority will drop an average of 11 points. So the new Domain Authority is much better at rooting out this link manipulation, just like Google is attempting to do. So it much more closely resembles what Google is attempting.
5. Daily Updates
Lastly, the new Domain Authority is updated daily. This is a huge improvement. The old Domain Authority used to update about approximately every month or so.* The new Domain Authority is constantly being updated, and our search scientists are constantly adding improvements as they come along.
So it’s being updated much more frequently and improved much more frequently. So what does this mean? The new Domain Authority is the most accurate domain-level metric to predict Google search results that we know of. When you look at ranking factors that we know of, like title tags or even generally backlinks, they predict a certain amount of rankings. But Domain Authority blows those out of the water in its ranking potential.
*Note: Our former link research tool, Open Site Explorer, updated on a monthly cadence, resulting in monthly updates to DA scores. With the launch of Link Explorer in April 2018, Domain Authority scores moved to a daily update cadence. This remains true with the new underlying algorithm, Domain Authority 2.0.
How to Use Domain Authority for SEO
So the question is how do we actually use this? We have this tremendous power with Domain Authority that can predict rankings to a certain degree. How do we use this for SEO? So I want to go over some general tips for success.
The first tip, never use Domain Authority in isolation. You always want to use it with other metrics and in context, because it can only tell you so much.
It’s a powerful tool, but it’s limited. For example, when you’re looking at rankings on-page, you’re going to want to look at the keyword targeting. You’re going to want to look at the on-page content, the domain history, other things like that. So never use Domain Authority by itself. That’s a key tip.
Second, you want to keep in mind that the scale of Domain Authority is roughly logarithmic.
It’s not linear. Now what does this mean? It’s fairly easy to move from a zero Domain Authority or a one Domain Authority to a ten Domain Authority. You can get a handful of links, and that works pretty well. But moving from like a 70 to an 80 is much, much harder. It gets harder as you get higher. So a DA 40 is not twice a DA 20.
It’s actually much, much bigger because as you go higher and higher and higher, until you get to 100, it gets much harder. Sites like Google and Facebook, they’re near the 100 range, and everything else comes into it. It’s almost like a funnel.
Next, keep in mind that DA is a relative metric. When you’re using DA, you always want to compare between competitors or your past scores.
Having a DA 50 doesn’t really tell you much unless you’re comparing it to other DA scores. So if you’re looking in Google and a site has a DA of 50, it doesn’t make much sense unless you put it in the context of “what do the other sites have?” Are they 40? Are they 60? In that regard, when you’re looking at your own DA, you can compare against past performance or competitors.
So if I have a 50 this month and a 40 last month, that might tell me that my ability to rank in Google has increased in that time period.
1. Evaluate Potential Value of a Link
So talking about SEO use cases, we have this. We understand how to use it. What are some practical ways to use Domain Authority? Well, a very popular one with the old DA as well is judging the potential value of a link.
For instance, you have 1,000 outreach targets that you’re thinking about asking for a link, but you only have time for 100 because you want to spend your time wisely and it’s not worth it to ask all 1,000. So you might use DA as a filter to find the most valuable link targets. A DA 90 might be more valuable than a DA 5 or a 10.
But again, you do not want to use it in isolation. You’d be looking at other metrics as well, such as Page Authority, relevance, and traffic. But still DA might be a valuable metric to add to that experience.
2. Judging Keyword Difficulty
Judging keyword difficulty, judging when you look at SERPs and see what is my potential of ranking for this SERP with this particular keyword?
If you look at a SERP and everybody has a DA 95, it’s going to be pretty hard to rank in that SERP. But if everybody has a lower DA, you might have a chance. But again, you’re going to want to look at other metrics, such as Page Authority, keyword volume, on-page targeting. You can use Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Score to run these calculations as well.
3. Campaign Performance
Very popular in the agency world is link campaign performance or campaign performance in general, and this kind of makes sense. If you’re building links for a client and you want to show progress, a common way of doing this is showing Domain Authority, meaning that we built these links for you and now your potential to rank is higher.
It’s a good metric, but it’s not the only metric I would report. I would definitely report rankings for targeted keywords. I would report traffic and conversions, because ranking potential is one thing, but I’d actually like to show that those links actually did something. So I’d be more inclined to show the other things. But DA is perfectly fine to report for campaign performance as long as you show it in context.
4. Purchasing Existing Domains
A popular one on the marketplaces is buying existing domains. Sites like Flippa often show DA or some similar metric like that. Again, the new Domain Authority is going to be much better at rooting out link manipulation, so these scores might be a little more trustworthy in this sense. But again, never buy a domain just on Domain Authority alone.
You’re going to want to look at a lot of factors, such as the content, the traffic, the domain history, things like that. But Domain Authority might be a good first-line filter for you.
How to Find Domain Authority Metrics
The free MozBar, you can download the MozBar for free and turn on SERP overlay, and it will show you the DA of everything as you browse through Google.
It’s available in Moz Campaigns and also Keyword Explorer. I hope this gives you some ideas about how to use Domain Authority. Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. If you like this video, please share.
Thanks a lot, everybody. Have a great day.