SEO – Moz upgrades controversial ‘domain authority’ metric

SEO - Moz upgrades controversial ‘domain authority’ metric

Moz, the popular SEO toolset, announced they have upgraded and improved how they measure their internal metric they call “domain authority,” a score given by Moz that estimates how valuable a certain domain is in terms of how well it might rank in Google or other search engines. According to the company, the upgrade, which rolls out on March 5, is meant to create a more trustworthy measurement by better weeding out paid and spammy links designed to game the metric.

Domain authority is not a score by Google, and the search giant does not use it to determine ranking. Furthermore, many SEOs have said it causes confusion in the field.

Over the years, especially since Google killed their visible PageRank scores, some in the SEO community have used “DA,” as some call domain authority, as a substitute to Google’s own toolbar PageRank metric, even though the Moz metric has no connection with Google.

What is domain authority? Moz defines it as “a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.”

What changed with domain authority? Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist at Moz described how the company made several technical changes to how they calculate domain authority. “We can remove spam, improve correlations, and, most importantly, update Domain Authority relative to all the changes that Google makes,” they added.

Here is what he said changed:

  • Training set: Domain Authority is better at understanding sites which don’t rank for any keywords at all than it has in the past.
  • Training algorithm: Rather than relying on a complex linear model, Moz switched to a neural network. This offers several benefits including a much more nuanced model which can detect link manipulation.
  • Model factors: Domain authority doesn’t just look at link counts, Moz added Spam Score and complex distributions of links based on quality and traffic, along with a bevy of other factors.
  • Index. Moz has an index of 35 trillion links.

Does it matter? As I hinted to above, in many cases domain authority can be a distraction for SEOs. I way too often seen novice SEOs focused on the Moz DA score, asking even Google representatives how they can improve their DA score on their web site. Improving a DA score has no direct relationship to improving your rankings in Google. Even when PageRank was around, focusing too much on Google’s own PageRank metrics often was a distraction to SEOs. That is why Google killed PageRank, or at least the visible score, from being displayed to SEOs.

Community reaction. I asked the SEO community what they think about domain authority, and you can see for yourself the controversy.

Here are some of the responses:

Moz responses. Russ Jones from Moz responded to some of the feedback:

Russ also wrote a more detailed blog post on his blog named “in defense of domain authority.”

Google’s reaction: Google did not say much about this news. John Mueller from Google responded to a tweet from a former Googler’s named Pedro Dias:

In short, John is trying to be funny and maybe even mock the Mozcast search ranking fluctuations report. Google overall doesn’t seem to be a huge fan of domain authority based on their comments over the years. Google had to deny domain authority as a Google metric for years. And the fact that Google removed toolbar PageRank scores shows they prefer that SEOs not focus on any link-based metric score.

Final thoughts. The biggest issue with domain authority is the lack of understanding within parts of the community about the score. Too many SEOs feel the score comes from Google. Even those that know it is a Moz only score, may use that score to buy links, which is against Google’s guidelines. Google has been trying hard to push SEOs and webmasters away from looking at single metrics and looking at building overall better sites and user experiences. Focusing too much on link metrics can cloud one’s judgment and provide a distraction. But if you fully understand what Moz’ domain authority metric does, having another data point on your side can be useful — if used properly.

About The Author

Barry Schwartz is Search Engine Land’s News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on SEM topics.

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