Howdy Moz fans!
Okay, I’ll be honest – I didn’t remove the Moz toolbar for any idealistic reasons, rather I cleared out all of my Chrome extensions in an attempt to locate which one was slowing down my browser.
However, in the week in which I used my Chrome browser extension-free, I noticed something peculiar about my browsing habits: any time I encountered a new website, I found my eyes darting to the top right of my browser, to see its Domain Authority score. I found myself a tad frustrated at not knowing the DA of new websites. I also didn’t realize how much I had been relying on it for snap judgements of new websites (and old websites for that matter). During this DA-free week, I even manually checked a few DA scores with some random 3rd party site, just to satisfy my previously-unknown DA addiction.
Slowly but surely, in the middle of week #2, I gradually began to ignore my empty Chrome extension rack in the top right of my browser. I slowly added back a few extensions (the necessary ones), but my instincts told me not to add back the Mozbar.
At first, it was annoying. As the head of content marketing here at Kahena Digital, I wade pretty deep into the web, looking for bloggers or niche websites in which scoring a relevant link can provide powerful ranking boosts for niche keywords. DA scores provide for an easy shortcut to ascertain the strength or viability of a website. The problem for me, however, was that when I looked at it, I sometimes unfairly judged websites for low DA’s, or gave too much credit for high DA’s. I was giving too much credit to Domain Authority, and not enough credit to my instincts, built upon years of web browsing, and 5 years of digital marketing experience, 3.3 of which have been in an SEO agency.
I soon realized that the DA score had become a crutch.
After a month without the Mozbar, I’ve realized that I didn’t need it. Of course, link metrics are indeed crucial, but in terms of the raw DA score, I was good without it. (Okay, fine, I’ll do a spot check once in a while). But I now believe that anyone with at least 2 years of SEO experience probably doesn’t need a constant DA reminder.
Now, you might be skeptical. No DA? How the hell am I supposed to know if a site is legitimate?
Beyond Domain Authority
Well, there are 2 traditional shortcut reasons to look at DA:
When perusing a website with an old theme and a number of ads on it, it might be fuzzy to ascertain whether a website looks spammy. A higher DA usually correlates to safer, non spammy websites. However, for digital marketers who have been in the trenches of the web and perused tens of thousands of websites, I’d say we have all developed relatively effective instincts in this arena, to not have to rely on DA.
In terms of strength, here is where it gets tricky. Common sense is that a low DA site yields low equity in terms of link building and potential keyword ranking gains. However, time and time again, going back to September 2013 when I acquired my first link, all the way to December 5th, 2016 when I built my most recent link (a .edu), I can state the following with certainty: a low DA should not disqualify a website as a potential link building target.
You’re probably skeptical, and that’s okay. Here is quick case study, in which I will show as much data as I can:
One of my clients, (DA of 39 😉 ) has an online tool. This tool has page in which we are trying to rank a keyword term which has a volume of 31,000 searches per month, in a very competitive niche. Check out the rankings for this keyword:
From October 5th through December 14th, the webpage for our tool has been ranking between position #4 and #10, with an average rank of #7 and is currently sitting at position #6. We built 1 link on September 22, a 2nd link on September 25, and another link on October 11th.
Now for the fun part: Guess what the domain authority of all 3 sites were?
The first two sites were not the strongest “DA sites”, but they were very relevant to the niche, especially the weaker site. Judging by the graph, it looks as though the first two weaker DA links we acquired helped our page jump from #25 to the first page, while the less-relevant DA 95 site doesn’t seem to have done much (aside from possibly stabilizing our first page position).
I have a feeling that many would immediately disregard the site with a DA of 12. But I noticed that the site was a) relatively new b) extremely relevant c) had nothing shady about it. In fact, we’ve already gotten a handful of goal conversions from a number of the visitors to this page through the DA 12 site. (We have a few more links on the way, and I’m hoping/expecting to crack top 3 in a few weeks).
Future Proofing My Recovery
Don’t get me wrong: domain authority is a hugely useful tool, (especially the link metrics) and is great for filtering websites if you have a large list, or need some extra data or metrics to ascertain an otherwise hard-to-gauge site. But for a recovering DA addict such as myself, I’ve learned to live without it, probably for the best. Except for an occasional lapse.
A couple of caveats before I let you go:
- Deep, inner pages may need only 1-2 relevant contextual links in order to improve ranking, regardless of domain authority
- If there is a competitive query, and the SERP landscape looks hard to dislodge, then you’ll need more than just a handful of links in order to rank
- Check out this awesome explanation of domain authority and how everything is relative within this metric: