December 20, 2022 (Updated: October 19, 2023)
Wouldn’t it be great to wave a magic wand and be able to see into your SEO future? Then you’d know if all your marketing efforts will pay off in the end. While marketers aren’t magicians (as much as they’d like to be), they have some helpful predictive tools to consult when trying to decide which SEO path is the right one. Today, we’re looking at two of these magical ranking factors, domain rating vs domain authority, and comparing their usefulness for your brand’s SEO predictions:
Domain rating (DR) is a marketing metric that shows the strength of a website’s backlink profile. DR scores range from one to 100. This is a purely link-based metric, meaning it doesn’t take other SEO factors into account when determining your domain’s score. The higher your DR score, the more dofollow backlinks you have. This score predicts the potential authority you have with Google and other search engines.
Related: Nofollow Links: The Complete Guide
Domain authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that predicts the likelihood of your website ranking on a search engine results page (SERP). It uses a variety of SEO factors like inbound and outbound links, link quality, and the age of your domain to determine your predictive rankings. DA scores range from one to 100. The higher your ranking score, the higher chance you have of ranking on page one—or closer to it—on SERPs.
Here are some of the primary differences between domain rating vs domain authority metrics:
SEO software company Moz developed the domain authority ranking scale to help its users predict search engine ranking based on their SEO and content marketing efforts. The Moz suite offers over 55 SEO tools to help improve search engine visibility, which explains the DA ranking focus on looking at how a wide range of factors combines to affect a site’s performance. Even though other tech and SEO brands now offer DA-checking services, Moz is still the go-to for the most accurate information.
Another SEO software company, Ahrefs, invented the domain rating score to track backlink profiles for any website. The company’s services focus primarily on keyword research, competitor analysis, and link building, so it’s not a surprise that the Ahrefs metric cares most about backlinks.
Domain authority uses up to 40 different SEO signals to calculate your final score. These include:
In contrast, domain rating only tracks links. Search traffic, domain age, or brand recognition don’t factor into the score. The quality of the links doesn’t affect your DR ranking, either. In fact, the rating doesn’t account for low-quality backlinks or even spam. Bad backlinks can actually raise your DR score, not lower it.
Because each score looks at different influencing factors to get your total, the calculations differ slightly. Ahrefs is straightforward in how it calculates the DR score for any site:
Only the first link from a domain increases a site’s DR. But the “link juice” that the site provides changes based on how many other sites that domain attaches itself to over time.
Moz is a little vague when explaining how it calculates its DA scores. We know the company uses machine learning calculations based on a variety of data points from across your SEO profile. The ever-changing data points cause fluctuations in a domain’s score and rely heavily on relative information. More authoritative domains such as Amazon or Facebook are the gold standards in DA calculations. When their link profiles increase, others decrease in relation and their scores adjust.
The report information you receive when you run a DR check vs a DA check differs slightly. Since DR scores focus solely on linking practices, your report shows a breakdown of your DR score, your number of backlinks, and the number of dofollow links from other websites.
Your DA report shows more information because it tracks more ranking factors. In a free DA score report, you’ll find metrics like:
The purpose of your DR score and report is to understand the strength of your backlink profile. How many incoming links does your site have? A strong and extensive backlink profile is one indicator of an authoritative website, and Google uses that authority to determine which content to rank higher in SERPs. Your DA score is supposed to help you decide which sites will rank higher on SERPs.
A DA score can help you learn more about your own domain, but also those of your competitors. Sites in your industry or niche with higher DA scores have more positive SEO factors that help raise their content in SERPs. If your DA score isn’t the highest, you have work to do to outrank the competition.
Though there are many key distinctions between these two authority metrics, here are a few things both of them have in common:
Neither DR nor DA is a direct Google or SEO ranking factor. A high or low score for either metric won’t affect how high you rank on SERPs. A website with a DA score of 20 or a DR score of 32 could rank on page one for a keyword or topic. These metrics, instead, predict where your domain might rank based on backlinks and other direct ranking factors. But a prediction is just an educated guess.
Both DA and DR are relative to other domains in your niche competing for the same traffic. It’s more important to know what’s a good DR or DA number is in your niche rather than aiming for 100. You just want to be the best in your circle.
Both DR and DA have scales of one to 100. A score of one for either metric likely means your domain is brand new or really needs work. Big web giants like social media platforms are typically the only ones to receive a perfect score of 100. Most sites fall between 20 and 80 for their DA and DR scores.
Both metrics also use logarithmic scales. In math, these types of scales help display a large amount of data in a condensed format. The closer you get to the high end of the scale, the bigger the gap between each number.
For DA and DR, that means the closer you get to the high end of the scale, the harder it is for you to increase your ranking. You have to “go further” or do more work to reach a higher score.
Both Moz and Ahrefs, among other services, offer free tools to check your website’s authority through DA and DR. To use either tool, simply enter your website’s URL into the search box and click the button to review the data. While the free ranking checks have limits—for example, Moz limits you to three reports per day—you can get more information from both reports by subscribing to each company’s premium service package.
Because these metrics don’t track all the same information, it’s difficult to say which is “better.” Instead, consider which metric is more useful for predicting your search engine positioning. SEO experts make the argument for both metrics when determining which is “better.” Those who love domain authority claim the metric gives you the most accurate prediction for your SERP positioning because it uses far more factors to determine your score, making it more comprehensive than DR.
Additionally, a DA ranking has safeguards in place to ensure that the quality of your ranking factors matters just as much as, if not more than, the quantity. Fans of domain rating claim that its focus on a strong backlink profile means you can’t manipulate the score with “fluffy” metrics. Either you have the backlinks or you don’t, which is a ranking factor that aligns more closely with Google’s PageRank parameters.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which score is “better” because you should only use either metric for reference about your other SEO efforts. Don’t spend too much time trying to raise either your DA or your DR score. That number isn’t important. Your SERP ranking is. Even Ahrefs cautions trying to grow your score for the sake of seeing a bigger number because it doesn’t affect your actual SERP positioning. If you’re following SEO best practices, tracking the right metrics, and working on your marketing strategies, these numbers will go up organically.
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