Domain Authority is overrated, focus on this instead

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If you ask me, domain authority is a curse word.

Even writing it gives me the shivers.

Why?

Because people over-obsess about it.

Ever since the metric was first introduced by Moz it became the #1 fixation of SEOs and marketers everywhere.

  • “I don’t want that backlink, their DA is only 35”
  • “Wow a 90 DA backlink! Here’s my credit card number!”
  • “Our DA hasn’t gone up since we published all this content, what gives?”

These are all common questions I’ve heard.

All of them center around domain authority as the authority (pun intended) on SEO success.

Except for one problem: domain authority is at best an estimate and is not even close to the first metric I would look to for SEO success.

What is domain authority?

Never heard of domain authority?

You’re one of the lucky few.

Way back in the day Moz released “domain authority” to offer a fraction of Google’s computing power to estimate the relative authority of a website.

The principles behind domain authority are well intentioned. Google has a top-secret PageRank algorithm that they use to rank website pages and sort search results.

As Google put it:

PageRank works by counting the number and quality of links to a page to determine a rough estimate of how important the website is. The underlying assumption is that more important websites are likely to receive more links from other websites.

Domain authority attempts to estimate PageRank on a relative scale. 100 is good, 1 is bad, unless you’ve got a site like The New York Times your website is probably somewhere between 1-60 (unless you’re a pretty big/popular website, in that case thank you for coming to our blog!).

Later other tools came up with their own domain authority estimates, all using similar math but different enough to avoid a lawsuit.

At the end of the day they’re all just estimates.

Is Domain Authority Accurate?

Let’s define accurate.

Is it accurate as a measure of PageRank?

Of course not. As I said above it’s just an estimate. And no one has the computing power of Google to create all that accurate an estimate.

I’m sure a lot of fancy math and computing power go into these domain authority metrics, but at best it’s just an approximation.

It is not something Google listens to and it is based on a fraction of Google’s computing power to estimate your PageRank.

There are over 200 ranking factors (that Google admits to) and billions of pages on the web. Google has a massive slew of computers scouring the web for content and updating the rank appropriately, and only they have the secret formula.

Any SEO tool, no matter how good they are (or whether they IPO’d) has the same formula and unless they’re also a multi-billion dollar company they don’t have the same computing power.

Why is domain authority overrated?

Even if domain authority was super-accurate, it’s still overrated.

Why?

Because domain authority != your business growing and making money.

Yes there is a correlation between highly visited websites and a high domain authority. The New York Times has a high domain authority, some blog run out of a basement probably has a domain authority of 1.

It’s no surprise that more people visit The New York Times than they do a random blog, and that the Times makes a lot more money.

But moving from a domain authority of 30 to 35 isn’t exactly moving the needle for your business.

Focusing on growing your business and making money is what helps you grow your business and make money.

I’ve worked with websites that have a domain authority in the low 40s that seem to do pretty well because we’ve built a strategy with them that is perfectly tuned and optimized for growth in a niche that they can reasonably dominate.

It all starts with picking the right metrics to focus on and move.

What to focus on instead of domain authority

Revenue.

Leads.

Anything that actually ties to your business.

Domain authority is not a business metric. It won’t be included in an investor pitch deck and it’s not something you’d report to your CEO as a reason your team needs more budget.

Organic revenue though? Chef’s kiss. That’s what we’re all gunning for.

Rather than worry about domain authority, I like to set my sights on the metrics that actually move the business forward. For most folks I work with this includes:

  • Organic revenue
  • Organic leads
  • Organic event completions (free trials, downloads, demo requests, subscribers, etc)
  • Search visibility for target keywords
  • Organic performance for target pages

I never use a typical SEO tool for this. Usually I just use their own analytics and Google Search Console to track search performance, traffic, and how that traffic behaves on their site.

At the end of the day, reporting in SEO centers on two things:

  1. Pick a metric
  2. Find a way to attribute SEO to it

That’s it.

Sure, reporting can be more complicated than that, but when you’re in a pinch picking your focus metrics and setting up simple, easy ways to demonstrate how SEO is driving them will work wonders.

By just shifting your focus to these core business metrics you’re already lightyears ahead of your competitors who are still obsessing over domain authority.

Stop obsessing over domain authority

Thanks for making it this far into my rant, let me leave you with the fact that this post was very much written tongue in cheek.

Domain authority is a fine metric, but much like the number of keywords you rank on page one for, it’s a vanity metric.

If you want real, sustained growth for your business you need to pick a business metric, like revenue, traffic to target pages, leads, etc that is either a driver of business growth or is tightly correlated with it.

If your domain authority goes up, that’s great, but if your revenue goes up, even better - give yourself a raise (or ask for one)!

Now that you're free from domain authority, let's level up your SEO game with an advanced strategy. Check out our free guide to SEO strategy here. We break down our 4 core principles to building an SEO strategy that we walk through with every customer, and provide our full blueprint for SEO success.

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