If there’s something that has really been niggling away at me over the past 2 years that I’ve been blogging it’s the constant referral by bloggers to their “DA score”. I can’t begin to tell you how many discussions I’ve had about it with bloggers, let alone how many of them actually understand it as a measure of authority. And therein lies my first issue, the majority of bloggers don’t even know what it stands for let alone why it’s important or what other metrics are out there that they should be looking at.
To begin with I’m going to establish a few simple answers to a few simple questions so that we’re all on the same page.
What does DA stand for?
DA as it’s commonly referred to stands for Domain Authority.
What is DA?
DA is a score from 1-100 created by the American technology company, Moz to indicate the authority of a website.
How is DA calculated?
DA is calculated algorithmically on a logarithmic scale by Moz by looking at how websites link to one another. Being logorithmic, in short it means it’s more difficult to achieve a higher number. The number of links that exist to your website and the authority/quality of each of those links, domain age and other factors all contribute to the overall DA score.
Why is DA important?
DA is important for 2 reasons:
- Search engine impressions. In its simplest form, the higher your DA score, the more authoritative your website has been calculated to be. This means it is more likely to achieve a greater number of impressions in search engines’ organic search results pages due to more links to your website giving you more authority which in turn will allow you to achieve higher ranking positions.
- Brand collaborations. Brands will look at your website’s DA score to determine (alongside other metrics) how influential your website is and establish whether they would like to collaborate with you.
Who in the digital marketing industry uses DA scores?
There’s only really 2 main players here across both agency and in house teams:
- PR teams
- SEO teams
1. PR teams and DA use
Generally speaking, PR teams have no idea what DA is. Working in the digital marketing industry alongside PR teams for 10 years I know this first hand. Due to a lack of comprehensive performance measures of websites and bloggers for PR campaigns, these teams tend to use DA score because it’s one of the few indicators that they have available – unless of course they use Klout scores (don’t get me started on those, I’ll save that post for another day!).
So PR teams are using this DA score to determine how influential a blogger is. And again this is an issue because DA isn’t about influence, it’s about authority. Aside from the fact that they don’t really know what the score is or how it’s calculated, the only reason for a PR team to use DA is as an indicator of how much reach a website may have, as a higher DA score generally means more search engine visibility and it is therefore likely to receive more traffic. But I know these teams aren’t that clever. They look at this score because it appears in their social media monitoring tools as a number. Higher = good, lower = bad. Simple.
You can usually tell who these PR teams are from social media where someone will ask for bloggers “with at least DA30” or similar for a collaboration – typically a PR team who have just picked a mid-range number out the hat.
2. SEO teams and DA use
And then we come on to SEO teams who are the primary users of DA scores.
So the reason SEO teams look at DA is because if I want my website to rank higher in Google, not only do I need to create great content that people want to read, I need that content to be the most authoritative source of that information on the internet.
This means I need my content to have more “votes” from authoritative websites than my competitors do. Replace votes with “links” and you have your SEO teams’ link building (also known as “outreach”) campaign framework.
So what we know is that for SEO teams it’s a number of links and quality of links game and in this instance the number of links relates to how many bloggers a brand collaborates with and the quality of links relates to those collaborative websites’ DA scores.
Should you be so obsessed with DA?
If you are looking to work with brands or their appointed agencies on SEO collaborations then yes, you should absolutely be concerned with your DA score.
The majority of brands and agencies representing SEO services are using DA scores to determine:
- If a collaboration is worthwhile
- How much a collaboration might be worth
For example, I am a digital marketing manager for a major UK department store and if we were going to work with bloggers as part of an SEO campaign we would do the following (simplified!):
- Establish what page(s) on our website require more PA (Page Authority) to rank competitively for their associated keywords
- Pick some of the highest priority keywords that we want the page(s) to appear for
- Identify the DA of all the websites ranking on page 1 of Google for our selected keyword(s)
- Use the average DA from step 3 to determine the minimum DA of any websites we approach to collaborate with
- Use the collaboration to achieve follow links to the page(s) we want to increase the visibility of
Where SEO teams do and don’t pay bloggers for collaborations there is usually a financial worth of the collaboration whether it be gift card value, gifted product value or experience value. This is all determined by how good your DA score is. A higher DA typically commands a higher price because the authority of the link is so much stronger.
In this instance we can therefore determine that 2x links from DA50 websites are better for us to obtain that 5x links from DA20 websites.
Why do brands always work with the same bloggers?
This is a frustrated question that I see on Twitter 100 times per week and the answer is fairly simple. If we’re only talking about SEO then it is based on point 4 above. Your DA hasn’t met the minimum criteria for a collaboration whereas those ‘same bloggers’ have. Because they have established good domain authority, brands and agencies will continue to keep approaching them.
What else do I need to know about DA?
Bloggers focus so heavily on DA scores due to self serving communication between each other – they always look inwards rather than looking outwards to the agencies and brands they want to work with and this is a real issue!
Yes the SEO industry uses DA but listen to this – it’s not the only metric the industry uses because Moz isn’t the only software the industry uses!
Where DA is based on how sites link to one another this means there is a limitation to the calculated score – the software that is being used to discover and evaluate those links i.e. Moz.
To identify how websites link to each other software like Moz must crawl a website and identify that links exist first. This process takes time and costs money. They must also store this information on hard drives which also incurs costs.
After this crawling and storage they must then process all of that data and work out a DA score. Even more costs!
So what is the limitation? Well, firstly it’s the budget that these software/technology companies have to discover and store all of this data. Secondly, it’s the cost of processing all of that data. For DA to be as accurate as possible you would need to crawl and process the entire internet! And that’s exactly what Google is attempting to do, except their link score isn’t DA it’s PageRank (PR) – DA is essentially trying to replicate what Google do.
So if you consider the need to crawl the internet to determine your DA score, your score is constantly changing. As these crawlers discover more sites linking to you it impacts your score. Additionally as those sites linking to you have new links to them discovered by crawlers their own authority/scores change, in turn affecting your score.
To add a further layer of complexity the links these crawlers are discovering aren’t necessarily new links – they are coming across links to your website from the past, potentially years back if you’ve been around for a while. Similarly they may be yet to evaluate a lot of your more recent links because they simply haven’t discovered them on other websites yet!
So the limitation of DA here really is:
- How many websites are in the existing database that is being used to calculate your DA
- How quickly new links are being discovered to keep your DA as up to date as possible
And this is why your DA score is so volatile. I’m always seeing on Twitter bloggers complaining that their score has dropped all of sudden and it’s not surprising, Moz refresh their data once per month based on historic links that they have discovered the previous month. Therefore any links contributing to your DA will be from at least 1 month ago. If your DA drops it may be because Moz just found some really shitty links from a few years ago and they’ve just been fed into your overall score.
So is Moz the only tool out there for domain authority?
Within the SEO industry there are only really 3 key players when it comes to determining the authority of a website:
I know right, you’ve probably never heard of number 2 and 3!
Majestic is the biggest link database on the planet – they have crawled the most websites and have the most data. Therefore if you really want to know how authoritative your website is compared to your competitors, take a look at their data and in particular TrustFlow and CitationFlow – the main software used by SEO teams, not Moz.
So how do the databases compare? Well, this is how many URLs each software has discovered to date:
- Majestic: 6,386,261,283,302 (6.4 trillion!)
- AHREFs: 3,000,000,000,000 (3 trillion)
- Moz: 164,801,389,864 (165 billion)
This really shows how much of a minnow Moz is in the industry and also how you should be thinking about your DA – if one of your fellow bloggers has a better DA score than you, quite frankly who cares – it’s likely their website is far inferior to yours, especially if you used a bigger dataset to calculate your domain authority like Majestic or AHREFs.
With Moz having a smaller dataset it also means your DA is likely to eb more volatile. A calculation based on a smaller dataset will mean only a few new links discovered can have a big impact. A large dataset on the other hand means it will take a lot more links to shift the score so it will be more stable.
Like Moz, Majestic is a subscription service however you can simply upload a piece of code to your website to see all of your own website’s link data for free! Where I’ve worked in SEO teams both for agencies and in house companies, for this reason we do not use DA as a measure of authority and focus exclusively on Majestic simply because the Moz data by comparison is so limited – if you want a significantly more comprehensive view of your site go take a look at your Majestic stats and see how you measure up! You’ll be surprised how different things can be.
DA and nofollow links
Now this is something that really gets under my skin – bloggers who boast about their DA score but then fill their website with nofollow links. I’m not saying not to use nofollow links (it’s up to you whether or not to adhere to ASA guidelines) however it shows the lack of understanding of DA by bloggers.
As mentioned, if you link to another website you are basically declaring a vote for them. Attributing that link with a nofollow declaration tells search engine crawlers not to count your vote i.e. void it. This means whoever you link to won’t receive any benefit/authority from your website.
This action makes your DA score completely redundant for SEO teams/agencies as they are looking to build authority to their own/their clients’ websites via follow links.
Why would you boast about your DA score only to then nofollow your links? I can assure you that it is actively putting off brands and agencies who may otherwise be looking to work with you. My team will always check the websites we’re looking to work with for nofollow links and if there is a regular use of them we will avoid those bloggers as they simply won’t drive authority to us as part of an SEO collaboration.
What about WordPress and DA?
If you still haven’t set up a standalone domain e.g. http://lifeofman.co.uk and are still sitting on a WordPress or Blogger domain e.g. http://myblog.wordpress.com then you are missing out on a bunch of collaboration opportunities. Any DA score that you look at for your website won’t relate to you (the sub-domain) – it will refer to the domain i.e. WordPress.com.
For this reason you will be ignored by SEO teams as your site simply doesn’t have the authority to be useful.
So, do DA scores really matter for bloggers?
Now don’t get me wrong, there are of course a lot of bloggers out there who understand this stuff about DA however there remains far too many (the majority) who throw these terms about without knowing what they mean.
So a few pointers:
- Don’t boast about DA scores if you are using nofollow links
- Don’t talk about DA scores if you are on a WordPress domain
- Stop watching your DA score every day – it will constantly go up and down as new links are discovered and their authority changes over time
- Stop using DA as an indicator of how influential you are. DA is about the authority of your domain, nothing more
- Start learning about TF and CF metrics from Majestic which is the primary tool for SEO teams
- Keep producing great content and you will naturally acquire links and boost your DA score
And this brings me to the question, do DA scores really matter to bloggers? The short answer is unfortunately yes… but do DA scores really matter to brands? Not so much – PR teams use them sure but the serious SEO agencies and in house teams who take things seriously are looking at Majestic – if you want those big brand SEO collaborations start taking a look at your Majestic metrics!
So include Majestic metrics in your press packs – the serious SEO teams out there will take you far more seriously and you can avoid potentially underselling yourself via a weak DA score. Asked on a small dataset.
It’s time to change the conversation bloggers, start talking about TrustFlow and CitationFlow and less about DA – my one man mission to change the industry starts here, one blogger at a time!
For more information on understanding how brands collaborate with bloggers, be sure to check out my post, “How Bloggers Can Collaborate With Brands From A Digital Marketing Manager“.