Google recently revealed its top three organic ranking factors: content, links, and RankBrain. Backlinks are the crux of Google’s content ranking algorithm. While RankBrain possesses incredible capabilities to interpret semantic keywords and content quality, RankBrain would serve as a purely subjective interpretation of a webpage’s quality based on the algorithm’s pre-established domain trust and biases.
Why are backlinks still important to Google? Backlinks serve as the human and user interpretation of webpage quality and how important and deserving they are of rank and citation.
Your backlink profile serves as an indicator of the overall success your domain and web pages will have in an organic search engine results page (SERP). According to a Backlinko case study, “The number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.” In the post-Penguin era, long live backlinks!
In our blog, we’ve covered many aspects of building a backlink portfolio and focused on the classic debate of link authority versus relevance in campaigning. Most webmasters would agree that receiving a backlink from the Huffington Post communicates a lot more in terms of quality and trust than receiving a backlink from a John Doe domain. So we asked ourselves, how important are acquiring low authority domain links and what focus should authority metrics play in your campaign?
What is Domain Authority?
According to Google, we have no idea what domain authority truly is nor do they provide us with an interpretation of link juice actuates organic rank. Domain authority is a Moz metric that became one of the most trusted way of judging the quality of a site, but there are other interpretations. Link authority is actually an interpretation of how acquiring a link from a referral domain will affect a URL’s trust and rank. We evaluate link authority based on the domain authority of the domain linking to the URL.
Considering domain authority is actually a third-party metric that serves as an indicator or how much a citation will influence a URL’s organic rank, SEOs typically use three different programs to calculate domain authority or trust:
- Domain Authority by Moz (OpenSiteExplorer or MozBar)
- Majestic’s Trust Flow and Citation Flow
- Ahrefs Domain Rating
Without spending too much time on each program, these programs utilize a scale of 1-100 to provide a barometer of a domain’s projected organic rank. These scores are calculated by a combination of their own SEO algorithms. The greatest factor determining each of their domain scores are based primarily on the domain’s existing backlink profile.
Google used to provide its own page authority metrics through its PageRank toolbar. Unfortunately, the public version has not been updated in years and probably doesn’t play a big role in the algorithm anymore.
It’s important that we define the difference between Moz’s page authority (PA) and domain authority (DA).
- Domain authority is a predictive ranking measurement across an entire website.
- Page authority tells the relative value of an individual webpage for search.
Focus on domain authority for discovering sources to place backlinks on and page authority for pieces of content you’d wish to promote through these backlinks.
Majestic’s trust flow and citation flow use very similar metrics to calculate their own domain score. Let’s look at the difference between citation flow and trust flow:
- Ciation flow measures the influence of a URL on your website based on the number of domains linking to it.
- Trust Flow measures the trust of a website based on how trustworthy their external backlinks are.
Scoring a high domain authority and trust flow score normally correlate to higher organic rank. This assumes that both programs are trustworthy metrics and nearly interchangeable. Webmasters can utilize linear regression to further analyze how these measurements should be applied to their backlink acquisitions.
Domain authority ignores relevance metrics and it doesn’t a create a truly holistic makeup of how trusted a website is by search engines. A newly developed website would suffer from a low domain authority, even if they received positive engagement metrics and a high number of domains linking to that site. Don’t miss opportunities for growth and relevance by following one metric blindly.
Solely focusing on authority would cause your site to miss link building opportunities with newer websites. Not only can these websites build trust for your website over time as they scale, but this presents a valuable opportunity to create relationships within your industry or within your local community, if your business is locally-based.
Don’t limit your campaign based on authority blindness. Low-authority websites can be great opportunities to place “nofollow” links that drive referral traffic to your website, but don’t transfer any trust or authority over. A natural link portfolio often features backlinks of varying authority.
Domain authority remains a solid indicator of how much influence a citation will have on your URL, but it shouldn’t become the sole indication of a good link. The popularity of domain authority grew as a means to give client’s some form of data, besides traffic, to prove their backlinks were working for their SEO.
Besides, high authority websites tend to possess more stringent linking policies that require greater investment. According to the Searchmetrics 2016 report, “follow, nofollow, and .edu backlinks did not even average over five for a page in positions 2-10 of a SERP.”