Table of Contents
Tools of the (SEO) Trade
When it comes to link building people tend to talk about domain authority, trust flow or even link juice.
With all of the big 4 SEO tools having different ways of scoring website authority, which should you choose?
In this article, HARO Helpers are going to look at the website authority metrics from Moz, Majestic, SEM Rush and Ahrefs and show you how to determine the quality of a link based on these scores.
Whether you agree with the principles of website metrics or not, it is important to benchmark yourself against your competitors and track how you improve and increase over time. If you're using valid methods the increase can accurately display your progress.
A Brief History of PageRank
Avoid these link building packages like the plague
Why you still need to use website authority metrics
As an SEO, digital marketer, agency, PR or even business owner why do you need to use metrics when it comes to building and understanding your link building efforts, and why should you even care?
Well, metrics give you a point in the right direction.
If you’re using an agency or link building service for your link building needs, using metrics is a good way to monitor the quality of the work you’re paying for.
Either way, a better quality site = a better quality link and a better quality link = better rankings. So when you are building links, make sure the scores are high.
Note: BUT, you have to remember that any SEO tool’s metrics are just a hypothesis, an interpretation of what they think makes a quality website based on Google’s ranking factors. Use metrics as a guide but don’t use them as a be-all and end-all.
Moz Domain Authority (DA) Explained
Probably the most famous of the metrics is Domain Authority by Moz. It’s pretty much the standard of the SEO world, from high-level digital PR link building to PBN links, whichever way people choose to build links the words ‘Domain Authority’ are usually present somewhere.
How does Domain Authority work?
Moz’s DA is relatively complicated, as it’s progressed over the years it now looks at several different factors including the number of backlinks and the quality of those backlinks pointing at a domain. Moz uses over 170 different factors to score a domain or sub-domain.
Domains are scored on a 100 point logarithmic scale – this means that it’s easier to get your site from a DA of 20 to a DA of 30 vs getting a site from a DA of 60 to a DA of 70.
What about Page Authority?
There’s also a second scoring method that you can get from Moz – Page Authority. Page Authority is pretty much the same as Domain Authority, however, it’s a specific score for that page.
When it comes to link building Page Authority (PA) has a few different use cases. Firstly, a page with more external links pointing to it will have a higher PA than a page without any links pointing to it, so getting a link on that page will pass more authority to your website. Secondly, when it comes to passing link equity around your site you can use PA to determine which are the most authoritative.
Majestic Trust Flow and Citation Flow Explained
Majestic is known in the industry as having the largest database of backlink data. According to its website Majestic visits around a billion web pages a day!
Like Moz, Majestic has 2 scores for you to look at. They differentiate from Moz as the scores are purely about the backlinks rather than the domain.
Majestic Trust Flow
Trust Flow is a score from 0-100 and it essentially scores websites against a list of seed websites (think BBC, New York Times etc.). As the name suggests it scores the Trust (quality) of that link based on how far away that domain is from the seed websites.
Majestic has also added another layer to Trust Flow by categorising websites from across the web using both on and off-page factors. So if you’re a Car Garage you can now check that the link you’re looking to acquire has authority in the automotive industry which will carry more weight and trust for Google.
Majestic Citation Flow
Citation Flow is a score used to give an indication of how powerful a link might be based on the number of sites that link to it. Links aren’t measured with equal weight when it comes to Citation Flow, Majestic will give a higher score to links with more quality backlinks.
You have to use both of Majestic’s scores alongside each other to get a full picture. In theory at website could have a Trust Flow of 70 which looks great but if that’s only coming from one link it won’t be enough to get ahead in the SERPs. On the flipside, judging a link based purely on Citation Flow is very dangerous. Remember, it’s quality not quantity when it comes to links.
A hrefs UR (URL Rating) and DR (Domain Rating) Explained
Ahrefs’s domain metrics are less complicated than Majestic’s and work in a similar manner to Moz’s Domain Authority and Page Authority.
Ahrefs has 2 scores to look at UR – Url Rating and DR – Domain rating.
UR or URL Rating is a score for a specific web page based on the quality and number of backlinks pointing to it. UR tries to mimic PageRank as closely as possible, so Ahrefs takes into account things like nofollow tags and has a damping factor. Ahrefs is open in saying that UR is not a worthy replacement of PageRank as PageRank has evolved and developed over the years.
DR or Domain Rating is Ahrefs’ score to assess the “link popularity” of a website. DR is calculated by looking at the following:
- Looking at how many do-follow points to example.com
- Look at the DR of all those websites that link to example.com
- Look at how many other websites they link out to
- Look at how many pages from a domain point to example.com
Note: Things like nofollow links and 2nd/3rd links from the same domain won’t increase your DR and DR isn’t linked to the number of keywords or your rankings. However, Ahrefs studies have shown that sites with a higher DR rank for more keywords.
SEM Rush Authority Score Explained
Last but not least, we’re going to look at SEM Rush’ Authority Score. Authority Score is a little different as it’s not purely based on links. Authority Score is calculated based on a combination of backlinks, referring domains, monthly visits and keywords.
Like all of the other metrics, Authority Score is based on 0-100 with 100 being the best.
SEM Rush also has a tool to help you audit your backlink profile. The backlink audit tool will check a website’s backlink profile and score the links 0-100
What are the downfalls of 3rd party metrics
3rd Party Metrics do have their downfalls.
First of all they’re not Google or any other search engine for that matter, so if you’re trying to improve your rankings you won’t be getting the full picture.
For example you may be checking a website that has been built on an expired domain and the scores look good. However, John Mueller said this in 2016:
“Sometimes we recognise that a new site is completely unrelated to an old site. So for example if you go out and buy an old domain name, it might have been a church website for 10 years. If we recognise your new website is really not the same as it was, then we need to understand that difference and say that, these links, they apply to the old website but they don’t apply to the new one.”
Metrics can also be manipulated or can also be outdated. You may see this when you stumble across a PBN site with a few high authority historic high authority links but in reality it’s super spammy. Google will see past this, remember Google looks at 100’s of different metrics when it comes to ranking a site, so we should assume it also does this when it comes to determining if a link is authoritative or not.
Which metric is best?
Unfortunately, there is no clear winner. The industry tends to use Moz’s DA which is probably down to the fact that it’s widely accessible through the free Moz Tool Bar. Each tool has its pros and cons and ultimately it comes down to the quality of each tool’s dataset.
At HARO we mainly use Ahrefs’ DR as most of our clients use Ahrefs to keep tabs on their SEO so DR is more inline with what they use.
We also put out a twitter poll and the results are pretty close!
It’s up to you what you choose to use, DA from Moz is free so that’s a good starting point, however if you are serious about link building you will want to be using Ahrefs, Majestic or SEM Rush alongside it.
Looking beyond metrics
When building links it’s important to look beyond metrics. As previously mentioned, metrics invented by SEO SAS companies have their downfalls, mainly down to the fact that they’re only as good as the data they hold.
So what else can you look at when it comes to building and researching links?
Website referral traffic – probably one of the most natural indicators of a quality site is a website that gets a good amount of traffic to its pages. Without Google Analytics access this a tough task but check if the website is ranking for keywords, check how many pages are indexed, see if URLs are being shared on social media, check comment sections on the site. All of these things will give you an indication of if REAL people are accessing this site.
Is this website relevant to my website or industry? You may find a new website that’s new and so has a low score, but that doesn’t mean it is a bad link! If the website is relevant and looks good to you then 99% of the time it’s a safe link. Plus if you get a link from a new site that has a DA of 10, watch as that link increases This is also true with local links. You may be a local estate agent getting a link from a local mortgage broker, chances are a smaller website is going to score lower but being a natural fit this is a good link.
Use your common sense – Just use your common sense… look for key indicators that tell you a site is a legitimate and high quality. Branding and web design usually give it away…PBN guys don’t usually put that much effort into their websites.
On-site indicators – It’s also worth looking at things like contact info – is there an address for an office linked to the website? What do the websites Terms and Conditions say? Is there a parent company there? Are the authors real people – do they have images and a Linked In profile? Can you reach out to real people or is the only email address info@ or admin@? These are all things that can help you determine if a website is legitimate.
Ideally, you’ll look out for these things alongside using scoring from an SEO tool. Having a 2 pronged approach will mean your link profile will stand the test of time.
Are there any other tools worth looking at?
Whilst we’ve covered the scoring systems from some of the most renowned SEO tools there are some other tools that can help you delve further into the quality of your links. Here are a few that we’ve used in the past that are worth a mention.
Kerboo – Kerboo is a link audit tool, if you’re having a hard time getting your head around all the different website authority metrics then Kerboo could be a helpful tool for you. You will need access to backlink data from Majestic, Moz, Ahrefs,SEM Rush or Google Search Console (better still as many sources as possible). Upload as much data as you have into the tool and let Kerboo do its magic. Their algorithm will check all the link data and then score all your links and give you an overall score. Super helpful for link audits of any size and provides a holding hand for newbies. It will even create a disavow file for you to upload straight into Search Console!
Verve Search LinkScore – Built on their internal link scoring as a result of building thousands of links for top tier clients like GoCompare and Expedia. LinkScore by Verve Search looks at a “links ability to influence rankings”. LinkScore will reward in-content links (as opposed to a footer link for example) on high authority sites. They say the best-performing links are those from BBC, the New York Times and USA Today, after all this is based on the work of a digital pr agency. The tool is free to use but you will need to connect a Majestic or SEM Rush account.
How Can You Make Sure You’re Building The BEST Links
Here at HARO we’ve built our business on contributing to articles on high-quality news websites. Why? Well, these sites always have traffic,
We build links for 100’s of clients on some of the best-scored websites on the web. Get in touch today to see how we can build high authority links for you and you’ll never have to worry about Domain Authority, Trust Flow or Authority Score again… unless your competitors reach out to ask how you’re crushing them in the SERPs that is…