When evaluating the value of a website, you’ve probably learned to focus on a few specific factors. These factors might include the site’s Domain Rating or, alternatively, its Domain Authority.
Either one of these metrics can provide you with valuable information about the perceived quality of a site. But what you might not know is what goes into these calculations – and how much they should actually be taken into account.
To clear up this confusion, we’re taking a deep dive into both Ahrefs Domain Rating and Moz Domain Authority. By the time you reach the end of this article, you should be able to define each of these metrics for your clients, understand the differences between Domain Authority vs Domain Rating, and decide for yourself whether DA and DR are all they’re cracked up to be.
What is Domain Authority?
First, what is Domain Authority (DA)?. This scoring methodology was developed by Moz to predict how likely a site is to rank in search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s basically an estimate of how well a site might perform in a relevant search.
One a scale from 1 to 100, Moz Domain Authority uses data from the platform’s Link Explorer web index, as well as numerous algorithmic factors, to make these complex predictions. Moz reportedly uses at least 40 different factors to tabulate your score. The higher your DA, the better your chances of ranking well in SERPs.
It’s important to note that DA has no direct impact on how Google’s rankings are calculated. In other words, improving a client’s DA may not have a direct impact on where they rank on a keyword or on how the site’s quality is perceived by Google. Moz’s metric is a completely independent rating that estimates a site’s SERP strength. It’s not officially endorsed by Google, nor is it a ranking factor in search algorithms.
However, it can still play an important role in your SEO strategy. We can typically assume that a higher DA corresponds to an increased ability to rank well in SERPs. If your client has a more desirable position in search results, they may receive a greater portion of the traffic share over their competitors. So while DA doesn’t have a direct impact on rankings and traffic, it can be a good indicator of where a site stands.
How Domain Authority is Calculated
Like Google’s own algorithms, Moz Domain Authority involves a number of complex (and somewhat mysterious) calculations. Moz states that factors like the site’s total number of links and linking root domains are considered, as well as how frequently the algorithm predicts that Google will serve a given domain in search results. We found sources that state content quality, age of domain, and social signals all play a role in the final DA score.
Additionally, Domain Authority is essentially calculated on a curve. Your score is relative to the scores of other websites on the internet. Highly authoritative sites take up more of the spots earmarked for higher scores, which means there are fewer opportunities for sites with less rich backlink profiles. Among other things, this means that it’s much harder to increase your DA from an 80 to a 90 than it is to grow it from a 10 to a 20.
To make matters more complicated, DA isn’t a consistent number you can calculate once and be done with it. Because machine learning is involved, DA scores will change over time as additional data emerges. So your DA may fluctuate a lot over time, especially if you fall behind on link-building or a higher authority site acquires a lot of great links within a short period.
Confused yet? You aren’t the only one. Good thing you don’t have to calculate this metric for yourself. There are tons of DA checkers and software platforms you can use to track DAs for your clients without having to crunch any numbers on your end.
What is Domain Rating?
With all that in mind, what is Domain Rating? This metric comes from Ahrefs, another leading SEO authority. Like DA, DR uses a 100-point scale to make a determination about the strength of a site using its backlinks. According to Ahrefs, it’s “a less granular version of Ahrefs Rank (AR),” which the platform uses to scale all of the sites in its database by both the size and quality of their backlink profiles.
In other words, Ahrefs Domain Rating ranks sites based on the perceived strength of their backlink profiles. It’s important to point out that Ahrefs really doesn’t utilize an algorithm or complex calculations to reach these determinations.
Per Ahrefs: “Please note that Ahrefs’ DR metric is purely link-based. We don’t take into account things such as the search traffic of a given website, the age of its domain, or the popularity of its parent brand.”
Although DR reportedly takes both link quantity and quality into account, Ahrefs is the first to admit that link spam doesn’t always have a negative effect on Domain Rating. That means you could technically be going against Google’s guidelines by hundreds of spammy backlinks and actually see improvements in your DR as a result.
Consequently, it’s necessary to point out that – just like Domain Authority – Domain Rating isn’t directly connected to a site’s ranking in SERPs. It’s an independent calculation that doesn’t factor into Google’s algorithm at all. And since Ahrefs doesn’t even try to predict how sites in its database will be ranked according to DR calculations, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
How Domain Rating is Determined
Like Domain Authority, DR uses a site’s backlinks to determine its overall strength. But DR seems to involve a simpler calculative process and fewer attributes.
Ahrefs specifically says that when calculating DR, the platform considers the Domain Ratings of the sites providing links to the domain in question, as well as how many links each of those sites provides overall. This is based on the idea that higher-DR sites provide more “link juice” to referring sites, while a domain splits that “link juice” equally among the sites to which it links. To put it another way, a link from a site with a lower DR and fewer outgoing links could actually have a greater impact on your own DR than a link from a high-DR website that provides do-follow links to thousands of other sites.
These calculations are then repeated (though that process isn’t exactly spelled out for us) until the domain is rated on a scale of 0 to 100. And like with DA, DR is all relative; your rating will fluctuate depending on not only your links but other sites’ links, as well. Again, it’s much harder to move the needle when your domain rating is high than when it’s on the lower end of the scale. Even if you don’t lose any backlinks, your DR could drop if another site gets a lot of them.
Again, you don’t have to figure out everything that goes into DR calculations. You can use the Ahrefs platform (or Semify’s white label dashboard!) to determine the Domain Rating of any site and take a closer look at the backlinks being considered.
Domain Authority Vs Domain Rating: The Main Differences
Moz Domain Authority and Ahrefs Domain Rating have a number of things in common. Either one can be used to analyze a website’s SEO value. Additionally, they’re both independent metrics that have no bearing on a site’s current or potential ranking. While they might indicate how likely a site is to rank well, they are not ranking factors in and of themselves.
They also both involve a 100-point scale where sites are ranked relative to other domains in the database. Therefore, your DR and your DA both depend on what other sites have; they don’t exist in a vacuum. There’s also a lack of complete transparency surrounding exactly which factors are used to calculate these metrics and how they’re weighted.
However, Domain Authority and Domain Rating are not interchangeable. They do have some distinct differences that often cause marketers to prefer one over the other.
Here’s the main way these two metrics diverge:
DA = uses links and other factors to calculate how likely a site is to rank
DR = uses links to determine the strength of a site’s backlink profile
While Ahrefs really only looks at a site’s backlinks, Moz will also take factors like spam scores and even ranking keywords into account. DA is a more complex calculation that may give a broader view of a website’s overall value and predicted performance.
Should You Care More About Ahrefs Domain Rating or Moz Domain Authority?
The question at-hand: in the domain authority vs domain rating debate, which is better? Like with so many things in SEO, there’s no one clear answer. But it ultimately depends on why you’re using the metric in question.
If you’re looking to build links, DR can give you a quick overview of how valuable a link from a given domain might be. This can help you make speedy, sound decisions about which link-building opportunities are actually worth your time. Conversely, DA can be used to assess a site’s performance potential overall. While having a great DA score shouldn’t be your ultimate goal, it can help with competitive analysis and give you a broad idea of a site’s health.
The Problem With DA Vs. DR: Neither is Perfect
We’d caution you against being strictly Team Domain Rating or Team Domain Authority. The truth is that each of these metrics has merits – but each is also flawed in its own way.
Having a high DA score is likely to correlate with a high DR score. So if you’re tracking your DA score and are pleased with the results, you may be able to correctly guess that your DR is in good shape, too – assuming you’re actively engaging in quality link-building practices. Since DR is based solely on backlinks, you’ll need to keep up with that area of your strategy if you want both numbers to look their best.
On the other hand, DR is the more suitable alternative to the now-defunct Page Rank. Google no longer provides this metric to the public (which was essentially a backlink profile analysis based on link quality), so Ahrefs stepped in to fill the gap. While PageRank was at one time a ranking factor, that’s no longer the case. And even though DR isn’t factored into Google’s algorithm, it provides comparable information on a simple logarithmic scale.
It’s also worth noting that Domain Authority may be more easily manipulated than Domain Rating. DA reportedly takes factors like domain age and social presence into account, which means that older websites may have a great score without providing a ton of recent value. It’s also possible that an older site may have a high DA without ranking well in SERPs.
Having a strong backlink profile doesn’t always mean you’ll rank well either – and it’s also possible that hundreds of spammy backlinks could result in a great DR with less impressive results in SERPs. But the argument is that DR is often more reflective of consistently sound SEO practices than DA will show.
The Answer? Use Both Domain Rating and Domain Authority
A lot of SEO experts have strong feelings about DA vs. DR. We tend to keep close tabs on Domain Rating when we’re handling link outreach and link-building, but that doesn’t mean Domain Authority never comes into play.
We believe one of the smartest things you can do is to monitor both metrics and use that information to guide your strategy. While that may mean using additional tools and compiling longer reports, we think it’s better to have all the data at your disposal.
How Much Do Domain Rating and Domain Authority Really Matter?
These metrics are valuable, but they aren’t the be-all and end-all of SEO.
DR can give a great overview of a site’s backlink profile strength, but it leaves out a lot – like the user experience it provides, the quality of its content, and its ability to generate actual traffic. And even though DA may be more all-encompassing in terms of the factors it calculates, it still won’t tell you everything you need to know about a website’s ability to rank in SERPs.
Ultimately, DR and DA are imperfect metrics – but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored! By including Domain Rating and Domain Authority in your website analysis process, you stand to gain significant knowledge. Just remember not to stop there. There are a whole lot of other factors that determine how valuable, popular, and profitable a site or strategy will be for your clients.