Tag Archive | "Domain"

Search Buzz Video Recap: Google June 2019 Core Update, Domain Diversity Update, DailyMail Slammed, Rich Results, Bing Bribes & DOJ

What an insane week, we first recapped the changes over the last month with Google for webmasters. We then talked about the big Google June 2019 core update that began rolling out on Monday…


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Google search update aims to show more diverse results from different domain names

Another Google search update has rolled out this week, this one deals with domain diversity in the search results.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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A Comprehensive Analysis of the New Domain Authority

Posted by rjonesx.

Moz’s Domain Authority is requested over 1,000,000,000 times per year, it’s referenced millions of times on the web, and it has become a veritable household name among search engine optimizers for a variety of use cases, from determining the success of a link building campaign to qualifying domains for purchase. With the launch of Moz’s entirely new, improved, and much larger link index, we recognized the opportunity to revisit Domain Authority with the same rigor as we did keyword volume years ago (which ushered in the era of clickstream-modeled keyword data).

What follows is a rigorous treatment of the new Domain Authority metric. What I will not do in this piece is rehash the debate over whether Domain Authority matters or what its proper use cases are. I have and will address those at length in a later post. Rather, I intend to spend the following paragraphs addressing the new Domain Authority metric from multiple directions.

Correlations between DA and SERP rankings

The most important component of Domain Authority is how well it correlates with search results. But first, let’s get the correlation-versus-causation objection out of the way: Domain Authority does not cause search rankings. It is not a ranking factor. Domain Authority predicts the likelihood that one domain will outrank another. That being said, its usefulness as a metric is tied in large part to this value. The stronger the correlation, the more valuable Domain Authority is for predicting rankings.

Methodology

Determining the “correlation” between a metric and SERP rankings has been accomplished in many different ways over the years. Should we compare against the “true first page,” top 10, top 20, top 50 or top 100? How many SERPs do we need to collect in order for our results to be statistically significant? It’s important that I outline the methodology for reproducibility and for any comments or concerns on the techniques used. For the purposes of this study, I chose to use the “true first page.” This means that the SERPs were collected using only the keyword with no additional parameters. I chose to use this particular data set for a number of reasons:

  • The true first page is what most users experience, thus the predictive power of Domain Authority will be focused on what users see.
  • By not using any special parameters, we’re likely to get Google’s typical results. 
  • By not extending beyond the true first page, we’re likely to avoid manually penalized sites (which can impact the correlations with links.)
  • We did NOT use the same training set or training set size as we did for this correlation study. That is to say, we trained on the top 10 but are reporting correlations on the true first page. This prevents us from the potential of having a result overly biased towards our model. 

I randomly selected 16,000 keywords from the United States keyword corpus for Keyword Explorer. I then collected the true first page for all of these keywords (completely different from those used in the training set.) I extracted the URLs but I also chose to remove duplicate domains (ie: if the same domain occurred, one after another.) For a length of time, Google used to cluster domains together in the SERPs under certain circumstances. It was easy to spot these clusters, as the second and later listings were indented. No such indentations are present any longer, but we can’t be certain that Google never groups domains. If they do group domains, it would throw off the correlation because it’s the grouping and not the traditional link-based algorithm doing the work.

I collected the Domain Authority (Moz), Citation Flow and Trust Flow (Majestic), and Domain Rank (Ahrefs) for each domain and calculated the mean Spearman correlation coefficient for each SERP. I then averaged the coefficients for each metric.

Outcome

Moz’s new Domain Authority has the strongest correlations with SERPs of the competing strength-of-domain link-based metrics in the industry. The sign (-/+) has been inverted in the graph for readability, although the actual coefficients are negative (and should be).

Moz’s Domain Authority scored a ~.12, or roughly 6% stronger than the next best competitor (Domain Rank by Ahrefs.) Domain Authority performed 35% better than CitationFlow and 18% better than TrustFlow. This isn’t surprising, in that Domain Authority is trained to predict rankings while our competitor’s strength-of-domain metrics are not. It shouldn’t be taken as a negative that our competitors strength-of-domain metrics don’t correlate as strongly as Moz’s Domain Authority — rather, it’s simply exemplary of the intrinsic differences between the metrics. That being said, if you want a metric that best predicts rankings at the domain level, Domain Authority is that metric.

Note: At first blush, Domain Authority’s improvements over the competition are, frankly, underwhelming. The truth is that we could quite easily increase the correlation further, but doing so would risk over-fitting and compromising a secondary goal of Domain Authority…

Handling link manipulation

Historically, Domain Authority has focused on only one single feature: maximizing the predictive capacity of the metric. All we wanted were the highest correlations. However, Domain Authority has become, for better or worse, synonymous with “domain value” in many sectors, such as among link buyers and domainers. Subsequently, as bizarre as it may sound, Domain Authority has itself been targeted for spam in order to bolster the score and sell at a higher price. While these crude link manipulation techniques didn’t work so well in Google, they were sufficient to increase Domain Authority. We decided to rein that in. 

Data sets

The first thing we did was compile a series off data sets that corresponded with industries we wished to impact, knowing that Domain Authority was regularly manipulated in these circles.

  • Random domains
  • Moz customers
  • Blog comment spam
  • Low-quality auction domains
  • Mid-quality auction domains
  • High-quality auction domains
  • Known link sellers
  • Known link buyers
  • Domainer network
  • Link network

While it would be my preference to release all the data sets, I’ve chosen not to in order to not “out” any website in particular. Instead, I opted to provide these data sets to a number of search engine marketers for validation. The only data set not offered for outside validation was Moz customers, for obvious reasons.

Methodology

For each of the above data sets, I collected both the old and new Domain Authority scores. This was conducted all on February 28th in order to have parity for all tests. I then calculated the relative difference between the old DA and new DA within each group. Finally, I compared the various data set results against one another to confirm that the model addresses the various methods of inflating Domain Authority.

Results

In the above graph, blue represents the Old Average Domain Authority for that data set and orange represents the New Average Domain Authority for that same data set. One immediately noticeable feature is that every category drops. Even random domains drops. This is a re-centering of the Domain Authority score and should cause no alarm to webmasters. There is, on average, a 6% reduction in Domain Authority for randomly selected domains from the web. Thus, if your Domain Authority drops a few points, you are well within the range of normal. Now, let’s look at the various data sets individually.



Random domains: -6.1%

Using the same methodology of finding random domains which we use for collecting comparative link statistics, I selected 1,000 domains, we were able to determine that there is, on average, a 6.1% drop in Domain Authority. It’s important that webmasters recognize this, as the shift is likely to affect most sites and is nothing to worry about.  

Moz customers: -7.4%

Of immediate interest to Moz is how our own customers perform in relation to the random set of domains. On average, the Domain Authority of Moz customers lowered by 7.4%. This is very close to the random set of URLs and indicates that most Moz customers are likely not using techniques to manipulate DA to any large degree.  

Link buyers: -15.9%

Surprisingly, link buyers only lost 15.9% of their Domain Authority. In retrospect, this seems reasonable. First, we looked specifically at link buyers from blog networks, which aren’t as spammy as many other techniques. Second, most of the sites paying for links are also optimizing their site’s content, which means the sites do rank, sometimes quite well, in Google. Because Domain Authority trains against actual rankings, it’s reasonable to expect that the link buyers data set would not be impacted as highly as other techniques because the neural network learns that some link buying patterns actually work. 

Comment spammers: -34%

Here’s where the fun starts. The neural network behind Domain Authority was able to drop comment spammers’ average DA by 34%. I was particularly pleased with this one because of all the types of link manipulation addressed by Domain Authority, comment spam is, in my honest opinion, no better than vandalism. Hopefully this will have a positive impact on decreasing comment spam — every little bit counts. 

Link sellers: -56%

I was actually quite surprised, at first, that link sellers on average dropped 56% in Domain Authority. I knew that link sellers often participated in link schemes (normally interlinking their own blog networks to build up DA) so that they can charge higher prices. However, it didn’t occur to me that link sellers would be easier to pick out because they explicitly do not optimize their own sites beyond links. Subsequently, link sellers tend to have inflated, bogus link profiles and flimsy content, which means they tend to not rank in Google. If they don’t rank, then the neural network behind Domain Authority is likely to pick up on the trend. It will be interesting to see how the market responds to such a dramatic change in Domain Authority.

High-quality auction domains: -61%

One of the features that I’m most proud of in regards to Domain Authority is that it effectively addressed link manipulation in order of our intuition regarding quality. I created three different data sets out of one larger data set (auction domains), where I used certain qualifiers like price, TLD, and archive.org status to label each domain as high-quality, mid-quality, and low-quality. In theory, if the neural network does its job correctly, we should see the high-quality domains impacted the least and the low-quality domains impacted the most. This is the exact pattern which was rendered by the new model. High-quality auction domains dropped an average of 61% in Domain Authority. That seems really high for “high-quality” auction domains, but even a cursory glance at the backlink profiles of domains that are up for sale in the $ 10K+ range shows clear link manipulation. The domainer industry, especially the domainer-for-SEO industry, is rife with spam. 

Link network: -79%

There is one network on the web that troubles me more than any other. I won’t name it, but it’s particularly pernicious because the sites in this network all link to the top 1,000,000 sites on the web. If your site is in the top 1,000,000 on the web, you’ll likely see hundreds of root linking domains from this network no matter which link index you look at (Moz, Majestic, or Ahrefs). You can imagine my delight to see that it drops roughly 79% in Domain Authority, and rightfully so, as the vast majority of these sites have been banned by Google.

Mid-quality auction domains: -95%

Continuing with the pattern regarding the quality of auction domains, you can see that “mid-quality” auction domains dropped nearly 95% in Domain Authority. This is huge. Bear in mind that these drastic drops are not combined with losses in correlation with SERPs; rather, the neural network is learning to distinguish between backlink profiles far more effectively, separating the wheat from the chaff. 

Domainer networks: -97%

If you spend any time looking at dropped domains, you have probably come upon a domainer network where there are a series of sites enumerated and all linking to one another. For example, the first site might be sbt001.com, then sbt002.com, and so on and so forth for thousands of domains. While it’s obvious for humans to look at this and see a pattern, Domain Authority needed to learn that these techniques do not correlate with rankings. The new Domain Authority does just that, dropping the domainer networks we analyzed on average by 97%.

Low-quality auction domains: -98%

Finally, the worst offenders — low-quality auction domains — dropped 98% on average. Domain Authority just can’t be fooled in the way it has in the past. You have to acquire good links in the right proportions (in accordance with a natural model and sites that already rank) if you wish to have a strong Domain Authority score. 

What does this mean?

For most webmasters, this means very little. Your Domain Authority might drop a little bit, but so will your competitors’. For search engine optimizers, especially consultants and agencies, it means quite a bit. The inventories of known link sellers will probably diminish dramatically overnight. High DA links will become far more rare. The same is true of those trying to construct private blog networks (PBNs). Of course, Domain Authority doesn’t cause rankings so it won’t impact your current rank, but it should give consultants and agencies a much smarter metric for assessing quality.

What are the best use cases for DA?

  • Compare changes in your Domain Authority with your competitors. If you drop significantly more, or increase significantly more, it could indicate that there are important differences in your link profile.
  • Compare changes in your Domain Authority over time. The new Domain Authority will update historically as well, so you can track your DA. If your DA is decreasing over time, especially relative to your competitors, you probably need to get started on outreach.
  • Assess link quality when looking to acquire dropped or auction domains. Those looking to acquire dropped or auction domains now have a much more powerful tool in their hands for assessing quality. Of course, DA should not be the primary metric for assessing the quality of a link or a domain, but it certainly should be in every webmaster’s toolkit.

What should we expect going forward?

We aren’t going to rest. An important philosophical shift has taken place at Moz with regards to Domain Authority. In the past, we believed it was best to keep Domain Authority static, rarely updating the model, in order to give users an apples-to-apples comparison. Over time, though, this meant that Domain Authority would become less relevant. Given the rapidity with which Google updates its results and algorithms, the new Domain Authority will be far more agile as we give it new features, retrain it more frequently, and respond to algorithmic changes from Google. We hope you like it.


Be sure to join us on Thursday, March 14th at 10am PT at our upcoming webinar discussing strategies & use cases for the new Domain Authority:

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How to Use Domain Authority for SEO – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Domain Authority is an incredibly well-known metric throughout the SEO industry, but what exactly is the right way to use it? In this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re delighted to welcome Cyrus Shepard as he explains both what’s new with the new Domain Authority 2.0 update, and how to best harness its power for your own SEO success. 

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Video Transcription

Howdy, SEO fans. Welcome to a very special edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. I’m honored to be here today with Moz to talk about the new Domain Authority. I want to talk about how to use Domain Authority to do actual SEO.

What is Domain Authority?

Let’s start with a definition of what Domain Authority actually is because there’s a lot of confusion out there. A Domain Authority is a metric, from 1 to 100, which predicts how well a domain will rank in Google. Now let’s break that down a little bit and talk about some of the myths of Domain Authority. 

Is Domain Authority a ranking factor? No, Domain Authority is not a ranking factor. Does Google use Domain Authority in its algorithm? No, Google does not use Domain Authority in its algorithm. Now Google may use some domain-like metrics based on links similar to Domain Authority, but they do not use Domain Authority itself. In fact, it’s best if you don’t bring it up with them. They don’t tend to like that very much.

So if it’s not a ranking factor, if Google doesn’t use it, what does Domain Authority actually do? It does one thing very, very well. It predicts rankings. That’s what it was built to do. That’s what it was designed to do, and it does that job very, very well. And because of that, we can use it for SEO in a lot of different ways. So Domain Authority has been around since 2010, about 8 years now, and since then it’s become a very popular metric, used and abused in different ways.

What’s New With Domain Authority 2.0?

So what’s new about the new Domain Authority that makes it so great and less likely to be abused and gives it so many more uses? Before I go into this, a big shout-out to two of the guys who helped develop this — Russ Jones and Neil Martinsen-Burrell — and many other smart people at Moz. Some of our search scientists did a tremendous job of updating this metric for 2019.

1. Bigger Link Index

So the first thing is the new Domain Authority is based on a new, bigger link index, and that is Link Explorer, which was released last year. It contains 35 trillion links. There are different ways of judging index sizes, but that is one of the biggest or if not the biggest link indexes publicly available that we know of.

Thirty-five trillion links, to give you an idea of how big that is, if you were to count one link per second, you would be counting for 1.1 million years. That’s a lot of links, and that’s how many links are in the index that the new Domain Authority is based upon. Second of all, it uses a new machine learning model. Now part of Domain Authority looks at Google rankings and uses machine learning to try to fit the model in to predict how those rankings are stacked.

2. New Machine Learning Model

Now the new Domain Authority not only looks at what’s winning in Google search, but it’s also looking at what’s not ranking in Google search. The old model used to just look at the winners. This makes it much more accurate at determining where you might fall or where any domain or URL might fall within that prediction. 

3. Spam Score Incorporation

Next the new Domain Authority incorporates spam detection.

Spam Score is a proprietary Moz metric that looks at a bunch of on-page factors, and those have been incorporated into the new metric, which makes it much more reliable. 

4. Detects Link Manipulation

It also, and this is very important, the new Domain Authority detects link manipulation. This is people that are buying and selling links, PBNs, things like that.

It’s much better. In fact, Russ Jones, in a recent webinar, said that link buyers with the new Domain Authority will drop an average of 11 points. So the new Domain Authority is much better at rooting out this link manipulation, just like Google is attempting to do. So it much more closely resembles what Google is attempting.

5. Daily Updates

Lastly, the new Domain Authority is updated daily. This is a huge improvement. The old Domain Authority used to update about approximately every month or so.* The new Domain Authority is constantly being updated, and our search scientists are constantly adding improvements as they come along.

So it’s being updated much more frequently and improved much more frequently. So what does this mean? The new Domain Authority is the most accurate domain-level metric to predict Google search results that we know of. When you look at ranking factors that we know of, like title tags or even generally backlinks, they predict a certain amount of rankings. But Domain Authority blows those out of the water in its ranking potential.

*Note: Our former link research tool, Open Site Explorer, updated on a monthly cadence, resulting in monthly updates to DA scores. With the launch of Link Explorer in April 2018, Domain Authority scores moved to a daily update cadence. This remains true with the new underlying algorithm, Domain Authority 2.0.

How to Use Domain Authority for SEO

So the question is how do we actually use this? We have this tremendous power with Domain Authority that can predict rankings to a certain degree. How do we use this for SEO? So I want to go over some general tips for success. 

The first tip, never use Domain Authority in isolation. You always want to use it with other metrics and in context, because it can only tell you so much.

It’s a powerful tool, but it’s limited. For example, when you’re looking at rankings on-page, you’re going to want to look at the keyword targeting. You’re going to want to look at the on-page content, the domain history, other things like that. So never use Domain Authority by itself. That’s a key tip. 

Second, you want to keep in mind that the scale of Domain Authority is roughly logarithmic.

It’s not linear. Now what does this mean? It’s fairly easy to move from a zero Domain Authority or a one Domain Authority to a ten Domain Authority. You can get a handful of links, and that works pretty well. But moving from like a 70 to an 80 is much, much harder. It gets harder as you get higher. So a DA 40 is not twice a DA 20.

It’s actually much, much bigger because as you go higher and higher and higher, until you get to 100, it gets much harder. Sites like Google and Facebook, they’re near the 100 range, and everything else comes into it. It’s almost like a funnel. 

Next, keep in mind that DA is a relative metric. When you’re using DA, you always want to compare between competitors or your past scores.

Having a DA 50 doesn’t really tell you much unless you’re comparing it to other DA scores. So if you’re looking in Google and a site has a DA of 50, it doesn’t make much sense unless you put it in the context of “what do the other sites have?” Are they 40? Are they 60? In that regard, when you’re looking at your own DA, you can compare against past performance or competitors.

So if I have a 50 this month and a 40 last month, that might tell me that my ability to rank in Google has increased in that time period. 

1. Evaluate Potential Value of a Link

So talking about SEO use cases, we have this. We understand how to use it. What are some practical ways to use Domain Authority? Well, a very popular one with the old DA as well is judging the potential value of a link.

For instance, you have 1,000 outreach targets that you’re thinking about asking for a link, but you only have time for 100 because you want to spend your time wisely and it’s not worth it to ask all 1,000. So you might use DA as a filter to find the most valuable link targets. A DA 90 might be more valuable than a DA 5 or a 10.

But again, you do not want to use it in isolation. You’d be looking at other metrics as well, such as Page Authority, relevance, and traffic. But still DA might be a valuable metric to add to that experience. 

2. Judging Keyword Difficulty

Judging keyword difficulty, judging when you look at SERPs and see what is my potential of ranking for this SERP with this particular keyword?

If you look at a SERP and everybody has a DA 95, it’s going to be pretty hard to rank in that SERP. But if everybody has a lower DA, you might have a chance. But again, you’re going to want to look at other metrics, such as Page Authority, keyword volume, on-page targeting. You can use Moz’s Keyword Difficulty Score to run these calculations as well.

3. Campaign Performance

Very popular in the agency world is link campaign performance or campaign performance in general, and this kind of makes sense. If you’re building links for a client and you want to show progress, a common way of doing this is showing Domain Authority, meaning that we built these links for you and now your potential to rank is higher.

It’s a good metric, but it’s not the only metric I would report. I would definitely report rankings for targeted keywords. I would report traffic and conversions, because ranking potential is one thing, but I’d actually like to show that those links actually did something. So I’d be more inclined to show the other things. But DA is perfectly fine to report for campaign performance as long as you show it in context.

4. Purchasing Existing Domains

A popular one on the marketplaces is buying existing domains. Sites like Flippa often show DA or some similar metric like that. Again, the new Domain Authority is going to be much better at rooting out link manipulation, so these scores might be a little more trustworthy in this sense. But again, never buy a domain just on Domain Authority alone.

You’re going to want to look at a lot of factors, such as the content, the traffic, the domain history, things like that. But Domain Authority might be a good first-line filter for you. 

How to Find Domain Authority Metrics

So where can you find the new Domain Authority? It is available right now. You can go to Link Explorer. It’s available through the Moz API.

The free MozBar, you can download the MozBar for free and turn on SERP overlay, and it will show you the DA of everything as you browse through Google. 

It’s available in Moz Campaigns and also Keyword Explorer. I hope this gives you some ideas about how to use Domain Authority. Please share your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. If you like this video, please share.

Thanks a lot, everybody. Have a great day.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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SEOs beware: Link builders are back with bogus Domain Authority pitches

Stop optimizing for Domain Authority; it has no impact on Google rankings.



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


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Poll: Is Moz Domain Authority Helpful Or Hurtful To SEOs?

Moz announced massive improvements to how they calculate their Domain Authority, DA, scores. I wrote about the “controversy” around the score at Search Engine Land yesterday. I included a lot of your reaction to the announcement and now I want to poll you all about if you think the score is helpful or hurtful to SEOs in our industry.


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A New Domain Authority Is Coming Soon: What’s Changing, When, & Why

Posted by rjonesx.

Howdy Moz readers,

I’m Russ Jones, Principal Search Scientist at Moz, and I am excited to announce a fantastic upgrade coming next month to one of the most important metrics Moz offers: Domain Authority.

Domain Authority has become the industry standard for measuring the strength of a domain relative to ranking. We recognize that stability plays an important role in making Domain Authority valuable to our customers, so we wanted to make sure that the new Domain Authority brought meaningful changes to the table.

Learn more about the new DA

What’s changing?

What follows is an account of some of the technical changes behind the new Domain Authority and why they matter.

The training set:

Historically, we’ve relied on training Domain Authority against an unmanipulated, large set of search results. In fact, this has been the standard methodology across our industry. But we have found a way to improve upon it fundamentally, from the ground up, making Domain Authority more reliable. In particular, the new Domain Authority is better at understanding sites which don’t rank for any keywords at all than it has in the past.

The training algorithm:

Rather than relying on a complex linear model, we’ve made the switch to a neural network. This offers several benefits including a much more nuanced model which can detect link manipulation.

The model factors:

We have greatly improved upon the ranking factors behind Domain Authority. In addition to looking at link counts, we’ve now been able to integrate our proprietary Spam Score and complex distributions of links based on quality and traffic, along with a bevy of other factors.

The backbone:

At the heart of Domain Authority is the industry’s leading link index, our new Moz Link Explorer. With over 35 trillion links, our exceptional data turns the brilliant statistical work by Neil Martinsen-Burrell, Chas Williams, and so many more amazing Mozzers into a true industry leading standard.

What does this mean?

These fundamental improvements to Domain Authority will deliver a better, more trustworthy metric than ever before. We can remove spam, improve correlations, and, most importantly, update Domain Authority relative to all the changes that Google makes.

It means that you will see some changes to Domain Authority when the launch occurs. We staked the model to our existing Domain Authority which minimizes changes, but with all the improvements there will no doubt be some fluctuation in Domain Authority scores across the board.

What should we do?

Use DA as a relative metric, not an absolute one.

First, make sure that you use Domain Authority as a relative metric. Domain Authority is meaningless when it isn’t compared to other sites. What matters isn’t whether your site drops or increases — it’s whether it drops or increases relative to your competitors. When we roll out the new Domain Authority, make sure you check your competitors’ scores as well as your own, as they will likely fluctuate in a similar direction.

Know how to communicate changes with clients, colleagues, and stakeholders

Second, be prepared to communicate with your clients or webmasters about the changes and improvements to Domain Authority. While change is always disruptive, the new Domain Authority is better than ever and will allow them to make smarter decisions about search engine optimization strategies going forward.

Expect DA to keep pace with Google

Finally, expect that we will be continuing to improve Domain Authority. Just like Google makes hundreds of changes to their algorithm every year, we intend to make Domain Authority much more responsive to Google’s changes. Even when Google makes fundamental algorithm updates like Penguin or Panda, you can feel confident that Moz’s Domain Authority will be as relevant and useful as ever.

When is it happening?

We plan on rolling out the new Domain Authority on March 5th, 2019. We will have several more communications between now and then to help you and your clients best respond to the new Domain Authority, including a webinar on February 21st. We hope you’re as excited as we are and look forward to continuing to bring you the most reliable, cutting-edge metrics our industry has to offer.


Be sure to check out the resources we’ve prepared to help you acclimate to the change, including an educational whitepaper and a presentation you can download to share with your clients, team, and stakeholders:

Explore more resources here

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The Goal-Based Approach to Domain Selection – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by KameronJenkins

Choosing a domain is a big deal, and there’s a lot that goes into it. Even with everything that goes into determining your URL, there are two essential questions to ask that ought to guide your decision-making: what are my goals, and what’s best for my users? In today’s edition of Whiteboard Friday, we’re beyond delighted to welcome Kameron Jenkins, our SEO Wordsmith, to the show to teach us all about how to select a domain that aligns with and supports your business goals.

Goal-based Approach to Domain Selection

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Video Transcription

Hey, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Whiteboard Friday. My name is Kameron Jenkins, and I am the SEO Wordsmith here at Moz. Today we’re going to be talking about a goals-based approach to choosing a domain type or a domain selection.

There are a lot of questions in the SEO industry right now, and as an agency, I used to work at an agency, and a lot of times our clients would ask us, “Should I do a microsite? Should I do a subdomain? Should I consolidate all my sites?” There is a lot of confusion about the SEO impact of all of these different types of domain choices, and there certainly are SEO ramifications for each type, but today we’re going to be taking a slightly different approach and focusing on goals first. What are your business goals? What are your goals for your website? What are your goals for your users? And then choosing a domain that matches those goals. By the end, instead of what’s better for SEO, we’re going to hopefully have answered, “What best suits my unique goals?”

Before we start…define!

Before we start, let’s launch into some quick definitions just so we all kind of know what we’re talking about and why all the different terminology we’re going to be using.

Main domain

Main domain, this is often called a root domain in some cases. That’s anything that precedes your dot com or other TLD. So YourSite.com, it lives right before that.

Subdomain

A subdomain is a third-level domain name for your domain. So example, Blog.YourSite.com, that would be a subdomain.

Subfolder

A subfolder, or some people call this subdirectory, those are folders trailing the dot com. An example would be YourSite.com/blog. That /blog is the folder. That’s a subfolder.


Microsite

A microsite, there’s a lot of different terminology around this type of domain selection, but it’s just a completely separate domain from your main domain. The focus is usually a little bit more niche than the topic of your main website.

That would be YourSite1.com and YourSite2.com. They’re two totally, completely separate domains.

Business goals that can impact domain structure

Next we’re going to start talking about business goals that can impact domain structure. There are a lot of different business goals. You want to grow revenue. You want more customers. But we’re specifically here going to be talking about the types of business goals that can impact domain selection.

1. Expand locations/products/services

The first one here that we’re going to talk about is the business wants to expand their locations, their products, or their services. They want to grow. They want to expand in some way. An example I like to use is say this clothing store has two locations. They have two storefronts. They have one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth.

So they launch two websites — CoolClothesDallas.com and CoolClothesFortWorth.com. But the problem with that is if you want to grow, you’re going to open stores in Austin, Houston, etc. You’ve set the precedent that you’re going to have a different domain for every single location, which is not really future-proof. It’s hard to scale. Every time you launch a brand-new website, that’s a lot of work to launch it, a lot of work to maintain it.

So if you plan on growing and getting into new locations or products or services or whatever it might be, just make sure you select a domain structure that’s going to accommodate that. In particular, I would say a main root domain with subfolders for the different products or services you have is probably the best bet for that situation. So you have YourSite.com/Product1, /Product2, and you talk about it in that sense because it’s all related. It’s all the same topic. It’s more future-proof. It’s easier to add a page than it is to launch a whole new domain.

2. Set apart distinct facets of business

So another business goal that can affect your domain structure would be that the business wants to set apart distinct facets within their business. An example I found that was actually kind of helpful is Apple.com has a subdomain for Trailers.Apple.com.

Now, I’m not Apple. I don’t really know exactly why they do this, but I have to imagine that it was because there are very different intents and uses for those different types of content that live on the subdomain versus the main site. So Trailers has movie trailers, lots of different content, and Apple.com is talking more about their consumer products, more about that type of thing.

So the audiences are slightly different. The intents are very different. In that situation, if you have a situation like that and that matches what your business is encountering, you want to set it apart, it has a different audience, you might want to consider a subdomain or maybe even a microsite. Just keep in mind that it takes effort to maintain each domain that you launch.

So make sure you have the resources to do this. You could, if you didn’t have the resources, put it all on the main domain. But if you want a little bit more separation, the different aspects of your business are very disparate and you don’t want them really associated on the same domain, you could separate it out with a subdomain or a microsite. Just, again, make sure that you have the resources to maintain it, because while both have equal ability to rank, it’s the effort that increases with each new website you launch.

3. Differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments

Three, another goal is to differentiate uniquely branded sub-departments. There is a lot of this I’ve noticed in the healthcare space. So the sites that I’ve worked on, say they have Joe Smith Health, and this is the health system, the umbrella health system. Then within that you have Joe Smith Endocrinology.

Usually those types of situations they have completely different branding. They’re in a different location. They reach a different audience, a different community. So in those situations I’ve seen that, especially healthcare, they usually have the resources to launch and maintain a completely different domain for that uniquely branded sub-department, and that might make sense.

Again, make sure you have the resources. But if it’s very, very different, whether in branding or audience or intent, than the content that’s on your main website, then I might consider separating them. Another example of this is sometimes you have a parent company and they own a lot of different companies, but that’s about where the similarities stop.

They’re just only owned by the parent company. All the different subcompanies don’t have anything to do with each other. I would probably say it’s wisest to separate those into their own unique domains. They probably definitely have unique branding. They’re totally different companies. They’re just owned by the same company. In those situations it might make sense, again, to separate them, but just know that they’re not going to have any ranking benefit for each other because they’re just completely separate domains.

4. Temporary or seasonal campaigns

The fourth business goal we’re going to talk about is a temporary or a seasonal campaign. This one is not as common, but I figured I would just mention it. Sometimes a business will want to run a conference or sponsor an event or get a lot of media attention around some initiative that’s separate from what their business does or offers, and it’s just more of an events-based, seasonal type of thing.

In those situations it might make sense to do a microsite that’s completely branded for that event. It’s not necessary. For example, Moz has MozCon, and that’s located on subfolder Moz.com/MozCon. You don’t have to do that, but it certainly is an option for you if you want to uniquely brand it.

It can also be really good for press. I’ve noticed just in my experience, I don’t know if this is widely common, but sometimes the press tends to just link to the homepage because that’s what they know. They don’t link to a specific page on your site. They don’t know always where it’s located. It’s just easier to link to the main domain. If you want to build links specifically for this event that are really relevant, you might want to do a microsite or something like that.

Just make sure that when the event is over, don’t just let it float out there and die. Especially if you build links and attention around it, make sure you 301 that back to your main website as long as that makes sense. So temporary or seasonal campaigns, that could be the way to go — microsite, subfolder. You have some options there.

5. Test out a new agency or consultant

Then finally the last goal we’re going to be talking about that could impact domain structure is testing out a new agency or consultant.

Now this one holds a special place in my heart having worked for an agency prior to this for almost seven years. It’s actually really common, and I can empathize with businesses who are in this situation. They are about to hand over their keys to their domain to a brand-new company. They don’t quite know if they trust them yet.

Especially this is concerning if a business has a really strong domain that they’ve built up over time. It can be really scary to just let someone take over your domain. In some cases I have encountered, the business goes, “Hey, we’d love to test you out. We think you’re great.However, you can’t touch the main domain.You have to do your SEO somewhere else.” That’s okay, but we’re kind of handcuffed in that situation.

You would have to, at that point, use a subdomain or a microsite, just a completely different website. If you can’t touch the main domain, you don’t really have many other options than that. You just have to launch on a brand-new thing. In that situation, it’s a little frustrating, actually quite frustrating for SEOs because they’re starting from nothing.

They have no authority inherited from that main domain. They’re starting from square one. They have to build that up over time. While that’s possible, just know that it kind of sets you back. You’re way behind the starting line in that situation with using a subdomain or a microsite, not being able to touch that main domain.

If you find yourself in this situation and you can negotiate this, just make sure that the company that’s hiring you is giving you enough time to prove the value of SEO. This is tried-and-true for a reason, but SEO is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s not pay to play like paid advertising is. In that situation, just make sure that whoever is hiring you is giving you enough time.

Enough time is kind of dependent on how competitive the goals are. If they’re asking you, “Hey, I’m going to test you out for this really, really competitive, high-volume keyword or group of keywords and you only have one month to do it,” you’re kind of set up to fail in that situation. Either ask them for more time, or I probably wouldn’t take that job. So testing out a new agency or consultant is definitely something that can impact your ability to launch on one domain type versus another.

Pitfalls!

Now that we’ve talked about all of those, I’m just going to wrap up with some pitfalls. A lot of these are going to be repeat, but just as a way of review just watch out for these things.

⃠ Failing to future-proof

Like I said earlier, if you’re planning on growing in the future, just make sure that your domain matches your future plans.

⃠ Exact-match domains

There’s nothing inherently wrong with exact-match domains. It’s just that you can’t expect to launch a microsite with a bunch of keywords that are relevant to your business in your domain and just set it and forget it and hope that the keywords in the domain alone are what’s going to get it to rank. That doesn’t work anymore. It’s not worked for a while. You have to actually proactively be adding value to that microsite.

Maybe you’ve decided that that makes sense for your business. That’s great. Just make sure that you put in the resources to make it valuable outside of just the keywords in the domain.

⃠ Over-fragmenting

One thing I like to say is, “Would you rather have 3 websites with 10 backlinks each, or 1 website with 30 backlinks?” That’s just a way to illustrate that if you don’t have the resources to equally dedicate to each of those domains or subdomains or microsites or whatever you decided to launch, it’s not going to be as strong.

Usually what I see when I evaluate a customer or a client’s domain structure, usually there is one standout domain that has all of the content, all of the authority, all of the backlinks, and then the other ones just kind of suffer and they’re usually stronger together than they are apart. So while it is totally possible to do separate websites, just make sure that you don’t fragment so much that you’re spread too thin to actually do anything effective on the SEO front.

⃠ Ignoring user experience

Look at your websites from the eyes of your users. If someone is going to go to the search results page and Google search your business name, are they going to see five websites there? That’s kind of confusing unless they’re very differently branded, different intents. They’ll probably be confused.

Like, “Is this where I go to contact your business? How about this? Is it this?” There are just a lot of different ways that can cause confusion, so just keep that in mind. Also if you have a website where you’re addressing two completely different audiences within your website — if a consumer, for example, can be browsing blouses and then somehow end up accidentally on a section that’s only for employees — that’s a little confusing for user experience.

Make sure you either gate that or make it a subdomain or a microsite. Just separate them if that would be confusing for your main user base.

⃠ Set it and forget it

Like I said, I keep repeating this just because it’s so, so important. Every type of domain has equal ability to rank. It really does.

It’s just the effort that gets harder and harder with each new website. Just make sure that you don’t just decide to do microsites and subdomains and then don’t do anything with them. That can be a totally fine choice. Just make sure that you don’t set it and forget it, that you actually have the resources and you have the ability to keep building those up.

⃠ Intent overlap between domains

The last one I’ll talk about in the pitfall department is intent overlap between domains.

I see this one actually kind of a lot. It can be like a winery. So they have tastings.winery.com or something like that. In that situation, their Tasting subdomain talks all about their wine tasting, their tasting room. It’s very focused on that niche of their business. But then on Winery.com they also have extensive content about tastings. Well, you’ve got overlap there, and you’re kind of making yourself do more work than you have to.

I would choose one or the other and not both. Just make sure that there’s no overlap there if you do choose to do separate domains, subdomains, microsites, that kind of thing. Make sure that there’s no overlap and each of them has a distinct purpose.

Two important questions to focus on:

Now that we’re to the end of this, I really want the takeaway to be these two questions. I think this will make domain selection a lot easier when you focus on these two questions.

What am I trying to accomplish? What are the goals? What am I trying to do? Just focus on that first. Then second of all, and probably most important, what is best for my users? So focus on your goals, focus on your users, and I think the domain selection process will be a lot easier. It’s not easy by any means.

There are some very complicated situations, but I think, in the end, it’s going to be a lot easier if you focus on your goals and your users. If you have any comments regarding domain selection that you think would be helpful for others to know, please share it in the comments below. That’s it for this week’s Whiteboard Friday, and come back next week for another one. Thanks everybody.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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When and How to Use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Link Count Metrics – Whiteboard Friday

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How can you effectively apply link metrics like Domain Authority and Page Authority alongside your other SEO metrics? Where and when does it make sense to take them into account, and what exactly do they mean? In today’s Whiteboard Friday, Rand answers these questions and more, arming you with the knowledge you need to better understand and execute your SEO work.

When and how to use Domain Authority, Page Authority, and link count metrics.

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re going to chat about when and how to use Domain Authority and Page Authority and link count metrics.

So many of you have written to us at Moz over the years and certainly I go to lots of conferences and events and speak to folks who are like, “Well, I’ve been measuring my link building activity with DA,” or, “Hey, I got a high DA link,” and I want to confirm when is it the right time to be using something like DA or PA or a raw link count metric, like number of linking root domains or something like Spam Score or a traffic estimation, these types of metrics.

So I’m going to walk you through kind of these three — Page Authority, Domain Authority, and linking root domains — just to get a refresher course on what they are. Page Authority and Domain Authority are actually a little complicated. So I think that’s worthwhile. Then we’ll chat about when to use which metrics. So I’ve got sort of the three primary things that people use link metrics for in the SEO world, and we’ll walk through those.

Page Authority

So to start, Page Authority is basically — you can see I’ve written a ton of different little metrics in here — linking URLs, linking root domains, MozRank, MozTrust, linking subdomains, anchor text, linking pages, followed links, no followed links, 301s, 302s, new versus old links, TLD, domain name, branded domain mentions, Spam Score, and many, many other metrics.

Basically, what PA is, is it’s every metric that we could possibly come up with from our link index all taken together and then thrown into a model with some training data. So the training data in this case, quite obviously, is Google search results, because what we want the Page Authority score to ultimately be is a predictor of how well a given page is going to rank in Google search results assuming we know nothing else about it except link data. So this is using no on-page data, no content data, no engagement or visit data, none of the patterns or branding or entity matches, just link data.

So this is everything we possibly know about a page from its link profile and the domain that page is on, and then we insert that in as the input alongside the training data. We have a machine learning model that essentially learns against Google search results and builds the best possible model it can. That model, by the way, throws away some of this stuff, because it’s not useful, and it adds in a bunch of this stuff, like vectors or various attributes of each one. So it might say, “Oh, anchor text distribution, that’s actually not useful, but Domain Authority ordered by the root domains with more than 500 links to them.” I’m making stuff up, right? But you could have those sorts of filters on this data and thus come up with very complex models, which is what machine learning is designed to do.

All we have to worry about is that this is essentially the best predictive score we can come up with based on the links. So it’s useful for a bunch of things. If we’re trying to say how well do we think this page might rank independent of all non-link factors, PA, great model. Good data for that.

Domain Authority

Domain Authority is once you have the PA model in your head and you’re sort of like, “Okay, got it, machine learning against Google’s results to produce the best predictive score for ranking in Google.” DA is just the PA model at the root domain level. So not subdomains, just root domains, which means it’s got some weirdness. It can’t, for example, say that randfishkin.blogspot.com is different than www.blogspot.com. But obviously, a link from www.blogspot.com is way more valuable than from my personal subdomain at Blogspot or Tumblr or WordPress or any of these hosted subdomains. So that’s kind of an edge case that unfortunately DA doesn’t do a great job of supporting.

What it’s good for is it’s relatively well-suited to be predictive of how a domain’s pages will rank in Google. So it removes all the page-level information, but it’s still operative at the domain level. It can be very useful for that.

Linking Root Domain

Then linking root domains is the simplest one. This is basically a count of all the unique root domains with at least one link on them that point to a given page or a site. So if I tell you that this URL A has 410 linking root domains, that basically means that there are 410 domains with at least one link pointing to URL A.

What I haven’t told you is whether they’re followed or no followed. Usually, this is a combination of those two unless it’s specified. So even a no followed link could go into the linking root domains, which is why you should always double check. If you’re using Ahrefs or Majestic or Moz and you hover on the whatever, the little question mark icon next to any given metric, it will tell you what it includes and what it doesn’t include.

When to use which metric(s)

All right. So how do we use these?

Well, for month over month link building performance, which is something that a lot of folks track, I would actually not suggest making DA your primary one. This is for a few reasons. So Moz’s index, which is the only thing currently that calculates DA or a machine learning-like model out there among the major toolsets for link data, only updates about once every month. So if you are doing your report before the DA has updated from the last link index, that can be quite frustrating.

Now, I will say we are only a few months away from a new index that’s going to replace Mozscape that will calculate DA and PA and all these other things much, much more quickly. I know that’s been something many folks have been asking for. It is on its way.

But in the meantime, what I recommend using is:

1. Linking root domains, the count of linking root domains and how that’s grown over time.

2. Organic rankings for your targeted keywords. I know this is not a direct link metric, but this really helps to tell you about the performance of how those links have been affected. So if you’re measuring month to month, it should be the case that any months you’ve got in a 20 or 30-day period, Google probably has counted and recognized within a few days of finding them, and Google is pretty good at crawling nearly the whole web within a week or two weeks. So this is going to be a reasonable proxy for how your link building campaign has helped your organic search campaign.

3. The distribution of Domain Authority. So I think, in this case, Domain Authority can be useful. It wouldn’t be my first or second choice, but I think it certainly can belong in a link building performance report. It’s helpful to see the high DA links that you’re getting. It’s a good sorting mechanism to sort of say, “These are, generally speaking, more important, more authoritative sites.”

4. Spam Score I like as well, because if you’ve been doing a lot of link building, it is the case that Domain Authority doesn’t penalize or doesn’t lower its score for a high Spam Score. It will show you, “Hey, this is an authoritative site with a lot of DA and good-looking links, but it also looks quite spammy to us.” So, for example, you might see that something has a DA of 60, but a Spam Score of 7 or 8, which might be mildly concerning. I start to really worry when you get to like 9, 10, or 11.

Second question:

I think this is something that folks ask. So they look at their own links and they say, “All right, we have these links or our competitor has these links. Which ones are providing the most value for me?” In that case, if you can get it, for example, if it’s a link pointing to you, the best one is, of course, going to be…

1. Real traffic sent. If a site or a page, a link is sending traffic to you, that is clearly of value and that’s going to be likely interpreted positively by the search engines as well.

You can also use…

2. PA

3. DA. I think it’s pretty good. These metrics are pretty good and pretty well-correlated with, relatively speaking, value, especially if you can’t get at a metric like real traffic because it’s coming from someone else’s site.

4. Linking root domains, the count of those to a page or a domain.

5. The rankings rise, in the case where a page is ranking position four, a new link coming to it is the only thing that’s changed or the only thing you’re aware of that’s changed in the last few days, few weeks, and you see a rankings rise. It moves up a few positions. That’s a pretty good proxy for, “All right, that is a valuable link.” But this is a rare case where you really can control other variables to the extent that you think you can believe in that.

6. I like Spam Scor for this as well, because then you can start to see, “Well, are these sketchier links, or are these links that I can likely trust more?”

Last one,

So I think this is one that many, many SEOs do. We have a big list of links. We’ve got 50 links that we’re thinking about, “Should I get these or not and which ones should I go after first and which ones should I not go after?” In this case…

1. DA is really quite a good metric, and that is because it’s relatively predictive of the domain’s pages’ performance in Google, which is a proxy, but a decent proxy for how it might help your site rank better.

It is the case that folks will talk about, “Hey, it tends to be the case that when I go out and I build lots of DA 70, DA 80, DA 90+ links, I often get credit. Why DA and not PA, Rand?” Well, in the case where you’re getting links, it’s very often from new pages on a website, which have not yet been assigned PA or may not have inherited all the link equity from all the internal pages.

Over time, as those pages themselves get more links, their PA will rise as well. But the reason that I generally recommend a DA for link outreach is both because of that PA/DA timing issue and because oftentimes you don’t know which page is going to give you a link from a domain. It could be a new page they haven’t created yet. It could be one that you never thought they would add you to. It might be exactly the page that you were hoping for, but it’s hard to say.

2. I think linking root domains is a very reasonable one for this, and linking root domains is certainly closely correlated, not quite as well correlated, but closely correlated with DA and with rankings.

3. Spam Score, like we’ve talked about.

4. I might use something like SimilarWeb‘s traffic estimates, especially if real traffic sent is something that I’m very interested in. If I’m pursuing no followed links or affiliate links or I just care about traffic more than I care about rank-boosting ability, SimilarWeb has got what I think is the best traffic prediction system, and so that would be the metric I look at.

So, hopefully, you now have a better understanding of DA and PA and link counts and when and where to apply them alongside which other metrics. I look forward to your questions. I’ll be happy to jump into the comments and answer. And we’ll see you again next time for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

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