11 Aug 2015

Domain Authority (DA)? Toxic Links? Never Trust the Numbers! #JimAndAnn

Google PageRank bar has been worthless for years and there are a few other companies that are indexing the web to give us the valuable information on backlinks (thank you so much!). They are also trying to come up with their own scores of each link they index.

The biggest players are Moz, Majestic and aHrefs

We love the tools and applaud them all for trying to come up with the new version of PageRank (Google hasn’t updated it close to two years), but there are some very important factors people need to keep in mind when looking at the numbers they provide:

  • Each of the three tools only has an index of a certain percentage of the web. They are unaware of billions of pages Google is aware of
  • Google is smart enough to throw out the low-quality links
  • Google has hundreds of other signals beyond links (for example, the page author trustfulness and authority, the backlink profile records, red flags / negative factors, etc etc)

Each tool has only a fraction of what Google has.

Another thing is, whenever you have a spider that’s trying to index the web, the question is how deep and wide that spider is going to crawl.

Let’s say a spider is crawling the web and lands on a school website. And there’s a page

http://teachers.notherndistrict.cliftonparkschool.ny.us/science/resources.html

That could be an incredibly valuable page but Moz, Majestic and aHrefs may be unaware of it (because when they enter the site, they can only go so many levels deep). Or maybe they have it indexed but assign the score of zero (because the page has 0-2 external backlinks to it).

The things they will miss when calculating their score is:

  • It’s a subdomain of a highly trusted site
  • It’s linked to internally so many times
  • It’s authored by Mary Smith, a trusted real teacher who may have authored a book or may have other authority signals Google knows about

Moz, Majestic and aHrefs may assign more value to a link from a blog than to a link from a real old trusted website.

They may assign a high score to a website with 10K backlinks but all of those backlinks are spam (and thus filtered out by Google)

When we go to check backlinks to any site, we use an internal tool called “The Ultimate Backlink Tool” that pulls all backlinks from Moz, Majestic and aHrefs (we’ve also experimented with the fourth one called SEOkicks) and makes a list with one URL per domain with a little chart showing if Moz knows about this backlink, if aHrefs knows about that backlink, etc…

They all get some backlinks but not all. They all miss a huge chunk of deeper web that Google has been collecting for years. Google has not been just collecting the data but they have figured out the bad stuff (that may have some negative value) and identified some good stuff (based on lots of factors beyond backlinks): None of those signals is factored into Moz, Majestic and aHrefs score.

Moz, Majestic and aHrefs are great for researching backlinks but you cannot blindly trust their score numbers.

Moz, Majestic, aHrefs are great for researching backlinks but never blindly trust their scoreClick To Tweet

So what should we look at?

We don’t have any ninja authority score at IMN… It all comes down to the manual review: Is this page real or made for SEO? Are other backlinks on this page real? Or do they have an exact-match anchor text?

You can’t really fake being real. I have been looking at pages for 16 years and I can always easily tell if the page is real.

Of course, we are looking at other factors too:

  • Does this page have an author? (Maybe in the URL, or the bottom of the page. Or maybe there’s an email address Google could associate with the person)
  • How relevant, trusted and real other links on that page are?
  • Whether this page has been penalized by Google?

But Moz, Majestic and aHrefs scores will not come into our decision at all.

If you get a link from a real K12 teacher, even if on a web page that has just a couple of backlinks, that’s gold because a teacher will consider your resource worthy of referencing to from her educational web page.

Again, we love the tools and we are thankful for what they are doing but please don’t trust the numbers. There’s more into trust, value and authority than any scores could reflect.

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