Most Ahrefs users know the importance of Domain Rating (DR) in Ahrefs. In fact, DR is their most prominent metric. Like many people in the SEO field, checking DR on Ahrefs has probably become a ritual for you. You feel elation when the DR raises, and become nervous whenever it drops, even if it’s only by a couple of points.
If this sounds like you, then you’ll be excited to hear that Ahrefs is going to begin using an improved, brand-new formula to calculate Domain Rating.
One of the largest changes you’ll see will be that many websites which only have a Domain Rating of 30 to 50 will now have a DR of 0. The vast majority of websites with this ranking achieved it by tricking the Ahrefs DR calculation to make it seem like they had authority using large numbers of sketchy backlinks. Not anymore. With this new DR calculation, quality supersedes quantity, leading to far more reliable DR than what is currently available.
Naturally, this change might make Ahrefs users nervous, but from the information they provided, it looks like there is no need to panic. Ahrefs should be better than ever. Rest assured, the Domain Rating drop doesn’t have to do with your website search engine rank. It only has to do with the new way Ahrefs calculates DR.
Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to be informed about Domain Rating in Ahrefs new calculation to help put your mind at ease and help you incorporate DR into your workflows.
If you read on, you’ll learn:
- What is Domain Rating (DR)?
- Is There a Connection Between Ahrefs’ Rank and Domain Rating?
- How Does Ahrefs Calculate Domain Rating Now?
- How to Make Sense of Ahrefs’ New Domain Rating Scores
- Can Domain Rating Determine the Legitimacy of a Website?
- Domain Ratings and Subdomains
- Does Ahrefs Use Domain Rating When Crawling the Web?
- Do Google’s Algorithms Use Domain Rating Like Ahrefs?
- Is There Any Correlation Between Search Traffic and Domain Rating?
If you don’t know what Ahrefs is, we recommend you read this article before you continue. For those already familiar, let’s take a look.
What is Domain Rating (DR)?
Domain Rating is a metric Ahrefs uses to show how strong a website’s backlink profile is, both qualitatively and quantitatively. Measured logarithmically, Ahrefs uses a scale from 0 to 100 to quantify the rating, with 0 as the weakest and 100 as the strongest.
The logarithmic scale Ahrefs utilizes means that the higher the DR rating becomes, gaining DR points will become more challenging. For example, going from 19 to 20 will be easier than getting from 89 to 90.
Is There a Connection Between Ahrefs’ Rank and Domain Rating?
The short answer is yes, they are practically the same thing.
A website’s “raw” DR contributes to how Ahrefs Rank orders a website in their database. While these two metrics are incredibly similar, each one fills in a gap the other one has.
For example, let’s say the Domain Rating of three websites is at 89. Logic would dictate that, despite having the same DR, one must be stronger than the others since each website will have collected different backlinks.
Now, hypothetically, let’s say you looked at the Ahrefs rank for each website:
The first website has an Ahrefs Rank of 305, making it the strongest.
The second website has an Ahrefs Rank of 304.
The third website has a rank of 303, making it the weakest.
This is despite each of the websites having a DR of 89. On the other hand, the Ahrefs Rank doesn’t show the “gaps” in the three websites’ backlinks. The Domain Rating will allow you to see the differences in the backlink profiles. The Ahrefs Rank and DR to complement the other.
How Does Ahrefs Calculate Domain Rating Now?
With Ahrefs’ new Domain Rating calculation, they calculate DR in the following way:
- First, see the number of unique domains which have 1 or more “donotfollow” links to the target site.
- Take note of the Domain Rating values for each of the linking domains.
- Take into account the number of unique domains that each website links to.
- Calculate the “raw” Domain Rating values.
- Plot the values on a scale of 0 to 100, and make sure the scale is dynamic and “stretches” over time.
If this is difficult to follow, let’s reframe the information like this:
Multiple links from the same website does not improve the Domain Rating value of the target website. Under the new calculations, the more unique websites the target website has links to, the less value the DR will transfer to each website.
In addition, if a website only links to you through “nofollow” links, your Domain Rating will not increase. Whenever a linking website’s DR increases from procuring more backlinks, each website they’ve linked to which have “dofollow” links will have their DR positively affected.
While this is a highly simplified way of explaining it, this should help you understand the basics of the new DR calculation and how it will affect you.
I Didn’t Lose a Single One of My Backlinks, and My DR Still Dropped.
This is a natural part of DR, and occurs when another website has gained many more backlinks. If a website has a DR rating of 100, Ahrefs does not raise it to a score of 101 or higher when they get more backlinks. Instead, it lowers the ranking of the other websites.
Why is My Competitor’s DR Higher Than Mine When His Backlinks Have Low DR Ratings?
If a website with a high DR links to hundreds of different websites, then their links are worth less to the new calculation. If a website with a lower DR rating links to only a small number of websites, then Ahrefs considers those links to be worth more. This is because if a website is giving out thousands of backlinks to anyone, then it isn’t that valuable in the new calculation because of the ease of acquiring the backlink.
How to Make Sense of Ahrefs’ New Domain Rating Scores
Now that you understand how Ahrefs plans to calculate DR, you can begin to make sense of their new Domain Rating scores.
To achieve this, however, you should first know some average metrics. Specifically, you need to know the number of websites in each Domain Rating “bucket.”
To begin, here is the number of websites in each DR “bucket,” to give you an idea of how many websites you’re going up against in each DR “bucket.” Please note that “mammoth websites” such as Google and Facebook have a DR of 100, just to give you a sense of scale.
DR 80–100: 863 domains
DR 60–80: 7,610 domains
DR 40–60: 72,409 domains
DR 20–40: 883,352 domains
DR 0–20: 172,788,000 domains
With these numbers in mind, you might be wondering the amount of referring domains needed to reach a certain DR score. As stated previously, it is less about the quantity of referring domains, but here is roughly the amount needed to achieve a certain score.
DR 80–100: 335,717 referring domains
DR 60–80: 25,638 referring domains
DR 40–60: 4,212 referring domains
DR 20–40: 603 referring domains
DR 0–20: 20 referring domains
These are, however, merely rough estimations provided by Ahrefs. Hopefully, though, they can help you better understand the new scores for Domain Rating.
Can Domain Rating Determine the Legitimacy of a Website?
One hot-button issue among the SEO community is the discussion of spammy or bad links. Should you constantly monitor and carefully curate your backlink collection to ensure you have no suspicious backlinks? Will knowing the DR help you remove these questionable links from your profile? Should I avoid procuring backlinks from websites which have a domain rating of less that 20? What about pages with a domain rating of 10 or less?
Ahrefs is not in the business of SEO, or of dealing with suspicious links. With that said, they do have one definitive answer to the question of if there is a link between low domain rating and spam websites.
In short: no.
Domain Rating cannot measure if a website is legitimate or not. It is one metric, and one metric alone usually can’t determine how spammy a website is. A low DR could just mean that the website is new. If you were to start a new website, you might only have a couple of backlinks starting off. Ahrefs might only score it with a DR of 2 or 3. That doesn’t mean your website is spam web users avoid. It’s just too new to have built a large, strong backlink profile, so naturally it’s DR score will be low.
If a website has thousands of referring domains, and yet still has a low Domain Rating, then they probably are only linking weak domains which lack authority. In cases such as this, you can manually check each of the backlinks to see whether or not they are spammy.
When you browse them, ask yourself a few questions:
Is the page high quality?
Does the page look natural, or does it look artificial?
Where is the link located, and are visitors likely to click on it?
Are there other outgoing links?
Is there manipulative anchor text?
… And so on.
There are other factors to consider, but if you ask yourself these questions, you are more likely to avoid spam.
Domain Ratings and Subdomains
Since many websites now use WordPress to create their webpages, let’s take a look at WordPress.org and codex.WordPress.org (a subdomain of WordPress.org). When you examine their DR scores, you will see they both have a Domain Rating of 100.
If you look at WordPress.com and discover.WordPress.com, however, you will see WordPress.com has a Domain Rating of 98 and discover.WordPress.com has a Domain Rating of 42. While this might seem strange at first, there is a perfectly logical explanation. Ahrefs doesn’t let service root domains pass their own Domain Ratings to the subdomains because these websites where anyone could create a subdomain for their own purposes. Tumblr.com, wikispaces.com, and blogspot.com are good examples of this.
Different people create their own blogs or pages which will usually have content different from the main website. Therefore, it makes sense that Ahrefs wouldn’t pass on the main website’s Domain Rating to the subdomain. This is one of the ways Ahrefs Domain Rating is different from the Domain Authority of Moz.
Does Ahrefs Use Domain Rating When Crawling the Web?
Ahrefs does use DR for their web crawlers to help them determine how many of that website’s pages to crawl.
As a hypothetical example, Ahrefs’ web crawlers might crawl 1000 or so URLs for a website with a Domain Rating of 10. For a website with a Domain Rating of 60, however, they could crawl an upwards of 10,000,000 URLs. (Remember, that these numbers are only here for the sake of example and are entirely arbitrary). Nonetheless, it gives you an idea.
The web is a crazy, messy place, full of sketchy websites which create millions of pages. By having a limit of how deep the crawlers will go prevents Ahrefs from wasting time and resources crawling through unnecessary spam.
You might be wondering if search engines, such as Google, implement something like this for their web crawlers. It is hard to say. Google is highly secretive about their algorithms, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they did use something like what Ahrefs uses.
Do Google’s Algorithms Use Domain Rating Like Ahrefs?
Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller claimed that Google does not make use of a website authority score.
They claim that their algorithms, such as PageRank, calculate scores per webpage, rather than scoring an entire domain. Mueller has said in the past, however, that Google does have something in their algorithms which can examine the overall website.
This statement seemingly contradicts his claim that Google doesn’t use any sort of website authority score. Which is it then? According to Ahrefs, website authority is not an isolated factor when it comes to ranking websites. It is more complicated than that.
If you were to make a webpage which lacked any internal links (AKA an orphan page), even if It was on a website with a high Domain Rating, Google wouldn’t just go ahead and rank the webpage. If you began adding internal links from other pages on this website, there is a chance it could begin to rank higher on Google.
Some SEO experts have tested this theory. One in particular, Kyle Roof, experimented with this idea, and found that orphan pages were not immediately ranked just because they were on a website which had a high Domain Rating. With these results, it would seem that a Domain Rating in and of itself is not helpful for automatic high search engine rankings.
This begs the question, however, of why it just so happens that high-DR websites are usually ranked above low-DR websites when searched.
Usually, webpages on high Domain Rating websites are what Ahrefs considers authoritative because of their internal linking. This is good news, since this means you could potentially outrank high-DR websites if you improve your webpage’s authority by adding internal links and backlinks.
Ahrefs conducted an experiment of their own to verify this theory that internal links factor into search result ranking. Interestingly, they found a pattern in their study. Through their research, Ahrefs discovered that some top-ranked pages had internal links from their website’s high authority pages. The websites which ranked below them, tended to have fewer internal links. While, admittedly, correlation does not equal causation, it certainly seems like it wouldn’t hurt to include more internal links from authoritative pages to increase your ranking.
Now, you might be wondering if this means a page with low DR can outrank a page with high DR. Yes, it is absolutely possible. With that said, you will need to take some steps first. Make sure to build a collection of high quality backlinks, and have more than one of the competing websites with a high Domain Rating.
Also, make sure to do the same for your internal links. Finally, create good, strong content. Just make it more relevant to a searcher’s intent, and better quality than your competition’s content.
Is There Any Correlation Between Search Traffic and Domain Rating?
Yes, actually, there is a correlation between search traffic and your website’s Domain Rating.
Whenever your website has a high Domain Rating, you probably have many other websites linking back to it. Low Domain Rating would be the opposite, with very few or no website pointing back to yours.
The more backlinks you have from other websites, the higher you’ll appear in search results, which in turn will generate more organic traffic for your website.
Bear in mind, though, that a strong backlink profile is not the only determining factor in the amount of traffic your website will generate. You need quality content which targets certain keywords pertaining to your website, so your website will rank in relevant search queries.
As you can see, the changes coming to Ahrefs should all be for the better. Time will tell, but we are remaining optimistic. While your Domain Rating might change, you should have a much more accurate picture of your DR, and how you can improve it. This all might seem daunting, but if you take it one step at a time, you’ll be amazed to see how your website’s traffic improves.