Whether you’re an SEO, PR or a website owner, it’s highly likely you’ve come across DA (Domain Authority). The metric, created by industry-leading platform Moz, was designed to help search marketers understand the value of a domain, at a glance and compare it with others in the same industry or niche.
This was important for SEO, third party links have long been used to understand how “trustworthy” a website is and form part of Google’s “ranking criteria” (although their importance and how this works is a hot talking point in SEO).
Moz uses their index (or understanding of the web), to map out these links between sites and, alongside other factors, try to assign a “competition” score to each website they encounter. This can then be used as a proxy to determine the value of a said site.
Note: I have nothing against Moz. This piece isn’t in any way designed to be a slight on them or their work, but further insight and context into how to use the data they provide.
The eye-opener to follower deception
Last year, Social Chain opened marketers’ eyes to the murky world of follower deception. Many brands understand the importance of influencers to the digital ecosystem, but measuring the value that someone can bring prior to working with them is difficult and time-consuming. As such, often companies rely on metrics that symbolizes “reputation”, followers, engagement, and other similar indicators. However, as Social Chain asserted, the typical signposts do not always depict a true picture and if not completely understood or manipulated, can lead to large amounts of spend being wasted.
This is a common theme with SEO. Although it’s less a question of manipulation and more a question of understanding. In 2012, Penguin, Google’s “webspam” filter was rolled-out and assigned a positive or negative value to third party links. Prior to this, “trust” was judged on an arguably simpler set of volume-based criteria, but as the flaws in the system were exploited. It soon became clear that a more complex solution was required, to ensure the integrity of search results was maintained. Trust continued to be an important factor in success, but SEO’s had to start thinking more carefully about how they generated these. Here the connection between SEO and PR became more important as links could not be artificially built they had to be earned, naturally.
The two teams started to collaborate more closely, with SEOs providing PRs extra resource to contact a “lower”, but still valuable tier of influencer and PRs helping SEOs reach the higher, more widely trusted publications that they could not access before. Over time, the lines between SEO and other channels have started to blur – and as teams were pushed to operate across remits, PRs started to use SEO metrics, with DA taking precedence (as it was arguably the simplest to use), to understand more about the people they were contacting. With investment from brands increasing, more influencers started to appear, and from this grew an industry in its own right.
Fast forward to the present day
An influencer marketer will likely sit across content, Social, PR, and SEO, with the goal of engaging personalities to improve performance across all the channels they are connected to (based on the goals of the organization/campaign). For social and PR, engagement and reach can be more easily measured. But SEO has always been complicated. This is because “good SEO” has never been about links alone and the idea of a “link value” is entirely subjective, based on factors that change between industries, counties, and even search results. As such, the idea of using a single, links-based metric to determine the value a domain can provide for SEO is inherently floored – and yet, many marketers, influencers and PR teams still continue to use DA for this purpose.
To make matters more complex, the whole link-building ecosystem has been flooded with misinformation. I discussed this in a recent webinar with SEMRush, but it’s often been the case that the wider industry’s understanding of the link building practice has come through commentators on the practice and not the experts conducting the work themselves. This means, the influencers and PR teams, and not the SEO community themselves.