There seems to be a growing debate whether Domain Authority should be used to determine which links are higher quality links and which links will be considered toxic. Many toxic links are from low quality sites with little editorial control, so they have lower domain authority. But correlation does not equal causation. Using domain authority as a primary metric to determine which links are toxic and should be removed is a potentially dangerous mistake.
What is domain authority (DA)?
According to the official SEOmoz glossary, "Domain Authority represents SEOmoz's best prediction on how a website will perform in search engine rankings" and it is calculated by "combining all other link metrics (linking root domains, number of total links, mozRank, mozTrust, etc.) into one single score." To simplify, domain authority is a measurement of a website's backlink. A toxic or high risk backlink is one that Google is likely to penalize as being manipulative. It means, the link was included primarily to manipulate search rankings, not to provide value to users. Examples of manipulative links include paid links, link exchanges, spam blogs, and low quality directories.
First Call to Action:
Make sure your links are not viewed as manipulative by Google.
What does Google use to determine if a link is manipulative?
Studies addressing which factors are associated with a natural link profile vs. what factors are associated with a Penguin (or other link based) algorithmic penalty. The factors identified were:
- Anchor text. Sites that had an overly high percentage of backlinks that used “money keywords” as anchor texts were more likely to be penalized. Natural link profiles included more branded and URL anchor texts. 2. Relevance. Sites that had an overly high percentage of backlinks from sites that were on unrelated topics were more likely to be penalized.
Why doesn't domain authority indicate whether a link is toxic or not?
- Domain Authority doesn't measure or relate to anchor text or content relevance, both of which have been linked to Penguin penalties. 2. Domain Authority doesn't relate to intent, which is what Google tends to focus on when discussing whether a link should be penalized. Domain Authority doesn't measure the most important factors which would help determine whether a link is will be penalized or not, so you could easily have a high DA backlink that is being penalized and a low DA backlink that won’t be penalized.
Examples of high DA links which could be toxic:
- A paid link on a high PageRank and/or DA website
- Keyword anchor text forum signature links on a high PageRank and/or DA website
- A sitewide link on an unrelated high PageRank and/or DA website
- A keyword anchor text sitewide link on a high PageRank and/or DA website
Examples of low DA links that could be natural:
- A link from a relevant, high quality website that is new and hasn't built much authority
- A link from a small niche website that's targeted to a specific geographic area or topic that is relevant to your website
- A link from the personal website of an expert in your industry
- A link from a small local website in your industry Don't delete links simply because they are on a site with low domain authority. It is better to have a natural, editorial link from a quality site with than an unnatural link from a site with high Domain Authority.
Use Domain Authority and common sense to determine which links need to be removed.