Since the beginning of time, SEO metrics seem to be the name of the game! They have become quite the norm, and for anyone who deals with Expired Domains or Guest Posts, metrics are the holy grail.
While they may not be the best way to evaluate things, buyers and sellers have little to go off of when it comes to making sales or acquiring links.
The whole SEO industry revolves around DA/DR/TF etc. So, let us be really clear, metrics are just one aspect among several others that are used for evaluation purposes, however, they can be highly misleading! How? Keep on reading to find out more!
How SEO Metrics Can Be Highly Misleading
If you take SEO seriously, you should know that quality is not defined by a third-party metric. If this is your only filter, then you’re doing it wrong! Google does not consider any of these as ranking factors. While metrics do have their own place in the SEO world, relying on them solely can negatively impact your online business. Let us take you through a few examples to show you what we’re talking about.
The SEO metrics mentioned in this article were updated as of 20-1-2021. The values may change over the period of time.
DR By Ahrefs
DR or Domain Rating is a metric introduced by Ahrefs not too long ago. Like other metrics in this category, it defines the strength of a domain as a whole on a scale of 0 – 100. High DR domains are considered extremely valuable. A domain with a legitimate link profile and a DR of 40 or more usually fetches over $1000 in auctions.
Domain Rating, however, is not without its flaws. To further elaborate this point, let’s take a quick look at this domain below.
ZengyUwei.com has a DR of 49 which is considered really high! However, upon closer inspection, you’ll notice that it only has 1 Live Referring Domain, which means that all of its 171 backlinks are coming from one website! Yikes!
This is not an isolated incident, neither is it a technical error. While DR is a highly regarded metric, it is far from perfect. Let’s look at another domain that was recently sold on GoDaddy Auctions.
At first sight, InkSmallTattoos.com looks like an extremely powerful domain with over 3000 referring domains with a DR of 70 and UR (URL Rating) of 69. On the surface it looks like this domain has an insane amount of power. These metrics are no joke! If you look at the referring domains, they look quite solid as well.
These are some really high authority domains, a bunch of edu, gov, and other high DR legitimate websites. But once you look at the actual backlinks, you’ll notice a bunch of low-quality spam right away.
Virtually all of these links were acquired through blog comments and profiles. These are user-generated garbage links that have absolutely no SEO value!
Anyone could go and build these links without spending a dime! Not all self-created links are useless, but the backlink profile of this domain is horribly overstated through the SEO metrics.
Live RD vs Historic RD by Ahrefs
Ahrefs categorizes referring domains in two main sections ‘Live’ and ‘Historic’. Live RD includes websites where a backlink is currently present, whereas Historic domains are those which used to house a link but don’t anymore. Ahrefs has a bug where some live referring domains get sent to the Historic section and the link appears as dropped or lost.
It could very well be that those sites are blocking Ahrefs bots now or for some reason did not load when Ahrefs crawled them. Why is this important? Because links are how DR is calculated. A few disregarded powerful links could drastically lower a domain’s DR, even though the links are still live.
DA & Spam Score by Moz
Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Spam Score are metrics introduced by Moz. DA is arguably the most famous metric used in the SEO industry which is quite ironic since Moz has the smallest index of links for any third-party tool in the market. To add to this, DA isn’t without its flaws! It can also be easily manipulated.
To further explain this, let’s look at an example real quick. We’re going to analyze http://hpcgg.org, a DA 55 domain, and see if the link profile is actually representative of the high Domain Authority.
Right off the bat we see that this domain has 301 referring domains. If someone were to just base their decision on the following metrics, they would be setting themselves up for failure. Why? Well lets quickly analyze this domain in Ahrefs.
Ouch! Ahrefs only shows 79 live referring domains with a historical index of 216. We’re not even sure how Moz got 300+ referring domains in the first place since their index is the weakest among all other tools available in the market.
Now Ahrefs isn’t perfect either! Some of those historical links are live for sure. We checked a few and about 50% of them were still there. However, the domain does not have 300+ actual live RD as Moz indicates. This proves that the Domain Authority calculation for hpcgg.org is flawed!
While DA is still somewhat reliable, the ‘Spam Score’ metric is quite honestly a big joke! The spam score is supposedly an indication of how spammy a domain’s backlink profile is. Let’s take a look at one more domain that, according to Moz, has an insanely high spam score of 75%.
archilibre.org actually has a very solid natural link profile! Some realy nice high authority links as well as some free web 2.0 properties (legitimate ones). Not sure why Moz assigns this domain a 75% spam score since it is clearly not spammy at all!
TF & CF by Majestics
Similar to Ahrefs and Moz, Majestic has its own metrics called Trust Flow and Citation Flow. The interesting thing about these metrics is that they work a little differently. Trust Flow is more about topical relevance, so it caters to how relevant a page is in a specific niche or category while Citation Flow is a measure of the raw power (link juice) of a URL or an incoming link.
Before Ahrefs launched DR, a lot of SEOs relied on TF to weigh links. However, just like DR and DA, TF isn’t perfect either. Let’s look at this domain dlmparts.com, it has a TF of 22 and CF of 11.
While this domain may look good on the surface, once you dive in and analyze the link profile you’ll notice that it has a bunch of blogspots and forum links, with only a few actual authority links sprinkled in. In other words, this domain really isn’t that powerful and if someone were to rely only on TF, they would be in for a big surprise!
How SEO Metrics Influence the Industry
We went through a few examples of how metrics cannot be relied upon as the sole decisive factor for link or domain acquisition. While that is the case, a huge portion of the SEO industry revolves around metrics and metrics only. There is a common misconception among webmasters that high DA/DR websites will help them rank quickly. This has enabled several snake oil link sellers with artificially inflated networks to prey on uninformed webmasters looking to purchase links.
As a rule of thumb, you get what you pay for. If someone is offering a cheap link on a high DA or DR website, it should immediately raise an alarm. It is so easy to manipulate these third party metrics that there are actually gigs on Fiverr offering to do this for lower than the cost of a single viable link
Does Google Consider Third-Party SEO Metrics?
There are several websites with poor third-party metrics that rank for a large number of keywords. Google’s John Mueller himself has laid out how the company evaluates websites which is quite opposite to how SEO metrics are calculated by third-party vendors.
The truth is that metrics are based on links, which are definitely the biggest ranking signal, but link quality is something that Ahrefs, MOZ or any other company is unable to evaluate properly. This is why SEO metrics do not have a significant correlation with a website’s search performance.
Google doesn’t use the spam score.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) November 12, 2019
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) August 13, 2020
Considerations for Purchasing an Expired Domain
Expired domains can be extremely powerful if evaluated properly. While a lot of people in the industry are fixated on metrics, there is so much more to a domain than a mere score invented by another company. Let us dig into the specifics and go through a few considerations for evaluating an expired domain.
As we mentioned previously, links are the number one ranking factor. Instead of worrying about DA/PA or DR/UR, you should dive into a domain’s backlink profile and go through each link before you make a buying decision.
Contextual links coming from the body of an article through a legitimate source are the most valuable of all. If a domain has links from Wikipedia, Governmental, Educational or Editorial sources then that is a very good sign! You want to get a domain that has links that are natural or hard to acquire. Niche-relevant contextual links are also highly sought after.
If the domain has freshly expired and it is not yet registered, then you want to make sure that it is still indexed. You can do this by using this parameter (site:domain.com) on Google. If a seller has registered the domain and has been holding it for a while, then you’ll see that Google has updated its index to reflect the current home page of the domain.
The only way a good expired domain will fall out of index is if it had been expired for a while and has been recently registered or if the seller is blocking Google via robots.txt. Both of these situations are highly unlikely.
While resurrected expired domains do not necessarily gain traffic that they once had, what you want to do is evaluate their organic traffic history. If a domain belonged to a legitimate company or individual, then it must have had some sort of traffic. Make sure to look for sudden traffic drops or other anomalies since those are an indication of a penalty. The last thing you want is to acquire a domain that has either an algo based or manual penalty. The same thing applies when purchasing links. If you see a heavy drop in traffic, just run away. Regardless of how good the link profile may be, it’s just not worth it.
Archive.org is an excellent and extremely valuable resource when it comes to spam checking expired domains. You can enter a domain and get a timeline with snapshots of how the website has changed over time. Whenever you purchase an expired domain, you want to check the archive to make sure that it has not been abused before. Any big changes to the website should raise an alarm and you must dive in and investigate properly.
In the image below you can see how there’s a timeline for reddit.com with snapshots starting from 2005 when the site was first established.
Below is a snapshot of what reddit looked like in July, 2005. The good thing about archive is that it doesn’t just save a screenshot, it actually stores the website which also preserves functionality, however, it is only limited to pages that are archived.
So far we’ve addressed all the pitfalls of solely relying on SEO metrics, but we’ll end this article with how SEO metrics can actually be beneficial. If you see a legitimate site with a strong link profile and you compare it to another website that has a similar link profile, if both of those websites have metrics that differ quite a bit, then it is usually an indication that the site with stronger metrics is a more viable candidate to get a link from. Metrics come into play if the link profile is genuine and has not been manipulated artificially.
Another great use of metrics is in filtering a large list of domains. At that level, it is impossible to put every single domain under a magnifying glass. Once you apply a filter and get domains with a certain DA or DR, you can then check them manually to see which ones have not been abused and have good link profiles. This process isn’t perfect. You’ll miss some domains with lower metrics and good backlinks but going through thousands of domains manually just doesn’t make sense, does it?