Blog Post

All About Domain Rating: Your Questions Answered



If you run a business or are responsible for executing a digital marketing strategy for a given website, you’ll need to keep a close eye on how a domain is perceived -- both by the general public and by Google through its search rankings. This can be a lot more challenging than you’d think, considering how many factors may come into play. Everything from overall user experience to optimized content can impact how a website is recognized and rewarded.

But human visitors and Google bots aren’t the only entities out there that determine the value of your website. There are also some reputable third-party tools that are able to analyze a large amount of data with the aim of providing you (or others) with information about your site.

Ahrefs' Domain Rating (or DR) does just that. This valuable metric can provide further insight into both your site and your digital marketing strategy. But what exactly is domain rating and how is it calculated? And furthermore, why does it matter? We’ll be answering all of those burning questions in our post.

What Is Domain Rating?

First, let’s talk about what Domain Rating (DR) is. It’s a metric determined by a third-party source, Ahrefs, that reveals the strength -- in both quality and size -- of a website’s backlink profile. The DR strength is measured on a logarithmic scale from one to 100, with 100 being the strongest domain rating available. “Logarithmic” means that the gap between higher DR numbers is actually larger than the gap between lower DR numbers, making it more difficult to increase your domain rating when it’s higher.

Essentially, a website’s DR is just one number that can be used to determine how “valuable” a website is or how well a digital marketing strategy is working. If you’re trying to obtain relevant backlinks to improve your own DR, having accurate information pertaining to other sites’ DRs will allow you to make better choices when executing a marketing strategy. After all, you won’t want to waste time trying to obtain backlinks from a website with an unimpressive DR or multiple links from a website with a mediocre DR, as this won’t help your own site to improve. You can also keep an eye on how your site’s DR moves over time to assess whether your strategy is being executed properly or whether you may need to pivot in order to see the results you’re after.

How Is Domain Rating Calculated?

You’ve probably heard that Google’s bots crawl websites to find out certain information that can influence ranking. Ahrefs’ DR calculations also involve web crawling in order to find out information pertaining to referring domains (e.g., websites that are linking to your own).

In simple terms, Ahrefs determines a website’s domain rating by examining how many unique domains have sent at least one do-follow link to a given website, as well as the DR values and links sent out by each of those referring domains. After that, Ahrefs will conduct some further calculations and do some coding to come up with what are called raw DR scores, which are then put onto that aforementioned scale to come up with the final domain rating.

Ahrefs takes into consideration the fact that domains with higher DRs transfer more “link juice”-- meaning that when these authoritative websites link to another website, these endorsements carry more weight than links from websites with weaker backlink profiles. The source (linking) domain will also “split” its rating equally among the domains to which it links; in other words, a website with a lower DR that links to only a few sites will actually have more influence over those sites’ DRs than a higher DR site that links to thousands of other websites.

Basically, this means that having more than one link from a given website to your own won’t help your DR, nor will a website that links to yours via a no-follow link. If a domain links to millions of other websites, that domain will transfer less “link juice” (e.g., the link won’t mean quite as much) to one of those websites. But if a given website receives more backlinks and their own DR improves, that improved DR will have a positive effect on the DR of other websites to which it has linked, assuming they’ve used do-follow links.

Keep in mind that a website’s DR can actually drop without losing backlinks. If other sites obtain a lot of high-quality backlinks, your site may be pushed down the scale as a result. Moreover, Ahrefs made some pretty major changes to how DR calculations are made last year, meaning that some sites saw huge drops in their domain ratings without any adjustments being made to their websites or their backlink profiles. According to Ahrefs, the sites that experienced these drops weren’t deserving of the higher DRs they once had; the new formula now used for DR calculations is more accurate.

Why Does Domain Rating Matter?

It’s important to note that Google does not take a website’s DR into account when determining its search ranking. In official statements, Google has maintained that the company doesn’t even have anything similar to a website authority score, so there’s no evidence to show that this kind of calculation will have an impact on where a website ranks in a Google search. Even Ahrefs doesn’t believe that the authority of a website doesn’t act as an isolated ranking factor. Further, Ahrefs has conducted experiments which have shown that a site’s URL rankings (which basically measure the DR of individual web pages, rather than entire websites) align more clearly with Google rankings than the DR of a whole website does.

That doesn’t mean that a site’s DR is useless, however. If your site has a high DR, it can actually allow you to improve your rankings in Google. A site with high-quality backlinks can take advantage of its own “link juice” through internal linking. By pointing links at its own pages, a website can retain its link juice without diminishing its DR -- and since this can also help with SEO, it’s entirely possible that your DR can end up improving your search ranking in Google.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and there are hundreds of other factors that will determine where your site ranks in search. Knowing more about another website’s DR can also allow you to execute a better link building strategy, which can help you build connections and potentially improve your search ranking in other ways. It’s merely one piece of the puzzle -- but it’s one you shouldn’t overlook.

Which Tools Are Used to Determine Domain Rating?

Although there are a number of third-party tools you can use to determine the authority of a website, there are a couple that are used more than others. For example, Moz developed a Domain Authority tool, which works a bit differently from Ahrefs’ Domain Rating. While Moz claims that its DA will “predict how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs),” it does likely use more data than backlinks to determine its final score. But like the Ahrefs DR calculation, Moz’s system also works on a 100-point logarithmic scale.

According to experts, Ahrefs performs a more comprehensive website crawl than other third-party services use. In addition, Ahrefs doesn’t claim to “predict” how well a site will perform in a Google search; instead, their tool reveals how popular a website is and how valuable the backlinks a site obtains really are. In that sense, Ahrefs is more transparent about its process than other options. That said, some people will refer to both DR and DA to gain as much information as possible -- though this can be confusing in some situations.

Ultimately, we use Ahrefs to determine the Domain Rating of websites in order to gain a comprehensive overview of client websites, referring domains, and competitor sites. We feel Ahrefs provides more detail while letting those results speak for themselves, rather than speculating about how a site’s search rankings might be impacted. And while the DR of a website certainly isn’t the only factor we take into consideration when developing a digital marketing strategy, it’s definitely one we don’t ignore. By using this top-rated tool, we’re able to gain more insight into the health of a campaign and the value of a given website, which allows us to customize plans that lead to noticeable results.

Have more questions about Domain Rating or how this information is used to help businesses grow? Leave your comments below!