It seems like there’s always a new “must-have” metric that SEOs are supposed to focus on every other year. First, it was Domain Rating (DR), and now it is search intent. But what if I told you Domain Rating is overhyped and search traffic is what you should focus on?
DR is a metric created by Ahref that is meant to predict how well a website will rank on search engines. It’s just a number that Ahref came up with that has nothing to do with actual SERP results. You are better off focusing on search engine rankings and traffic than Ahref’s guesstimate.
This article will show why Domain Rating is overhyped and how you can better focus on search traffic to improve your SEO.
Why Search Traffic is More Important than Domain Rating
Here’s the thing:
Google does not use DR as a ranking factor. The engine has a top-secret algorithm that it uses to rank websites. It checks for things like content, backlinks, and user engagement.
This is not to say that DR is entirely useless – it can be a valuable metric that shows whether your SEO efforts are working. You should not obsess over it or make decisions based on DR alone. Instead, focus on actual search engine rankings and traffic. Here’s why:
1. Search Rankings are the Only Thing that Matters
Your position in the SERPS is the only thing that matters. If you are not ranking well, you will not get any meaningful organic traffic, no matter how good your DR is.
Let’s say you have a website with a DR of 50. That’s great! But this can happen if you wrote several value-packed articles that got link juice from high DR domains. That means the rest of your site, including the home page, does not get much traffic.
Then there is another website with a DR of 40. That’s not as good as a DR of 50, but if the site ranks well for a bunch of keywords, you’ll get a lot of organic traffic.
2. The Idea Behind Domain Rating is Flawed
Domain Rating is not a perfect metric.
For one, DR is entirely reliant on links. Ahref rewards websites with a high DR if they have a lot of high-quality backlinks. This rating reduces depending on the quality and quantity of links pointing to your site.
This means that websites with many links can have a high DR even if they are not ranking well. And websites with a low DR can still rank well if they have a few high-quality links.
This also means that Domain Rating is biased towards older websites. These sites are more likely to have built up an extensive link profile, resulting in a higher DR. But this does not necessarily mean they are better. Newer sites can often be much better than older ones, even with lower DR.
3. Domain Rating is Not Updated in Real-Time
Domain Rating is not updated in real-time, so it’s not an accurate representation of your website’s current link profile.
Ahrefs, the company that created Domain Rating, updates its link database every 15 minutes. But the crawler cannot read the entire internet in this short time. It takes 60 days to update the link database fully. During this time, some sites will be updated 60 times and others just once, depending on their Ahref rank.
So if a low DR website suddenly gets a lot of new links, its DR will not reflect this until the next update.
This can be frustrating if you’re trying to track your SEO progress over time. You might think your backlinks are no good, but in reality, your link profile has changed, and you should see a steady increase in organic traffic.
How to Use Search Traffic to Improve Your Rankings
Now that you know why search traffic is a better metric to focus on than Domain Rating let’s look at how you can use it to improve your website’s ranking.
1. Find High-Traffic Keywords in Your Niche
The first step is to find out what keywords you should be targeting. You can do this using a keyword research tool like Google Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest.
Once you have a list of target keywords, track your search traffic for each keyword over time. This will give you a good idea of which keywords are worth your time and which are not.
However, it is worth noting that some keywords are seasonal. For example, “Christmas gifts” will have a lot of search traffic between November and December but almost none at other times of the year.
So, targeting seasonal keywords can be a good strategy, but you need to be aware that traffic will fluctuate throughout the year.
2. Optimize Your Website for Your Target Keywords
Once you know which keywords are worth your time, you need to optimize your website for those keywords. There are a few different ways to do this:
- Write helpful articles
- Use the target keyword in your page title and meta description
- Use the target keyword in your H1 tag and throughout the page content
- Optimize your images for the target keyword
- Add internal links to your page from other pages on your website
A tool like Surfer SEO will help you optimize your articles with over 90% accuracy. Imagine accessing your competitor’s keyword count, article length, and more. Think of it as a cheat sheet that helps you identify what you need to do better than your competition.
3. Build High-Quality Backlinks to Your Page
Google might admit it, but backlinks are among the most important ranking factors. The more high-quality backlinks you have pointing to your page, the higher your page will rank.
There are a few different ways to build backlinks:
- Guest posting: Write helpful articles on other websites in your niche and include a link to your site.
- Broken link building: Find websites with broken links pointing to them and offer to replace them with a link to your website.
- Resource page link building: Find websites with resource pages in your niche and offer to add your website to the resource list.
We have had great success with resource page linking and broken link building. But you need to have an established site to get any meaningful links. So, if you’re just starting out, we recommend guest posting, as it is a lot easier and can still be quite effective.
4. Monitor Your Search Traffic Over Time
Finally, you should monitor your search traffic as you implement changes. This will give you a good idea of whether your SEO efforts are paying off. You will also know which ones are moving the needle the most.
If you see a sudden drop in traffic, it could signal that something is wrong with your website. For example, you might have been hit by a Google penalty for linking to a bunch of spammy sites.
If you see a spike, it’s likely that you finally got that juicy link you’ve always wanted, but it is not showing up on Ahref yet. This is a good time to celebrate!
How to Check Your Search Traffic
There are a few different ways to check your search traffic. The easiest way is to use Google Analytics.
If you don’t have Google Analytics installed on your website, you can sign up for a free account here. Once you have an account, you should add your website and follow the instructions to install the tracking code on your site.
Once you have Google Analytics installed, you can go to the “Acquisition” tab and click on “Overview.” This will show you how much traffic your website gets from organic searches.
You can also use Ahrefs or SEMrush to check your search traffic. These are paid tools, but they offer a free/cheap trial, so you can try them out before you decide whether a subscription is worth it.
This data is valuable to website owners because it shows which SEO efforts are working.
How to Improve Your Website’s User Experience
User experience is everything these days. If your website is difficult to use or navigate, people will bounce, and Google will penalize you for that. That’s why you want to stay on top of this touchy issue.
Here are a few ways to improve your website’s user experience:
- Use clear and concise page titles and meta descriptions
- Use easy-to-understand language throughout your website
- Optimize your website for mobile devices
- Use internal links to help people navigate your website
- Use external links to link to other relevant websites
While focusing on search traffic and Domain Rating (DR) is important, we think focusing on search traffic is more important. After all, if you have high-quality backlinks, but everyone is bouncing off your site, what good are they?
Conversely, if you have a low DR rating but a ton of organic search traffic, you’re doing something right. So, don’t get discouraged if you don’t have a high DR rating. Just keep focusing on creating valuable content and building high-quality backlinks. Your ranking will improve over time.