Why using one SEO metric isn’t smart for link building in 2021

Since April 2016 when the PageRank tool bar was retired, the chosen metric for many has been Moz.com’s Domain Authority (commonly known as “DA”) – especially for bulk link builders – and its been useful for getting a rough idea of how a site ‘could be’ viewed by Google but do you know how it should be used?

The Linkologists aim to build links that only make a positive impact so we’ve formulated a new approach for checking websites that uses DA properly. It is faster and more logical than using the common ‘high DA’ only model  >>>

>>> It’s a mixed metric approach which we have found offers a way to build a safer, more powerful backlink profile – if you are still assessing links based on DA alone or are new to link building, then this guide is written for you.

Why using Moz DA in isolation is madness

DA in it’s current form is okay if used properly. With the 2019 DA update it is going to be a way more useful metric BUT applying it in isolation is still as dangerous as judging a car’s worth by the paint job. Marketers need to understand what DA is (and isn’t) useful for and how it fits in the context of other metrics. Somehow, the entire SEO industry got hung up on DA so we’re pumped that mixed metrics (which we’ve always promoted) is going to be the way to go.

Moz have said themselves that DA is not to be used alone and that it has never been a reliable metric for understanding how much a link from one site to another will improve its rankings (you can read about that here). Our mission is to use the updated Moz DA scoring alongside other powerful metrics like Ahrefs Domain Rating, Majestic TrustFlow and estimated traffic scores to find sites with real value.


Taking a ‘high DA only’ approach to link building is even crazier

Why would you solely rely on links from a relatively small pool of websites based on the assignment of a high DA score?

Ruling out sites based on low DA is an approach that increases costs unnecessarily and is way too narrow meaning perfectly decent link opportunities are missed. There is a better way but there are obstacles…

The real problem the SEO industry has is obvious
Few people outside of Google have statistically significant evidence of what actually works.

There are some well researched studies by people like Tim Soulo at Ahrefs and Brian Dean of Backlinko, People like this are constantly testing the theories and it helps us all...

...but the truth is that regardless of what anyone says, the knowledge available outside of Google and its method is thin at best. The web is huge and nobody has the resources to unravel how Google performs the analysis of billions of sites and then ranks them – everyone is still just guessing.

Unfortunately, this gap is reflected in the diverse range of tools available for marketers to assess sites – how many metrics do you look at when selecting sites and which ones do you fully understand and trust?

Everybody is still making it up

As an agency we get approached by clients to find sites using crazy mixes of metrics, often without any rational justification.

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This lack of a standard approach has created a situation where few marketers have a clue how to score sites with any confidence. It’s no wonder they look to tool developers for guidance and this combined with laziness is where the problem has got worse.

The need for a quick method of filtering sites has overtaken rational thinking and the metric with the biggest budget and/or the smartest marketers naturally gained popularity. Currently it’s Moz’s DA but Majestic TrustFlow and Ahrefs Domain Rating have ever growing numbers of disciples too.

This complacency or blind loyalty to one or the other metric is going to be very costly for some.

The obvious danger of relying on one SEO tool
Tool developers don't have access to Google’s algorithm so where is the best knowledge coming from?
  • Is Google a good source?

    Everyone listens very closely to Google, but they provide vague, ambiguous guidelines and press releases. These may be designed to cloud judgement or it could show a lack of clarity within their organisation (big secrets are best kept by compartmentalising information - think Roswell). Either way it’s a cloudy picture.

  • SEO expert opinions

    We all know one. They wear different coloured hats and have polarised opinions. Some hate SEO metrics and others live for them. At the end of the day both camps have valid knowledge and this feeds into the overall picture. Snippets of information posted by people like Gary Illyes and his predecessor Matt Cutts, are picked up by 'SEO experts' which only confounds the misinformation problem. Who can you trust?

  • SEO rumours

    And from the experts come the SEO rumours which spread fast, but they are like Chinese whispers which quickly become truths because there are no authority sources to regulate information and keep it all in check. Do EMD's still work? Is guest posting dead? Is DA the new PageRank? Are links or content more important? You decide.

  • The tool providers own research

    The tool providers analyse websites using best guesses based on reading patents, analysing connections between sites, content, I.P. addresses and plenty of other factors. Because they actually collect data I'd say that their opinions are the most robust we've got...but ultimately they don't 'know' how it all works either.

  • In summary

    Deciding which metrics are worth adopting is not easy so we've gone for a multi metric approach. The challenge is which ones to adopt and how best to use their data.

Is there a smarter way to use SEO tools?
Before we answer let’s get something out in the open...

We use the moniker ‘Linkologists’ because we try to study link building, make sense of how it works and provide a service based on fairly assessing links for SEO campaigns.

We are not scientists, developers or mathematicians ourselves (although we work with some clever ones), but are link builders trying to do an effective job without being paralysed by the fear that Google’s (understandably) clandestine approach to the search business creates.

We use the same tools that are available to you, but we try to use them in better ways because that’s our job.

To answer the question ‘is there a better way to use the better SEO tools?’ we’ve first had to choose the right tools.

We can’t categorically prove what tools are best, but there are clear market leaders (I appreciate marketing budgets play a part here) and there’s arguably enough technical information for an experienced SEO to make an informed decision.

The key to getting the best from them is understanding the potential power (and limitations) of each tool, then giving them a weighting using the combined metrics to achieve a balanced view of the opportunity a website may offer.

Is mixing up SEO metrics the answer?
Yes, in our opinion a mixed metric approach is the way forward, but done the right way.

We find that creative SEO’s use their own mix of a few metrics such as Majestic TrustFlow/Citation Flow, Ahrefs Domain Rating and traffic scores for initial filtering. They then use other factors like location, relevance and U/X to narrow down the best opportunities which makes sense.

We wanted to systemize this approach to asses sites quickly for our clients so. We’ve found that using a mixed formula is better than scoring with just DA because when each metric is weighted correctly it opens up the number of opportunities, which lowers your costs.

Additionally, if a tool has a major update like Moz is doing soon with DA, we can adjust the value of that metric easily.

The right blend of metrics gets the right results
The best link builders we've worked with use a mix of SEO (DA, TF etc.) and quality metrics (U/X) combined with common sense to make clever site choices. Here's how...

They make sure that the best sites score well on at least one domain metric like Moz DA or Ahrefs DR and either the traffic or keyword visibility metrics score well too.

They don’t throw out a site that has good traffic but low DA (which is common practice right now!) and dump high DA with very low traffic.

They focus on stronger page relevance and work hard on the quality of the content they are linking from and to.

By being flexible with the metrics smart link builders adjust their risk and increase value for money so that sites that would blindly be rejected for low DA are accepted because they have other important qualities like decent TrustFlow and relevant content. This open minded, flexible approach to using metrics to assess sites inspired us to develop our own formula which I’ll reveal next…

Welcome to 'M-Flux', the site assessment formula for 2021 and beyond

  • Not another metric I hear you say

    I agree 100%, the market is saturated with tools and metrics but that doesn’t mean we should all get lazy and settle for whatever we were told 2 years ago or follow whatever everyone else is doing.

    The standard ‘DA only’ approach to assessing links has been around too long and a change is overdue.

    SEO is about challenging paradigms and changing the approach when it’s needed to stay ahead of the curve and we’re ready.

  • Link building methods change fast - and yours should to

    Google has layered up multiple game changing algorithm updates meaning the playing field is very different to a decade ago (or even a few years back!) so being open to new approaches is paramount.

    Our goal is to significantly improve upon the one metric mentality, we have not attempted to undermine individual metrics like DA, but to use them in a way that gives a fairer assessment of sites.

    The one metric approach has to be retired or else we are all heading towards higher costs and fewer opportunities.

  • How M-Flux was developed

    As I’ve said, most of the SEO metrics we’ve used have their merits, so we wanted to employ the best of them in a multi-metric assessment formula.

    To achieve this, we considered how Google assesses sites using the information available from them.

    We then matched up those algorithmic factors to the tools that best measure those qualities and data points.

    Not an easy task when you consider that three main pillars of SEO – which are simply put traffic, user experience / content and backlinks – all involve multiple other factors but we narrowed it down!

    We were also hugely mindful that all tools can be manipulated and data can be interpreted differently but like I said, we weren’t aiming for the best, just much better.

What tools and metrics did we use for M-Flux?
Over the last 13 years we've used virtually every SEO tool on the market. We settled on paying for those that constantly demonstrate a commitment to evolving. Tools that provide users with easy to grasp metrics borne from rigorous research get our green light.

We started with considering what needed measuring…

Estimated organic traffic, user experience, content quality and the strength of a backlink profile are *probably the best indicators of whether a site is fit for link building.

*The truth is (sorry if  we’re labouring this point) that no tools have access to Google’s algorithm so are open to degrees of manipulation but would you rather navigate a minefield with half a map or no map at all?

We avoided tools that over complicate site and link analysis by referring to Einstein’s quote “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler” and the best tools do that.


  •   Ahrefs
  •   SEMRush
  •   Majestic
  •   Moz.com
Why we chose these tools and metrics for M-Flux
We wanted to create a scoring system where sites score well using the more trusted metrics so that the risk of choosing an inferior site is lowered significantly. These guys made the cut...

Organic Traffic: SEMRush estimated organic traffic

Sites that get traffic are ranking for keywords which means they are being crawled and ranked therefore reflecting some degree of trust with Google. We refer to Ahrefs traffic too as a solid backup.

Backlink quality: Ahrefs Domain Rating (DR), Majestic TrustFlow (TF), Moz.com Domain Authority (DA 2.0)

These tools work hard to filter spam and score sites based largely on link quality and are possibly the best we have for this job. We use all of these with a range of weighted values in our mix.

Site quality: Our 22-point human review plus Moz spam score

Nothing beats a ‘Linkologist’ for site quality reviews and it’s what low-end link builders don’t do because it takes time. The fact Google looks at these factors is well documented so we do too. Moz spam score until it is integrated.

Why M-Flux will get you way ahead of the competition without spending more

M-Flux is a unique approach that replaces the costly 'one metric obsession' with intelligent site analysis using the best of the tools available.

M-Flux offers you an easier, faster way to manage customised link building that provides better linking opportunities.

M-Flux keeps your spending under control because your campaigns don't have to focus on finding high DA only sites.

Want to get started now?

Get in touch now to get your M-Flux questions answered and start ranking better!

Contact George@linkologists.com for pricing and more information or use the live chat over there.

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