A Deep Dive into DR

30 November 2020
by Archie Williamson
5 mins
A Deep Dive into DR

If you’re working hard to raise the profile of your site on search engines, it’s vital that you understand your domain rating (DR). Put simply, this is a measure of how well the site’s backlinks are working for you. It lets you know how your site compares with others – including competitors – and helps you to identify linking opportunities that improve it.

Calculated by Ahrefs, DR is the result of an ongoing process, which means it’s constantly changing. You can use it to keep an eye on competitors and make sure they’re not edging you out. In combination with other SEO metrics, it helps you to build and maintain an advantage that will increase your visibility, your traffic and, ultimately, your sales.

How DR is calculated

There are a lot of myths about DR. The truth is that it’s nothing to do with your outgoing links and it isn’t affected by link spam. It’s a straightforward measure based on three things:

  • How many unique domains have dofollow links to yours.
  • The DR of each of those unique domains.
  • The number of other unique domains each of them links to.

You can imagine this in terms of marbles. If a site has high DR, it has a lot of marbles. If yours is the only site it links to, you’ll get a lot of marbles too. If, however, it links to 20 sites, you’ll only get one-twentieth share of all the marbles it has to give out. You could be more successful by getting links from several smaller sites which have fewer marbles to begin with but, by linking to fewer others, will give you a higher proportion of what they do have.

What this means is that while it might seem great to get a link from a site like BBC News, which has a very high domain rating because lots of sites link to it, the fact that it, in turn, links to lots of sites means that you won’t get a very big boost from it. This mirrors the fact that search engines no longer rank sites highly based on just one or two links from high-quality sites. They’re trying to assess your authority within your field, and the best way to signal that through links is to be one of the very few sites that the developers of another highly-rated site consider important.

How does the DR scale work?

DR is presented on a logarithmic scale. Although it runs from 1 to 100, sites are not evenly distributed along it. At the very top end of the scale, you’ll find household names like Google, Facebook and Amazon. The majority of other sites have ratings between 0 and 30. If they were represented on a linear scale, it would be challenging to get a clear picture of how they compare to one another, as often the difference between them would be just a fraction of a whole integer.

A rating between 20 and 30 does not mean that your site is doing poorly. In fact, it could still be the most successful in your industry. For most purposes, what matters is not how you compare to giant corporations but how you compare to your competitors. If you work hard, it’s relatively easy to improve your rating at the lower end of the scale. The higher that rating gets, the harder it is to keep on raising it.

DR vs. DA

If you’re familiar with Moz, you’ve probably been using DA (Domain Authority) to measure your comparative success in the past. It’s not a bad metric by any means. At their core, both DA and DR are attempting to emulate the Authority Score that Google gives to your site, but of course the real algorithm for this is a jealously guarded secret.

Here at Atlas, however, we prefer DR. Why? For a start, DA scores can be as much as three days out of date, whereas DR lets us monitor changes in something much closer to real-time. AHRefs’ web crawler is the second most active crawler after Google themselves, beating out not only other SEO tools but entire search engines such as Bing, Yandex and Baidu.

DA is less transparent than DR. In addition, it’s based on multiple factors with varying weights, so it’s less direct when it comes to working out how you can tweak your site to make it more successful. When setting up an experiment, scientists try to strip away as many additional variables as they can so that they can get a clear picture of what’s influencing what, and this is what DR lets you do. You’ll need to consider other ranking factors as well as you develop your SEO strategy, but the more clearly you can see how each factor contributes, the less messy the ordeal becomes.


With hundreds of thousands of websites out there, your DR number isn’t a very useful metric by which to assess your overall significance. What it is useful for is comparing yourself with your competitors. If they rate better than you, you’ll have a clear understanding of why. You can then explore their backlinks and see if you could get links from some of the same places in order to dilute their DR and increase yours. It can be a time-consuming process, but if you’re only just starting out and don’t have the budget to work with a specialist or agency that offers link building services, it’s one of the most valuable things you can do.

DR is also a useful tool for link building more generally, as it helps you to assess the value of sites where you might want to acquire links. Due to the way DR is calculated, we believe it gives you the best indicator of the value of a link from any given site out of the available tools.

Although all this may sound rather complicated, in practice DR is easy to use. As in other areas of SEO, you shouldn’t let jargon put you off. The principle is simple, and once you know what you’re doing, you’ll find it really valuable.


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