Rand Fishkin @randfish Founder @SparkToro, husband to @everywhereist, feminist, he/him, author of Lost & Founder. Formerly @Moz. I tweet ~40X/wk on marketing, tech, & startups. Feb. 22, 2019 3 min read

Let's talk about Domain Authority (DA) and the big change Moz is making in a few days. Not just b/c it's my old company & I still care (personally & financially) about them, but b/c it reveals a lot of interesting realities in the SEO+web marketing worlds /1

First off, I think @rjonesx did a solid job on his recent webinar ( https://hsinfo.moz.com/da-is-changing-and-other-hard-conversations-webinar  - the 5mins starting at ~16:30 are particularly worthwhile). In the video, you can get a real sense for how Moz differs in approach than Ahrefs, SEMRush, Neil Patel's tools, etc. /2

Didn't take 5mins? Short, un-nuanced vers:
- New DA launches Mar. 5
- All scores will change
- Better-predictive ML system
- Team inserted non-ranking sites at pos 10 in the training set so the model could learn features of crappy sites
- Also (finally!) uses spam features
/3

Ahrefs & SEMRush have done VERY well the last 4.5 years -- in 2014, Moz was the SEO software market leader. Now, it's clearly #3 behind them (). Why? Well... bunch of reasons, but certainly a big one is speed of feature launches /4

Moz, culturally, believes a few things:
1) Right data > more data
2) Fewer, quality features > more features
3) SEOs care about quality, accuracy, data privacy (i.e. don't collect *my* rankings and show them to others)
In retrospect, those beliefs probably held it back. /5

Not saying Moz always perfectly executed on those beliefs, just that most product+engineering efforts were/are guided by them. That's prob (mostly) my fault (just look how long @caseyhen & I are spending on getting a high quality V1 of @SparkToro). /6

In practice, it means when you see, e.g. KW Explorer data (or Link Explorer, rankings, crawl info, etc), it's more likely to be "right" than other SEO tools. Moz believes SEOs will double-check DA or Organic CTR% estimates or rankings, and learn to distrust wrong data. /7

Is Moz *always* right? Heck no! I've run plenty of reports and seen things I question. But is it, on average, more right than others? In the internal & external testing & comparisons the last 2yrs I was there -- yeah, absolutely. /8

That's why nothing surprised Moz's team (and me) more than SEMRush's meteoric rise during a period when we could provably see their ranking data accuracy was... mediocre at best. The team (me include) kept saying "hey, eventually SEOs will figure this out & come back to us." /9

At the same time (prior to mid-2018 launch of Link Explorer) Ahrefs was (we thought) winning on better (more comprehensive) link data. When LE replaced OSE, Moz thought (as did I), that folks would shift toward it (just as they'd shifted away from OSE) /10

IMO 3 things happened:
1) Ahrefs link data was+is "good enough" (even if Moz's new one's better)
2) SEMRush's coverage mattered more than its accuracy
3) In most SaaS, features don't win. But in SEO? They kinda do. SEOs are fundamentally different from other SaaS buyers /11

So, Moz takes a long time to launch new features. They agonize over accuracy. They want metrics they can trust and verify. And as a result, their suite is not as full featured as their competition. KW Explorer has 4 columns of data per KW, SEMRush has 20+ (in some spots)! /12

New DA perfectly illustrates this. It took an extra year to launch! But the care behind it is clear, as is the pride the team takes in getting it as well-correlated w/ Google rankings as possible. /13

Let's be real. If you're a pro SEO, Moz may not have everything you want. Need the (on average) "best" data of the KW research, rank tracking, crawling, & link suites? Moz (at least in English) is solid. Need tons of features or intl data? SEMRush/Ahrefs are where it's at. /14

BTW - you can see this with the acquisition of @getSTAT too. Data quality and coverage is where STAT excelled. The big SEO teams+agencies who needed tons of best-in-class data accuracy were their primary buyers. So Moz+STAT makes a bunch of sense. /15

I'm trying hard @sparktoro to learn the lessons of Moz's rise to market leadership, then plateauing growth as (unfunded!) competitors overtook. SEO's an unusual space & I don't want to overindex on just one experience, but hopefully, this thread's illuminating for y'all too. /fin


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