I recently revisited an old link building campaign I managed at my last in-house SEO role. I was interested in reaching out to several sites we’d previously pitched with a piece of similar content, so I figured I may as well dig out the old data to save some valuable man hours.

I started going through the list of sites and updating the domain rating metrics, as per Ahrefs, to refresh my data and establish top opportunities. In the process of doing this I saw, in some instances, a huge change in domain rating, and a clear trend develop. 

Now, I’ll preface this by saying there were 52 websites involved in this process. Some very small with not much traffic, some large ones with an established presence. I know, it’s a little tenuous to draw sweeping conclusions from data from barely 50 websites. But I felt the conclusions from the data were strong enough to warrant me at least writing about it. 

Here’s a quick table to explain my top level findings.

Site DR Range% Sites DR Increased% Sites DR Decreased% Stayed SameAvg. Increase/Decrease

As domain ratings are calculated using a logarithmic scale, establishing hard and fast findings is difficult. There is no clear indicator of what a decrease of 4DR on a site in the DR20> range would equate to for a site in the DR50+ range. Indeed, my own separating of sites into these three categories is purely for the sake of this c ase study, as this best reflected the grouping of sites I had to work with.

This is very much a study done in a vacuum but DR is a massive barometer for any content marketing or digital PR reporting, and noticing clear trends in DR changes was pretty cool.

Thoughts From Findings

Are smaller domains increasingly struggling to compete in a world of EEAT?

There is a lot of chatter on SEO forums that small website owners are becoming increasingly “boxed out” of SERPs, with higher authority domains producing less in-depth and topical content yet still outranking them purely on domain strength.

I can’t speak to individual SERP data, but from a domain rating perspective, it’s interesting that every single domain over DR50 increased its rank in the four year period. SEOS have long preached the importance of historical data and an “old” domain being strong, and it seems this data backs that theory up.

On a more granular level, from this set of sites I analyzed, it became clear that sites that had a purpose, or clearly defined mission, were doing fine. It was mostly generic blogs or “mom blogs” for want of a better term, that focused on a range of topics which had little relevance to each other which hadn’t stood the test of time, and they’d now become guest post farms or the authors had simply stopped posting regularly.

While there were a few huge losses from domains in the 20-50 DR range, with a number sinking below the 20 mark, there were also sites that rose, one of the most notable from DR16 to DR26. This site was producing good content, and it was clearly focusing on one core topic (education.) 

The low DR “guest post sites” got hammered

Not a particular revelation, but worth noting, almost all sites that specialized in taking money for posts (not hard to spot that) were looking good in 2019, but by 2023 their domain rating had tanked. Guest posts are always good for those short term gains 😉

Interestingly, there was one site in the DR50+ range that I classed in the “guest post” bracket that had risen from DR63 to DR65 in that time. This site was rolling out pretty regular guest posts, too. This potentially gives more credence to the above statement that established sites are just too big to fail.

It’s hard to get over the initial hump

I think the results also showed it’s tough work to get a site off the ground and keep it off the ground. Six sites that had single-digit domain ratings in 2019, still had single-digit ratings in 2023. It’s not that these sites were “bad”, but it was clear the owners hadn’t been putting in the time on them and as a result they’d stagnated.

To satisfy Google in 2023, you have to be posting quality content on a regular basis. The results showed that perhaps, website owners had gotten despondent about their lack of movement and subsequently stopped posting, or in some instances, turned their sites into guest post farms out of frustration.

Websites with a Purpose *Should* Succeed

As I was going through it became clear to me that sites that you might consider “generic”, or sites that farmed out guest posts, had totally tanked, and this was just incredibly interesting to me.

Websites that:

✅ Have something interesting to contribute in their niche;

✅ Earn links naturally;

✅ Post on a regular basis;

are generally going to be okay, in terms of maintaining or increasing their domain rating. As many know, doing all of the above over a sustained period of time can be challenging, which I believe explains why so many sites’ DR “fell” in the four year period.