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AHREFS tops the marketing blunder list of 2018

It’s Early in 2018 and AHREFS tops the marketing blunder list

It’s only the first week in February and you are reading about the Metrics/Data supplier that has provided us with fodder by creating a huge marketing blunder, Ahrefs.

Ahrefs #ahrecalypse change to DR
My website in the dashboard after the big change to Ahrefs DR

Ahrefs is world's biggest third-party database of search queries with refined monthly search volume and research metrics.  Their data is used by untold numbers of digital marketers across the world.  Arguably they are the industry leader in this type of data.  The only thing that they changed was how a tiny item in their metrics was being calculated. 

About a week prior to the effective date of the change, Ahrefs notified users that a change was coming to how they calculated a domain rating or DR.  They also stated that many sites would see their rankings drop.  I agree that a need for change was warranted.  What I don’t agree with how they calculated the change and its ramifications for roughly 75% of all websites.  

Ahrefs change to DR on a non-logarithmic scale. Note how many sites are at the bottom of the list.

Ahrefs change to DR on a logarithmic scale. Note how many sites are still at the bottom of the list.
This past Friday evening around 11 P.M. or so, about a week after Ahrefs announced that change would be coming, the changed rating started showing up.   This was in fact not a minor change. This was a drastic reevaluation of how they calculated the DR score.  The masses on Ahrefs tagged it #ahrecalypse.

Ahrefs while defending themselves announced that the change was supposedly a validation of a domain’s Backlink Profile.  I own a site that had a domain rating of 50 before the change and a 19 after the change.  The scale is based on 1 – 100 with the higher number being better.  My backlinks are, for the most part, relevant and non-spammy.  And yet my DR took a huge hit. Wow!

Interestingly each other website that I own that previously had a DR of 37 or lower was devalued in the new DR so harshly that they all ranked as 0. 

Really? 0?  No rank what so ever?  Maddening! Some of these sites have in excess of 1000 backlinks from quality referral sources.  

"What gives,” I thought.  

Ahrefs and others stated that we were using the DR incorrectly.  And since it was our fault we should just hang in there and improve our sites, even though they had just basically said that more than 75% of the websites on the internet were zero ranking sites and getting backlinks from 0 sites was what?  Good?  I am still not sure. 

Ahrefs adjusted a tier on the other end where almost everyone in it had a new DR of 100.  It appears to me that Ahrefs created tiers or buckets and lumped sites into them.  In my opinion, a site like the is nothing like Google or Facebook.  So how does it have the same DR of 100 that they did? 

Yes, Ahrefs said more than I am reporting, but the bottom line is that Ahrefs has basically said that everything we worked for was not valid.  Yes, other rankings that they provide are truly valuable but for one reason or the other (I vote for ease), most people that had to interact with clients or customers showed the DR stat.   It was an easy way to show the client where the SEO work was showing improvements or not and it could be measured.  
Maybe marketers like myself had used the DR stat incorrectly, but really, most of us?  I am not an SEO, but I am a marketing professional.  In my defense, I had SEO’s using the stat very similarly.  As a team, we built a validation system around two Ahrefs stats.  Domain Rating (DR) and the page authority stat URL Rating (UR).  

Prior to our standardizing on Ahrefs, we used MOZ, arguably the co-leader in the industry.  But Moz calculates their stat differently, so while it is a good valid statistic we made a marketing decision to use Ahrefs.  We bought what Ahrefs was selling in why their stat was useful. That combined with their more in-depth and more frequent crawling of the web convinced us Ahrefs was the top choice.
Now Ahrefs kicks the legs out from under their best supporters.  From a marketing perspective, Ahrefs dropped the ball in many ways.  I sit and think that I am really am glad that I am not working with or contracted by Ahrefs marketing department.  Imagine that pressure? 

At any rate here is what should have happened.    It is the Day after the Super Bowl, and finally, the EAGLES have won, so Monday afternoon quarterbacking is appropriate.

  1. Don't downplay a change where you know resistance will be forthcoming.
  2. If you needed to change that stat because it was no longer valid, announce that it will happen and provide a replacement stat that has validity. Be a leader!
  3. Invite users to join a test group before the release is made.
  4. Don't appear shady by updating your dashboard last, so some people think they were not affected but actually were.
  5. Have a closed LinkedIn group where other marketers (not SEO or technologists) can assemble to be heard. 
  6. Make the forthcoming changes easier to learn about and provide suggestions before final implementation.  Example, dump the stat and provide an LPR (Linked profile ranking)
  7. Don’t implement a “tweak” or make it appear that a minor fix or patch was all that was needed.  Actually, fix the stat.  When trust is lost it is tough to get back.
  8. Don’t try to sell it as “Well my blog’s rankings went down, Tim!”   This was disingenuous at best.
  9. Don’t make a system-wide change to the database versus rolling it out in phases allowing you to get constructive feedback as you go.
  10. Send an official apology to each user and their company.  The disruption that you caused to many was significant.

How did this minor change affect how our company looks at your data?

We decided that we cannot have all of our eggs in one basket.
  • We downgraded and cut our subscription with AHREFS by half.
  • We took the saving on the downgrade and purchased a similar package from their SEMrush competition.
  • We now give more validity to Moz’s DA and are working with it as a primary DR replacement.
  • In essence, we will use three products versus two, and the cost will be nill.
  • AHRES still has value just not as much as before.

Now that I just looked at the benefits of the Ahrefs blunder I feel better!  Do you?

About The Author:  Ashly Foxx lives and writes in NYC, NY.  She works for an independent design firm where she runs the marketing department.  She anticipates launching her own marketing related blog in mid-2018.


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