Moving images to a CDN improved performance but caused a decrease in domain authority score

Jacquelyn Tandang
Jacquelyn Tandang
Jul 01, 2023

After moving our images to a CDN (cloud domain network) to improve LCP (largest contentful paint) score, our domain authority score dropped from 5 to 4.

Free Diib account dashboard

What is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz. According to their website, it predicts how likely a website is to rank in search engine result pages (SERPs). Domain Authority scores range from 1 to 100, with higher scores corresponding to greater likelihood of ranking[1].

How is Domain Authority calculated?

Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and total number of links, into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the "ranking strength" of a website over time. Domain Authority is not a Google ranking factor and has no effect on the SERPs[1].

What could cause a drop in Domain Authority score?

Since domain authority also calculates the amount of links pointing to your website, losing links pointing to your website can cause a drop in your domain authority score

If Domain Authority is not a Google ranking factor, why bother improving this score?

Travel Cheap Asia has a very low DA score of 5 to 4 yet we got an average position of 11.4 as of June 2023. This means, a DA score does not directly determine your likelihood of ranking but a decline in DA score can be a signal that something went awry.

How do you determine missing backlinks?

Ahrefs.com has a backlink checker. Running a test, we have found out there are websites referencing our images which we already deleted and moved to a CDN.

backlink checker

Ahrefs.com also has a broken link checker but for some reason, it could not detect which links specifically are broken.

broken links checker

Moving images to CDN for performance, we have lost backlinks to our website causing a drop in our DA score. Because links to a website can bring traffic, losing backlinks means losing traffic sources to your website.

How do we fix broken links after moving them to CDN?

If your website uses a code repository to manage code changes such as Git, SVN, Mercurial, Perforce, etc., you should be able to get a backup of your website from the time before you deleted your images.

Upload the images to your server using FTP / SFTP or any alternative means to upload your files back to your server that is supported by your hosting provider.

In our case, we use Digital Ocean. By using CyberDuck, we uploaded the image files back to the server on a separate folder, say, travel-cheap-asia-imgs.

ftp via Cyberduck

The reason why we put it in a separate folder is that we don't want to keep them in our code repository as they are no longer part of the code base. We only put them back in the server for backward compatibility.

Since we do not know exactly which images we should keep, we restored all of them.

Create a symlink from the previous location in your repo to your new location. A symlink (also called a symbolic link) is a type of file in Linux that points to another file or a folder on your computer. Symlinks are similar to shortcuts in Windows[2].

If you are using linux server, you may create a symlink using the following command

ln -s path-to-old-location path-to-new-location

Example:

ls -s /travel-cheap-asia/img/laguna /travel-cheap-asia-img/img/laguna

Check if your missing link is now accessible by visiting the former image link. It should now be visible when accessed via the address bar.

Check old link if already accessible

How to check your Domain Authority score?

To check if we have recovered our domain authority score, you may visit https://moz.com/domain-analysis

Check domain authority score

We have confirmed that our domain authority score is back to 5.

Key takeaway

When moving images or changing urls in your website, make sure that your changes are backward compatible. This means, all references to your old links are still kept after the change. This can be done by creating redirects, redirecting traffic from old link to your new link.

In this case however, since we do not have access to paid accounts yet, we do not know which images are missing backlinks so we recovered all of them instead of just creating a redirect from old links to new links.

A higher domain authority score does not necessarily mean higher chances of getting your pages rank in the SERPs. There are many other bigger factors that could influence your ranking, such as performance. One must not focus on improving domain authority score alone.

It is safe to say that domain authority score can measure your organic traffic from external sources. Traffic from external sources can affect your ranking but not as much as performance tuning.

Sources:
[1] https://moz.com/learn/seo/domain-authority
[2] https://www.freecodecamp.org/news/symlink-tutorial-in-linux-how-to-create-and-remove-a-symbolic-link/