Within the realm of SEO, it’s easy to get lost amongst the never-ending, ever-changing lists of metrics that are insignificant one moment- yet crucial the next!
As Google’s algorithm updates, it can become difficult to predict the outcome of certain SEO strategies due to the weighting of certain metric/s being subject to change without prior notice.
So, how can we make predictions and forecast for the future of our SEO goals, or get an accurate estimation of our current standing?
By understanding and utilizing the concept of Domain Authority.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into the concept, as well as provide you with an overarching, step-by-step guide on how to increase your website’s domain authority. Read on!
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority is a SEO-prediction metric developed by Moz that is essentially a score based on a number of different factors.
The higher the score in relation to your competitors for the same keyword/s, the more likely it is that your page will rank successfully on the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs).
Domain Authority itself is not a ranking signal for Google- i.e. it is not something that Google takes into account- but rather Moz’s own estimation of what Google will take into account, and how that will affect your position in the SERPs.
Rightly or wrongly, it is one of the most relied-upon models in the industry for making SEO predictions and formulating strategy.
Domain Authority vs. Page Authority
There is a key difference when it comes to domain authority vs page authority.
Page authority score is a prediction of how well a single webpage may rank on the SERPs.
Domain authority is a step above, with the score indicating how well the domain (or entire website) will perform in the SERPs.
Page authority is specific to an individual page only, and is not necessarily indicative of the authority score of the domain the page comes under.
What is a Good Domain Authority Score?
There is no absolute good or bad domain authority score. Scores should be strictly interpreted in relation to the scores of your business/keyword rivals, i.e. in a competitive sense only.
For example, after implementing SEO strategies you may achieve a domain score of 56.
While to our common sense it does not seem like a high score, if your competitors are all scoring lower than 56 for the same target keywords, then you are performing relatively well!
It may simply be that sites across your entire industry have low domain authority due to all kinds of mitigating factors. What is important is ranking the highest in your industry, field or niche.
Conversely, if either your website or the algorithm changes and your score goes up to 60, but competitors pages go up to 65, then you will need to do more work to see where and how they are beating you.
As such, an improvement in score doesn’t mean much on its own- and neither does a decline.
Therefore, Domain Authority is most useful to us when used comparatively.
It is not an absolute measure of anything, but an estimation of ranking based on many different measurable factors.
How is Domain Authority Calculated?
Domain Authority is calculated by Moz’s web index, Link Explorer.
Using an algorithm that they dub ‘best fit’, Link Explorer evaluates a page based on several dozen factors, comparing it to the ever-growing database of real search queries and the keyword rankings within.
Currently, this database holds over 40 trillion links!
Domain Authority is calculated on a logarithmic scale of 1 to 100. The mathematical nature of these scales means that it is much easier to move from 15 to 25 than to move from 75 to 85.
In other words, you have a higher chance of improving your score if you start at the lower levels of domain authority.
The algorithm that calculates domain authority scores is machine-learning, constantly updating its index of how many times Google has used a certain page in the search results.
This aspect of the algorithm means that scores are subject to fluctuation due to new data being continually discovered and collated by Link Explorer.
Therefore, it’s best not to be too alarmed by any large jumps (or dips) in your score- because chances are, everybody else’s jumped too!
How to Increase Your Website’s Domain Authority: 9 Best Practices and Tips
While not a ranking metric itself, domain authority is at its base level a compilation of the best-known current ranking metrics.
Therefore, improving your domain authority can have positive knock-on effects for your SEO.
The following 9 best practices and tips highlight the major areas of focus of domain authority calculations.
They’re all essential when it comes to increasing your website’s domain authority!
1. Acquire High Quality Backlinks From Authority Sites
An age-old SEO metric, backlinks may still be the single most important factor in establishing your site’s domain authority. The quality and quantity of your link profile will make or break your website.
Quality is definitely worth more than quantity when it comes to backlinks, though you will need both to rank highly- especially if you operate in a highly competitive industry.
A few high quality links from great domains is worth more than masses of links from questionable sites; a mass of links from poorly-made or low-authority sites will likely lower your domain authority.
Relevant (i.e. not spam) links from well-known sites such as Wikipedia, prominent social media sites, or sources of genuine authority (.gov or .edu sites, for example) are counted as high-quality and will increase the long-term standing of your website on the SERPs.
Both the referring domain of any site that links to yours, and the domain authority of the referring site are crucial factors in determining your own DA.
Referring domain refers to any site that links to yours. The uniqueness of this is checked to determine whether your backlink profile derives from various sources, or merely the same few websites.
Obviously, the more diverse a backlink profile, the better it is for your domain authority scores.
2. Create Killer Content That’s Link Worthy
Something intangible (yet very real) that Google measures is the quality of your written content.
Gone are the days when strategic keyword placement and high word count will get you to the front page.
Now, the algorithm is sophisticated enough to read every word in a search query, and so long-form sentence construction and grammar have begun to matter (or so they say).
“Killer” doesn’t just mean well-written, however.
Your content must be informative, entertaining, or meaningful enough for people to link to it!
Publishing content of a high standard regularly (upwards of twice a week is the current industry consensus) will increase your credibility with end-users, and signal to Google that you are authoritative, trustworthy, and useful.
Domain Authority takes the overall quality of your content into account when calculating your score since Google does the exact same thing. Better content leads to higher domain authority, which adds to the probability of better performance in the SERPs.
3. Audit Your Site and Remove Bad Links
As discussed above, backlinks are the backbone of SEO.
Though their relative significance has (comparatively) diminished in recent years, they are and have been counted in all iterations of the Search algorithm since search engines gained prominence in the 1990s.
These days, the links of a website come under more scrutiny than ever before.
Your domain’s profile might be full of links, but are they trustworthy?
If they are deemed to be spam, irrelevant, or certain types of advertising, for example, these links will negatively affect your domain authority. More examples of bad links are:
- Comment spam: When the comments section of a page is filled with links to your domain, or when a link is posted in an unnatural manner alongside keyword-stuffed anchor text
- Discussion forums: Having keyword-optimized posts with links in any kind of forum will adversely affect your domain authority
- Press release links: Due to the nature of a press release- compiled and put out by the same business it promotes- links found in these are not ranking signals. In fact, if too many links are found in multiple press releases across the web, Google may penalize your site.
- Low-quality directories and private blog networks (PBNs): Like massive compilations of bad links, these kinds of pages attempt to briefly fool the algorithm by sheer quantity alone.
However, association with pages such as these will lower your domain authority, as these types of site are not deemed reputable or authoritative (and in fact, are regarded as manipulative in their nature).
There are many more varieties of bad links. A good rule of thumb is: If it is inauthentic in any manner, the algorithm may eventually find out and mete out penalties in response!
Regulate the links leading to your site, and foster organic results rather than using short-term, result-manipulation strategies.
4. Optimize Your Website Structure & User Experience
One aspect of SEO that Domain Authority scores a page on is its overall usability. Included under this wide umbrella are things such as loading times, ease of use, and navigation.
Basically, to optimize your website structure and user experience, you should be sure everything runs smoothly.
This involves making site design and layout simple and aesthetically pleasing, and checking that all components of a web page such as widgets or search bars are functioning correctly. Failure of this can result in lower DA scores.
5. Improve Your Internal Links
Internal links do not signal rank in the same way as external links, but they’re still vitally important for SEO. Internal linking helps Google (and users) navigate your website and better understand its structure.
The concept of good internal linking is known in the industry as link equity, which is a factor in domain authority.
It is valued because if Google cannot easily find all the pages of your website, neither can people- therefore, link equity improves site navigation and ease of use, contributing to an optimized website structure and improved user experience.
6. Work on Your Off-Page SEO
Working on your off-page SEO is another way to improve your domain authority score.
Less about content and more about site architecture and external marketing, some aspects of off-page SEO include:
- Social media marketing
- Your backlink profile (see point 1)
- Other votes of confidence from external sources (shares, promotions, confirmations of trustworthy status)
Basically anything that is not directly on the page can be considered off-page SEO, and can also influence domain authority scores.
7. Make Sure Your Website is Mobile Friendly
Nowadays, desktop traffic is not what it used to be.
In a recent study, researchers found that roughly 50% of web traffic now comes from mobile users.
Think about it this way: If your site is not optimized for mobile as well as for desktop, you are at risk of losing up to half of all potential traffic.
The seriousness of this fact is indicated by Google’s decision to prioritize mobile-optimized webpages as part of its mobile-first indexing initiative.
As a ranking factor, mobile-indexing has gained prominence in recent years and will only grow- at least for the foreseeable future.
8. Increase Your Social Signals
Social signals are what social media factors search engines take into account when ranking pages.
A page’s overall social media presence- account likes, shares, and the more vague term of ‘visibility’– is taken account of by search engines. As such, it’s also a factor of domain authority.
Examples of social signals include:
- The amount of tweet and retweets, and the social caliber or standing (determined by the number of their followers) of those who tweet
- Shares on Facebook
- References to your page made on forums like Reddit, Tumblr, or Stumbeupon
Large amounts of likes and shares can indicate to search engines that your page is trustworthy, containing genuinely informative or entertaining content.
Therefore, increased overall social media engagement can boost your domain authority and give you a better chance of ranking higher on search engines.
9. Be Patient
SEO is a notoriously long game.
Even the most popular web pages and domains need to be scanned and re-indexed by Google’s crawler whenever they are updated; if that’s the case for the Facebooks and Twitters of the world, it’ll be the case for you as well!
Let your SEO strategy do its work. If your content is relevant and engaging enough to reach even a small audience, in time this audience will contribute to the backlink profile of the website and increase domain authority.
The point to take away is that all good things take time, and while great SEO does deliver quick results, it is rarely instant. One thing to always keep in mind on your digital marketing journey is to be patient.
3 Additional Ways to Use Domain Authority in Your SEO Strategy
Domain Authority will give you an indication of how your website will perform in the SERPs.
However, there is more you can do with this sophisticated metric! Below are 3 additional ways to use domain authority in your SEO strategy:
1. Choose Keywords According To DA
Using the Link Explorer tool, discover keywords that users are searching, and tailor your written content to these keywords.
While this is an oversimplification of the strategy, choosing keywords according to DA can be as straightforward as picking a keyword with a lower difficulty score than your website’s domain authority score.
Targeting these lower keywords is a great way to bring in short-term traffic that will contribute over time to your domain authority growth.
2. Identify Your SEO Priorities
Instead of trying to improve every single aspect of your website’s SEO, decide on your priorities first.
If you are not seeing improvements with a general strategy, then focusing on building up individual metrics may be what your site needs to compete on the results pages.
By paying attention to your domain authority, and why you scored what you did, you will be able to discern exactly what you are succeeding on and where you are losing rank.
Attack these issues until they are resolved, and then implement a broader SEO strategy!
3. Pay Attention To Google’s Guidelines
Domain Authority is a near-transparent metric, in that most industry professionals know how it is calculated (more or less).
Google, however, is much more opaque- keeping a lid on their most valuable ranking factors and data so that maverick marketers do not game the system. Therefore, what information Google does release should be taken seriously.
To give your website that extra push it needs to land on the first page, pay close attention to Google’s guidelines – there may be something minor you have missed, or an aspect of the latest update you were not aware of.
However you go about it, it pays to know everything about Google that you can. Start from the ground up by carefully reading and implementing their suggested guidelines.
How Do You Check Domain Authority?
There are many programs with which you can check domain authority. As the metric itself is developed by Moz, their platform and Link Explorer software are perhaps the most well-known tools of DA checking.
However, there are two other main competitors, as well as smaller companies with their own tools. We will briefly detail the top 3 DA checkers below.
1. Moz Link Explorer
The Moz Link Explorer is a database of 40 trillion + links, 7 trillion web pages, and 718 million domains.
A crucial auditing tool, it will give you a domain authority score, but comes with potential for much more as well.
Moz Link Explorer allows you to examine anchor text, check the spam score of links, research and compare competitor keywords and backlinks, and find broken links among other useful utilities.
All in all, it’s definitely an invaluable SEO analysis instrument.
Another well-regarded SEO tool offering domain authority scores is Ahrefs. Their list of features include:
- Content explorer: Study the highest-performing content in your industry, and reverse engineer their success!
- Keyword explorer: Determine what keywords your customers use when searching
- Rank tracker: Follow your SERP rankings in real time
- Site audit: Designed to help with further optimization of your entire site
SEMrush is an all-in-one marketing powerhouse, offering not just SEO but market research and traditional advertising as well.
Their SEO capability includes domain authority scoring, backlink profile analysis, daily tracking of SERP rankings, and technical auditing for your site as a whole.
Domain Authority FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions regarding domain authority.
How Fast Can You Grow Domain Authority?
As building domain authority is dependent on so many different metrics, it’s asserted by industry insiders that improving domain authority in the most reliable way (i.e. by building a backlink profile) can take between 6 and 12 months.
It’s certainly not an overnight process!
Rather than a one-off solution, building your domain authority involves constant effort in monitoring and adapting to the ever-changing digital marketing landscape.
A high domain authority score is something that is fostered over time through the creation of quality content and on-and off-page SEO practices.
Is ‘35’ A Good Domain Authority?
What Is A Good Domain Authority For A Website?
What Are 3 Techniques Of Increasing Your Domain Authority?
What Is The Fastest Way To Increase Domain Authority?
Domain authority is a predictive metric of how well a domain will perform on the search engine results pages.
It is a comparative metric that is most valuable when viewed alongside competitors’, to gain an idea of relative rank for certain keywords.
Domain authority is not an absolute measure of success, as Google itself does not take domain authority into account.
It is also not a perfect prediction, as there are aspects of the search algorithm only Google has true knowledge of.
However, it remains a valuable resource- both to get an idea of where your website ranks against competitors, as well as how well-optimized it is on the whole.
All SEO marketers should be aware of the domain authority metric, and be working to constantly improve it.
Therefore, domain authority should certainly be a significant part of your own broader SEO strategy- if only to cover all bases and achieve the highest potential returns.