Domain Authority: The Ranking Factor Every SEO Should Know About
Even the best on-page SEO efforts aren’t enough to rank on Google. Today, the search engine accounts for over 200 factors when it determines a SERP’s pecking order, so it’s nearly impossible to optimize your website and content for each of its ranking factors.
But even though you can’t optimize for all of Google’s ranking factors, you can still optimize for one of the search engine’s most important ranking factors -- domain authority.
From Google’s perspective, domain authority is like your website’s reputation as a thought leader. The search engine uses your domain authority to make sure you can provide the highest-quality content about your specific subject matter. If you do, you’ll have good domain authority and Google will boost your content’s rankings. If you don’t, you’ll have bad domain authority and they won’t rank your content.
Before we dive deeper into how domain authority impacts your rankings and how you can improve your authority score, though, let’s go over what it exactly is.
What is domain authority?
Developed by the SEO software company Moz, domain authority is a search engine ranking score that predicts a website’s ability to rank on search engine results pages or SERPs. Domain authority ranges from a score of 1 to 100. The higher your score, the better your website will rank.
To calculate websites’ domain authority, Moz accounts for over 40 factors, like root domains and total number of inbound links. Websites with a large amount of high-quality inbound links, like Wikipedia, have the highest domain authority. New websites with little to no inbound links typically have a domain authority of one.
Moz’s domain authority scale is also logarithmic, which means when your domain authority is higher, it’s harder to improve your authority score. For instance, increasing your domain authority from 70 to 80 is more challenging than increasing your domain authority from 20 to 30.
Additionally, your website’s domain authority can decrease, even if you don't lose any backlinks, when a high-authority website, like Facebook, receives an influx of backlinks.
Since Moz can’t give the highest-authority websites a domain authority score over 100, they keep their score at 100 while lowering other sites’ domain authority. In other words, your website’s domain authority is relative to the domain authority of the highest authority website.
What is a good domain authority score?
According to Moz, domain authority is best used as a comparative metric -- a “good” domain authority score depends on the domain authority of the sites you’re competing with on SERPs. With this in mind, your objective should not be to have the highest authority score possible, but to have a higher authority score than your competitors.
To measure your domain authority, you can use MozBar, a free Chrome extension. The tool can also gauge your website’s probability to rank for certain queries and keywords. Authority scores are a good measure of other domain’s backlink value, too.
1. Audit your link profile.
Google prefers link profiles -- a list of all your website's backlinks -- to consist of links from a high variety of sites and high-authority sites. The search engine considers this a marker of an authoritative and trustworthy site.
Free SEO tools like SEMrush Backlink Checker and Moz’s Link Explorer can help you measure your link profile’s health. And Google’s Disavow Tool can help you strengthen your link profile by nixing any poor or undesirable links from your website.
2. Create compelling content.
Part of Google’s search algorithm ranks your content based off engagement metrics, like total traffic, organic traffic, direct traffic through Chrome, time on site, bounce rate, SERP CTR, brand mentions on authoritative sites, and return visits.
To boost your website’s engagement, and, in turn, domain authority, there's really only way to do it -- you must attract and engage a loyal audience by creating high-quality content. Compelling content will also attract the most organic backlinks from other websites in your industry.
3. Earn high-quality links.
Earning high-quality inbound links from websites and pages with high authority scores is crucial for boosting your domain authority. To earn these backlinks, try using Backlinko’s skyscraper method.
The skyscraper method is an SEO practice where you find content that ranks well for keywords you’d like to rank for -- if a competitor’s content ranks number one, then they'll have a ton of backlinks. Then, you create content that’s better than the top ranking posts and use SEO tools to find all the sites that have linked to your competitor’s content. Finally, you ask the most relevant sites to replace your competitor’s link with a link to your improved content.
In 2016, Backlinkoasked 160 websites to link to their post about Google’s 200 Ranking Factors and they earned 17 inbound links, which is a 11% success rate. Even though 17 backlinks doesn’t seem like much, a lot of those referring websites had high domain authority scores, so the post’s organic traffic increased by 110% in only two weeks.
Another way you can earn high-quality links is by asking other websites that have a higher domain or page authority score to link to your top content. Just make sure your content is relevant to the referring website’s content.
Play the long game with domain authority.
Ultimately, you can’t directly control your website’s domain authority in the short-term. But if you constantly monitor your link profile's health, create compelling content, and earn high-quality links, your domain authority will gradually improve, boosting your Google rankings and organic traffic in the long-term.