How to Increase Domain Authority for Your Website (and Why It Matters for SEO)
With close to 2 billion websites in existence today, separating the quality content from outdated, untrustworthy, or just plain sketchy websites is becoming increasingly important. But how?
The answer is an SEO term you may have heard about: domain authority, which determines your website's authority on search engines compared to the many other websites out there.
In this article, we’ll explore all there is to know about domain authority, including how it’s calculated, how to determine your domain authority score, and how to increase domain authority for your website. Let’s get started.
What Is Domain Authority?
In order to organize the millions, and now billions, of websites on the internet, Google needed an objective way to compare and rank all of the sites that contain content relative to a search query.
That’s why Google devised a rating system — called PageRank — which assigns a score to every one of the sites in existence, based on the site’s usefulness, relevance, and trustworthiness. The SEO community refers to this score as a site’s authority, authority score, or domain authority (DA for short).
Actively managing your site’s authority score is the key to rising in the rankings, because Google will use domain authority scores to compare site quality and rank results in all of the search engine results pages (SERPs). The higher the DA score, the greater chance your site has of ranking higher, the lower the DA, the more difficult it will be to rank.
It sounds simple, but there’s a catch: Google’s PageRank algorithm is made up of many contributing factors — which we call ranking factors — and no one but Google engineers know exactly how it’s calculated.
How Do You Measure Domain Authority?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy formula to calculate your DA. The domain authority metric is based on a logarithmic scale of 0 to 100, where 0-20 is considered a low DA score, 20-50 is considered average, 50-80 is considered good to very good, and 80-100 is a very high DA.
The higher your domain scores with respect to DA, the higher your chances of performing well on search engines. The SEO tool Moz was the first to attempt to reverse engineer Google’s ranking scores (in fact, they first coined the term “domain authority”!), and their formula, and many others, takes into account:
- Site authority: The quality and trustworthiness of the information you share on your site, and whether it was written (or at least endorsed) by someone who has training and expertise in the subject.
- Backlink profile: The number, quality, and relevance of inbound links, or links from other websites, to your site. This metric only looks at links that Google is allowed to follow and index. Nofollow links have no impact on search rankings, so they aren’t included.
- Link profile: The number, quality, and relevance of your website's internal linking (links from one page to another on your site) and external links (links from a page on your site to a third-party website).
- Site architecture and organization: Your website should be clearly laid out, easy to navigate, and provide a pleasant and useful user experience.
We also know that Google cares a great deal — and so heavily weighs — site speed and performance as a ranking factor, because it’s one of the few ranking factors they’ve publicly confirmed. It may also take into account a site or page’s performance on social media, but this could also be an indirect indicator — like if the page gets a large amount of traffic because it’s doing well on Pinterest, so we de-emphasize that.
Oh, one quick note: You may have heard the terms “domain authority” and “page authority” used interchangeably. However, domain authority measures the site as a whole, while page authority is an SEO metric that analyzes the strength of an individual web page and determines how well it performs against other pages on search engine results.
So, while domain authority takes into account the factors affecting the root domain of a website, page authority only takes into account the factors specific to an individual page within the website.
That means they’re related: When a website has a lot of high-ranking web pages, the scores aggregate into a high domain authority score.
Tools That Calculate Your DA
To find out your domain authority, simply go to Moz’s free domain SEO analysis tool, enter your domain (URL) into the search bar at the top of the page, and click Analyze domain.
Using Moz’s domain checker, you can look up the DA score of any website you’d like. In addition to the domain authority score, Moz displays the number of linking root domains for you and the spam score.
Scrolling down, you’ll see more information about the top pages by links based on page authority, the top linking root domains based on domain authority, and the discovered and lost linking domains over the past 60 days, all for free.
While Moz is the most popular domain analysis tool and the SEO company that first coined the domain authority metric, there are other link explorer tools with slight variations to the DA metric you can use.
Here are some of the top choices:
- Ahrefs Website Authority Checker: Ahrefs allows you to search the domain rating for an unlimited number of URLs without any initial sign-ups required.
- LinkGraph Bulk DA Checker Tool: LinkGraph lets you look up the domain authority of up to 10 websites and web pages at once.
- Semrush Domain Overview Tool: Semrush gives you an idea of your competitor or prospective customer’s strengths and weaknesses by comparing domains, assessing growth over time, and comparing organic traffic by specific markets.
Note that link explorers use their own unique factors to calculate domain ratings, meaning you may see varied rankings between the sites. So, to avoid inconsistencies you may want to pick one tool to use to monitor the progress of your SEO strategy.
4 Practical Ways to Increase Your Site’s Domain Authority for Your Website
Increasing your website’s domain authority score takes time and effort. Our top piece of advice to website owners as they begin to invest in SEO and content marketing is always this: Plan to be patient. Good content takes time. Ranking takes time, and ranking well takes even longer. And yes — you guessed it! — increasing your domain authority is a deliberate process that does not produce results overnight.
If you’re just starting out, you might see higher DA scores right away, but the higher your score, the more difficult it is to increase it. While you should absolutely use domain authority as one marker of the success of your SEO strategy, it’s not a dynamic metric that responds quickly to tactical changes.
That’s why it’s important to take a multi-pronged approach with a long-term outlook. Here are some practices you can begin to implement today to start building SEO momentum and strengthen your domain authority.
1. On-Site SEO Strategy
An on-site (aka on-page) SEO strategy is a blanket term for all the activities involved in optimizing a website for search engines in ways that increase the organic traffic to your site.
On-site SEO includes everything that a user will see and interact with when they load the site. So, yes, this is a big category! Setting your site up correctly from the get-go will give you a leg up on building good domain authority. This includes investing in a site that is:
- Clean, user-friendly, well-organized, and easy to navigate. Remember, user experience is a major factor in Google rankings!
- Optimized for all platforms, meaning it displays properly on desktop, tablet, and mobile devices.
- Has a clear and welcoming home page, an easy-to-navigate header menu, and is transparent about the purpose of the site or business, who runs it, what it offers, and how the business benefits (e.g. pricing).
- Is located at a URL (web address) that is called something related to the business’s core offering.
Then, once you start to populate it with information and articles, make sure you’re optimizing for on-page SEO best practices like:
- High-quality, keyword-optimized content that is organized with properly used header tags.
- Unique and descriptive title tags and meta descriptions on each page.
- Relevant images, videos, and infographics with proper alt text.
- Appropriate internal and external links on every page and in each article. Internal links not only help search engines crawl and index your page, they improve user engagement and time on site — which is another positive indicator of your site’s value and domain authority.
2. Off-Site SEO Strategy
Off-site SEO is all about the actions elsewhere on the internet that reflect positively or negatively on your site’s domain authority. The most important and common source of off-site SEO impact is backlinks.
Remember that your backlink profile is the overall picture of the quality, relevance, and authority of all the links that point back to your website. High-quality backlinks come from well-respected websites within your site’s niche, and reflect very well on your site’s domain authority.
Spammy backlinks are those that have extremely low DA, lack substantive information, and are generally not useful or trustworthy. Google is very good at disavowing, or ignoring, a certain number of these within any backlink profile, but if most of your backlinks come from low-quality sites, that will start to negatively impact your site’s DA if you don’t actively work to earn high-quality backlinks and potentially disavow the low-quality links.
The most successful sites don’t leave backlinks to chance, and instead include a linkbuilding strategy as part of their overall content marketing plan.
The best way to build a strong backlink profile is by consistently posting unique, valuable, quality content worth linking to. Remember that readers and other content creators feel inclined to share and reference content that is thorough, substantive, and trustworthy with a unique point of view.
There are more proactive ways to share your links and improve your chances of earning backlinks. These tactics include sharing on social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, guest posting on reputable sites with higher DAs in your category, and reaching out to sites to suggest your content as a replacement for any outdated or dead outbound links on their site.
3. Technical SEO
Technical SEO is the third leg of the SEO triangle and, although it doesn’t get as much attention as on-page and off-page SEO, it is critically important to the domain authority of any site.
We’ve already mentioned that Google values many elements of the user experience on a site as core ranking factors. That’s where technical SEO comes in!
In order to signal to Google that your site is reliable, well-maintained, and trustworthy, make sure that your site is:
- Built in a way that minimizes load time. Neither users nor search engines have the patience for a site that loads like it’s on dial-up internet.
- Secure, using SSL certificates. You know your site is secure if the URL starts with https, not http. Your host or website manager can set this up very simply using a plugin in most cases.
- Established with Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools, and your sitemap is submitted to both.
There are other technical SEO aspects to look out for, like redirect errors, slow load times, whether search engines can easily crawl and index your web pages, or if your structured data is easy to understand, but the bulleted list above contains some of the most critical ranking factors that can affect your site’s ability to build authority and succeed in search.
4. An Active Social Media Presence
The jury is still out on how essential, exactly, social media is to SEO success. Data shows there’s a relationship between sites that have a strong social media presence and sites that rank well on Google. But Google has yet to reveal whether this is a causal relationship — i.e. that its algorithm looks at social media activity as a ranking factor, or correlation — i.e. a large and engaged audience on social media drives more traffic to the content on a site, which in turn signals to Google that it’s useful content.
While the SEO community debates, it’s useful to enable social media engagement with your content. Most content management systems, like WordPress, Webflow, and Squarespace, allow you to add social media share buttons to your site.
It’s also free and easy for someone from your team to establish your social media handles and regularly share old-but-evergreen content with that audience. But don’t limit your shares to your own content. Connecting with relevant, authoritative sites and sharing their content builds relationships with authoritative sites in your niche, gets your content seen, and is another authentic way to build your backlink profile — and, in turn, your domain authority.
Finally, having an active social media presence is a way of reinforcing trust in your website and business.
Optimizing Domain Authority for Your Business
Domain authority is a score that serves as a way to compare your site against others in your niche, and predict how likely you are to rank for keywords in the search engine result pages that are important to your business.
Increasing your site’s domain authority score takes time and patience, and there’s no way to fake it. With an investment in a well-built site, and a commitment to publishing quality content, you can watch your domain authority grow for years to come.
To learn how Growth Machine can help you increase domain authority for your website with unique SEO strategies, contact us.
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