You might check your domain authority as often as you check your bank account, but what exactly is it – and should we be so concerned?
Domain authority (DA) is a score created by Moz in an effort to help marketers gauge the authority of websites and their likelihood to rank for keywords. DA is a hot topic in the SEO and marketing world. We talk about it, debate its importance, and joke about Google using it to rank websites (they don’t).
But is domain authority all it’s cracked up to be? Should people check it twice a day? Let’s dive in.
What is domain authority?
Domain authority is a metric that measures the reliability and expertise a website has on a particular topic or industry. There are number of factors considered for a domain's authority, like backlinks, referring domains, keywords, and more.
The calculation uses a machine learning model based primarily on link and ranking data. Let’s break this down a bit.
A predictor of ranking ability
Domain Authority is not a search engine ranking factor, rather it predicts the likelihood that one domain will outrank another. Higher DA scores mean a better chance of outranking websites with lower DA scores.
A logarithmic calculation
In other words, DA is nonlinear. Logarithms can be pretty complicated for people who aren’t mathematicians. We’ll keep it simple and say when it comes to DA, the higher your score, the harder it is to increase it. Moving from a DA of 10-20 is much easier than moving from 70-80.
A comparative score
DA is relative, based on link and ranking data of other websites. This means that if your DA drops, it may not mean you lost backlinks or did anything wrong, it may just be the result of a big site like Amazon gaining a thousand links and affecting the scale. This also means there’s not necessarily a “good” score, there is only better or worse than another site.
Based on link data
DA looks at lots of factors, but it primarily takes into account inbound links. The more high-quality inbound links, the higher the DA. We’ll dig into this a little more later.
Not a ranking factor
Moz’s Domain Authority is not used by Google for rankings (have we mentioned this yet?). Although it has been debated whether Google might use a similar score to judge domain authority in a more general sense, most believe they don’t.
However, it is possible Moz’s score looks at many of the same signals as Google’s algorithm. Moz claims that DA correlates well with search results, but it does not cause them. It’s important to remember DA is primarily scored based on link profiles. As we know, backlinks are a very important piece of the SEO puzzle, but still only a piece.
If you’ve spent time analyzing search results pages, you’ve probably seen sites with low DA scores outranking sites with high scores. Really great, well-optimized content still has a chance. David can still compete with Goliath, despite DA.
Where can I find my DA score?
The best and most convenient way to check your domain authority score is with Mozbar, Moz’s free SEO toolbar. You can download it for free and check your site every 10 minutes if you want (it’s updated daily, but we still do it). You can check the DA of any website on the internet with Mozbar. You can also find it throughout Moz’s other products – some paid, some free.
Mozbar shows both domain authority and page authority.
What is page authority?
Page authority (PA) is a very similar metric also created by Moz to measure the ranking potential of single pages, opposed to entire domains.
It is scored similarly, it’s logarithmic, and it too is to be used as a comparison tool.
How to use domain authority
So if it’s not used in Google rankings, how should you view DA? How can it help us? Here are just a few use cases to help you get the most out of the metric.
Content and keyword research
Because DA predicts a site’s ability to rank, it’s a great tool for keyword research and evaluating keyword difficulty. For instance, say you’re writing a post and doing some keyword research. Download and activate Mozbar, search for your target keyword, and see how the competition stacks up. This can give you a good gauge on your likelihood to rank for the target keyword – or rather how much work you might need to put in to beat out the competition.
Evaluating the value of a link
DA can be very helpful in determining what kinds of links to target for link building campaigns. For instance, if you have 100 link outreach targets for a campaign, DA can help identify which of these targets will be most valuable, and maybe where you should invest most of your efforts.
Compare changes in your Domain Authority with your top competitors. If your DA drops significantly, but a competitor’s rises in the same time frame, this is a key indicator that their link profile is much healthier than yours (at least Moz thinks so) – and that you have some insight to glean from them.
Consult other metrics
Many major SEO software tools now have some metric that compares to Moz’s Domain Authority:
TIP: Familiarize yourself with all of the available SEO software on the market to make yourself well-rounded and fully informed.
Though similar, it’s likely all of these ratings’ factors vary a bit. So it’s important to periodically consult other ratings to get the best data on a site’s ranking ability. Don’t look at DA in a vacuum.
How to increase domain authority
As mentioned, Domain Authority looks primarily at link data. Like Google’s algorithm, it likely considers hundreds of factors, but here are some things you can do that will certainly influence your Domain Authority (all of these will also benefit how Google views your site):
Gain more inbound links
This is oversimplified, but we know for sure that DA takes total number of backlinks into account. How can you build more backlinks?
Create really valuable content. Creating content of real value is almost always the first step to earning backlinks. Think about it: who would link to something really average (or worse: below average)?
Promote your content. Content needs to get noticed before it gets linked to. And unless your content ranks really well for highly searched keywords, it won’t get found. So promote it! Use social media channels and email outreach.
Craft a strategy. Sure, you can gain some links by writing content occasionally and doing some outreach and promotion. But to really move the needle and get the most out of your time, you need a sound link building strategy. This will make your efforts scalable and more effective.
Gain quality links
Easier said than done, right? We know that DA and Google place emphasis not only on total number of links, but on the quality of those linking sites and pages. So to really boost your Domain Authority, you need to earn links from other sites with high DA.
When promoting your content and targeting sites for links, consider their DA. One link from a truly authoritative site is going to go much further than five links from mediocre sites (for your DA and your overall rankings).
Gain diverse links
Another key factor in Moz’s DA score is the total number of referring domains. Moz and Google value a diverse link profile, meaning lots of links from lots of different websites, opposed to lots of links from just one or two sites.
Think about it: if you wanted to buy a product from Amazon, would you go for the product that had five different reviews from one diehard fan, or the one that had five reviews from five different people?
So as you’re considering content promotion and outreach, spread yourself out. Building relationships with sites who will link to everything you produce is great, but spend your time and resources growing your network.
Don’t obsess over it
Domain Authority has revolutionized the way SEOs and marketers work. It’s an incredibly helpful tool that helps us research and optimize our time spent on SEO related tasks.
But at the end of the day, it’s still just a tool that looks at only a portion of what Google’s algorithm values. If you’re going to spend significant time looking at metrics, look at things like organic traffic, rankings, and revenue growth.
Emphasizing domain authority over other important marketing metrics like traffic is like doing all you can to raise your credit score while you’re unemployed and in debt. It’s possible you raise your credit score but remain in a terrible financial situation. As helpful as it is, instead of over-analyzing it, your time would be better spent analyzing Google’s algorithm.
So check your Domain Authority periodically and use it for research, but don’t obsess over it.
If you read this through and realized you could use a refresher on SEO, read our comprehensive guide on how SEO works to get back on track.
Brooks is a Digital Marketing Specialist and SEO Lead at Engenius, a marketing agency in Greenville, SC. When he’s not panicking about ranking drops and algorithm updates, you can find him watching NBA games, eating tacos, or blogging at Creative Primer.