Domain Authority: A Break Down

Domain authority measures the popularity of a website. It is one of a number of things that determine where a site ranks on a search engine results page (also called SERP) when compared to other websites in the same niche.

Domain authority scores range from one to 100. Generally speaking, the higher a website scores, the more “authority” it has and the more likely it is going to rank high on search engines like Google. For example, if you are a New York hotel, having a higher domain authority than other hotels in the same class and in the same city can help you rank above the competition.

The average domain authority falls between 40 and 50. Any score over 60 is considered outstanding.

The metrics used to determine domain authority are designed to work in a way similar to how Google’s algorithm works to identify trustworthy websites.

Domain authority was created by SEO guru Moz, a software as a service (SaaS) company based in Seattle that sells inbound marketing and marketing analytics software subscriptions. Domain authority scores are assessed by automated analytical algorithms and are based on more than 40 factors including how long a website has been in existence, the size of the site, how often people visit the site, and how many inbound links a site has.

There are a number of tools you can utilize to check your website’s domain authority. The easiest to use is Moz’s own, MozBar. Free and downloadable, it allows you to track domain authority and many other useful website metrics without leaving your browser.

One way to up your domain authority is to establish inbound links with a diverse range of websites that are relevant to your industry and have high domain authority rankings themselves. As a general rule, website URLs ending in .edu and .org are the best inbound links because they are considered highly trusted sites by the search engines. Writing content or creating infographics that people like to share is the easiest way to start getting inbound links to your site.

Creating and posting fresh content regularly that is of real value to your target audiences will also help your score. The content could be in the form of articles, blog posts, press releases, videos, or infographics. As long as it is useful to the people you are trying to reach, it all helps.

Continue to post and improve content and add high value links and over time you will see a steady increase in your domain authority. With a higher domain authority, the individual pages within your site will also have a better chance of ranking well in searches where relevant keywords are used.

But domain authority is only one piece of the puzzle.

A Little on Page Authority

Page authority, also created by Moz, works similarly to domain authority but ranks individual pages on your site. You improve the authority of individual website pages in the same way you improve the overall authority of your website. Domain authority and page authority have a symbiotic relationship. What impacts one will impact the other.

However, page authority does generally build faster than domain authority. If there are particular pages on your website that you really want people to check out, you’ll want to focus on optimizing those pages first and foremost.

This includes finding keywords that are highly relevant to your business. In the beginning, until your page authority begins to increase, it’s best to choose relevant keywords the competition is not using. Choosing the right keywords will increase your page authority, as well as your domain authority. A great tool for identifying keywords and determining if you can rank for the keywords you choose is Alexa, powered by Amazon. Alexa, a subscription-based service, offers a free seven-day trial to new users.

And Then There is Spam Score…

Google's example of keyword stuffingSpam score is another tool developed by Moz to determine which websites are “spammy” and which are trustworthy. Sites receive a grade of 0 to 17, with 0 being most trustworthy and 17 being the least trustworthy.

Sites that score high could be websites that are built in a manner intended to deceive search engines and users, called black hat SEO. These are usually sites geared toward making a quick buck off e-commerce rathe than making a long-term investment. Black hat SEO tactics include keyword stuffing, building fake pages to trick search engines, and creating hidden text or links as another means of fooling search engine spiders.

High scorers could also be poorly developed and maintained sites, i.e., sites with irrelevant or redundant copy, sites that have broken links and missing pages, and sites with links to other “spammy” sites.

You can check your website’s score and the score of individual pages by plugging in your website address into Moz’s Open Site Explorer. A score of 0 to 4 is considered low risk. A score of 8 or higher is high risk. Open Site Explorer will also highlight problem areas, like a low number of internal links or too little content, that you can then address to lower your score.

Like page authority, your spam score will impact your overall domain authority: a high spam score will bring your domain authority score down.

Also, any savvy digital marketer will check your site’s spam score before pursuing any type of collaboration with you. If your score indicates your site is not trustworthy, it’s going to be a challenge to establish quality links and share content.

The Final Word

While many digital marketers will argue that domain authority is the most important search engine ranking factor, it is only one piece of the puzzle. Page authority and spam score also impact search engine rankings and are directly related to the domain authority score.

Also, while domain authority is a good benchmark, it is not always 100 percent accurate. First, domain authority can be falsified. There are numerous “cut and paste” sites that generate good scores simply by posting lots of articles and other copy borrowed from around the web. In addition, no one really knows what Google’s search algorithm is except Google. While domain authority can provide a pretty close estimate of how your website will do with the search engines, it is still just that — an estimate. Finally, digital marketers have seen big increases and decreases in domain authorities across numerous websites when Moz rolls out updates. This may indicate that Moz is still in the process of perfecting its metrics and algorithms.

We suggest taking a multifaceted approach to monitoring and improving your search engine rankings. Monitor domain authority, page authority, and spam score. In addition, manually review each piece of content and links, applying the following litmus test:

  • Is it relevant?
  • Is it authentic?
  • Is it quality?
  • Is it of value to our customers/stakeholders?

If you remain true to your brand, your product or service, and your target audiences (in addition to following some of the score-improving tips we’ve outlined in this blog), you can improve your SEO and domain authority score organically.