If you want to know where your website will rank on search engines, Domain Authority is the metric to track.
But it's one thing knowing your Domain Authority score -- if you want to climb the Google rankings and increase your revenue, you need to improve it.
In this guide, we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Domain Authority, including what it is and how it is calculated. Then we’ll take you through easy steps you (or your SEO agency) can make to your website and digital marketing strategy to improve your domain authority score.
For easy access:
Let's dive in.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric used to estimate how well a website will rank on search engine results pages (SERPs) based on its quality and authority.
Knowing your domain authority is crucial for your search engine optimization strategy, as any SEO guide will tell you.
Here's where things get a bit confusing:
If you hear someone talking about "domain authority", they could be talking about one of two things.
The first is the Google ranking factor, also known as "site authority".
This is the idea that Google favours some sites more than others in search results based on how authoritative the site is.
However, Domain Authority Score is NOT a direct Google ranking factor.
According to Google, this metric does not exist and there's officially NO direct correlation between Domain Authority and Google.
That's why you might hear website owners complain how they have a high Domain Authority Score, but their website isn't going up in the organic rankings on Google search.
The second idea is the Domain Authority metric by SEO research company Moz.
The Moz metric of Domain Authority (DA) was created to predict how high a page will rank in search engine results. It considers the quality of domains pointing to the site, the number of inbound links, and other factors.
Moz's domain authority score rates a website on a scale of 1 to 100. The higher your Domain Authority Score, the better the quality of your site, and the more likely your site will appear at the top of the SERPs.
"Domain Authority is designed to be an indicator of success, but it doesn't drive success. DA is not used by Google and will have no direct impact on your rankings."
Moz isn’t the only company to provide a score based on backlinks. Many other SEO tools have developed their own versions.
[AHREFS DOMAIN RATING SCORE PIC HERE]
To be clear, when we talk about Domain Authority score in this article, we're referring to the Moz metric.
How is Domain Authority calculated?
To improve your website's domain authority, you need to first understand how the score is calculated.
Full disclosure: nobody really knows how Moz does it.
Moz does not provide full transparency about how they calculate domain authority scores.
But to this is what we do know:
Moz combines all the data it has about a domain into a single score, which is a logarithmic rating out of 100.
As of the Domain Authority 2.0 update in early 2019, Moz calculates a domain's DA score using a machine learning algorithm’s predictions about how often Google is using the domain in its search results.
Clear as mud?
Moz says that at the heart of Domain Authority is Moz Link Explorer, its industry-leading link index.
If you notice your domain score fluctuating, here's why:
DA is based on machine learning calculations. As more, fewer, or different data points become available, they are automatically incorporated into those calculations and your score will change.
Here's the example Moz gives to explain how it works:
If facebook.com suddenly acquires a billion new links, every other site’s DA will drop relative to Facebook’s.
That's because more established and authoritative domains like Facebook have increasingly larger link profiles and take up more of the high-DA slots. This leaves less room at the high end of the DA score range for other domains with weaker link profiles.
The most important thing that DA takes into account is backlinks.
The DA score factors in the number of unique backlinks your website has earned, and whether those links come from legitimate sites with real traffic. That shows Moz that your website is useful.
Linking root domains are also important.
So, if your website has earned 20 links from two different websites, you’ve only had two linking root domains. Earning a few links from different websites is more important than earning lots of links from the same website.
The metric also looks at how closely your website is connected to trusted websites, such as .edu or .gov sites.
You don't even have to earn a link directly from a .edu or .gov site -- if they link to a site that then links to you, it’s considered a sign of trust.
Domain authority versus Page Authority
Page Authority (PA) is a similar score to Domain Authority. But instead of measuring the predictive ranking strength of a website as a whole, it measures the strength of individual pages.
Improving the Page Authority of a single page compared to its competitors can help low Domain Authority sites outrank higher DA competitors.
Because as you build your Page Authority, your website's Domain Authority should also increase.
Think about it:
The higher the aggregate Page Authority of a website, the higher the Domain Authority score.
As with Domain Authority, there are lots of factors that play into your score. The most important is the page's link profile.
What is a Good Domain Authority Score?
Now you know what domain authority is, what is considered a good domain authority score?
The answer is... it depends.
There's no such thing as an average Domain Authority scores range.
Each website's score depends on all the other sites across the Domain Authority scale.
That's why Domain Authority scores are best viewed as comparative metrics NOT absolute metrics.
The highest possible DA score is 100, but is it possible to attain the top score?
The biggest, most authoritative sites on the internet tend to have a Domain Authority of over 90.
For example, the BBC has a Domain Authority score of 95 (and a DR score of 92).
Other top publications typically score above 70 or 80.
What is considered a high domain authority score depends on your industry and competition. If there are other websites out there that currently rank for terms you want to target AND they have a higher domain authority score, you need to work to increase domain authority.
It's all relative.
As Moz's Dr Peter J Meyers, said:
"DA is very good at helping you understand your relative competitiveness.... Knowing that your DA is 48 is useless in a vacuum. Knowing that your DA is 48 and the sites competing on a query you're targeting have DAs from 30-45 can be extremely useful. Likewise, knowing that your would-be competitors have DAs of 80+ could save you a lot of wasted time and money."
The important thing to realise is that a "low" DA does not automatically mean your website is worthless.
Nor does it mean that your site won't rank on search engines.
All sites start with a low DA before they have attracted any links. The only exception is when a site is built on an existing domain that already has links pointing to it.
Even sites with a very low Domain Authority score can rank in Google search results if there is a lack of competition.
That said, if you see an older site with very low DA, it could be an indication of low-quality links and less traffic.
There's one more thing you need to know:
Domain Authority is a logarithmic scale.
This means as you increase your Domain Authority score, it becomes harder and harder to reach the next score range.
For example, your site can easily reach 20-30 website authority by following the best practices.
But when you want to raise your score up to 40, it becomes more challenging. Then when you start thinking about a score of 70, it's even more difficult to improve it.
To repeat, the only way to understand whether you have a good DA score is in comparison with competing domains.
How to find out your Domain Authority score
Finding out your Domain Authority score is the easy part.
Simply use the free Moz Domain Analysis tool (formerly called Open Site Explorer).
It’s currently part of their Link Explorer tool.
All you need to do is enter the URL of the website you want to search for and click "Analyse".
The domain authority checker will do its magic and show you a summary of the Page Authority and Domain Authority score alongside other useful info, such as linking domains, inbound links pointing to your website, and ranking keywords.
You can not only find out your website's DA score, but also check DA scores for other sites, including your competitors.
In this example, we've used the Nike.com domain:
You can see the Nike.com DA is a high score of 91, with over 230,000 linking domains.
Scroll down to see more data:
You can see the top followed links to the site, as well as a graph showing the linking domains by DA.
There are two more ways you can check the Domain Authority of a website:
MozBar is Moz's free SEO toolbar and is compatible with Chrome web browser.
It gives you instant metrics while viewing any page or SERP. You can see your Page Authority and Domain Authority, as well as many other metrics.
Ubersuggest is a free SEO tool by Neil Patel that specializes in generating new keyword ideas but you can also use it to search domain names and get detailed traffic and keyword analysis. It acts as a domain authority checker, alongside useful information like traffic and the top keywords a site ranks for.
Head to the tool’s homepage and search for the site you want to investigate:
For example, the above dashboard shows the DA for Walmart.com is 93 and it has over 175K backlinks.
Scrolling down the page you can also see a ranking of keyword searches for this website -- a great way to see what sorts of words visitors to competitor websites are searching for.
How to Increase Domain Authority
Here are our top tips to increase domain authority for your site.
Earn High-Quality Backlinks
You need to focus on link building – high quality links that tell Google that your website is worth sharing and linking to.
Effective link building is one of the most powerful weapons to increase your domain authority and ultimately drive more organic and referral traffic to your website to convert.
When it comes to SEO, link building is one of the most important ranking factors for any website.
Backlinks are considered a good measure of a site’s domain authority because, in theory, websites only link to other sites when the content is worth linking to.
If a site has a lot of backlinks, every one of those links is like a vote of trust for your website. It means many different users vouch for the quality of its content.
Start by checking your link profile.
Your online presence according to your inbound and outbound links is called your link profile.
Use the Moz Link Research tool to identify the links that are pointing to your website. This will help you see:
The number of links and linking domains
Whether they are high quality links
Links gained and lost over a period of time
Select “Linking Domains” to get the list of domains linking back to your website.
Checking your link profile helps you keep on track of your backlinks and make sure you are only attracting high quality links from reputable sites.
Remember, when thinking about link quality vs link quantity, quality wins every time.
How do you earn quality backlinks?
You need to create high quality content.
Creating valuable, useful and unique content that people want to link to is the single most important step to build links and improve your domain authority.
Some content is more shareable and valuable than others, including:
Long-form content such as white papers and ebooks
Infographics, images, charts and diagrams
Original research, reports or statistics
Evergreen content, informative articles, blog post and how-to guides
News and press releases
Look at the type of content that other websites are creating and use a tool like Ahrefs, Moz or SEMRush to see how your competitors are earning their backlinks.
The key to great content is to do keyword research.
Before you start writing a blog post for your website, you need a set of keywords that you want to rank for. This means you’re aligning the content with that of the target audience. Make sure your content optimization focuses on these keywords.
Promote and share content
Nobody will see your content if you don't share it!
Promoting your content to social media is also a great way to start earning organic traffic and social signals, such as shares, likes and retweets.
That's when you will start getting noticed by other high authority sites and earn links from websites that are relevant to yours.
But don't just sit and wait for others to find your content, be proactive and reach out to bloggers and webmasters who manage websites that cater to the same niche as yours.
Reach out to them telling them about your content, and offer a guest blog post opportunity. You will receive a quick response, and the links will be placed naturally on sites that will help boost domain authority.
When link building, always look for high authority websites with an engaged audience and real traffic. Pitch quality content that will genuinely add value for the website’s audience. Find unlinked brand mentions
If someone has mentioned your website but hasn’t added a link to your site, get in touch and ask them to link to you.
While it sounds like a lot of work, it’s easy to automate much of the process.
A great tool to use for this is BuzzSumo.
Go to the Monitoring tab and set up an alert for all brand mentions. If a website mentions your brand but does not link to it, you’ll see a “No link” tab:
Now all you need to do is get in touch with the site owner and ask for a link.
Disavow and remove bad links
Are you attracting links from websites with higher spam scores? A high spam score can drag down your DA score.
By making sure that you attract real links from high DA sites, you give a positive signal to the Moz algorithms about the quality of your site too.
But the opposite is also true. If you are getting links from low DA sites, your authority will suffer.
Check your links in Moz and make a list of domains with high spam scores.
Then, you have two options:
1) Reach out to those website owners to remove the links altogether or add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to links that can't be removed.
2) If option 1 doesn’t work, upload the list directly to Google Search Console to disavow. This means you are requesting Google NOT to consider the backlinks from these domains when ranking your site.
Unfortunately, disavow is not an instant process. You need to wait for Google to crawl and index your site before all links are disavowed. It can take as long as six months, depending on the size of your site and the number of domains to disavow. If you have a smaller website with fewer referring domains, the change can happen within a few weeks.
Next, make sure the external links from your website are not pointing to spammy domains or low rank websites. If you're not sure, use the “no follow” link attribute.
Optimize on-page SEO
Now your off-page SEO is covered, it's time to optimize on-page SEO factors.
As you'd expect, on-page optimization is everything that you do ON your page to help your website rank.
Before you get started, it's worth using the On-page Grader tool by Moz.
The On-Page Grader tool makes it simple to check the on-page SEO strength of a page. It shows you how well optimized your page is for your target keyword, and where you can improve.
Simply add the URL for the page you'd like to grade and click "Analyze".
Moz then gives you an on-page grade for your page based on a wide range of factors.
In your On-Page Grader report you’ll see the following:
The Page Title parsed from the source code of the page
The Meta Description parsed from the source code of the page
Overview including the number of Keywords Found, Keyword Locations, and your overall Page Score
Below the report overview, you can review various factors to quickly see what may be helping or hurting your on-page SEO efforts. If there's an issue, you can learn more about how to fix it.
Here are some top tips for on-page SEO to build domain authority:
Meta Title and Meta Description
Your meta title and meta description (meta tags) are the short snippets that appear in search engine results under your page title.
If you spend some time on unique, optimized meta tags, your users will have a useful preview of the content on your web pages, which encourages them to click and helps your clickthrough rates.
You don’t have an infinite character count, and you don't want Google to cut off your content mid-sentence.
So, make sure you have a short, succinct description for both tags. This means:
Title tag: 60 characters or less
Meta description: Between 50 and 160 characters.
Pro tip: Use a tool like metatags.io to preview how your meta title and description will appear in search. Very handy!
Optimize Image Alt Text
Another important factor that Moz uses to understand the quality of a page is the alt text used in the images.
Properly optimized images can boost the SEO value of your website AND provide additional ranking opportunities on Google Image Search.
Your images should have alt text that tells Google exactly what the image is showing. This helps Google index the page.
Improve internal linking structure
Internal linking is where you link anchor text to other pages in your own site. Because internal links connect your content, they help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of your website.
It can also help boost lower authority pages.
Moz recommends no more than 100 internal links within a page.
Create SEO friendly URLs
Google uses the URL to understand what the page’s content is all about, so keep your URL structure short and keyword-rich.
For example, take a URL structure for an SEO about page like this: “http://www.onlinemarketinggurus.com/11239124708124”
It means nothing to Google.
Now look at this one:
It clearly indicates exactly what the page is about.
The good news is these on-page factors are also essential for good SEO too. So focusing on your on-page elements will help your website naturally climb the search engine result pages.
Website Structure and User Experience
Tidy up your website
Do you have too many 301 redirects, broken links and duplicate pages on your site? Are there any technical issues on your website that could be affecting the website crawler?
If you think about how search engines work, you need to make sure crawlers can crawl the site to index pages easy. That's why any issues in your website structure can lead to a drop in the domain rankings.
Google Search Console’s Index Coverage Report is also a really useful tool to show the indexing state of all your web pages that Google has crawled, or tried to crawl.
The report groups your web pages into those with: error, valid with warnings, valid or excluded.
Once you know where the problems are, you can build a plan to fix them, and improve your domain authority.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
You cannot afford for your site not to be mobile-friendly. Just look at the numbers: over 58% of all searches in Google are now done from a mobile device.
Not only will it hurt your search engine rankings and Domain Authority score, data shows that 52% of customers are less likely to engage with a brand because of a bad mobile experience. On the other side of the equation, 74% of users more likely to return to mobile optimized sites.
Use Google’s Mobile-Friendly test to test how easily a visitor can use your page on a mobile device.
All you need to do is plug in your website URL and Google will analyze your web page and let you know how mobile-friendly your site is.
If your site is mobile-friendly, you'll be greeted with this page:
If it's not mobile-friendly, there are a few things you can do:
Create a responsive website design, which means your site will automatically adapt to the user's device and screen size.
Speed up your site - page speed is a ranking factor for mobile sites, made official by Google in its Speed Update. One sure-fire way to speed up your site is by compressing images. Go to Google's PageSpeed Insights to see how fast your site loads, and check out any fixes you can make.
Avoid interstitials (features like pop-ups and other interruptive advertising) - these are annoying and frustrating for mobile users and can disrupt the user experience.
Now you know what you need to know to improve your domain authority, and elevate your website.
Here’s a quick summary:
What is Domain Authority? Domain Authority is a quick way to predict if your website is likely to rank well on Google and other search engines.
What’s a good website Domain Authority? It depends on your industry, but the higher the better!
Is Domain Authority useful? Yes. Use Domain Authority to understand how to maximize your investments in website improvements to rank higher and see SEO success.
How do I improve my website's DA score? Focus on high-quality content, link building and on-page SEO.