Many webmasters don’t realize they need to pay attention to their domain authority (DA) score. And even if they do, they often don’t know why. There are a myriad of reasons, from wrong information spread by other webmasters who often don’t know themselves, to misconceptions, domain authority is an often-misunderstood metric in the SEO ecosystem.
First, here’s the simple explanation: domain authority refers to the overall quality of a website. The higher the DA score, the better the content, the better the site’s authority, and the easier it is for Google to rank pages.
But, domain authority is limited. It is not a Google ranking factor, and it is not a general search engine ranking factor.
Instead, it’s a third-party tool metric, which measures how strong a specific domain is, based on existing factors that are calculated by a specific tool. And, if that weren’t enough, certain tools like AHREFs have their own specific version of domain authority: domain rating.
Clearly, domain authority is a complicated metric, but we’re here to teach you all you need to know about it..
Domain Authority: What Is It, Exactly?
Domain authority is a metric that is measured by third-party tools to explain how “strong” a domain really is. With this measurement, SEO professionals have a guideline they can use to understand the impact of a specific domain.
The first thing to understand about domain authority is that it doesn’t actually mean anything in terms of rankings. Instead, it’s a way to measure the strength of a website or page.
It does so by looking at several different factors, including:
Backlinks – Links from other websites pointing back to yours.
Page Rank – A number between 0 and 10 that indicates the importance of a particular web page.
Trust – How trustworthy a link feels when visiting another website.
Page Authority – Similar to Page Rank, but focuses on the authority of individual pages instead of entire domains.
The next thing you must understand about domain authority is that it is only relegated to third-party tools. It is not something that is a Google ranking factor.
John Mueller from Google has on record stated this on numerous occasions in the past:
On the other hand, if you need DA for something else (sell the site, sell advertising, sell links) I wonder if there’s a way to turn that around into focusing on a more useful metric instead (even something as simple as pageviews could be more useful if you want to sell ads). Or, if it’s really just DA that you want, then I’d look into Moz’s docs & forum, since they make the metric.
Assuming 31 is low (I have no idea of how the DA values are distributed), my recommendation would be to try to build a strong audience first, before you think about things like monetization. Find a topic that you know about or that you can learn about, find a topic that has low competition, where you can stand out easily (pro tip: don’t make a blog about seo or about earning money online, nobody is waiting your version; find a different topic).
My goal would be to not create a mass of content, but rather to create a reasonable collection of fantastic content. Work to make your content known to your audience – find them, reach out to them, advertise to them if you need to. In the beginning, act as if search engines don’t exist, and assume you won’t get any traffic from search.
Search engines won’t know that your content is great if there are no signals confirming that, so first build your audience. Keep them engaged, keep them coming back, don’t publish just because you can, but rather publish if you have something unique, compelling, and high-quality to add to the internet. If you can keep your audience – the one you’re promoting your work to – returning, if they recommend your site on their own, over time search engines will pick up on it too, and metrics like the DA will grow too (assuming it’s something link-based).
The long-term approach is not a quick jump to #1, it takes work, and you have to bring your content to your audience first, they won’t just find you on their own. Short-term hacks might get some metrics to move, but it won’t last, and you’ll be back here, or starting over, soon enough.”
What Is The Difference Between Domain Authority (DA) and Domain Authority (Concept)?
It’s important to make a distinction between domain authority and domain authority as a concept.
Real domain authority is a third-party metric invented by third-party tools, such as Moz, in order to measure how much authority a domain actually has.
As a concept, domain authority is the idea that Google provides more authority to certain domains, and that you can do things to build domain authority over time.
Such things include creating great content and building high-quality links.
Is There Such a Thing as A “Good” Domain Authority Score?
Yes, there is such a thing as a good domain authority score.
For most tools (such as AHREFs), scores around 40-50 are considered average domain authority scores.
A domain authority score between 50-60 is rated around the “good” level.
Anything above 60 means that your domain authority is strong and excellent.
How Can One Check Their Domain Authority?
You can use a number of third-party tools to check your domain authority. The most prevalent of these is the Moz Bar and the AHREFs toolbar (or AHREFs application itself).
Because Moz is the company who first developed domain authority, they have a proprietary domain authority score they use to evaluate websites.
Furthermore, an application like AHREFs has their own methodology for evaluating sites, and so on. No one tool’s version of domain authority is the be-all, end-all expert on domain authority in and of itself.
Thus, domain authority should only be used as a very loose and general indicator of how a website is doing authority-wise.
The Difference Between Domain Authority and Page Authority
According to Moz, they write that:
Page Authority is calculated in the same way as Domain Authority, but at the individual page level. Page Authority is based off data from the Mozscape web index and includes link counts and dozens of other factors (more than 40 in total). Importantly, it does not take into consideration specific on-page elements like keyword use or content optimization.
Like Domain Authority, Page Authority is calculated using a machine learning algorithm and thus will fluctuate as the data being fed into the algorithm changes. For this reason, it’s best to use Page Authority as a relative metric, to compare against other pages, as opposed to an absolute value “scoring” the rankability of any one page.”
How Do You Build Domain Authority?
The main way that you can build domain authority is by working on your link profile. This means getting links from high quality sites with relevant content. You can also boost your domain authority by making sure that you remove bad links in order to improve the weight of the good links in your link profile.
There are a myriad of ways to improve your link profile. They include:
- Having lots of authoritative anchor text pointing to your site.
- Building lots of great content on your site.
- Getting external backlinks from other websites.
- Creating videos and sharing them on YouTube.
- Sharing articles on Medium.
- Linking out to other authoritative sites.
- Blogging about your site.
Ideally, your off-page optimization (link building) should appear natural, and not done in such a way that Google thinks you are trying to “game the system.”
When you build links the right way, then you can really go for the gold and increase that domain authority properly.
Natural Link Building
Another way to increase your domain authority is through natural link building. Natural link building is the process of creating content that resonates with your audience so well that they automatically link back to your website.
Is Domain Authority Really a Google Ranking Factor?
Moz’s Dr. Pete Meyers explains the following about whether DA is real on Google:
Let me ask another question. How do you measure the competitiveness of a new page that has no Page Authority (or PageRank or whatever metrics Google uses)? This question is a big part of why Domain Authority exists — to help you understand your ability to compete on terms you haven’t targeted and for content you haven’t even written yet.”
Dr. Pete also mentions that you can’t fake real authority:
Do the work and build the kind of real authority that moves the needle both for Moz metrics and Google. It’s harder in the short-term, but the dividends will pay off for years. Use Domain Authority to understand where you can compete today, cost-effectively, and maximize your investments. Don’t let it become just another vanity metric.”
Why Do SEO Pros Think Domain Authority Is A Ranking Factor?
Some SEO pros believe that domain authority is a ranking factor simply because of claims made by other SEO pros. They don’t bother to do the research behind it.
And, this claim is exacerbated by some articles on Moz.
The reality is that, according to John Mueller, domain authority is not a real ranking factor on Google. It’s simply a score used by third-party tools in order to measure how authoritative a domain actually is.
The indicator should only be used very loosely, because optimizing for something that doesn’t exist on Google will only lead to trouble down the line.
What’s The Difference Between Domain Authority and Domain Rating?
Just like the fact that domain authority is a third-party metric, domain rating is also a third-party metric.
Except, domain rating was developed by AHREFs. This is very similar to domain authority in that it measures exactly how much of an impact that domain rating number has on a website.
Linkbuilding HQ says:
Just to be clear, Domain Rating has no direct effect on a page’s ranking on Google. High DR websites tend to rank highly on SERPs only because they also score well on Google’s ranking algorithms (it’s correlation, not causation). However, DR is still a useful measure of gauging a website’s link popularity and its ability to get traffic from Google searches.”
Creating True Domain Authority Is Not an Exercise in Fakery
Clearly, domain authority is something tangible. But it is not exactly a tangible “thing” that some SEO professionals believe in.
It’s more of an indicator, but it is still a general reliable indicator (depending on the software you use to verify the metric).
By making sure that you utilize software like Moz or AHREFs in order to identify where your site is in terms of domain authority, it’s possible to achieve higher domain authority numbers that will help move the needle on your site.
How do you plan on improving your domain authority?