With hundreds of ranking factors used by Google, it can be challenging to know what you should focus on if you want to improve your site’s search rankings. However, it’s no secret that high-authority websites tend to dominate the first page. If you want to increase traffic, improving your site’s authority is a surefire way to accomplish your goal.
While it may seem like a daunting task, knowing how to increase your domain authority will allow you to compete with the big guys that seemed out of your league in the past. We’ll break down the simple steps you can follow.
What Is Domain Authority?
Domain authority (DA) is a metric created by Moz to predict how likely a site is to rank on the search engine results pages (SERPs). The scores range from 1-100, with higher numbers indicating a stronger ability to rank.
Moz uses several factors to calculate a site’s DA, most importantly backlinks. The external links from other websites and blogs that point to your site are an indication of authority.
The total number of linking root domains, as well as the authority and relevance of those sites, will determine your site’s DA.
It’s important to understand that DA scores from Moz are not a ranking factor used by the Google search algorithm. We know Google uses inbound links as an important signal to indicate authority.
Of course, Google doesn’t share the exact details of its algorithm publicly.
Moz created DA to measure authority in a similar way to Google, but keep in mind that your DA score from Moz doesn’t directly impact rankings.
Sidenote: While DA is a metric created by Moz, several other companies and SEO tools produce similar scores.
For example, Ahrefs calculates what it calls Domain Rating (DR). Semrush’s metric is called Authority Score.
All three scores range from 1-100 and they all attempt to measure authority, but a site’s scores will vary between the three since they all use their own calculations.
When I refer to domain authority, it’s a general statement that’s relevant regardless of which metric you’re using.
To check your domain authority, simply use these tools:
It doesn’t matter which tool you use, but be sure you’re comparing apples to apples. Don’t compare your site’s score from Moz to another site’s score from Ahrefs.
Domain Authority vs. Page Authority
Another similar metric you should be aware of is Page Authority (PA). Moz provides page authority in addition to the domain authority metric, and some other tools also have something similar.
Takeaway: Domain authority measures an entire domain or subdomain’s strength, while page authority measures an individual web page.
Pages on your site with the most inbound links are likely to have the highest page authority scores.
Why Does Domain Authority Matter?
If Google and other search engines don’t use domain authority, you may be wondering why it even matters. Is it just a vanity metric that makes you feel good (or bad) about your site?
Even though the domain authority scores from Moz, Ahrefs, Semrush, and other tools won’t directly influence Google rankings, they measure the same ranking factors used by Google, Bing, and other search engines.
Since we can’t get an inside look at Google’s algorithm, a score created by a third party that measures the same factors is the best available alternative.
In general, increasing your site’s DA will improve your chances of ranking higher and getting more organic traffic.
So while it’s not a direct ranking factor, domain authority can still be helpful for measuring progress and comparison to competitors.
While DA matters, having a low DA doesn’t mean your site won’t be able to rank for any keyword or search query. Other important factors like on-page optimization will play a significant role as well.
You can also target low competition keywords to avoid going up against very strong and established sites that are hard to outrank.
How High Should My Domain Authority Be?
When you’re looking at your site’s domain authority, it’s tempting to look at other successful websites and feel dwarfed by their impressive DAs. However, it probably doesn’t matter that Medium has a DA of 95 or that Etsy’s score is 92.
What’s more relevant is how your DA stacks up with the scores of your closest competitors.
What is the DA of the websites and types of blogs targeting the same keywords as you? These are the sites you’re going head-to-head against in the rankings.
By using the free MozBar, you can see the DA for every site directly on the SERPs. In some niches, you may be competing primarily against sites with DAs in the 30s.
In other niches, the top-ranking sites may have DAs in the 60s or 70s. Check out the DAs of sites ranking on the first page for your primary keywords, and it will give you an idea of what you should be shooting for.
Achieving a good domain authority takes time. It’s an ongoing project that requires link building to be a constant priority.
You won’t be able to start a new site and quickly match the DA of competitors that have been around for years.
Things to Know About Domain Authority
A few other essential details to keep in mind:
- The age of the site plays a role. Every new website will start with a DA of 1. Sites that are a few years old will be at a significant advantage, so keep that in mind when you’re comparing a newer site to competitors.
- DA can change at any time. Your scores can go up or down at any time. Keep an eye on your scores if you’re working to improve.
- Not instant. Crawlers need to be able to find links pointing towards your site for the links to impact your DA. They may not find links right away and your score may not change immediately.
- DA is harder to increase as your score gets higher. Going from a DA of 10 to 20 is pretty easy with just a little bit of work, but going from 50-60 is much harder. The higher your score gets, the more it will take to see any increase.
- Quality of quantity. While the number of links and referring domains pointing to your site is a factor that contributes to your DA, getting links from other high DA websites will matter the most.
How Can I Increase My Domain Authority?
If you want to reach a high domain authority, here are some practical suggestions.
1. Attract Links from High-Quality Websites
Not all links are equal. One inbound link from a high-authority website is worth much more than several links from low authority sites.
Likewise, links from sites covering topics relevant to your site are more valuable than links from sites that cover topics unrelated to yours. This is true for both domain authority and search rankings.
Sidenote: Your link-building efforts should focus on building a backlink profile with high-quality links that can move the needle.
There are several ways to attract links, but getting high-quality backlinks usually requires you to have great content that others want to link to.
Focusing on creating the best quality content possible will help with on-page SEO as well as link building.
2. Stop Chasing Low-Quality Links
Links from low-authority websites will do very little in terms of improving your domain authority. This is especially true as your DA increases since those lower-quality links will mean progressively less and less.
That’s not to say you should ignore low DA websites relevant to your site’s topic, but don’t put a lot of time or effort into getting links that are unlikely to make a difference.
3. Grow Your Authority and Expertise
Website owners and bloggers tend to link to other websites they view as authorities within the niche or industry.
I’m not talking about domain authority scores here, but simply reputation within the industry and perceived expertise.
When you have no established reputation within your industry, you need to work for every link. But when you have some authority, others will link to you as a reference or source without any extra work on your part.
It takes time, but if you focus on building your expertise and reputation, your site will attract more links.
4. Create Linkable Content
Some types of content development tend to attract links naturally, including:
- Detailed guides and tutorials
- Case studies
- Statistics and original research
- Free resources
- Online tools and calculators
- Infographics and visuals
- Rankings and top lists
Content marketing becomes a lot easier when you have these types of linkable assets.
Takeaway: Your outreach efforts are more likely to be successful at getting links, and more links will come to you. When you’re creating a piece of content, consider its value in terms of attracting links.
5. Improve Internal Link Structure
Internal links are often overlooked.
While linking to other pages on your site may not directly help to improve your domain authority scores, the internal links can help your most important pages rank higher in Google searches, and that’s more important.
Also, internal links can improve page authority scores.
Linking from your pages with the highest PA scores to other relevant and important pages on your site can boost those pages with lower scores.
With internal links, you have complete control over the anchor text, so you can help your pages rank for the exact keywords you’re targeting.
Effective internal linking is also helpful for usability as it makes it easier for visitors to find content that interests them.
6. Remove or Disavow Bad Links
Inbound links from relevant websites that have low domain authority are not bad. These links won’t do much to improve your DA, but they’re not going to hurt you.
Bad links come from low-quality, spammy websites that have no real value. If your link profile includes a high percentage of bad links, it may send the wrong signals.
You can use a tool like Moz, Ahrefs, or Semrush to do a link audit of the sites linking to you and identify spammy links, including any paid links that don’t use nofollow or sponsored tags.
If you’ve purchased links in the past, they could be considered bad links and they may be hurting you.
In some cases, you may be able to get these links removed by reaching out to the other site’s webmaster, but most of the time it’s impossible.
In that case, you can disavow links in Google Search Console.
7. Improve Social Signals
Google has stated that social media shares don’t impact search rankings, but this doesn’t always seem true.
Pages that get many shares on Facebook or a lot of pins on Pinterest often seem to show up higher in the SERPs. Focusing on domain authority and SEO doesn’t mean you should ignore social media.
Having a strong presence on popular social platforms will improve social signals that may help to boost your website’s DA or search rankings.
8. Fix Any Crawlability Issues
The Google spiders need to crawl your website to index your content and display it in the SERPs. And if Google spiders aren’t able to crawl your website, other tools like Moz won’t be able to either, which will negatively impact your DA.
Be sure that there are no crawlability issues with your site.
If anything is preventing crawling, fix it as soon as possible. Ahrefs offers a free website checker that’s extremely useful for identifying issues that must be addressed.
9. Prioritize Usability
While the user experience on your site won’t directly give you higher DA scores, it can indirectly influence it.
Over the past few years, Google has made usability an increasingly important part of the search algorithm, and that’s unlikely to change.
Additionally, offering a great user experience increases the likelihood that other sites will link to you, and those links can impact your DA. No one wants to link to a bad website, so before you start trying to build links, be sure you’re addressing any usability problems.
While domain authority could be seen as a vanity metric since it’s not used in search engine algorithms, a high DA score does indicate a site is more likely to be able to rank near the top of the SERPs. For marketers who want to increase traffic, domain authority matters as part of the overall digital marketing strategy.
With the suggestions covered in this article, you’ll know how to increase your domain authority and improve your chances of generating targeted traffic with search engines.
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