When we talk about websites that are trustworthy, relevant, and deliver a superior user experience, we often cite their high domain authority, which gives Google the confidence to rank them at the top of the SERPs. Some people think domain authority scores, as calculated by third-party SEO tools, factor directly into search engine algorithms, but in reality, they’re only a prediction of how a site might perform in queries.
Domain authority is useful in the right context. In this guide, I’ll share the meaning of this often-cited term, along with tips on how to increase domain authority to improve your chances of landing in the top search spots.
What Is Domain Authority?
Domain authority refers to a website’s potential to rank well in search engines based on numerous criteria, but primarily its credibility and reputation based on backlinks. Moz took the lead in developing a Domain Authority score as part of its SEO tool suite. Platforms such as Ahrefs, Semrush, and Majestic have also created proprietary algorithms to measure a site’s authority.
However, Google doesn’t take these scores into account when ranking sites. Various SEO tools use domain authority strictly to help users optimize their pages and get a sense of how much search engines trust their sites.
How Is Domain Authority Calculated?
While each SEO tool calculates a site’s domain authority differently, they all use backlinks — the incoming links to your content from other sites — as a key factor. Backlinks indicate that someone has reviewed and curated your page and deemed it worthy of a link. As a result, for both authority scores and general Google ranking purposes, the quantity of backlinks, number of unique referring domains, and trustworthiness of referring domains all come into play.
It’s helpful to know what goes into the different scores if you want to know how to increase page authority. Some SEO tools provide more detail than others about how they calculate this metric.
Moz Domain Authority
Moz uses a machine learning model to calculate Domain Authority, drawing information from an index of links and comparing it to actual search result rankings. While the score calculation is complex, Domain Authority does consider:
- Total number of backlinks
- Total number of root domains
- How often the domain appears in Google search results
Semrush Authority Score
Semrush determines an Authority Score by assessing links, organic traffic, and signs of suspicious SEO behavior. Specifically, it weighs eight factors in the following order, with the last six indicating possible spam:
- Quality and quantity of backlinks
- Estimated average monthly traffic
- Lack of keyword rankings in Google’s top 100 organic positions
- Percentage of dofollow domains
- Ratio of links to organic traffic
- Links from domains with the same IP address
- Links from domains with the same IP network
- Identical backlink profile to another domain
Ahrefs Domain Rating
Ahrefs compares the strength of a site’s backlink profile to others in its database. Its Domain Rating takes into account:
- Number of unique referring domains
- Domain Rating of the referring domains
- The number of unique domains the referring domains link to (a site that links to many domains will have less influence than one linking to fewer domains)
Ahrefs doesn’t consider factors such as traffic, spam, or the age of a domain.
Majestic Trust Flow
Majestic maintains two link indexes with historic and current data. Its Flow Metric looks at not just the immediate referring domains but at broader relationship links as well. It considers:
- Quantity of backlinks
- Quality of backlinks, giving weight to human-curated sites and editorial links
- Context of backlinks
- How close a website is to a set of trusted websites
- How close a website is to sites with relevant topics
What Is a Good Domain Authority Score?
Domain authority scores land on a scale of one to 100, with higher scores suggesting more authority. New websites that don’t yet have backlinks start at the bottom of the scale and work their way up as the number of inbound links grows.
Try not to think of authority scores as grades. The best way to use these tools is for relative comparisons. If your score is lower than those of your competitors, you may want to try to boost your domain authority to have a better chance of outranking them. Or, use the scores to track your own progress in increasing domain authority over time.
As you can see from the previous section, tools calculate authority scores differently. Always use the same tool for your comparisons to account for the nuances between platforms.
How To Check Domain Authority
If you’re curious about your site’s website authority, input the domain into one of the free backlink checkers listed below. You’ll get a basic score but must subscribe for additional features.
- Moz Domain Authority Checker
- Ahrefs Website Authority Checker
- Majestic Backlink Checker
- Semrush Domain Overview Checker (you have to make an account to get 10 free requests)
Is Domain Authority a Ranking Factor?
Google algorithms are made up of hundreds of ranking factors, but there isn’t a standalone known as domain authority. However, the same factors that SEO tools use to calculate domain authority scores do influence your overall ranking in search engines — we just don’t know the specific algorithm or weighting that Google uses for each factor.
Consider using an SEO checklist to make sure you’re following best practices for search engine optimization and to help build domain authority.
How To Increase Domain Authority
Here, I’ll provide some tips on how to raise your domain authority by focusing on high-quality inbound links, content, site structure, and user experience.
1. Conduct a Link Audit
Run a backlink profile audit using Senrush or another tool to see what sites are linking to yours. While a lack of links can make it hard to rise in search engine rankings, low-quality links can also drag you down.
Make a list of links coming from poor-quality or spammy sites. These lack quality content or are crammed with keywords and ads. It may be hard to get a site to remove the link. Consider deleting your page if it’s outdated, doesn’t drive traffic, and doesn’t have valuable backlinks. Or formally request to disavow bad links through Search Console.
2. Earn More High-Quality Backlinks
Google sees backlinks as a testament to your page quality. That is, your page must be interesting and reliable if another site is sending its traffic to you. The more reputable the linking domains, the more valuable their backlinks are.
Quality backlinks enhance the credibility of your site and help you increase page authority. Look for referring domains that are regularly updated with top-notch content written by real people. Ideally, you’ll get links from established sites in the industry, as links from well-known sites carry more weight than those from pages with little traffic.
Here’s how to increase your domain authority by building high-quality backlinks to your site:
- Guest posting. Create content for high-authority sites with similar target audiences. This might be a trusted industry blog or a partner’s site. Include a link to your site in the article to get a backlink and improve brand awareness.
- Broken link building. Over time, as businesses update websites and move or delete pages, links break. When you find dead links to competitor sites, contact the site owner and offer a high-quality link to your own site to replace it.
- Finding directory listings. Request to place links to your site in directories that aim to be useful resources to visitors, such as those belonging to professional, business, or industry groups. Make sure the site provides value and doesn’t contain random or uncurated links, which can be a sign of spam.
3. Create Amazing Content
Invest in producing stellar content that inspires sites to direct their readers to your web pages. The content should be compelling to read and satisfy your audience’s thirst for knowledge. Content that lends itself well to backlinking includes:
- Blog posts. Regularly publish blog content that relates to your topic pillars. Each new post is a fresh opportunity for backlinking. You can cover a variety of relevant topics and establish your expertise.
- Original research. Share the results of studies or surveys that provide useful insight to your industry or audience. Businesses often look for data and statistics to cite in their content.
- Infographics. Create appealing visuals that condense information into an easy-to-consume format.
- Video tutorials. Educate your audience with useful how-to videos in your area of expertise.
Once you publish your content, promote the links through your social channels or with a digital PR strategy. This encourages sharing and can help increase domain authority.
4. Design a Seamless User Experience
Provide users with a rewarding experience once they arrive on your website. Sites that fulfill user needs tend to perform better in search rankings while also building customer loyalty.
Delays cause frustration, so monitor your Core Web Vitals to ensure content and images load quickly. Aim for an inviting design and reduce the use of pop-ups, banners, ads, and interstitials that distract users from the task at hand. The site should be easy to navigate and enable users to perform requests securely to accomplish their goals.
Pay close attention to the smartphone experience, since Google crawls mobile versions of websites first. Work with your developers to ensure the website design is responsive and adapts to different devices. Make sure your content fits neatly onto the user’s screen, font sizes are readable, and menus and buttons are easy to tap.
5. Organize Your Site Structure
The way you organize information on your site impacts both search rankings and user experience. Even if your content is superior to your competitors’, it’s useless to Google and site visitors if pages aren’t categorized logically and information isn’t where people expect it to be.
Ensure your site architecture makes sense by using a hierarchical approach. Start with a homepage that links to your most important sections, and then guide readers to relevant details with subsections a level or two down. This helps search engines crawl the content and understand your site structure. They can then index and display pages appropriately in the SERPs. The more confidence Google has in your content’s relevance, the more likely it is to rank better.
Putting a solid framework in place also keeps your website organized so you can easily add new pages and grow your content pillars.
6. Develop an Internal Linking Strategy
Let’s look at how to increase your domain authority and user experience with internal links. First, users and search engines will have trouble finding pages that don’t have incoming internal links. Spend some time considering your audience’s journey and where they may want to go next on your website. Make it convenient for them to get there with a well-placed link. Internal links are located in navigation menus or within the content of a page. For example, strategically place links within blog posts to provide more detail for readers or direct them to a product or service page.
Pages on your site with a large number of backlinks are more likely to be authoritative in Google’s eyes and rank well in the SERPs. The nifty trick here is that these pages can pass some of their hard-earned trust to other pages. This value is known as link equity or link juice. A link from a high-performing web page shares link juice with newer or underperforming pages, helping to boost domain authority.
Boost Your Domain Authority With an SEO Partner
Move the needle on your domain authority and improve your SEO efforts in impactful ways with a trusted partner. At Victorious, our team can help you create a powerful SEO strategy that’s completely customized to your goals. Reach out for a free SEO consultation, and we’ll get started helping you harness the power of search.