As a new blogger you’ll be coming to terms with a stack of new concepts and technical terms. You’ll be learning lots of blogging specific ideas and at the same time come into contact with SEO. In this post I’m going to touch on domain authority, an aspect of SEO that plays an important role in how search engines view your blog. So what is domain authority and why is it such a big deal?
By the end of this post you’ll have a clear understanding of domain authority by looking at the following areas:
- What does domain authority mean?
- Why is it important?
- How is it calculated?
- How to improve it.
- Tools to check it.
What is Domain Authority and What Does It Mean for Bloggers?
Domain authority (sometimes also called website authority) is a way for us to understand how powerful a domain is. A common misconception is that it’s something Google created to measure domain influence. The reason for this confusion is probably due to Google’s PageRank algorithm, the results of which used to be visible to anyone who cared to see it.
PageRank is an algorithm still used by Google as a ranking factor for domains. PageRank looks at the number of backlinks a domain has as well as the quality of those links. Webmasters understood that the more high quality links a domain had pointing to it, the stronger that domain was and the more likely it was to appear higher in Google results for a given search.
N.B. A high quality link is one that comes from a respected domain.
The concept of domain authority was actually coined by the good folks at Moz.com. In the absence of visible Google PageRank data, Moz defined its own broad metric to try to understand how domains might rank in search engine results.
Because we don’t know every single detail that search engines use to manage search rankings, Moz identified a series of likely powerful ranking indicators. It combined these into its own calculation to assign a score to domains to try to show their potential importance in terms of its influence in search results.
Moz’s domain authority score is effectively a number between 0 and 100. A score of 0 suggests a domain has little ability to rank. Conversely a score of 100 suggests it’s mega powerful.
Why is Domain Authority Important?
Domain authority is important because it indicates to us the strength of a domain and its potential ability to rank higher in results.
A recent Databox survey shows that domain authority is one of the most important factors when it comes to determining how long your SEO strategy might take.
Domain authority also provides us with a way to chart our progress. If we monitor our domain authority over time, we have a tangible way to assess the effectiveness of our efforts to appear more frequently (and higher) in search results.
As a metric, it also helps us to gauge the potency of other sites. This is useful to understand how well our competitors are doing and to assess potential domains to try to acquire links from.
It’s well known that the number and quality of links pointing to our blogs is a super important signal to Google and Bing. Links help us to rank higher in search results.
However, not all links are equal. A single link from a domain with high authority is worth more than dozens of links from those with less.
Having a way to assess domain authority helps us to understand the benefits of potential links and gauge how valuable they are.
How is Domain Authority Calculated?
Moz uses a proprietary tool called Link Explorer to harvest information about links and domains, which it stores in its own database. The database contains trillions of pages and links (yes… trillions), which Link Explorer uses to base its domain authority calculation upon. It’s also updated very frequently so the data Links Explorer uses is super fresh.
Moz calculates this measurement using several different indicators such as:
- Total number of links to a domain.
- Number of linking domains.
- Authority of the linking domains.
- Link types (follow, no follow, sponsored, UGC)
With such a massive index and a sophisticated way to plot ranking predictions, Moz is able to assign perhaps the most reliable score for domain authority outside of Google.
However, it should be remembered that it’s an indicator for comparing link profiles against other domains… it’s not an exact science.
How to Improve Domain Authority
The way to improve your domain authority is by growing links to your blog… no surprises there. As I’ve already mentioned though, it’s not all about volume because the quality of links plays a huge role in this.
You must build an impressive number of high quality links to move the needle on your domain authority score and that’s something that’s difficult to do in the short term.
In order to do this, you’ll need high-quality content and also get some time behind you to show you’re worthy of a good link.
It’s unlikely you’ll acquire high domain authority links if you only have 3 short articles on your two week old blog.
You’ll need to share your high-quality content and build relationships with other blogs consistently over time before you begin to get traction and start picking up links.
In order to expedite this, build out your content according to a plan and work on actively building links. There are some great tips on how to do so in this post at Backlinko.
Domain Authority Checking Tools
So how can you check the domain authority of your blog? I’ve mentioned one way already but let me provide you with a list of tools to help you understand where you are right now.
You can use these tools to monitor your DA on a monthly basis to track your progress.
The horse’s mouth, so to speak!
The concept of domain authority was conceived by Moz, so checking yours with Moz Pro is pretty much the best indicator you can get.
Moz Pro will give you a whole bunch of different tools to keep an eye on your domain authority and much more, such as:
- Keyword Explorer – a sophisticated keyword research tool.
- Rank Tracking – monitors keyword rankings for your domain as well as the domains of your competitors.
- Content Auditing – recommends content improvements to improve your potential to rank higher for your target keywords.
- Link Opportunities – Shows you where your competitors are getting their links from.
It’s not a cheap solution, but you can access a 30 day trial of Moz Pro to check it out.
Another highly respected SEO tool, Ahrefs provides a very similar toolset to Moz Pro. It uses its own way to assess domain authority in a metric called website authority. It too contains tools to:
- Track rankings
- Audit your site
- Audit your content
- Help you find keyword opportunities
Ahrefs is another subscription toolset that costs a pretty penny, but you can run a 7 day trial for a dollar a day.
SEMRush is an all-in-one marketing toolkit for digital marketing professionals. It’s one of the “big three” alongside Moz and Ahrefs. It includes the following features:
- Authority Score Checker
- Backlink analysis
- Keyword research
- Traffic analysis
- Keyword ranking
Like the other tools above, it’s not cheap, but you can run a free 7 day trial to check it out.
Ubersuggest is the most budget-friendly domain authority checking tools in this list. It’s owned by Neil Patel and offers increasingly interesting and useful features:
- Domain Score
- Keyword Research
- SEO Site Audit
- Backlink checker
- Content ideas
A limited free trial is available (you only see a subset of data) and its domain scoring tool may not be as slick as Moz Pro but for the price it’s a great little tool. Find out more about Ubersuggest on my blogging resources page.
To summarize, domain authority is an indicator of the power of a domain as defined by Moz’s Link Explorer tool. Although it’s not possible to be 100% accurate according to Google’s view of domain strength (which we can’t know) it’s probably the most accurate reflection we can rely on.
We can use it as a gauge for how our blogs are maturing… and to find out if they are maturing in the right way.
Domain authority is also useful in understanding the strength of competitor domains and for assessing the potential value of links we wish to build.
If you don’t presently have a clear view of your domain authority position, it’s worth starting to document it at a regular point each month. In this way you’ll be able to understand how your domain might be improving in Google’s eyes and also appreciate the value of backlinks you’ve acquired at various points.
That’s it for now.
What are your thoughts about DA? Do you have any tips for other bloggers? Drop a comment below and let’s discuss!