What is Domain Authority, and Why Does it Matter?

By Tom Shearman

Let’s say you’re a dog owner and you write a blog post about your adorable dachshunds When you finish writing your post, you hit “publish” and send it into the great wide internet. Much to your dismay, when you Google “dachshunds” your post doesn’t appear on page one of search results, or page two, or page 10 for that matter.

Instead, you find the American Kennel Club’s page about Dacshund Dog Breeds at the top of the search engine results. You might also see BuzzFeed’s article 24 Dachshunds Who’ll Make You Go ‘Aw’ on page 1. And you might find the website of Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund on page 2 and a popular Dachshund rescue on page 10.

SERP for Dachshund

You may question why your blog isn’t outranking these sites. Well, there are a host of factors that go into rankings, but one big indicator that we use to measure how easily a site will rank for a given query is “Domain Authority”.

What is Domain Authority and Why is it Important?

To get to the heart of this question, you have to understand what domain authority means.

Domain Authority refers to the strength of your website. Or put another way, the ability for your website to rank highly for a given search query, all things being equal. And now that you know what it is, we’re going to call it “DA”, because SEO is full of acronyms.

How Do You Measure Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is measured on a logarithmic scale from 1-100. Because it’s logarithmic, there’s a ton of sites with low DA, relatively few sites with mid-range DA, and very few sites with high DA. To put that in real terms:

  • BuzzFeed has a DA of 91 (very strong)
  • Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund has a DA of 34 (let’s be generous and call him a minor celebrity)
  • The local Dachshund Rescue is DA 17 (pretty typical for a small local business)

What is considered a good domain authority score? We created the following chart demonstrating the scale.

Domain authority scale

Websites like Amazon and Facebook have near perfect DAs over 95, as do leading publications and news sources like the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Low-trafficked blogs often find themselves in the single-digit range, while businesses, depending on size, find themselves in the mid-tier and “good” range. 

It’s important to note a key distinction between domain authority and another common term in the digital marketing world: Page Authority (PA). Whereas domain authority measures the strength of an entire domain, page authority measures the anticipated strength of an individual page to rank well in the SERPs. Because they are determined using the same methodology and ranking factors, many people may use the phrases interchangeably but they relate to two unique evaluations of page strength. 

What are the Top 3 Factors to Determine Domain Authority

Domain Authority factors in several elements when evaluating a website in an attempt to approximate a search engine algorithm as closely as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger factors here:

  • Links: There are two types of links: good links and bad links. Good links include editorial links to your site, provided as references from articles, attributions for content, etc. Bad links, however, lower your DA and limit your ability to rank.
  • A technically sound website: Having a technically sound website can mean SO MANY THINGS including a site that loads quickly (with compress images and utilizing image caching), has no 404s (dead pages that haven’t been redirected) and is full of rich, original content.
  • Domain age: Yes, older sites tend to rank better, and there’s not a lot you can do about that.

How to Improve Domain Authority

Many businesses and websites want to know how they can go about increasing domain authority and page authority.

Firstly, it’s important to point out that higher DA has no value as an end goal. It’s just an indicator. Higher DA is a fine thing to strive for, but we try to avoid having clients set DA targets as a goal because improving your DA (alone) won’t make you any money.

What a higher DA should do is increase your traffic, which should lead to more conversions, which should make you more money. But if you’re measuring DA, you’re at least four “should’s” from your real goal, of making more money. So we prefer to measure conversions and traffic, and if at all possible, revenue.

But if you are looking to improve your website domain authority, start with a backlink audit. From there you can identify what types of sites link to you, and start taking the next steps towards strengthening your DA: 

  1. Earn high-authority links
  2. Eliminate low-quality and spammy links
  3. Focus on earning links that refer traffic to your website

Backlinks can further help boost your DA when they stem from authoritative websites, drive traffic that stays and interacts with your content, and are linking to helpful resources audiences. 

Why Does Domain Authority Matter?

While pursuing higher DA shouldn’t be a high priority end-goal, it can still be a useful metric to track. In fact, website domain authority is something that gets thrown around in the office a bit. However, the main way we use it is to identify quality outreach targets. These are high authority sites, with high quality content from which we’d like to earn links for our clients.

As mentioned above, links are a major factor in you improving the authority of your own site. When your website’s backlink profile is full of links from higher DA sites, you’ll see a greater impact than if you just had links from lower DA sites. To measure the domain authority of a website you can use a DA checker tool like Moz Link Explorer.

Screenshot of Moz Link Explorer

In my experience, when clients are asking about their DA, they’re usually just taking a less direct route to ask a question like “how are my SEO results?” or “how long is it going to take to see these indicators turn into revenue?” If you want to dive into these questions, check out our blog – “How Long Does SEO Take?”

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