Domain Authority Score: What Is It, and How to Increase It

Wednesday, December 27th
Content Manager

Mark Wilson

Google and its algorithm for ranking websites seem to dominate discussions of search engine optimization (SEO). This is for good reason! They’re the industry leader for searches. Anyone who wants their website to perform well is going to have to learn what makes the Google algorithm tick.

So what does make it tick? What makes one website rank above another, or one page rank higher than another? Can this be broken down into metrics, and then improved?

Those questions, and others like them, are what caused some marketers to create Domain Authority (DA). You’ve probably heard this term, but might not have a sense of what it is, or how it’s calculated.

That’s what we’re here for. Domain Authority isn’t a mystical force, but rather is something that you can track and affect via strategies to increase your site’s authority. Let’s dive in!

What Is Domain Authority (DA)

Domain Authority is a metric that was created by Moz to represent a site’s chance of ranking for search engine results pages (SERPs).

In the years since its creation, numerous other SEO sites have joined with their own versions of an authority calculation. They’re often called slightly different names such as website authority, authority score, and others, but the underlying goal is the same.

These aggregate metrics track websites based on a few key indicators and produce an authority ranking. This relates to the website’s likelihood of ranking for search results. In practice, this means that higher scores are better.

Does Domain Authority Matter?

Yes and no. Yes, because the metrics it’s tracking are important to your website’s overall success. No, because Domain Authority is not an officially recognized metric by Google or any other search engine.

Remember that DA is an aggregate score that applies broadly to your web domain. Individual pages that are deemed useful by Google, or that have proven to capture users’ attention as valuable pages, can still rank highly, even over pages on sites that have a higher overall domain authority.

The other trap people sometimes fall into is comparing their site’s domain authority to all other websites. Unless you’re a social media giant, it doesn’t matter if your domain authority competes with Facebook, for example. Comparing within your industry and direct competitors is a better way to view the score.

So domain authority isn’t the end-all, be-all of SEO metrics, but can be a good indicator of overall search ranking strength.

What Metrics Contribute to Domain Authority

The primary metric that contributes to domain authority is external links that link back to your website. These are known as backlinks. Both the quantity and quality of these links matter.

Depending on the source you’re using to calculate authority (remember, it’s not a standardized metric recognized by Google), the total volume of your ranking keywords could be factored in, as could related metrics such as organic traffic, “toxic” backlinks (those from disreputable sites) and other common SEO indicators.

Backlinks tend to receive the majority of the focus, though, since these have proven to be a strong indicator of a website’s success in search rankings. If a lot of people link to a resource on your site, chances are it’s a useful one that search engines like Google and Bing should pay attention to.

What Is My Website’s Domain Authority?

Sites like Moz, mentioned earlier, and its competitors all have proprietary scores that they calculate for websites. You can see your score for free at Moz’s site, though their deeper analytical tools will only be available with a paid subscription.

Others that have similar metrics since it was introduced by Moz are SEMRush and Ahrefs.

Keep in mind that this is only a snapshot of your website, and fails to include contextual factors like competitors and other SEO metrics that may contribute to your overall success (or lack thereof).

Why Is My Domain Authority So Low?

It’s not uncommon for someone to look at their website, see a domain authority of, say, 30, and decide that it should be 80 or 90 within the next year.

There’s nothing wrong with ambitious goals, but in this case, the goal may be impossible.

Domain Authority is compared to all other websites on the internet. So you could quadruple the amount of backlinks pointing to your site, increase other related SEO metrics, and only see your score increase from 30 to 34.

Why? Because scores of 80+ are reserved for the largest and most popular websites on the entire internet, the quadrupling of your backlinks is likely still small potatoes next to the tens of millions of backlinks sites like Wikipedia, Facebook and Amazon receive every year.

This is why it’s important to compare yourself to your direct competitors, not to every other website. It’s also why a Domain Authority that seems low might actually be best-in-class in a particular region or industry market.

Page Authority vs. Domain Authority

Page authority is a sub-metric that attempts to look at how authoritative a particular page is on a topic, separate from your domain as a whole. 

This is where things get a little strange. Because domain authority looks at, well, your domain as a whole. But we don’t have to scour the internet to find examples of sites that don’t do much traffic overall but have a single page that does really well. Why is this?

Yes, having a high domain authority helps, but it’s possible to have a mediocre website that happens to have the internet’s best piece of content on a specific topic.

So, for example, if a single article or video on your site has a lot of backlinks for an individual page, its independent authority will be quite high.

Tools that analyze page authority are also looking at the topic of a page. Let’s say you write a brilliant educational article on kitchen plumbing. Search engines will only be comparing it to other pages on kitchen plumbing, so you don’t need to beat the entire internet to rank for that topic. You only need to beat other articles on kitchen plumbing.

So a page’s authority for that topic could be off the charts, even if the website as a whole doesn’t rank for a whole lot.

Strategies for Building Domain Authority

Domain authority is something you can work toward. And the good news is, the strategies for improving domain authority overlap consistently with best practices for digital marketing in general. Let’s take a look at a few major ones:

Generate Quality Educational Content

This is strategy #1 for a lot of website success, but it can also lead to increased domain authority. Why? If you’re creating content that is useful and authoritative on its subject, other sites will begin to link to yours to reference it.

It’s really that simple, and also that hard. Because to see results in domain authority, this has to happen over a long period of time and a lot of varied pieces of content. It’s unlikely one or two videos, podcasts, blogs or other pieces of content will be enough to do the trick.

Create Shareable Content

Short-form videos, infographics, and similarly bite-sized pieces of content are easy to share. We see this principle throughout the internet, and in current trends like the rise of short-form video.

While it can be difficult to do everything you’d like with this style of content (short-form video is great for views; often less so for sales), it can be a consistent way to generate links back to your site and references to your site throughout the internet.

Promote Yourself on Social Media, Email and Elsewhere

If you have a social media audience, don’t be shy! If you have a large email list that you correspond with weekly or monthly, let them know what you’re up to!

Encouraging your followers to share your content is a great way to do more than you could ever do on your own. This is how the most successful companies expand their reach beyond the media that they personally control.

If you have partners, fans, subscribers, or others in your network, they can be a valuable way to spread your content and increase its authority via sharing.

Explore Additional Backlink Generation Strategies

The scope of this article doesn’t include additional backlinking strategies. But dozens of tactics exist to generate backlinks to your site that weren’t covered above.

If you have the internal resources to generate campaigns specifically to increase backlinks, though, it can be a valuable long-term strategy to increase your site’s authority.

Domain Authority: The Final Word

In the end, domain authority is one tool in a large toolbox for digital marketers to assess the strength of their website. It shouldn’t be ignored, but it also shouldn’t become such a focus that it precludes attention to other important marketing metrics.

Staying focused on generating consistent, valuable content on your website is the best way to organically grow your site’s authority and backlink profile. If you stick to consistent, quality processes in your content creation and promotion of your site, you’ll see results in time that will lead not just to higher domain authority but to better business outcomes.

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