John Lincoln

Domain Authority: What It Is and Why You Should Care

There are several ways to measure the effectiveness of your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. One of those ways is by looking at a metric called Domain Authority.

In this article, we’ll go over the concept of Domain Authority, explain why you should care about it, and offer some pointers about how you can improve it.

Domain Authority: What It Is and Why You Should Care About It
Domain Authority
Some digital marketers spend hundreds of dollars every year just so they can check their website Domain Authority. In fact, they check that metric repeatedly to ensure that it’s improving over time.

What Is Domain Authority?

In a nutshell, Domain Authority is a number between 1 and 100, with 1 being the worst and 100 being the best. But what exactly does it mean? It’s a search engine ranking score. In other words, it’s a measurement of how well your domain will rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs). It’s also proprietary. Domain Authority was created by Moz, a company well-known in digital marketing circles. The number itself is based on a logarithmic scale. That means it’s much easier to move a website from a score of 20 to 30 than it is to move it from a score of 80 to 90. In other words, the better a website site gets, the harder it becomes to get even better.

How Is Domain Authority Calculated?

How does Moz calculate the Domain Authority score? It’s based on more than 40 ranking factors. Those factors are derived from the Mozscape web index. Moz won’t spill the beans on all the ranking factors, but the company has confessed to a few of them. For starters, the algorithm looks at the number of linking root domains and total number of links. It also incorporates the MozRank and MozTrust scores. MozRank is basically Moz’s version of Google’s now non-public PageRank score. It’s calculated from backlinks. Interestingly enough, part of that calculation is dependent on the MozRank of the pages with the backlinks. The higher the MozRank of those pages, the higher the MozRank of the page receiving the backlink. MozTrust is a metric that measures the trustworthiness of a backlink. Backlinks from trusted seed sites (for example, ABC News) are worth more than backlinks from sites that have little to no trust (for example, a blog that launched just last week). Also, MozTrust evaluates “hops” from trusted seed sites to the destination site. The fewer the hops, the higher the MozTrust on the destination site. For example, if ABC News links to a blog and that blog links to your own website, then that’s considered one hop. That single hop is likely to give your MozTrust score a boost.

How to View Your Domain Authority

If you want to check your domain authority, you’ll need to use a tool designed by Moz. Fortunately, there are a few of them. The first option is to grab the MozBar. That’s a plugin that you can add to your browser that enables you to see the DA of websites that you visit (including your own).
Use Mozbar to see Domain Authority
Mozbar enables you to see the Domain Authority of websites that you visit
Good news: MozBar is free. You can also use Open Site Explorer to check your domain’s authority. That’s not free. At least, it’s not free to use permanently. You can sign up for a 30-day free trial but you’ll have to pay if you want to use it all the time. Prices start at $99/month as of this writing. If you’re a tech geek who knows a thing or two about coding, you can use the Mozscape API to get your Domain Authority score. That’s going to cost you a pretty penny, though: the monthly service starts at $250/month. Finally, you can also use the SERP analysis section of Keyword Explorer to check domain authority. Again, though, it’s not free.

What’s a “Good” Domain Authority Score?

Now that you know a little bit more about Domain Authority and how to check it, you might be asking yourself: what’s a “good” DA score? Let’s say you visit your site with the MozBar and it informs you that your DA is 21. Is that good? It depends. That’s because the Domain Authority score is really a comparative metric. You want your score to be better than the score of your competitors. If all your competitors have a DA of 20 or below and yours is 21, that’s very good. You’re higher than they are. Still, common sense tells you that there’s a long way to go from 20 to 100 (the maximum score). So you know you have room for improvement. Also, if you decide that you don’t need to do any SEO because you’ve already “won” in terms of Domain Authority, then you could regret that decision later on. That’s because your competitors are likely optimizing their sites for search results.

Domain Authority and Page Authority

Remember, domain authority measures the authority of your domain. Hence the name. Moz has another metric called Page Authority. It’s calculated very similarly to Domain Authority. Like Domain Authority, Page Authority is also a score between 1 and 100, with 100 being the best. It also operates on a logarithmic scale. The key difference, though, is that Page Authority measures how well a specific page will rank in the SERPs. For example, let’s say you’re running a website with the domain Moz will evaluate the entire domain with the Domain Authority metric. However, you probably do some content marketing on that website. You have a blog with several posts. Let’s say one of those posts is at the URL Moz will score that single post with the Page Authority metric. Basically, Domain Authority is a site-wide metric whereas Page Authority is page-specific. You can measure Page Authority with the same tools you would use to measure Domain Authority. Also, like Domain Authority, Page Authority is a relative score. You want your pages to score higher than the pages of your competitors. That’s especially true when you compare pages that are attempting to rank for specific keywords. In fact, if you’re trying to rank for a brand-specific or micro-niche keyword, you might find that a very low Page Authority score might be good enough to land you on Page 1 of the SERPs. That’s because you have hardly any competition.

Moz Spam Score

As you probably know, there are more than few black hat SEOs out there who try to manipulate the search results. One of the ways they do that is with link spam. Unfortunately, some particularly shady competitors will also point low quality backlinks at your site in an attempt to bump you off the top of the SERPs. That’s dirty pool, but it could also hurt your rank. That’s why you need to check your backlink profile for link spam. Moz offers a metric that will help you do just that. It’s called the Spam Score. Tori – Spam Score – Final with bumpers It’s really not a score, though. It’s a number of red flags. The folks at Moz identified 17 different types of red flags on a site that identify it as a source of link spam. Here they are:
  1. Low MozTrust or MozRank
  2. Large Site with few links
  3. Low site link diversity
  4. Ratio of followed to nofollowed subdomains is unusual
  5. Ratio of followed to nofollowed domains is unusual
  6. Small proportion of branded links
  7. Thin content
  8. Very little site markup
  9. Large number of external links
  10. Low number of internal links
  11. Anchor text heavy page
  12. External links in navigation
  13. No contact info
  14. Low number of pages found
  15. Top-level domain correlated with spam domains
  16. Domain name length
  17. Domain name contains numerals
If you have a backlink from a site with just one of those criteria, you don’t need to worry about anything. In fact, Moz says that you can have a backlink from a site that meets as many as four of those criteria and rest easy. However, if that backlink comes from a site that triggers seven or more of those red flags, watch out. You’re in danger of getting penalized. You can view the Moz Spam Score with the same tools that you use to view other Moz metrics.

Link Detox: Domain Authority

Another way that you can check for bad backlinks is with a Link Research tool called Link Detox. Here’s how it works: you enter a domain or URL to analyze. Then, Link Detox will crawl the web looking for backlinks. After some processing time, the tool will produce a report that includes the risk of each link pointing to the domain or URL. The higher the risk for a particular link, the more likely it is that you’ll run into trouble with Google.
Link Detox for Domain Authority
Link Detox can help your Domain Authority by checking for bad backlinks
Link Detox will also create a disavow file.

The Disavow File

What, exactly, is a disavow file? It’s a list of backlink URLs. When you upload it to Google Search Console, you’re effectively telling Google to not “count” those links pointing to your site. If you want to do that for one of your sites, start at the Disavow Links page. Of course, you’ll need a disavow file. You can use a disavow file created by a tool like Link Detox. However, you should make absolutely sure that every link on that list is one that you want to disavow! You could really hurt your search rank if you accidentally disavow good links. Yes, that means you have to go through the links one by one. It’s a tedious task, but it’s better than being wrong. Alternatively, you can create a disavow file manually. That will take some time, but you’ll have more confidence that the list only includes links you want to disavow. Once you disavow bad backlinks, they won’t affect your rank and Google shouldn’t penalize your site.

The Disavow File and Domain Authority

Will disavowing bad backlinks affect your Domain Authority score? Probably not. Why not? Because you informed Google about the links you want to disavow, not Moz. The Moz algorithm doesn’t “know” that you’ve told Google to ignore certain backlinks. It will still take those backlinks into account. Good news, though: Moz isn’t the final authority on ranking. Google is. So even though you might still have an artificially low Domain Authority score after you’ve disavowed some backlinks, you should still see your rank improve or, at the very least, stay where it is.

How to Improve Domain Authority

So how do you improve your Domain Authority score? With some good, old-fashioned SEO. For starters, build some backlinks to your site. As we’ve seen, though, make sure that they’re good backlinks. How do you get good backlinks? Start with guest posting. Find a non-competing webmaster who runs a blog with a decent Domain Authority score. Reach out to that person and ask if you can post an article. In that article, include a backlink pointing to your own site. Why would a webmaster who doesn’t know you let you post on his or her site? Because it’s free content. That’s why guest-posting is a win-win for everybody involved. The hosting blog gets free content while you get a backlink to your site. Also, you should diversify your backlink profile. It’s a rule of thumb that you’re much better off getting a few links from quality sites than lots of links from a single site or numerous low-quality sites. Make it a constant effort to get backlinks. Never let up. Always strive for more. Another way to boost your Domain Authority score is to renew your domain for as long as possible. If your domain is set to expire in the next few months, you might not have as high a score as you would otherwise. Are you in this business for the long haul? If so, pull out all the stops and renew your domain for the next few years at least. That should give you a pop in your Domain Authority score. Another tip: make sure that you’re linking internally. That should be a no-brainer, but it’s amazing how many webmasters overlook it. Link to your own content wherever it’s relevant. Make it your goal to link to at least two or three other posts on your own blog for every article you write. Google takes notice of that. So does Moz. Also, you should become an authority figure. People should look at you as the “go to” person in your niche. How do you get to that point? With content marketing. Show the world how much you know by blogging about subjects related to your industry. People who are in your target market will find your content via Google, read it, and tell themselves: “Boy, this person really knows the subject!” Also, post links to your great content on social media and tag key influencers. If they like what they see, they might share your link and you’ll gain even more credibility. Another thing you can do to improve Domain Authority: practice on-site SEO. Add a sitemap, populate your meta description tags with relevant keywords, and use subheadings in your blog posts. You should also ensure that your website loads quickly. That’s especially true for mobile users. If you’re running WordPress, pick up a plugin like SuperCache so that your site loads from static HTML files instead of using the MySQL database to retrieve data. Set your cache expiration headers as well. One of the easiest ways to improve page load time is by optimizing your images. Just use a tool like Adobe Photoshop Elements to save your images for the web. You’ll find that it can reduce the image size significantly. Head over to PageSpeed Insights to see how quickly your site loads. If your score is in the red, you’ve got some work to do. Ping your development team to improve your site’s load time.
PageSpeed Insights for Domain Authority
PageSpeed Insights will tell you how fast your site loads – the faster the better, for SEO and Domain Authority
Finally, you might also need to use a content delivery network (CDN) to serve your content.

Wrapping It Up Domain Authority

Your Domain Authority score matters. Make sure you pay attention to it and take steps to improve it. Fortunately, you can usually give your site a better score with some traditional SEO strategies.

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John Lincoln is CEO of Ignite Visibility, one of the top digital marketing agencies in the nation. Ignite Visibility is a 4x  Inc. 5,000 company. Ignite Visibility offers a unique digital marketing program tied directly to ROI with a focus on using SEO, social media, paid media, CRO, email, Amazon and PR to achieve results. Outside of Ignite Visibility, Lincoln is a frequent speaker and author of the books “Digital Influencer” and “The Forecaster Method.” Lincoln is consistently named one of the top digital marketers in the industry and was the recipient of the coveted Search Engine Land “Search Marketer of The Year” award. Lincoln has taught digital marketing and Web Analytics at the University of California San Diego since 2010, has been named as one of San Diego’s most admired CEO’s and a top business leader under 40. Lincoln has also made “SEO: The Movie” and “Social Media Marketing: The Movie.” His business mission is to help others through digital marketing.

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