What is Domain Authority & why's it important for SEO?

Updated: Jul 13, 2020

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric used for search engine optimisation (SEO) that measures the power and authority of a website in Google’s eyes. The higher your website’s domain authority score, the higher authority it has on the web, and the more likely it is to outrank its competitors in search engine results.

Keep reading to find out more about Domain Authority, including how it’s calculated, why it’s important for SEO, and how you can improve it.

What is Domain Authority?

Why is it important to have a high Domain Authority score?

Websites with high Domain Authority are like the influences of the web. What’s published on websites with a high DA is generally seen by Google as being more authoritative and trustworthy than other sites with a lower DA score. That means they’re more likely to be found dominating the first page of Google’s search results.

High Domain Authority websites usually have the following characteristics:

  • Have been around for many years.

  • Have a lot of high-quality content.

  • Get a lot of regular traffic/visitors.

  • Have a lot of links from other high domain authority websites.

  • Are big brands or trusted experts in their field.

Does Google use Domain Authority to assess a website’s SEO score?

While Google may use some domain-like metrics based similar to Domain Authority, its algorithm doesn’t actually use it specifically. DA is simply a metric us humans use to try and get a grasp of how Google could be assessing and ranking our websites.

The origin of Domain Authority

Who invented Domain Authority?

Domain Authority was invented by Moz, one of the world's leading SEO tracking software providers. DA is a scale from 1-100 that indicates how successful your site may be at ranking in Google search results, based on how much authority it has on the web.

While the metric is based on many different ranking factors, such as the age of a website, the amount of traffic it receives, and the size of the site, the number of good quality links pointing to a domain is one of the biggest factors for DA.

What’s the purpose of Domain Authority?

Domain Authority was created so people could get a better understanding of a website’s authority in Google’s eyes. It’s a way of analysing how your website’s authority compares to its biggest competitors, which is an indication of your likelihood of outranking them in search engine results.

how to find out your domain authority score

How do I find out my website’s Domain Authority score?

You can check your website’s DA easily and for free. To do this, simply enter your domain (URL) in Moz's free domain SEO analysis tool, or you can enter your domain in the Small SEO Tools domain authority checker. I personally prefer the Small SEO Tools version.

I also highly recommend downloading the Moz Bar Chrome Extension. Among other things, it will show you the Domain Authority of every search result when you make a Google search, which is fantastic for quickly finding out the DA of your competitors.

Here’s an example of DA in action:

Let’s say you’re a wedding photographer in London, and you want to rank on the first page of Google for the keyword ‘Wedding Photographer London’.

With the Moz bar installed in my browser, if I type ‘Wedding Photographer London’ into Google, I can instantly see the Page Authority (PA), number of links, and Domain Authority of each search result ranking on the first page of Google for that keyword.

Page Authority is another Moz metric that measures the authority of a single page, as opposed to the entire domain. It’s also worth looking at, because the specific page that you want to rank will need to have a similar or greater authority score than the other pages ranking on the first page in order to outrank them.

If your Moz bar isn't showing results like the example below, you’ll need to log in and refresh the page. The you should get search results in Google that look like this:

Moz bar search results example for domain authority

The Moz extension will show you the PA, links and DA of each search result.

Simply by looking at the search results for the keyword/phrase I entered, we can see that in order to have a chance of ranking on the first page of Google, we would need a Domain Authority and Page Authority of 30 or more, as this appears to be the average score for the top results.

If our website only has a DA score of 20, we will need to increase this in order to have a chance at outranking our top competitors.

Pro Tip: You can also click the icon of the page with an arrow next to the Moz logo on the toolbar to export all the information of the top 10 search results to an Excel spreadsheet (life changing!).

The spreadsheet export includes the following details for each to 10 result:

  • The website's URL

  • Position number in Google

  • Meta title

  • Meta description

  • Page Authority

  • Total links pointing to the domain

  • Domain Authority

This will save you loads of time for doing competitor research. Plus, it's FREE!

Side note: Don't know what a meta title or meta description is? This article will tell you everything you need to know: How to write meta titles and descriptions

How to increase your domain authority

How do you increase your website's Domain Authority?

While optimising your website for SEO in general will help to improve your Domain Authority over time, three key aspects you should focus on that will make the biggest impact include:

  1. Digital PR: get featured in the news, and quoted in articles from high DA websites that link back to your website.

  2. High-quality content: Consistently publish well-researched content in your area of expertise that people share and reference.

  3. Be an expert: Become known and recognised as an expert in your field and build your brand authority and trust.

Improving your Domain Authority is all about effectively communicating your expertise, authoritativeness and trust on the web. If your brand isn’t recognised as an expert and trusted authority to the public, it won’t be by Google, either.

Expert Tip: Work hard at promoting your brand’s expertise and authoritativeness and earn people’s trust effectively online, and the rest will follow.

How long will it take to improve my website’s Domain Authority?

If you’re effectively promoting your business online and creating great content, your Domain Authority can increase quite quickly. However, if your DA score is 10 and you want to get to 30, it’s going to take years of consistently working at it.

To find out more about how long you can expect to wait, read this article: How long does it take to rank on the first page of Google?

Think of building your website’s Domain Authority as the equivalent of building your online reputation and brand. In real life it takes time to become recognised as a trusted authority and expert in your field. The same applies online.

Focus on building your reputation online, and your Domain Authority will naturally increase.

Need help building your website's authority?

If you’d like a SEO specialist to help grow your website's domain authority, get in touch with me, Janelle from ContentQueen. I am a freelance SEO consultant who works remotely from Wellington, NZ, and I work with incredible business owners and entrepreneurs all over the world to help them increase their digital presence and get found online.

Want to see if we’re a good fit for one another?

Get in touch by filling out my contact form and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours with a quote and recommendations for your business.

Learn more about SEO

Want to learn more about SEO?

Check out my SEO Guides and Resources, and my FAQ page where all the most common SEO questions are answered.

If you want a complete introduction, read my Beginner’s Guide to SEO to learn all the basics.

Happy S-E-O-ing!

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About the Author

Janelle Cheesman is a freelance SEO Consultant, Copywriter, Editor and Digital PR specialist from Wellington, New Zealand. She has a BA in English Literature and Media from Victoria University of Wellington, a Diploma in Journalism, and has created digital content for websites from a range of industries since 2014.

She is HubSpot Content Marketing Certified, has completed the SEO Specialisation Course from UC Davis and technical SEO course from SEMRush, and uses her background in journalism and PR to cover SEO from all angles; including on-site, off-site and technical SEO.

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