There are many factors SEOs use to determine how well their website will rank for certain phrases.
One of these factors is domain authority. Knowing how to increase domain authority can have an impact on your overall site ranking.
Your domain authority is a direct representation of how many links you have pointing to your website. This score is the creation of SEO company Moz and isn’t tied to Google’s ranking factors.
Many SEOs still believe it’s an important consideration, but is it?
In this guide, we look at what domain authority is, how it’s calculated, and how you can use it to compare yourself to the competition.
What is Domain Authority?
Domain authority is a metric designed by Moz to determine the authority of a website. The tool crawls the internet building a massive database of pages to get an idea of what websites have the most links.
The number of links your site has will ultimately determine your domain authority or DA score.
Your domain authority scores range from 0 to 100 and is generally a good way of determining how authoritative your site is compared to your competition.
If you’re trying to rank for a certain keyword and you see that the top ranking competitors on Google have a DA score of 60, you can assume that you’ll need an equal or higher DA if you intend on ranking for that keyword.
You may have also heard of domain rating (DR) which is a metric used by the popular SEO tool, Ahrefs.
For both of these, more links equals a higher rating.
How to Check Domain Authority
Since Moz is the company responsible for creating domain authority, it would make the most sense to use their free Domain Analysis tool.
To check the domain authority of your website you enter the URL and it provides the DA as well as other SEO information.
As you can see, Moz.com has a domain authority of 91 with 21,700 linking root domains. This is the number of unique domains linking to your website.
Scrolling down a little further on the page can help us understand some of the factors Moz uses to determine domain authority.
Top pages by links are the pages with the highest domain authority based on how many pages are linking to them.
Looking at the image above, we can assume that the “Beginners Guide to SEO” likely has a lot of links because it’s one of their most authoritative pages besides their home page.
The top linking domains are the highest ranked pages that link to Moz.
Another great way to check domain authority is with the MozBar Google Chrome extension. Here’s how:
1. Find the MozBar extension in the Google Chrome Store
2. Click “add to chrome”
3. Create a free account
4. Google your keyword phrase
In this example, we Googled, “best life jackets” and this was the number one result. You can see that the page has a DA score of 55 and an individual PA of 43.
This means that the authority of the domain as a whole is 55 but the authority of this specific page is 43.
Ahrefs has a tool as well called the Website “Authority” Checker.
The tool allows you to find the domain rating of a website as determined by Ahrefs.
Moz has a domain rating of 91 which is the same as their domain authority on their own tool. The number of linking websites is different though.
Both of these tools are free and will provide you with a rough estimate of how authoritative your site is according to these two ranking factors.
How is Domain Authority Calculated?
Domain authority is calculated based on two primary factors:
- The number of root domains linking to your website
- The total number of links pointing to your site
Tools like Moz build a database of billions of pages to see how many links each page has to determine the score.
It is crucial to understand that domain authority is not a Google ranking factor and is not determined by Google.
Google has a completely different and more complex algorithm that factors in the authority of the links you have on your website. This metric is called page rank and there is no way of knowing what your page rank is.
Domain authority is based entirely on the number of links you have. Page rank is based on the quality of the links you have paired with the total number.
The quality of a link is determined by the quality and page rank of the root domain. Websites with thin, spammy, or fluffy content will ultimately have a lower score so a link from these sites will have a reduced impact on your rankability.
Links from authoritative domains that provide quality information will have a higher impact.
It’s also important to understand that DA is a logarithmic rating which means the difficulty increases over time. It’s much easier to increase your domain authority from 20 to 30 than it is from 60 to 70.
Why is Domain Authority Important?
Domain authority is important because it’s a rough estimate of how well your link building strategy is paying off.
It can be assumed that if you have a high domain authority that Google sees you as an authoritative website.
Even though DA is not determined by Google or considered as a ranking factor, it provides you with a snapshot of how well you would rank compared to your competition.
Keep in mind as your domain authority increases, so does your need for quality links.
When you build a brand new website and have a domain authority of zero, you can build DA 10 links and still improve your domain authority.
If your website has a DA of 40, those DA 10 websites will not have as big of an impact on your ability to compete for a top spot on Google.
Another reason domain authority is important is because it helps you determine the competitiveness of a keyword you’re trying to rank for.
In this example, we Googled the phrase “best camping backpack.” The first site has a DA of 52 and the second is 46.
These results tell us that we would need to have a similar or higher DA to quickly rank for this keyword.
Keep in mind, this data is according to Moz and not Google so it’s not a definitive representation of Google’s ranking factors.
Domain Authority vs. Page Authority
Page authority is a score that determines the authority of a single page rather than the website as a whole.
If we refer back to our “best camping backpack” Google search results, you can see that the page authority is lower than the domain authority.
But, the page with the higher domain authority and page authority still outranks the other.
Improving your page authority can be a great way to outrank websites with a higher domain authority.
What’s A Good Domain Authority Score?
While there’s no such thing as a “good score,” we can assume that our competition will determine what score we need.
If we’re in an incredibly competitive niche where all our competitors have a domain authority of 75 and higher, it means we have our work cut out for us and we’ll have to do a lot of link building before we can ever hope to rank for competitive keywords.
To provide context, let’s say you’re building a website in the automotive niche and you want to write an article on the “best SUVs.”
Some of your competitors might be:
- US News and World Report: DA 93
- Kelley Blue Book: DA 75
- Car and Driver: DA 84
- Edmunds: DA 83
With so many respected authorities in this niche, it would be incredibly difficult to ever rank for an article using this keyword.
Is It Bad to Have Low Domain Authority?
A good domain authority score is higher than your competition. A bad domain authority score is lower than your competition.
Take this with a grain of salt. Domain age will impact your DA score in the beginning.
A low domain authority score isn’t necessarily bad because every site starts with a low score. Just because you have a low score, doesn’t mean you have a bad site.
It also doesn’t mean you have low quality links.
You can have a great website that generates a lot of traffic from low competition keywords.
Here’s a great example of this in the niche we just talked about being so competitive.
While “best SUVs” may be too competitive, “best tires for chevy silverado 1500” gets 400 searchers per month and the top ranking competitors have domain authority scores of 24, 15, and 18.
This would be a much more reasonable topic for trying to grow a new website’s domain authority.
How to Increase Domain Authority in 4 Steps
- Create linkable content that websites actually want to link to
- Outreach to websites to coordinate a link exchange or pay for a link
- Guest post on other websites
- Claim unlinked mentions wherever your brand is mentioned
Approaching this with a “score first” strategy is not the right move. It’s not about the score, it’s about increasing the number of quality links to your website.
As you increase the number of links you’ll ultimately increase your domain authority score because the two go hand-in-hand.
Google will see that the strength of your website is improving, your rankings will improve, and your DA will improve as well.
The following tips will help you gain more links, which is where your focus should be.
Create Linkable Content
Link building is all about providing value in exchange for value. To attract more links, you need to create high quality content people actually want to link to.
If your content provides a ton of value, does more than the competition, and serves as a great resource, it will naturally attract a link.
If your content is thin, useless, boring, and lackluster, no one will want to link to it.
Websites are more likely to link to articles that:
- Report on recent studies and data
- Provide breaking news and act as a source
- Offer a unique or interesting perspective on an otherwise ordinary subject
- Compile a list of useful tips, tools, or steps
- List out a large number of interesting statistics
- Provide a lot of illustrations, infographics, and embeddable content
The bottom line is, your content needs to be better than anything else available. If it’s not, they’ll just link to the better article.
Here are three steps for creating linkable content:
1. Provide Real Value First
In a recent response to a site owner sounding off about link building and DA, John Mueller responded with this:
If this isn’t a clear enough indication of value being the most important factor, we don’t know what is.
You need to create content that addresses the reader, solves their problem, answers their questions, and does so exhaustively. You need to be the complete resource on the subject from A to Z and leave them wondering nothing when they leave.
It’s more important than what tools you’re using, what images you have, or how many links you’ve built.
If you approach every piece of content with this attitude, you’ll build a quality website that people will want to link to because your content is amazingly valuable.
2. Cater to a Niche
It’s easier to receive inbound links as a result of link building efforts if you have a direct audience persona in mind. Who is your audience, who are you writing to, why are they here?
If you can’t answer these questions it means your audience is unclear and someone looking to provide an additional resource may be confused by your content.
3. Write How-To Content
18% of Americans admit to learning a top skill from an online course or learning platform. If someone is writing an article on a topic and needs an additional resource to teach their readers, why not be that resource?
Writing how-to content is a great way to get links because it teaches people to do something they don’t know how to do themselves.
Outreach to Websites
It’s important to realize that you can’t get links without exposure but you can’t get organic exposure without links so this creates a dilemma.
At some point, you may have to reach out and ask for links.
If you have a budget for off page SEO you can use a tool like Mailshake or Pitchbox to compile a list of candidates in your niche, locate their contact information, and have the tools handle it for you.
When you’re just starting out, you’ll have to manually reach out to websites yourself and ask them if you can insert a link onto their website or pay for a spot on a page.
This is where things come full circle and the importance of valuable content comes back into play. If your content isn’t good, why would someone want to link to it on their site?
The content has to be so good that it makes the recipient want to read your email, read your content, and then go through the process of linking to your page because it provides so much value to their readers.
Keep in mind that having good content isn’t always enough.
You should expect to pay for links or offer additional value through link exchanges as well.
Doing this takes time, creativity, and a lot of patience. Here are two steps to help you build links through manual outreach and boost domain authority:
1. Build a List of Sites
If you’re in the automotive niche for example, you’ll want to build a list of sites in that niche that you want to reach out to.
Once you’ve built a list of websites, you need contact information.
There are a handful of ways to do this.
Using an email lookup tool is our favorite way. Hunter.io is a great tool that scrapes websites to find email addresses and attempts to pin them to certain job titles.
You get 25 free searches per month and the tool is fairly accurate with larger sites.
Another way is to guess their email by narrowing down common patterns. Using the neilpatel.com example is a great indicator of how easy this could be.
Most companies will set up an email in one of three ways:
These three combinations make up 73.6% of professional emails online.
2. Offer the Most Value
We’re so immune to cold outreach that it’s very difficult to get someone to pay attention to you.
There are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting someone to respond:
- Personalize your pitch
- Pitch a link exchange
- Find broken link opportunities
- Pay for a link insertion
Personalize Your Pitch
Emails with a personalized subject line are 26% more likely to be opened. You need to know the name of the person you’re emailing and quickly tell them why you’re in their inbox.
Pitch a Link Exchange
If you have multiple websites, you could offer the recipient a placement on another website in exchange for a link on the one you’re pitching.
For this to work, your other website needs to have a relatively high DR and traffic of its own. Otherwise, the recipient won’t find enough value in the exchange because you’ll be the only one benefiting from it.
If you found a broken link on their site and have a replacement piece of content, tell them where it is, what it was linking to, and provide them with your link.
Pay for a Link Insertion
Sometimes paying for a link insertion is the only way to get the link you want. Everyone is pitching quality content, guest posts, and broken links. Website owners are used to receiving these emails every single day.
If you’re willing to pay for a link on a high DR site, you can dramatically increase your chances of securing that link.
Guest Post on Other Websites
A great way to increase the perceived value of your pitch is with a guest post. Instead of just asking for a link or an insertion, now you’re offering content in exchange for the link.
A guest post is when you agree to write a piece of content on someone else’s website for free and you include a link back to a page on your website in the content.
For this to have a positive effect, you want to make sure the website you’re writing for isn’t spammy, is authoritative, and actually has traffic.
There are many websites out there that will allow anyone to write on their site regardless of niche expertise and you want to avoid those sites.
Before you start emailing every website on the internet asking for a guest post, you want to make sure they meet the following criteria:
- The content on that site is in your niche
- Their audience will be interested in your writing
- The blog has readership
How to Find Guest Posting Opportunities?
Here are some of the most popular ways to find websites you can guest post for:
One of the simplest ways to find guest posting opportunities is by doing a “site:” search on Google.
In the example above, we searched “site: write for us” to find high authority sites that have the phrase “write for us” on their site.
Doing this yields a ton of results of websites that accept submissions or ideas for guest posts you’d want to write.
You want to be incredibly skeptical about these though because they accept posts from everyone.
Make sure you still apply the three rules we mentioned and choose carefully because the quality of the domain pointing to your website is important.
Another great method is to look for competitor backlinks.
If you use a tool like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you can find what websites are linking to your competitors and reach out to them to see if they’ll link to you.
You’ll go into Ahrefs and click the “referring domains” tab.
Then you can filter by “dofollow” and “new” to find all the newest dofollow domains that you can reach out to and see if they’ll link to you as well.
Best of all, you can see the domain ranking and traffic of these websites to help determine which domains will help you build your website domain authority faster.
Claim Unlinked Mentions
Sometimes a company mentions your brand but doesn’t link to you; this is called an unlinked mention and you can use this to get links as well.
Google Alerts is a simple way to receive emails anytime your brand is mentioned on a website. You simply input the name of your business or brand into the field and whatever email you are signed into will be notified when your brand is mentioned.
Another method is to pay for a tool like BrandMentions.
If it seems like you have a large number of unlinked mentions, it could be worth paying for the tool. It’ll save you a ton of time and allow you to very easily find all mentions of your brand on the internet.
Once you’ve identified an unlinked mention, you’ll want to use some of the previous methods to locate contact information and reach out to the website managers.
Most people are pretty receptive to linking back to you since they’ve used your name, brand, and likely intellectual property in some way.
Put together a personalized email that addresses the recipient by name, reach out to them, and simply ask for them to link back to you in exchange for mentioning your brand.
Prioritize mentions of your brand on high authority websites to increase your site’s domain authority and to become a more authoritative site.