What Is
Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a metric used to estimate how your page could be ranking relative to other pages on the same topic. It was created by the SEO software company Moz, and is not a part of PageRank or Google’s ranking factors.

Domain Authority: What you Really Need to Know

Domain Authority (DA) is an estimate of the likelihood that any page on your website will appear in search results, measured on a 0 to 100 scale. The higher the number, the better the “authority” of the page, and the greater its overall chances of ranking in search. 

DA is often confused with SERP rank or web page performance. However, DA is not a Google ranking factor. In fact, it is a logarithmic algorithm developed by the SEO company Moz that tells us how it thinks you should be ranking on a SERP in comparison to the other websites in your topical space. This means that DA is relative, not objective or absolute. There are a lot of misconceptions about DA’s function on your webpage and in relation to SERP rankings, so below we’ve gathered everything you really need to know about Domain Authority. 

Where did DA Come From?

Domain Authority was created by Moz as an attempt to reverse engineer the PageRank score Toolbar, which used a one-through-10 rating to evaluate a page’s “importance” from Google’s perspective. Google’s PageRank was based primarily on the number of links pointing to  a page or root domain. Site owners were quick to game the system, resulting in the Toolbar’s removal and a slew of PageRank updates. 

Moz wanted DA to bring back this quantifiable and easy-to-understand metric so site owners could make an educated guess about how their domain was performing — and that educated guess is all that your Domain Authority score represents. It’s important to establish that DA isn’t immune to the problems that caused the original PageRank score and Toolbar to disappear, and its evaluation is based on Moz’s internal metrics — not Google’s, or any other search engine’s

How do I Check my Domain Authority Score?

Checking your score is simple — you can use the Moz DA checker. But your score on its own doesn’t matter much unless you know what it truly means and how to use it. Here’s a quick overview of what Domain Authority is and what it isn’t:

  • DA is a third-party metric. This means that it uses its own algorithmic formula to come up with its results, and isn’t beholden to one search engine’s criteria or another. Even though it is still based on backlinks, the links Moz crawls and indexes may not align perfectly with those considered by Google. This means that you could use your DA score as a predictive benchmark for how you may rank across different SERPs, but it won’t match any search engine perfectly.
  • DA doesn't tell you the overall quality of a site. Focusing on boosting your Domain Authority can distract from a more balanced and comprehensive approach to diagnosing and improving SEO efforts that can actually help you get more visibility and traffic.
  • DA is focused on link counting. The number of total links and the number of unique linking root domains are two big factors that go into Domain Authority’s scoring metric. However, as we’ve established before, DA isn’t focused on measuring content quality, so this is a relative metric and can be exploited by black hat SEO practices. In general, more links will mean a higher DA, but won’t necessarily correlate with better search performance. Links matter, but they aren’t the only thing that matters.
  • DA doesn't tell you the value of a link. Too often, site owners judge their backlinks based on the DA of the sites linking to them, while ignoring other important factors like anchor text, relevance to the page, and follow vs no-follow links. Modern link building tactics have to be more comprehensive to work, considering how and why a link is used, and what it means in the context of the page — not just the amount of links, or authority of the linking domain.
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How Do I Improve My Domain Authority Score?

Improving your DA score is essentially a matter of accruing more high-quality links across each of your individual pages — Moz calls this measure of page-specific link evaluation Page Authority. Your overall DA should be a reflection of the highs and lows of each page’s respective authority, almost like a grade point average. 

In theory, a healthy backlink profile (many high PA pages and a high DA for your domain) should correlate with a higher quality site overall — and better SERP visibility as a result. However, if you’re too focused on the actual functions of Domain Authority, improving your score can be rooted less in improving your SEO or content, and more in increasing your link presence. This is quantitative growth, not qualitative — and it was a big reason why the PageRank Toolbar eventually was removed. 

Google has become more nuanced in its evaluation of what signals “authority” since the removal of the PageRank Toolbar, but DA still has a rooted focus in quantitative measurements. This means improving your Domain Authority can be a misguided endeavor that doesn’t necessarily translate to improving your SERP rank. However, you can improve the way you treat the links on your page in a way that appeals both to the DA algorithm and some of Google’s key ranking factors. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you have quality linkable content? Or, do you deserve to be linked back to as a trustworthy source? This can be shown in what types of pages you link to, and what type of research effort is present.
  • What does your internal link placement look like? When you link to outside sources on your page, where can those links be found? Does the placement make contextual sense? How accessible are these links to searchers?
  • How do you treat anchor text? What type of text or image contains the link, and is it descriptive or relevant to the linked page?
  • Check your domain relevance. When you’re linking internally, are the linked pages relevant to each other or informing the same topic?

How Is Domain Authority Used?

As we’ve mentioned before, DA is a quantitative guess at how a certain page should rank. It can be used by savvy page owners and SEO professionals as a rough way to monitor link building efforts, or to judge the competition’s backlink profiles in aggregate. 

As a discrete number, DA also creates a common and understandable measurement that isn’t specific to one search engine. It can make conversations about ROI, campaign success, or just overall SEO progress between SEO professionals and webpage owners easier. Unfortunately, making these conversations easier doesn't necessarily make them accurate. And while DA isn’t, and shouldn’t be, the only measure of quality you rely on, it can help you build your foundation when learning to link build like a pro

So, Is Domain Authority Important?

DA is not definitively important — not on its own. DA can give you signals about how effective your link profile is, and a broad guess about how you may rank across different SERPs. But DA is simply not designed to measure content or site quality. It has a limited ability to fully understand the purpose, value, and importance of the very links it measures. It is designed to crawl links at scale, not with precision. 

What’s important to remember about third-party metrics, in general, is that no single metric or tool can tell you everything you need to know, or definitively measure your success. DA can be helpful, but remember to take it with a grain of salt. Your site’s success will ultimately be up to the amount of time, effort, and dedication you put toward your content. 

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