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What is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority (DA) is a website scoring system developed as a cornerstone of sound SEO (seach engine optimization) strategy to predict how well websites will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs).

A website can have a Domain Authority–as opposed to a specific Page Authority (PA)–score anywhere between one and 100. The higher the score, the higher the domain authority and the greater a page’s ability to rank higher.

The calculation for determining a site’s Domain Authority score evaluates multiple factors of your SEO.

These include the linking root domains and the number of total links.

You can use this score to track your own website’s ranking ability over time. Or you can use it to check out the ranking strength of your competitors’ sites.

There are dozens of online SEO tools that will allow you to check a site’s DA, including Moz’s own MozBar which is powered by their link index Linkscape.

You can also use Moz’s Link Explorer to check the DA of any website.

Other platforms, such as Semrush, are another incredibly robust and helpful tool to assess DA of your competitors.

DA History

Google’s PageRank score was used to allow people to see how authoritative pages were, based on how many and how high the quality of links they had.

In 2016, Google stopped publishing PageRank scores publicly (often called Toolbar PageRank) so Moz’s Domain Authority score is a useful directional replacement tool.

DA Uses

Domain Authority is a quick and convenient way of providing you with an overview of a website’s ranking potential, and general SEO standing based on its portfolio of links.

Here is a great breakdown of the usecases of DA from The Hoth:

This overview also gives you a simple, at-a-glance image of how likely a domain is to rank well in the search results pages (SERPs).

Please understand that links are not the only factor in how well a page ranks of course, but a strong correlation exists between a site’s DA and how well its pages rank.

Domain Authority can also be used to quickly evaluate if a website has enough authority to be worth targeting for link building.

For example, a backlink earned from a site with high DA would be more valuable than from a site with low authority.

Since it can be difficult to calculate the Page Authority of new pages, Domain Authority works better as an overall measure when evaluating link value.

Typical DA Misunderstandings

The most significant point to clarify when it comes to Domain Authority is that it only measures the authority of a root domain.

This means that it cannot distinguish subdomains, and does not measure the authority of individual pages within a domain (that would be Page Authority).

In most cases, the inability to separate subdomains may not be an issue.

However, consider a site such as WordPress. In this case, DA won’t be able to separate the value of WordPress’ domain from all the free WordPress subdomains that operate as individuals’ personal sites.

Also, although DA is a relatively reliable predictor of SERP placement, it’s not perfect.

There will be cases where a page belonging to a domain with high DA will not rank highly. And cases where a page belonging to a domain with low DA will rank very well.

DA is not an absolute metric, but rather a contextual metric against the other sites within Moz’s index.

Domain Authority is meant to tell you how likely a site is to rank better than other sites. Since DAworks on a logarithmic scale it is harder to raise your DA from a 50 to a 55 than from 20 to 25.

In other words, it’s intended to be an overview of a site’s competitiveness. This means its score is affected not only by your site but also by the quality of your competition. So, it’s not something you can necessarily influence directly.

Understandably, websites such as Amazon have an incredibly high DA:

The critical consideration is not what your DA is out of 100, but how it compares to your competition.  

If you have a DA of 39, you may assume that’s bad. However, if your primary competition all have scores ranging from 20–35, then you’re doing very well.

How to Increase Domain Authority

Domain Authority is increased in two ways:

  1. Building more links to your website from other authoritative websites, and
  2. Doing so more quickly than your competitors.

As mentioned above, DA is a directional metric that changes as your competitors increase their site’s strength as well.

Thus, your DA can go down even when you’re building links simply because your competitors are doing it faster.

So, to increase your DA you need to build quality links faster than your competitors.

Domain Authority vs Page Authority

Domain Authority and Page Authority are different metrics from Moz that tell you different things.

Per usual, Neil Patel offers a clear and concise explainer between the two SEO terms:

Domain Authority is the measure of a site’s overall strength and ability to rank, as calculated by SEO tool company Moz. Google has repeatedly said that they do not have a concept of Domain Authority in their algorithm, but Moz has found that Domain Authority correlates strongly with good rankings. Thus, Domain Authority is a useful metric.

Page Authority is the measure of a specific page’s strength and ability to rank. Page Authority is helpful when diagnosing why a page might not be ranking as well as you hoped. Page Authority is also not a metric that Google uses, but it does correlate well with rankings.

Don’t Chase DA

Finally, Domain Authority is a directional metric which means that it is an indicator of how well a site might rank. It is not a metric that a business owner, CEO, or SEO should measure as an indicator of success as it is a number that moves over time with the rest of the web.

This means that your DA could go down when in reality you have been cleaning up your website technically, creating content, and building links, and thus your traffic and revenue are going up.

Your DA going down means that other sites have become stronger faster than yours, but this also does not mean that your direct competitors have done that as well.