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What is Domain Authority? [and How to Increase Your Score]

Picture of Chris Kirksey
Chris Kirksey

CEO, Direction.com

domain authority decoded

Domain authority is highly valued as a trust and credibility metric because it offers a quick snapshot of whether a domain has built its reputation through best practices — quality content creation, ethical marketing, and developing brand visibility in its niche.

What is Domain Authority

Domain authority is a metric developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine results pages. It uses a scale from 1 to 100 to represent the authority and trustworthiness of a domain in the eyes of Google and other search engines.

Domain authority serves as an estimate for how well a website is likely to rank for valuable, competitive keywords related to its niche. High authority sites tend to achieve better keyword rankings, receive more referral traffic, and are seen as more trustworthy sources of information. As such, domain authority carries important weight for SEO success.

How is Domain Authority Calculated?

The domain authority score is calculated based on the number and quality of inbound links to that domain. It also takes into account factors related to on-page optimization, user engagement signals like click-through rates and time on site, domain age, and overall link profile health.

The higher the domain authority, the more likely it is that website will rank higher and earn more organic search traffic.

The 1-100 Scale for Domain Authority

The domain authority scale was pioneered by Moz as an easier way to understand the relative authority of websites in a niche rather than relying solely on ranking positions. It provides a score encompassing many factors indicative of trust and authority. The closer to 100, the stronger the domain authority.

What Determines Domain Authority?

  • Backlinks – The number, authority, and relevance of sites linking back to a domain significantly influence its authority. 
  • High Authority Sites – Getting links or editorial mentions on authority sites like major publications or influencers can greatly improve a domain’s authority score.
  • Page Authority – The authority of each page on a domain contributes to the overall domain authority. 
  • Ranking Position – Ranking for multiple mid and high-competition keywords helps increase domain authority.
  • Click-through Rate – A site with higher engagement and click-through rates sends quality signals to search engines.

There are additional patented factors incorporated into the domain authority algorithm by Moz related to on-page quality, site velocity, link profile diversity, and more. But the above factors make up the core signals.

Are There Other Authority Metrics Used in SEO?

Yes, in addition to Moz’s Domain Authority, there are a couple other authority metrics used in SEO.

Ahrefs' Domain Rating

Ahrefs Domain Rating Metric for Direction.com

Ahrefs Domain Rating is an authority metric developed by Ahrefs that measures a domain’s overall quality and strength on a 0-100 scale. It serves as an alternative to Moz’s Domain Authority for assessing SEO authority.

The Ahrefs Domain Rating algorithm analyzes over a dozen different factors including:

  • Quantity, quality, and relevance of referring domains linking to the site
  • Organic keyword rankings and estimated search traffic
  • Backlink anchor text diversity
  • Presence of toxic/risky backlinks

The resulting 0-100 score represents the comprehensive authority of a domain. A higher rating signals a stronger, more reputable site that can likely rank for more valuable keywords in its niche.

In terms of SEO, Ahrefs Domain Rating offers clues into how competitive a niche is and how much work is needed to start ranking a site. Established sites with ratings over 60 will be quite difficult to overtake. Comparing a site’s domain rating over time also shows the impact of SEO efforts by analyzing authority trends.

So while Moz DA focuses more explicitly on search engine authority, Ahrefs Domain Rating provides a complementary metric to assess overall quality and domain strength for outranking competitors. Tracking both over time gives the most insight into improving SEO authority.

SEMRush's Authority Score

SEMRush Authority Score Metric for Direction.com

SEMrush Authority Score is an authority metric developed by SEMrush that evaluates a domain’s SEO competency and ability to rank in Google search. It uses a scale from 1 to 100 to represent overall authority and trust signals.

The SEMrush Authority Score algorithm analyzes over 40 different factors, weighted specifically towards signals that influence Google rankings, such as:

  • Quantity/quality of backlinks from authority sites
  • Organic keyword rankings and estimated traffic
  • Optimized on-page factors liketitles, headers, etc
  • Site security and page load speed

The resulting 1-100 score offers insight into how much SEO clout and trust a domain has built within Google’s ranking algorithm. The higher the Authority Score, the more likely that site can reach top search positions for valuable terms in its niche.

For SEO, the SEMrush Authority Score offers perspective into the work needed to outperform competitor sites and gaps to bridge. Authority Scores above 60 require extensive trust and authority building to exceed. Comparing month-to-month progress shows the impact of SEO efforts like content creation, link building, optimization to boost organic reach.

It provides a metric tailored specifically to gauging optimization for Google rankings versus broader domain strength signals. In conjunction with similar scores, it gives a robust view into SEO competency.

What is a Good Domain Authority?

There isn’t an absolute threshold for what is considered a “good” domain authority, but generally:

  • 0-10 is considered low domain authority
  • 11-40 is average domain authority
  • 41-59 is moderately high domain authority
  • 60-69 is high domain authority
  • 70-100 is very high domain authority

For strong SEO in competitive niches, a domain authority above 40 puts you in better stead to rank well for valuable keywords. However, requirements vary significantly based on niche and search intent:

  • Informational sites or local businesses can rank with domain authority in the 20s-30s.
  • B2B and technology sites should aim for 50+ to compete.
  • Highly commercial niches like law, finance, insurance require 60-70+ authority to thrive.
  • Globally popular sites boast scores in the upper 80s-90s.

How Can I Improve My Domain Authority?

There are a few core ways to steadily build your domain authority over time:

Key Ways to Increase Domain Authority

  • Create Content for High Authority Sites – Write guest posts for reputable sites related to your industry. This helps earn backlinks while expanding reach.
  • Promote Content to Industry Influencers – Connect with leaders in your space and provide value to them through your content in exchange for shares, links, mentions.
  • Prioritize Long-Form, In-Depth Content – Optimize pages, blog content, and other assets for depth, quality information search engines perceive as trustworthy.
  • Build Relationships with Relevant Sites – Network with sites complementary to yours where partnership opportunities make sense to collaborate and cross-link content.

Best Practices for High Quality Backlinks

Seek editorially given links from reputable publications, not paid or artificial links which can damage credibility.

Focus on relevance over quantity – get links from sites in your niche vs general web directories.

Earn links through outreach outlining value you can provide, not mass emailing link requests which are easily denied.

Authoritative, Trustworthy Content

Google evaluates over 200 ranking signals – but quality content focused on serving searcher needs is foundational. Useful, accurate, well-organized content increases dwell time and signals authority. Prioritizing user experience helps improve domain authority in sustainable, scalable ways.

What Causes Fluctuations in DA Scores?

Your Domain Authority (DA) score is similar to the stock market. It is constantly changing and influenced by various factors.

It is important to understand that your site’s DA score fluctuates based on machine learning calculations. As more data points are collected, the calculations become increasingly precise.

In other words, as new links are added or old ones disappear from the web, your DA will change accordingly. It’s similar to how Wall Street reacts to news about companies.

To further illustrate this point, let’s consider Facebook – one of those high-authority sites we all know and love (or hate).

If Facebook acquires new links while maintaining its existing ones, other websites’ DAs might decrease relative to Facebook’s due to their less robust link profiles.

Factors Causing Fluctuations in DA Scores

  • Data updates: As Moz collects fresh data about link patterns across the internet, they update their index, which can cause fluctuations in your website’s DA.
  • Growth rate: If higher authority domains grow at a faster pace than yours – acquiring more quality backlinks – it could lead to a decrease in your domain authority.
  • Moz algorithm changes: Similar to Google SERP algorithms, Moz also makes periodic updates that can sometimes cause shifts in Domain Authority scores.
    The Takeaway

Remember not to be disheartened when you see fluctuations in your site’s DA score; instead, view them as opportunities for improvement. Understanding what causes these shifts can help you better strategize for SEO success.

Conclusion: The Value of Understanding Domain Authority for SEO

Understanding and properly using your domain authority remains highly valuable for organizations who rely on search engine traffic and visibility into their niches.

As we covered in this post, domain authority gives online properties a way to benchmark their overall SEO strength and trust signals. Authority metrics analyze the collective signals search engines use related to credibility, link quality, content value, and site optimization.

Higher domain authority then converts directly to higher search rankings, more referral traffic to your content, lower customer acquisition costs, and faster growth velocity. Sites who consistently increase their authority tend to eventual dominate niches.

Thus keeping a routine pulse on domain authority scores can guide strategic decisions for SEO and content teams.

Competitive analysis, expansion planning into new territories, acquisitions, targeting subscriber numbers or revenue – multiple initiatives can leverage domain authority tracking for evidence-based decisions. The metrics cut through the noise.

We encourage researching domain authority more deeply, monitoring it consistently, and leveraging the insights it provides for SEO success. Authority fuels visibility; visibility enables impact.

If you’re ready to take the next steps in improving your website’s authority online, get in touch with our team for a free website SEO audit. 

FAQs in Relation to Domain Authority

Good scores are 40+ for informational sites and 50+ for commercial sites. High authority niche sites should aim for 60+.

Free tools like MozBar or Ubersuggest provide domain authority scores. Paid tools like Ahrefs and Semrush also provide authority metrics.

It takes 6-12 months for noticeable domain authority gains from on-page optimization and ethical link building efforts. Patience is key.

Domain authority is relatively stable but can fluctuate +/- 3 points month-to-month. Authority does not expire if you maintain your site.

Yes – domain authority maxes out at 100, but few sites will ever achieve this perfect score. Goal is continuing growth.

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