Domain Authority Explained: How To Build Domain Authority

A laptop with a red loading screen on a light red background.

Domain authority can be a contentious subject within the world of search engine optimization. While experts use the term “domain authority” as though it were a general principle, in reality, it’s a metric created by SEO software company Moz. Due to its popularity, competitors like Ahrefs and Semrush have developed their own versions, even though engineers at Google have denied domain authority has any influence on their algorithms. The cofounder of Moz, Rand Fishkin, begs to differ, citing internal documents from Google. 

But despite all the corporate intrigue, domain authority is a straightforward metric that can be useful for SEO practitioners, marketers, and anyone else interested in checking the health of a site’s organic traffic. In ecommerce, it’s a handy, easily comprehensible number that can help you gauge the efficacy of a digital growth strategy. 

What is domain authority? 

Domain authority is a metric that quantifies the overall strength and credibility of a website’s domain and its potential to rank on search engines. Domain authority scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating a greater likelihood of achieving higher search engine rankings. The score attempts to predict how likely one site’s content is to rank higher than similar competitor content. 

There’s no such thing as a good domain authority score; your website’s score is only useful when you compare it to competitors’ scores. Sites with near-perfect domain authority scores—like Google, YouTube, Wikipedia, or Amazon—serve as the organizing structure of the internet itself. An ecommerce site selling dog food with a score of 20, then, should be looking at the scores of similar-sized competitors also selling dog food. If one of them has a score of 30, it may be worth attempting to figure out what its organic traffic strategy is—whether that’s earned media from a charismatic founder, robust on-site content, or better link building

How backlinks affect domain authority

Moz uses machine learning and a proprietary algorithm to determine domain authority, as do its competitors. Like Google’s search algorithm, Moz tweaks its domain authority algorithm regularly. But in a white paper detailing its most recent update, Moz makes clear the importance of backlinks—inbound links directed from other websites to yours. Factors to consider include: 

  • Link quantity. While quality is important, the raw number of inbound links influences domain authority.
  • Link diversity. Aim for a diverse feed of backlinks from various linking domains (like blogs, news sites, and B2B resources) to indicate a more natural link profile.
  • Link relevance. Backlinks from websites that are relevant to your industry or topic are more valuable, as they affirm your expertise.
  • Domain popularity. Links from popular and reputable websites tend to have a more substantial impact.
  • Link growth. A gradual and consistent increase in high-quality backlinks over time shows an organic upward trajectory.

Other factors that impact domain authority

Outside of backlinks from high-quality referring domains, factors considered to have an impact on domain authority include: 

  • Content quality. Well-written, structured, and relevant content engages users and boosts domain authority, naturally attracting backlinks. 
  • Site structure. A coherently structured website, with information nested logically into categories and subcategories, improves overall user experience, as well as key site metrics. 
  • Domain age. Older websites tend to have had more time to accumulate backlinks and establish authority. 
  • Social signs. Social media engagement, or web visits that originate from social media platforms, leads to high-value traffic and awareness, positively impacting domain authority. 
  • Technical SEO. Proper implementation of technical SEO elements such as meta tags, sitemaps, mobile responsiveness, and fast loading times can positively impact domain authority.

Domain authority vs. page authority: what’s the difference?

Domain authority is distinct from page authority, although both are Moz-developed metrics. Page authority gauges an individual page’s ability to rank prominently for specific search queries. Domain authority measures your entire site’s ability to compete on search engine results pages (SERPs), while page ranking measures an individual URL’s ability to compete. It’s a more granular measurement—a scalpel rather than a shovel.

How to check your website’s domain authority

To check your website’s domain authority, navigate to Moz’s Domain Authority site, enter your website’s domain, and check out the domain authority score. You can repeat this for free with up to three competitor sites per day. This allows you to compare your site to its closest competitors.

Other similar tools to check out include:

It’s human nature to see a score and want to know if it’s “good.” But, again, the utility of domain authority is comparative, not objective. Use some of those free searches to evaluate your immediate competition. If you’re handily outpacing the competition, great; you’ve got a successful organic growth strategy and should stay the course. If your score is lower than competitors’ sites, consider a few best practices. 

How to improve your domain authority

  1. Conduct a domain authority audit
  2. Create great content
  3. Build high-quality backlinks
  4. Create social content to promote your site
  5. Optimize on-page SEO
  6. Stick with it

The good news is that improving your domain authority isn’t a mystery and involves implementing or refining many marketing best practices that can have positive impacts throughout your business. Some suggestions to consider include:

1. Conduct a domain authority audit

After assessing your current domain authority, analyze your backlink profile to identify the quality of your backlinks. Use keyword research to pinpoint competition ranking for similar keywords and then research their backlinks. What sites do they come from? Why are they linked?

2. Create great content

Evaluate the pages that are performing well on your site and competitors’ as a clue into your audience’s needs. Then create great, rich SEO content around it. This will improve your on-site metrics and also spur other outlets to link to you. 

3. Build high-quality backlinks

Reach out to sites relevant to your industry to do guest posts. Alternatively, find influencers who would take high-quality, exclusive content from you in exchange for backlinks. 

4. Create social content to promote your site

Active social accounts can build organic traffic to your content and increase the chances of aggregation from high-quality external sites. Participate in industry conversations and keep your accounts lively to make them more than just rote promotional tools. 

5. Optimize on-page SEO

Optimize on-page SEO by ensuring meta titles, descriptions, and headers accurately reflect your content and organically include target keywords. This can help improve overall visibility and the chance for additional backlinks.

6. Stick with it

None of these solutions are immediate fixes. But all of them involve genuinely evaluating your brand’s values and voice and communicating directly to your target audience. Successfully implementing them should eventually increase domain authority as well as other key metrics of digital health.

Domain authority FAQ

Why did my domain authority change?

Domain authority can change due to factors like new backlinks, changes in your backlink profile, updates in Moz’s algorithm, or shifts in your site’s authority compared to others. Always evaluate your score in comparison to direct competition rather than as some objective overall score.

Can I increase my domain authority quickly, or is it a gradual process?

Increasing domain authority is typically a gradual process. You can achieve it by consistently improving content quality, building high-quality backlinks, and optimizing your site for better search results.

Are there any tools or software to monitor and track domain authority over time?

Yes, tools like Moz’s Link Explorer, Ahrefs, Semrush, and Majestic offer tracking capabilities to monitor your domain authority over time.

Can I transfer domain authority if I change my domain name or switch to a new website?

Domain authority doesn’t transfer directly, but you can maintain authority by properly implementing 301 redirects, preserving quality backlinks, and ensuring a seamless user experience during the transition.

Does having a strong social media presence contribute to domain authority?

While social media doesn’t directly impact domain authority, it can indirectly influence it by driving traffic, engagement, and potential backlinks to your site.