Domain Authority (DA) is a metric developed by Moz (the SEO company) for predicting how well your site will rank on Google’s Search Engine Results Page. And if you’re a self-respecting marketer, your goal should be to rank for that #1 spot—because who doesn’t want more organic traffic, amirite?
But does that mean you should truly respect your Domain Authority score?
Well… like all things SEO, the answer is complicated.
The short version:
DO use DA as a tool to gauge how you’re doing in comparison to your competition.
DON’T look at the DA in isolation, or mistake it for an A-F grade and panic when it changes. But most importantly…
DON’T forget that it’s not a Google metric. Even though it has the word ‘authority’ in it, Google doesn’t care.
So how do Domain Authority scores work?
Domain Authority is ranked on a scale of 1 to 100, and the higher your score, the better your ranking (should be) in search results.
So you can see why it’d be easy to get obsessed with your DA scores. In a world of complex data, who doesn’t want to see your results simplified down to a number out of 100? It feels nice and tidy, like a Buzzfeed Quiz score, and if you improve it, it probably feels like you’re doing a good job at your SEO.
How are Domain Authority scores calculated?
This is where things get a little hazy. According to Moz:
Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and the number of total links, into a single DA score.
According to HubSpot, the scores account for over 40 factors, but a pinch of this and a dash of that is about as much detail as they’re willing to share. Something something trade secrets and proprietary systems.
Domain Authority is also scored on a 100-point logarithmic scale. That means it’s significantly easier to grow your score from 1 to 20, or 20 to 30 than it is to grow from 70 to 80. The higher your score, the harder it is to score higher.
Moz lobs us another curveball in that your DA can decrease, even if you don’t lose any backlinks while another site in your niche receives an influx of backlinks and beats you to the post. So if you’ve gotten addicted to your DA hit, you’re bound to be a little strung out by the flux.
What are some examples of sites with the highest DA scores?
The big guns like Wikipedia and Facebook predictably have the highest DAs, mostly because they have a bajillion high-quality inbound links. It follows, then, that websites with few inbound links will have a very low DA. Brand-new websites will also always start with a Domain Authority score of one. Cute.
For anyone who isn’t Wiki or Facebook, a DA of over 40 is pretty solid, but of course, the higher the better. The best guys out there have DAs of over 60, which generally means their website is legit and the content is solid.
Domain authority is a handy tool, but (not gonna lie) it’s a little bit addictive because the score scale goes up to 100—like a test, or a grade—and because that scale, well, scales logarithmically, it’s easier to improve the lower your score and, likewise, harder to improve the higher your score.
Cool! How do I check mine?
You can check your website’s (and your competitors’) DA scores for free on Moz’s site right here.
Satisfied? Sad? Either way, there are things you can do to improve your DA (though again, we caution against obsession).
Moz suggests that the best way to influence the Domain Authority metric is to improve your overall SEO. Consider getting more links from other well-linked and well-trafficked pages. The quality of your linking also influences your DA (try for a good variety of links, nothing schemy or dodgy).
Oh, and keep in mind as you’re going along: your DA score is like your 100-meter dash time. In Dax Shepard’s spirit of “I don’t need to be faster than the bear, I just need to be faster than you,” you don’t need to have the highest DA score possible. Yours just needs to be better than your competitors’. 😉
Can I get a couple more DOs and DON’Ts?
But of course!
DON’T think of Domain Authority (DA) as an overall measure of your site’s performance, all by itself. Instead, you should still think of it as one useful metric, no matter how all-inclusive it may be.
DO use DA to inform how you fine-tune your SEO and keyword strategy. By way of example: a link from a website with high authority is more valuable than a link from a site with little or no authority, so knowing your authority and that of others in your industry will help you determine whom you should target for backlinks and guest-blogging opportunities.
(But on the other hand, if you’re embarking on a link-building campaign, you should try to care more about your rankings, relevancy, and traffic as measures of success too.)
Domain Authority may not belong on the same bonfire as some vanity metrics, but like them, it’s not a score that should be considered in isolation.
Play the long game, improve your content, and maintain a healthy site—and your DA, along with your Google ranking and organic traffic, should improve naturally in time. 🤓