Domain Authority: What it is, what it isn't, and how it's calculated

Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 12, January 2024

Domain Authority, referred to simply as DA, is discussed extensively within the SEO space. SEO professionals cannot go a day without mentioning it in some way, shape, or form.

In this article, we will fully explain the Domain Authority concept. We'll talk about what it is, whether it is important or not, how it's calculated and how you can improve it on your website. We'll also answer the age-old question of whether Domain Authority is a ranking factor.

So, let's dive right into the meat of the article.

What is Domain Authority?

Domain Authority is a metric created by Moz that predicts a website's ability to rank in search engines on a scale from 1 to 100. This metric is created based on a website's link profile and other factors.

It's an important concept for digital marketers and SEO professionals alike, and understanding it can be quite beneficial, especially when trying to figure out different ways to improve your website's search engine ranking, whether for your website or a client's website.

Let's say, for example, that you are an SEO consultant conducting competitor research for a new client. Using Moz's Domain Authority metric, you can better understand whether you will compete with sites for certain keywords or not. This will allow you to craft campaigns that work immediately, giving you a better standing with current and future clients.

Why is Domain Authority Important?

Domain Authority is important, but not necessarily for the reasons you would think.

As discussed earlier, you can use it to your advantage when planning and executing campaigns for yourself or your clients. The metric is great for giving a quick overview (or prediction) as to your chances of success when targeting different keywords and topics. This way, you can craft campaigns that generate quick wins, giving you more scope for more complicated works and ambitious keywords shortly.

With this in mind, however, it's important to note that your website's Domain Authority is not a ranking factor. We'll touch on this more later, but you need to have this in your mind immediately.

Whilst your Domain Authority is not a direct ranking factor, because it has been developed by a company that is not Google, it is still incredibly important. We can show this from Ahrefs' recent study linking your Domain Authority to your keyword rankings. This study is based on their own Domain Rating (DR) metric, not Domain Authority, but the results still stand. This is because, whilst different, DA and DR are intrinsically linked as they're created based on many similar metrics.

So, whilst your Domain Authority is not the "be-all and end-all", it is still important and worth paying attention to.

How is Domain Authority Calculated?

According to Moz, who created the Domain Authority metric:

"Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and total number of links, into a single DA score. This score can then be used when comparing websites or tracking the "ranking strength" of a website over time."

To put this in our own words:

Your DA is calculated by Moz using an algorithm that considers many factors, primarily the quantity and quality of external links pointing to a website. The algorithm will evaluate the strength of a site's "link profile" compared to others in Moz's extensive database to produce a score that ranges from 1 to 100.

Generally, the more high-quality, relevant backlinks a site has, the higher its Domain Authority score tends to be.

Is Domain Authority a Ranking Factor?

Your Domain Authority is not a ranking factor used by search engines like Google and Bing.

While your DA can provide amazing insights and help benchmark against competitors, it's not directly used to determine where a website should rank. Search engines, instead, use their complex algorithms, which consider numerous factors that include, but are not limited to:

  • Content quality
  • Content relevance
  • User experience
  • Site speed
  • Mobile-friendliness

Let's give an example.

Take the keyword "SEO testing guide" in the US, for instance. We currently rank at Position 1 for this keyword:

A screenshot of a Google search results page for the query 'SEO testing'. The page displays links to various SEO testing tools and guides, with the top result being a sponsored link to a website offering an SEO A/B Testing Tool.

This is great for us. We're an SEO testing tool, so ranking at Position 1 for this keyword is brilliant. Even though we have a relatively low Domain Authority, according to Moz:

A webpage from MOZ featuring a Free Domain Authority Checker tool. It displays a field to enter a domain name, with pre-entered, and shows metrics such as Domain Authority, Linking Root Domains, Ranking Keywords, and Spam Score.

Why is this? This is up for debate, but we're ranking so highly despite a low Domain Authority because we're an extremely relevant result. Google favours us more because we're experts on the topic than a company that does not have its own SEO testing tool.

What is a Good (or Average) Domain Authority?

When answering this question, it's important to understand that Domain Authority is a comparative metric rather than an absolute one. A "good" Domain Authority score varies heavily depending on the industry, the competitiveness of the niche, and the DA scores of competing websites.

We can, however, answer this question very generally:

  • A DA score between 40 and 50 is considered average.
  • A DA score between 50 and 60 is considered good.
  • A DA score of 60 or above is considered very good/excellent.

It's vital to compare your website's Domain Authority with similar websites or direct competitors rather than look at it in isolation. The aim shouldn't actually be to increase your Domain Authority. It should be to do great SEO work overall. If you do this, a better DA should happen organically.

Domain Authority vs Page Authority

Domain Authority and Page Authority are metrics that Moz has created, but they measure very different aspects of a website's potential performance on search engines.

Domain Authority

  • Measures the strength of an entire domain or subdomain.
  • Predicts, with a pinch of salt needed, how well a website will rank on search engines.
  • Takes various factors into account, including the number and quality of inbound links.

Page Authority

  • Measures the strength of an individual page on a website.
  • Predicts how well a page will rank on search engines with a pinch of salt.
  • Focuses on the link profile strength of a single page, both internal and external.

To answer in one line. Your Domain Authority predicts how well your website will rank on search engines, whilst your Page Authority predicts how well a single page will rank.

How to Check Your Domain Authority

Checking your website's Domain Authority is easy.

As Moz has developed the metric, they have also created a free tool that you can use to check the Domain Authority of any website, including your own.

There is just one thing to note. You are limited to three daily reports if you do not have a Moz Pro subscription. However, if you do have a paid subscription, you have unlimited reports to use per day.

Here's the screenshot of what the report looks like:

A webpage from MOZ featuring a Free Domain Authority Checker tool. It displays a field to enter a domain name, with pre-entered, and shows metrics such as Domain Authority, Linking Root Domains, Ranking Keywords, and Spam Score.

How to Improve Your Domain Authority

Again, improving your Domain Authority is not a task that you need to be "all that" concerned about. Ensuring you regularly do proper SEO work will generally take care of this. However, if you are actively looking to improve your DA, or you have had this task set for you by a client, there are some things you should do.

Create Quality Content

Firstly, creating high-quality content is the cornerstone of almost every SEO strategy created and executed over the last fifteen years. Your content should be relevant, engaging, and valuable to your audience, addressing their questions and needs. This approach will attract traffic and encourage other website owners to link to your content, which is pivotal for your website's Domain Authority.

Actively Curate High-Quality (and Relevant) Backlinks

Another key factor that will help you improve your Domain Authority is acquiring high-quality backlinks, relevant to your website. Links from other reputable websites act as votes of confidence in the eyes of search engines. Focus on building proper relationships with industry influencers, guest posting on reputable sites, and engaging in digital PR campaigns to earn these links, this is called Off-page SEO and will be incredibly valuable to your website.

Focus on your On-Page SEO

On-page SEO optimisation is also pivotal. Make sure your website is fully optimised for search engines, including spending time working on your title tags, meta descriptions, header tags, and images. Also, ensure you spend proper time (and money, if needed) ensuring your website is mobile-friendly and has quick load times, as both of these are crucial for user experience and Google's ranking algorithms, as we explain in the SEO checklist article.

Build a Social Media Presence

Whilst social media signals are not directly tied to your DA or keyword rankings, an active presence can help increase your content's visibility. This, in turn, may lead to more natural backlinks.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, understanding and improving Domain Authority is a nuanced but valuable part of SEO strategy. While DA is not a direct ranking factor for search engines, it is a predictive indicator of a website's potential to rank well. It's calculated by Moz, considering factors such as linking root domains and the total number of links.

A good DA score varies by industry and niche, but scores above 40 are generally considered average to good.

Improving DA involves creating quality content, curating high-quality backlinks, optimizing on-page SEO, and building a social media presence.

DA is a comparative, not an absolute metric, and should be part of a broader, holistic SEO approach. Focusing on overall SEO health will organically lead to an improved Domain Authority over time.

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