Let’s say you’re a dog owner, and you decide tomorrow to write a blog post about your adorable dachshunds. So you write your post, you hit “publish,” and then you Google “blog post about dachshunds.” Your post doesn’t appear on page one of search results. Or page two. Or page 10 for that matter. Instead, you might see BuzzFeed’s article 24 Dachshunds Who’ll Make You Go ‘Aw’ on page one. And you might find the website of Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund on page 2, and the Denver Dachshund Rescue on page 10. So what gives? Why aren’t you outranking all these sites? Well there are a host of factors that go into rankings, but one big indicator that we use to measure how easily a site will rank for a given query is “Domain Authority”. Domain Authority refers to the strength of your website. Or put another way, the ability for your website to rank highly for a given search query, all things being equal. And now that you know what it is, we’re going to call it “DA”, because SEO is full of awkward acronyms. What is domain authority?

So How is Domain Authority Measured?

It’s measured on a logarithmic scale from 1-100. And because it’s logarithmic, there’s a ton of sites with low DA, relatively few sites with mid-range DA, and very few sites with high DA. To put that in real terms, BuzzFeed has a DA of 91 (very strong), while a little further down the food chain, Crusoe the Celebrity Dachshund has a DA of 34 (let’s be generous and call him a minor celebrity), while the Denver Dachsund Rescue is a 17 - pretty typical for a small local business. It’s important to point out that DA aggregates a bunch of different factors, in trying to approximate a search engine algorithm as closely as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger factors here.

  • Links. This is the biggest factor. There’s two sides to this - good links and bad links. Good links include editorial links to your site, provided as references from articles, attributions for content, etc. There are also bad links, which lower your DA, and limit your ability to rank. Check out this e-book for info on how to discover and remove bad links.
  • A technically sound website. What does this mean? SO MANY THINGS. A few of them include a site that loads quickly (with compress images and utilizing image caching), has no 404s (dead pages that haven’t been redirected), and is full of rich, original content.
  • Domain age. Yes, older sites tend to rank better. Not a whole lot you can do about that one.

So I Need to Build my Domain Authority, Right?

Well, yes and no. Firstly, it’s important to point out that higher DA has no value as an end goal. It’s just an indicator. Higher DA is a fine thing to strive for, but we try to avoid having clients set DA targets as a goal. Why? Because improving your DA won’t make you any money. What it should do is increase your traffic, which should lead to more conversions, which should make you more money. But if you’re measuring DA, you’re at least four “shoulds”, four degrees of separation, from your real goal, of making more money. So we prefer to measure conversions and traffic, and if at all possible, revenue.

Then Why Does Domain Authority Matter?

While pursing higher DA shouldn't be a high priority end-goal, it can still be a useful metric to keep track of, and in fact, it's something that gets thrown around in the office a bit. However, the main reason we use it at the office is in quickly being able to identify quality outreach targets - high authority sites from which we'd like to earn links for our clients. As mentioned above, links are a major factor in you improving the authority of your own site, and links from higher DA sites will have a greater impact than links from lower DA sites.

Summing Up

In my experience, when clients are asking about their DA, they're usually just taking a less direct route to ask a question like "how are my SEO results?" or "how long is it going to take to see these indicators turn into revenue?" If you want to get into the brass tacks on these questions, check out our e-book - "How Long Does SEO Take?"