Establishing trustworthiness is of crucial importance for any business on the Internet. Search engines have to filter through millions of pages to sort out the shady ones, and show relevant and credible content to their users. Today, we will see what exactly is Domain Authority score, and what it means for companies.
What does Domain Authority mean?
Domain authority score is a competitive metric that was first introduced by the analytics company Moz to determine the probability of your website ranking higher on Google. It describes the authority and trustworthiness of your web to search engines.
As we mentioned, the Internet is a huge place with millions of websites, and not all of them have good intentions. A lot of them are spammy, difficult to navigate, or deliver wrong information that can sometimes even be dangerous for the user.
In my article Introduction to SEO for beginners, I explain the concept of relevance and how it plays a huge role in the way Google sorts out content. In other words, the search engine has a number one priority of showing users the most helpful, credible and relevant content possible for their specific search term.
So, the websites that you will usually see on the first SERP (Search Engine Results Page) are the ones that Google trusts the most to answer a search query:
In other words, Domain Authority score checks into multiple factors to determine if your website should be trusted by users and search engines. It ranges from 1 to 100, with 1 usually assigned to completely new websites, and 90-100 assigned to well-established ones such as Wikipedia:
In a minute, we will see the signals that search engines use to decide whether your website is trustworthy or not. But before that, I need to answer one very popular question:
Is Domain Authority Score a Ranking Factor?
A lot of people wonder if domain authority is a ranking factor for Google. Does a higher score help you rank better among Google’s search results? The official answer is: no.
Officially, domain authority is not considered a ranking factor for Google. Here are some of the most reputable sources that confirm it:
“Domain authority is not a score by Google, and the search giant does not use it to determine ranking.” SearchEngineLand.com
Ahrefs is another source that agrees to having no evidence when it comes to domain rating as ranking factor:
“There’s no evidence that search engines use Domain Rating (Domain Authority, the power of domain, etc) as a ranking factor at all.” Ahrefs.com
However, you have to take this information with a grain of salt. If you take a good look, I put an emphasis on the word “Officially”.
What you have to understand is that Google is not particularly transparent about its SEO ranking factors. In fact, many popular factors that are circulating from experts to experts have not been officially confirmed. There are more speculations on Search Engine Optimization than celebrity gossip!
Google doesn´t have an official list of ranking factors. They have a document called the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide, which you can access by clicking the link.
Although the guide is great, it leaves a lot of space for interpretation (or misinterpretation). It will not say “____ is a ranking factor”. It will give you some best practices that you can interpret any way you want.
In fact, just yesterday I had a heated discussion with a colleague on whether the URL length is an SEO factor. I was claiming that it was, showing him multiple links to highly reputable sources, including Backlinko´s study of 1,000,000 search results confirming that short URLs tend to position better.
On the other hand, he rightly said that Google never confirmed it officially, which is also true.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
But the point is, Google isn´t quite transparent with this type of information, so we will never know.
Even if Domain Authority score is not a ranking factor per sé, it has a very tight correlation with your positioning. We will see how in a minute.
What is the Difference Between Page Authority and Domain Authority?
There is a difference between your overall Domain Authority, and your authority when it comes to a specific page.
Domain Authority score refers to the overall trustworthiness of your website, while Page Authority determines the credibility of a specific page within that website.
For example, the Domain Authority of the Marketing Automation company www.hubspot.com reaches a score of 91:
The almost perfect domain score gives signals to Google that the overall healthiness and credibility of the website is excellent. Which, in turn, will mean that any specific page coming from that domain will be trustworthy as well.
Now, let´s take a look at a specific page within Hubspot:
As you can see, the page is a part of a website with an overall Domain Authority of 91. However, the page itself has a much lower Page Authority.
This happens because Moz, and any other link explorer tool, evaluates each page on an individual level, but also as a part of the domain.
Usually, domains are much more powerful than specific pages. The main reason, although not the only one, is because a whole domain will have many more links pointing to it than a single page.
Now that we´ve managed to clear out some doubts, let´s see how link explorer tools calculate a website´s authority. For this example, we are using the original Link Explorer, the tool created by Moz that we mentioned earlier.
Domain Authority Score is calculated based on a combination of metrics. To explain them better, I will continue using www.hubspot.com as an example, more specifically the URL https://www.hubspot.com/products/marketing.
So, let´s go to Link Explorer, and paste the URL of the company. You will probably have to create a free account to do that, and you have a limit of 10 monthly URL checks on the free version.
The tool returns a variety of metrics. We already explained Domain Authority and Page Authority, so let´s see the rest.
Linking Domains are the number of unique external domains that are linking to your website. This means that two or multiple links from the same site will only be counted once. A domain is the highest hierarchical level of a site, such as google.com, or zara.com.
This metric is important because it helps you understand how many different websites are talking about you in their content. Obviously, the more websites put a link to yours, the better.
Although, keep in mind that quantity means nothing if there isn´t any quality.
If many links are pointing to you from spammy, low-authority websites, this can be an indication to Google and Moz that you are doing bad practices to get these links. So, even if a 100 domains point to you, it´s not going to increase your trustworthiness if they come from other, non-credible sources.
On the other hand, if a lot of websites with high domain authority put links to your website in their content, it means that they are referring to you as a reputable source.
Because these are sources with a well-established reputation and Google already trusts them, it will increase your trustworthiness as well.
You can go to the section Linking Domains to check all domains pointing to you, and also their Domain Authority:
In this case, we can see that highly reputable sources susch as Vimeo, Medium and Forbes are referring to Hubspot in their own websites.
You can also click on the column Top Links to see the exact links that are mentioning your company:
You can also go back to the Overview page to see a nice chart of your linking domains ordered by Domain Authority:
Inbound Links, also known as backlinks, are hyperlinks on external websites that point to a page on your website. They might come from a page or a sub-page, and not necessarily the home page. However, each backlink will count separately, even if it’s coming from the same domain.
This is what makes them different from Linking Domains.
For example, let’s say that Forbes has mentioned Hubspot’s page in 3 different articles.
This will count as only one Linking Domain, because all come from the same domain. However, it will also count as 3 inbound links because they are all viewed separately, and each one brings additional value to your backlink count.
You can find more information in the Inbound Links section on the left:
Additionally, you can click on any backlink to inspect:
- The date in which was detected first;
- Whether it was lost, and when;
- And the link target of your own page.
And of course, the usual data such as Page Authority, Domain Authority Score, Spam Score, and the number of Linking Domains pointing to that site.
You can also filter by link types, and export that data for further investigation:
Discovered and Lost Linking Domains
This section shows you the number of linking domains that you have gained or lost in a certain period of time. Let’s see more:
This metric shows you all the identified links and URLs that are mentioning your brand within a selected period of time. They are really helpful for keeping track of the conversations involving your company, and you can use them to identify spam as well.
Keep in mind that the time for the Link Explorer tool to discover a new link might be different from the time it was created. So, the date you will see on the screen will be the one in which it was discovered by Moz, not the date in which it was created.
Lost linking domains refer to the domains that have stopped referring to you over a certain period of time. In other words, the link has been removed from the third-party website.
It could be for different reasons, such as: the elimination of the domain, the specific page that was mentioning you, or maybe they simply changed the link to a new one.
Additionally, a linking domain or an inbound link could be lost if you changed the URL of the page without redirecting. For this reason, it could be really helpful to export your lost links, and inspect why you actually lost them. This way, you can take further action.
For example, you could click on the link that has been lost, and try to find your mention in the text to check what happened:
Another interesting information that you can get from a Link Explorer tool is the Anchor text. An anchor text is simply the clickable text in a hyperlink.
In this example from a Moz article, the anchor text will be “Check your Campaign Settings”:
In the context of authority, this information can help you see the exact keywords that websites are using to refer to you.
Obviously, some anchor texts are better than others. For example, if the keyword of your page is “Marketing Automation Tool”, having an external website link to you in the text “check out this awesome Marketing Automation Tool” is much better than simply “click here”.
The reason why is because the anchor text keyword gives additional information to Google and Link Explorer tools about the content to which a website is pointing to. It makes it easier to understand for them, and it helps you position for that keyword as well.
This section is ordered by the number of linking root domains that contain the anchor text.
This report shows the top performing content of your own website. In this section, you can see which subpages have the highest Page Authority, and the highest number of backlinks pointing to them. Later, you can use this information to analyze why they are performing better than others.
This data can help you discover the most valuable pages on your website based on key metrics. It can be really useful for determining the pages that you may want to focus on for further optimization.
This section is also ordered by the number of linking domains pointing to your page.
Additionally, you can also check if all hyperlinks are functioning correctly, or if some have been broken:
Compare Link Profiles
This report allows you to compare metrics between different URLs. It can be a comparison between your own internal links, or between your website and a competitor’s URL for:
- Root Domain;
- Or Exact Page.
You can check how you compare to your main competitors for valuable metrics such as:
- Domain Authority and Page Authority – are they more trustworthy than you?
- Total Links – how many websites are talking about you and your competitor?
- Linking Domains – how many different domains are referring to both of you?
To be honest, I did a bit of an unfair comparison here because I am comparing a specific page within Hubspot to the home page of Oracle. 🙂 Which, of course, will have an impact on the metrics. So, please excuse me about that!
This report is a great way to see how your page and domain authority compares with that of your competition, and analyze your strengths and weaknesses.
This metric determines the probability of your website being penalized or banned from Google. It represents the percentage of websites with similar features that have been penalized.
Moz determines the SPAM score via 27 unique factors, such as:
Site Link Diversity
If all the external links that are pointing to your website come from the same page or domain, it looks suspicious. And, it is usually a sign for fraudulent activities. Some people buy out external links in order to trick the search engine that their site is authoritative. However, it is a practice that Google often penalizes.
Large website with few links
If your website is big, but very few links are pointing to it, it arises Google’s suspicions for spam.
Domain Name Length
If the length of your domain name has way too many characters than average, Moz and Google will probably mark it as spam.
If your domain or page has little to no valuable content, and is highly likely a spam. Remember, providing relevant and useful content for users is a number one priority for Google!
Numerals in the Domain Name
A lot of spam sites contains numbers in their domain name, so having too many numbers in yours can definitely be a bad signal.
Having your phone number, email address, and contact information on the website are signs for trustworthiness. The majority of spam websites don’t have a real phone number on their pages.
The presence of pixels from Facebook, Google Tag Manager, Doubleclick, and other Marketing tools, reduce the spam probability. The reason why is because spam sites almost never have these tags within their code.
Links to LinkedIn
Rarely spam websites have links to a profile or an associated page in LinkedIn. Consequently, Moz considers the lack of this feature to be a spam signal.
You can check all 27 spam factors here.
Working towards a higher Domain Authority should be a priority goal for every company that wants to improve its ranking. If you haven´t checked out yours yet, just click here, type in your URL, and start analyzing!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this article, and I hope to see you in the next one!