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Whether you’re a seasoned SEO professional, or whether you are just getting started, chances are you’ve come across Domain Authority (DA) during your quest to improve your Google rankings.
Developed by SEO product leader Moz, DA is a search engine ranking score metric, between one and 100, that gives you insight into how well your website is expected to rank on search engine results pages. The higher the score, the better your site should rank.
DA has become somewhat of an industry standard when it comes to measuring the strength of your SEO efforts. There are blogs upon blogs written on the topic, so it can be hard to know where to begin. Here, we’ll break down the SEO best practice steps to improving your DA in full, all in one easy place.
But First: What DA Isn’t
It’s important to note that DA is a Moz product. That means that it is not an official metric that Google uses to determine your position on search engine results pages. Instead, it’s a helpful tool for site owners and developers to use to monitor the stability of their sites over time.
DA also isn’t a predictor of individual page strength (for that, you’ll need Page Authority). Instead, it measures the strength of your site as a whole. That’s why it’s great overall to check regularly, but to find the root cause of a particular problem, you’ll need to do some digging.
What Factors Impact DA?
There are so many factors that ultimately impact how well your site is going to rank. According to Moz, there are more than 40 to be (somewhat) exact.
To distill all of that information into one single score out of 100 almost seemed impossible until it was done. Unfortunately, the sheer complexity of this ranking means that there is a fair amount of debate about what exactly goes into creating a DA score—just like with almost every other aspect of SEO.
You’ll find broad, sweeping advice. You’ll even find a niche, specific advice. But all in all, it’s educated guesswork, based on what has seemed to work for others.
What DA Should I Aim For?
When you first launch your website, it will have a DA score of one. Depressing, maybe. But it means there’s nowhere to go but up. Your first question is probably what you should aim for. Valid query.
Neil Patel estimates that “most DAs hover around the 40–60 mark”.
But DA is most useful when considered as a comparative score, rather than an absolute one. So your first plan of attack is to do some research on your competitors, note their DA scores, and make it your mission to beat them.
DA is measured on a logarithmic scale. It means that if your DA is particularly poor, it shouldn’t be too hard to give it a good boost, of say, 10 or 15 points. But as you get higher and higher, it gets harder to make those gains That’s one of the reasons why there’s so much fascination with DA—it’s all about finding that secret SEO best practice formula that will help you to climb to the top and surpass your competitors.
So you can see that your seemingly simple question—“What do I aim for?”—is suddenly not quite so simple.
How Do I Improve My DA?
Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s get down to the practical steps to improve your DA.
1. Analyse Your Keywords
Remember how we said the first step was to check out your competition? It’s only useful if you know who your direct competitors are and whether the competition is really competition at all.
What do we mean by this?
Moz Pro’s keyword analysis tool lets you easily find all the sites that rank for your chosen keyword, and see their DA scores. Perform this process over and over again across several weeks. You’re on the lookout for the consistent competitors—they’re the ones you want to beat.
But of course, you’re never going to be in the same league as a major site like Wikipedia, for example. Check to make sure your competitors are also of a similar size and industry to you. Only then should you try your luck at outranking them on search engine results pages.
2. Banish ‘No follow’ Links
Keywords are an on-page SEO tactic. It’s worth remembering that both on-page and off-page SEO need attention to boost your DA score.
So, next on the list is to look at your link profile, which includes how many followed and no follow links your site has.
Every time another site links back to yours, that’s counted as a followed link. The more of these you have, the better off you’ll be and the higher your DA score.
Plus, as a bonus, when you get a followed link from a reputable site, you’ll get a bigger boost. Search engines figure that if the big players are sharing and referring to your content, it must be pretty good.
If it’s starting to click, you might be tempted to think that the natural next step is to quickly start posting everywhere you can with links pointing back to your site, right?
Not quite. As with every SEO best practice white hat technique, the black hatters find ways to exploit it. In this case, it was this unrestrained copy-and-paste posting to build more links that ruined the party for everyone else.
Soon enough, Google needed to figure out how it could stop these spammers so that its algorithm would still only direct searchers to the most relevant content.
That’s where the no-follow was born.
No follow links are a big red flag. That’s when another site—usually a big one like Wikipedia or WordPress—automatically calls out any shameless link-building tactics.
If you find that you have no follow links in your profile, you’ll need to rectify them immediately. Not only do they hurt your SEO and DA, but they also stop it in its tracks.
3. Analyse Your Top Pages
The way to do it by the book is to create exceptional content that other sites want to link to. We’ll come back to this in just a bit. You also want to make sure that the link placement and context is relevant so that you get traffic flowing through.
Take a look through your top pages, as well as your competitors’ top pages. This is the content your audience is telling you they want to see. How can you make more of it, or make it even better?
Also, scan to make sure that this top content is live and accessible. Dead-followed links won’t help you.
Either fix any 404 error code pages or redirect them to something else on your site that those visitors would be equally if not more interested in.
4. Focus on Content Marketing
We touched on it earlier: creating great content. This is the essence of content marketing. Now that you know the subject of interest to your audience, how do you go about actually doing it?
Think about how you, as a member of your industry, enjoy consuming content. Do you prefer an in-depth actionable blog, like this one? Do you prefer the two-minute video that gets the point across in the shortest possible time? Perhaps you find infographics useful to distill complex data into readable resources.
Whichever medium you consume, there will be one shared trait across them all: simplicity.
Go deep, yes. But use simple words, and short sentences, and keep up a good pace so your visitors don’t fall asleep.
What do you wish you could learn? Where are the gaps? Do you find your customers come to you with the same burning questions? The answers to these questions are your secret content marketing strategy weapons.
It’s worth remembering that DA, just like any metric, should always be considered in context. Relying on one metric alone to determine something as broad as the effectiveness of your SEO work can be a trap.
It’s extremely handy as a comparative tool, giving you valuable insight into how you can realistically compete. It also shows you where your resources will have the most bang for their buck so that you can improve your Google rankings without blowing your budget. After all, you only need to be a step ahead of your competitors, so you’d be wasting precious time, energy, and money boosting your DA if you’re already in the lead for your chosen keywords.
Because you’re ultimately going for that spot one, page one position for your keywords, which earns a 200% higher CTR than the second. When you do take this due diligence at the start and take your time to get your DA right, it will be worth the blood, sweat, and tears in the end.