Stuck at the bottom of a competitor dogpile?
Competitors speeding past you and knocking out all the top spots on Page One of Google while you’re sitting in the unexplored depths of Page 50?
There might be one not-so-tiny thing separating you from the rest: Domain Authority.
Domain Authority (DA) is a score that predicts how well a site will rank in SERPs.
It’s similar to Page Authority (PA), other than the fact that it measures the entire domain as opposed to a single page.
It was created by Moz, and to this day, is one of the main metrics that SEOs look for when analyzing the ranking power of a site.
Think of it like the Richter scale of SEO.
However, unlike the unlimited score of an earthquake, Domain Authority is given a score out of 100.
Earthquakes knocking out the top spots are stronger than those that only score a 1.2.
The same concept applies to DA: Those with a score of 80 are much more valuable than sites with a DA of 10. But, it’s also easier to get a site from 40 to 50 points than it is to get from 90 to 100.
How Is Domain Authority Measured?
Just like Google’s ranking algorithm, there are many different factors that are used by Moz to determine a site’s DA.
The majority are hidden under a magician’s invisible cloak and they’re yet to be unveiled.
However, we do know that a handful of DA scoring metrics include:
It’s no secret that backlinks pass authority from site to site.
Because of that, it won’t come as a shock to learn that sites with high Domain Authority will pass some of that juice through to a linked site.
A bit like guilt by association.
That means if the majority of your backlinks are from sites with a DA of 50-60+, then your own shouldn’t be too far off that mark.
The aim of any search engine is to make the searcher happy by displaying results that suit their query.
After all, you won’t be very happy if a list of shoe retailers was displayed when you were looking for a skateboard.
For that reason, user experience plays a huge role in your DA scoring. If you’re not making your users happy, you won’t be in with a strong chance of reaching Page One.
Would you be happy with landing on a site that spams you with aggressive pop-ups every time you visit?
No—and neither would I.
Or the person reading this article next.
Site quality plays a role in DA scoring for the same reasons as user experience. If someone isn’t happy with your site, search engines wouldn’t ruin their own reputation by sending more searchers to it.
Social signals and your reputation on social platforms also influence Domain Authority.
It’s like a software’s method of listening in to the conversations people are having about you online.
If people are enjoying your content, they’ll want to share it with their friends—a bit like sharing the best place to eat with someone who’s visiting the country you last traveled to.
Sites with a loyal social audience (and tons of social shares) are much more likely to be rewarded with a high DA score.
Surge the SERPs: 5 Practical Ways to Boost SEO Domain Authority
1. Create Valuable Blog Content
Every last bit of content that you publish on your site should give a nod to the following question: “Is this beneficial to my ideal customer?”
Why? Because search engines like Google are smart.
They understand words, phrases and sentences.
A simple way to boost your site’s SERPs is to answer a user’s questions.
Think about the products and/or services you’re offering, and the people who are likely to buy them.
What obstacles (i.e., questions) do they need to have answered before they purchase your product?
How to Find Blog Content Ideas
Use Google’s Suggestions
What better way to learn what your audience is searching for than by going directly to the source?
An often-underused method to learn more about the questions your ideal customer is asking is to type “how to…,” “is…” or “why do…” in your search box.
Replace the ellipsis with your industry, and be greeted with up to 10 suggestions of blog content you could write.
For example, let’s take a pet insurance company. Here’s what’s shown when I use the “is…” example:
Answer the Public
Another free tool you could use for this task is Answer the Public.
Type the industry you work within into the box. Hundreds of questions are then displayed; all of which can be content ideas for your blog.
Here are the results using the same pet insurance example:
Increase DA Through UX
I know what you’re thinking: “Elise, this isn’t Countdown. Stop with the abbreviations!”
But, hear me out.
I mentioned earlier that user experience is one of the main factors in Moz’s Domain Authority algorithm. That’s because it correlates to Google’s set of “best practices”: to give the searcher exactly what they’re looking for online.
But why is long-form content—particularly in the form of a blog post—a good technique to increase DA?
It’s because long-form content is seen as more valuable. Instead of 500 words of spun content that was written solely to target keywords, the main priority of this blog content is the user.
Going above and beyond with your knowledge equals happy customers who are satisfied with their online search. In turn, users will have a better experience and your Domain Authority will increase.
Plus, giving searchers an answer to their question will allow them to trust you as a reputable company within your industry.
They’ll come back to you whenever they’re looking for what you offer… even if that’s two months down the line.
It’s been proven that long-form blog content attracts more social shares.
Just take a look at this data collected by Buzzsumo when they analyzed 100 million articles:
Content with the most social shares is over 3,000+ words in length. On the other hand, articles with less than 1,000 words get minimal shares in comparison.
Your aim with blog content is to yield as many social shares as you can.
The volume of social shares is a metric in Moz’s algorithm. Just like Google, reputation is a key metric that’s used to rank or score websites.
The way they see it: If you’re popular in the online community, you must be sharing some value!
2. Focus on Quality Backlinks
You probably already know that backlinks are crucial for SEO.
And domain authority.
And finding new customers online.
(The list goes on.)
For that reason, the inclusion of backlinks in this guide to improving Domain Authority probably won’t surprise you.
What might surprise you is the fact that all of your backlinks need to be one thing: of high quality.
When it comes to attracting backlinks, quality is better than quantity.
Would you rather be associated with 50 low-quality sites with a DA of 15, or have five entries in your backlink profile from sites with a DA of 60+?
The DA of the site you’ve gained a backlink from influences your own. So, if you’ve got tons of low-DA links in your backlink profile, that could be the explanation behind a struggle to boost your own.
Clean Your Backlink Profile
Before rushing ahead and trying your best to gain new, high-quality backlinks from reputable sites in your niche, you need to do some preparation. This is in the form of a backlink profile analysis.
Simply put, a backlink profile analysis goes through every link pointing back to your site. You need to analyze these sites with certain factors in mind—and disavow those that may be hurting your DA increase efforts.
Start by signing in to Monitor Backlinks. If you haven’t got an account already, I recommend signing up now.
You get a 30-day free trial and the chance to export your entire backlink profile with the DA of your links already visible. It’s really that simple!
Once you’re signed in, head over to the Backlinks tab. Here, you can see all of the backlinks that your site has collected.
Sort the Domain Authority column from lowest to highest to find which pesky entries could be the problem:
Using this example, we can see that betterboat.com has a few links from sites with a DA of 1.
This is the lowest DA score that you can get, and it may be worth disavowing these links.
However, sussing out the links to disavow doesn’t solely depend on their DA.
You should give second thought to sites that have a low DA. You’ll want to avoid getting rid of links that are from new websites, as these could become a powerful earthquake in the future.
In this instance, the score of 1 may be a placeholder figure until the site has been indexed by Moz.
Now that you’ve cleaned up the links that could be causing issues, it’s time to put together a strategy to move forward!
Without wishing to repeat myself, I stress that DA is impacted by quality backlinks.
It’s better to have links from high-DA sites than low. That’s because the score of your linked-from sites influences your own.
Here’s a great visual representation of how quality backlinks could help you to reach the coveted Page One on Google, and influence your Domain Authority:
For that reason, make it a priority in your SEO strategy to earn these backlinks.
You could do this by:
- Guest blogging: Find reputable, high-DA sites in your niche. Contribute an article and include a backlink to your site within the author bio, as credit for your writing.
- HARO: Sign up to become a source and keep an eye out for writers looking for quotes.
- Networking: Old, but gold. Find people who work in the same industry and make friends. If they see anything that you could have input on, or are looking for someone to quote in their own content, they might think of you.
- Broken link building: Have you come across a site that’s pointing to a 404 page? Write something on your own site that’ll cover the topic and ask the editor to amend it.
3. Optimize Onsite Content
Blogging was our first tip for increasing DA, but it’s not the only type of content that can help you to surge the SERPs.
Onsite content is another area that you should consider. It’s the section of text that’s on your main pages, including your homepage and service pages.
Your onsite content influences Domain Authority in a similar way to blog content: through keywords and UX.
On every page of onsite content that you write, specific keywords should be targeted.
However, be wary of falling into the trap of using your keyword between every word. It’s spammy, doesn’t look the best—and you could be penalized for keyword stuffing.
Instead, all of your onsite content should be easy to read.
If not, your user won’t be happy with their results (which means you’re in Moz’s bad books) and you shouldn’t expect a stark change in your own DA.
A great tip to consider when writing onsite content is to use a variation of your keyword.
Pick a primary keyword and use that wherever it sounds natural. However, to get over the dilemma of using that single word or phrase too frequently, think about other ways it could be worded.
It’s like the “you say optimise, I say optimize” debate… but on a bigger scale.
On the Monitor Backlinks homepage, I’ve highlighted the keyword variations that optimize this ranking factor:
Google uses Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). In simple terms, it’s smart enough to know when two phrases mean the same thing, or discuss a similar topic.
Because Google uses it, Moz is likely to as well.
Boosting User Experience
Another tip to boost the success of your onsite content in improving DA is to make it readable.
Banish the black background and opt for a clean, white space to showcase your talent for words.
Get rid of complicated fonts that take an entire afternoon to understand.
Giving a good experience to your user will reduce bounce rate and keep people onsite for longer periods of time.
That’s great for SEO and DA, as shown in this data by Moz:
Remember that paramount priority should be on your user. If it’s not easy for them, it won’t be easy for you to increase Domain Authority!
4. Harness the Power of Internal Links
Ah, the joy of links. They’re like the currency of websites, but you shouldn’t always work on getting them from other sites.
Just like hard-earned cash, it’s useful to have your own little stash.
When I say your own stash, I’m referring to internal links: links that link to other pages on your own site.
Can we get a raise of hands if you’re sick of reading the word ‘link’? Yup, me too…
Internal links can be built anywhere on your site. The most popular are:
- Service pages > blog posts
- Blog posts > blog posts
- Blog posts > service pages
But how exactly do these little stashes of internet currency help to improve DA?
Let me explain…
UX, UX, UX
You’re probably sick of me harping on about the importance of user experience. But, you can make your audience happy by taking a few minutes to internally link to other pages on your site that could be beneficial to them.
Let’s take this very blog post, as an example.
The first paragraph of this section has an internal link over the anchor text, “importance of user experience.”
If you—the person reading this—wanted to learn more about that topic, the link is there for you to click through and do so.
That makes you much happier than searching the internet for it yourself, right?
A Better Google Experience
Now, I know that I always tell you to do any SEO tactic with the user in mind.
Here’s an exception to that rule: Make your site easy for Google.
Domain Authority is Moz’s guide on how likely your site is to rank for search terms. But how can your site be easy to slot into SERPs if the software doesn’t know it’s there?
Google, and Moz, use spiders to ‘crawl’ your website, finding new pages to be indexed.
Using internal links helps Google—and Moz—to do just that.
Moz roughly updates their DA scores once a month. That means if you’re gaining links in November, they might not be found until December’s scoring.
However, if you’re not using internal links as well, they might not be found until June next year.
Internally linking to your new onsite content gives search engine spiders a map for them to crawl through, making the indexing of your site (and new pages) much speedier.
In turn, your DA should spike at a much faster rate.
5. Make Your Site Technically Perfect
The final step to improve your DA is to make sure that your site is technically perfect.
When I say this, I don’t mean that you should do a virtual marathon on your site, checking for spelling errors (although you can do one if you’ve got spare time).
Instead, I mean checking that the technical aspects of your pages are on point and error-free.
You can do this by:
Adding a Robots.txt File
This file tells a search engine (and their spiders) how to navigate your website. Think of it like the navigation bar, but for Google—not a user.
A technically-perfect site will have this file.
It’ll allow for easier indexing and your DA will increase much faster.
Let’s move on to the navigation for humans. As part of your technical SEO check, confirm that all links within your navigation work.
This step can have a huge impact on your bounce rate—another factor taken into consideration when Moz calculates DA.
When SimpleSEOGroup implemented a new website design, which included a navigation re-structure, their bounce rate dropped from 58% to 28%.
Beforehand, over half of all site visitors would go elsewhere after landing on their first page.
Now, with the new, easy-to-navigate site, users are encouraged to click around.
That’s a huge reduction.
A good, sensible navigation structure helps with user experience. That’s because visitors to your site are able to find their way around without digging out their map and compass.
Do you relate to the feeling of frustration when you’re eager to click through and learn more about a topic, only to land on a 404 “Page not Found”?
Your users will feel the same.
Check that all links on your site are working by using a tool like Broken Link Check.
If you spot that you’re directing users in the way of a 404, consider adding a redirect to a similar page. That way, your users won’t feel the frustration of reaching a dead end.
Now that we’re up to speed with the things you can do to improve DA, it’s time to get out there and start putting together the pieces of a technically-perfect, backlink-rich site.
Banish any form of 404 error and redirect users to another relevant page.
Get rid of your bad backlinks and replace them with those from high-DA sites.
And don’t forget that with a free 30-day trial of our backlink monitoring software, you can view your entire backlink profile and disavow any pesky entries that are dooming your efforts.
Granted, it’s grueling upfront work, but undoubtedly worth it in the long term.