13 April 2023
Google Search remains one of the most important sources of organic traffic. The company never reveals precisely how the results are ranked but it does offer guidance to webmasters and publishers so that they may follow best practices. Since Google provides limited information about the factors it considers for ranking pages, you will often come across confusing information and sometimes even downright misinformation. It’s important to be diligent when making changes that impact SEO as Google is quick to penalize websites that don’t follow its best practices.
When you search for ways to improve rankings on Google, you’ll frequently find domain authority being mentioned. It can be a bit confusing to understand what domain authority is, whether it’s a metric or a concept and whether any methods exist to improve it. Let’s discuss all of this in a bit more detail.
What is Domain Authority?
The term “Domain Authority” hasn’t been coined by Google, it actually comes from SEO software provider, Moz. Domain Authority is what Moz calls its search engine ranking score which predicts how likely it is for a website to rank in search engine results. Moz isn’t the only SEO platform that has this. Others like SEMRush and Ahrefs have their own iterations of a domain ranking score that measures similar attributes for domains.
Content marketers often take a very simplistic view of domain authority, assuming that a higher authority will automatically result in better rankings, or that links from higher authority sites are more valuable. Google doesn’t use a simplistic domain authority score to rank pages, however, there are some site-wide metrics that its algorithm considers when deciding where to rank pages.
As expected, Google is vague about what these metrics are, but the general perception is that Google views domains as higher quality if they’re focused on a particular niche with a fairly decent amount of great content about that topic. For example, blogs about cooking probably won’t rank well when posted on a website that’s about tech gadgets.
Is it even possible to increase Domain Authority?
It’s evident that there’s no such thing as domain authority as far as Google’s algorithm is concerned. There have even been reports that Google doesn’t even use the word “domain authority” internally to describe whichever site-wide signals it implements for rankings.
Even Moz, the platform that popularized this term, says that it’s not used by Google and that trying to increase this score simply to see a higher domain authority is a “pointless vanity.” There are indeed steps that you can take to improve the overall score but the question remains, what is that going to achieve?
How Domain Authority can help your SEO efforts
When viewed in isolation, the domain authority is not much more than an arbitrary number, but it can be useful to guide your SEO efforts. It’s a useful resource when trying to understand your relative competitiveness, that is to say, how competitive your site is compared to the ones it’s competing with.
For example, simply knowing that your site has a domain authority of 50 isn’t worth much. However, knowing that the keyword you’re targeting has sites with scores between 30-40 ranking for them gives you a better chance of outranking them if your content aligns with Google’s best practices.
A higher score alone doesn’t guarantee a better ranking. When viewed in comparison, it enables you to find out opportunities that you can leverage to improve rankings. From the above example, it’s evident that if you were to target keywords that have competition from sites with a lower domain authority than yours, then your content should theoretically be able to get a higher ranking.
Proven ways to increase Domain Authority
Write exceptional content
Your focus should be on increasing domain authority in the sense that whichever internal metrics Google uses to evaluate the quality of a site are effectively met. Google has been pretty open about content quality being a major ranking factor. There’s no alternative to it, if you’re producing great content that’s focused on a particular niche, then that content is going to perform well.
Your focus should be on creating content that provides detailed information about the query that brought a visitor to that page in the first place. It shouldn’t be that they have to jump around to other sites after. The content should be original and ideally published with original images as well. The added benefit of writing great original content is that others may find it useful and link back to it, thus aiding your link building efforts.
Fine-tune your keyword selection
Individual keywords have to be chosen for on-page SEO. By conducting competitor research, you can find out keywords in your niche that other sites with low scores are ranking for. It’s a good idea to fine-tune your keyword selection with this concept in mind.
You’ll be able to discover new keywords, particularly long-tail keywords, that can be used to improve the on-page SEO for your website, making it possible for Google to rank it higher up on the search results page.
Avoid spammy link building
Link building services are a dime a dozen. You’ll find many advertising their services and promising incredible improvements in search rankings as a result of an improvement in your domain authority.
Google is against site owners buying paid links and if its algorithms pick that up, which they do quite often, it heavily penalizes the site to the point where recovery may become impossible. Avoid the temptation to take this easy route. It may work for a short time but Google will ultimately catch on to what you’re doing and penalize the site.
Google’s guidelines remain your best resource
When in doubt or faced with SEO misinformation online, it’s always best to consult Google’s guidelines. The company maintains a decent database where it provides tips to webmasters and publishers on how they can improve their chances of ranking.
SEO requires you to adapt frequently as Google releases major updates for its algorithms several times a year. These updates can cause major changes in rankings. As long as you’re solid in the fundamentals, you should be able to coast through these updates.