Posted by Dr-Pete
The Short Version: Don’t obsess over Domain Authority (DA) for its own sake. Domain Authority shines at comparing your overall authority (your aggregate link equity, for the most part) to other sites and determining where you can compete. Attract real links that drive traffic, and you’ll improve both your Domain Authority and your rankings.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, over a rock, or really anywhere rock-adjacent, you may know that Moz has recently invested a lot of time, research, and money in a new-and-improved Domain Authority. People who use Domain Authority (DA) naturally want to improve their score, and this is a question that I admit we’ve avoided at times, because like any metric, DA can be abused if taken out of context or viewed in isolation.
I set out to write a how-to post, but what follows can only be described as a belligerent FAQ …
Why do you want to increase DA?
This may sound like a strange question coming from an employee of the company that created Domain Authority, but it’s the most important question I can ask you. What’s your end-goal? Domain Authority is designed to be an indicator of success (more on that in a moment), but it doesn’t drive success. DA is not used by Google and will have no direct impact on your rankings. Increasing your DA solely to increase your DA is pointless vanity.
So, I don’t want a high DA?
I understand your confusion. If I had to over-simplify Domain Authority, I would say that DA is an indicator of your aggregate link equity. Yes, all else being equal, a high DA is better than a low DA, and it’s ok to strive for a higher DA, but high DA itself should not be your end-goal.
So, DA is useless, then?
No, but like any metric, you can’t use it recklessly or out of context. Our Domain Authority resource page dives into more detail, but the short answer is that DA is very good at helping you understand your relative competitiveness. Smart SEO isn’t about throwing resources at vanity keywords, but about understanding where you realistically have a chance at competing. Knowing that your DA is 48 is useless in a vacuum. Knowing that your DA is 48 and the sites competing on a query you’re targeting have DAs from 30-45 can be extremely useful. Likewise, knowing that your would-be competitors have DAs of 80+ could save you a lot of wasted time and money.
But Google says DA isn’t real!
This topic is a blog post (or eleven) in and of itself, but I’m going to reduce it to a couple points. First, Google’s official statements tend to define terms very narrowly. What Google has said is that they don’t use a domain-level authority metric for rankings. Ok, let’s take that at face value. Do you believe that a new page on a low-authority domain (let’s say DA = 25) has an equal chance of ranking as a high-authority domain (DA = 75)? Of course not, because every domain benefits from its aggregate internal link equity, which is driven by the links to individual pages. Whether you measure that aggregate effect in a single metric or not, it still exists.
Let me ask another question. How do you measure the competitiveness of a new page, that has no Page Authority (or PageRank or whatever metrics Google uses)? This question is a big part of why Domain Authority exists — to help you understand your ability to compete on terms you haven’t targeted and for content you haven’t even written yet.
Seriously, give me some tips!
I’ll assume you’ve read all of my warnings and taken them seriously. You want to improve your Domain Authority because it’s the best authority metric you have, and authority is generally a good thing. There are no magical secrets to improving the factors that drive DA, but here are the main points:
1. Get more high-authority links
Shocking, I know, but that’s the long and short of it. Links from high-authority sites and pages still carry significant ranking power, and they drive both Domain Authority and Page Authority. Even if you choose to ignore DA, you know high-authority links are a good thing to have. Getting them is the topic of thousands of posts and more than a couple of full-length novels (well, ok, books — but there’s probably a novel and feature film in the works).
2. Get fewer spammy links
Our new DA score does a much better job of discounting bad links, as Google clearly tries to do. Note that “bad” doesn’t mean low-authority links. It’s perfectly natural to have some links from low-authority domains and pages, and in many cases it’s both relevant and useful to searchers. Moz’s Spam Score is pretty complex, but as humans we intuitively know when we’re chasing low-quality, low-relevance links. Stop doing that.
3. Get more traffic-driving links
Our new DA score also factors in whether links come from legitimate sites with real traffic, because that’s a strong signal of usefulness. Whether or not you use DA regularly, you know that attracting links that drive traffic is a good thing that indicates relevance to searches and drives bottom-line results. It’s also a good reason to stop chasing every link you can at all costs. What’s the point of a link that no one will see, that drives no traffic, and that is likely discounted by both our authority metrics and Google.
You can’t fake real authority
Like any metric based on signals outside of our control, it’s theoretically possible to manipulate Domain Authority. The question is: why? If you’re using DA to sell DA 10 links for $1, DA 20 links for $2, and DA 30 links for $3, please, for the love of all that is holy, stop (and yes, I’ve seen that almost verbatim in multiple email pitches). If you’re buying those links, please spend that money on something more useful, like sandwiches.
Do the work and build the kind of real authority that moves the needle both for Moz metrics and Google. It’s harder in the short-term, but the dividends will pay off for years. Use Domain Authority to understand where you can compete today, cost-effectively, and maximize your investments. Don’t let it become just another vanity metric.
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