Only websites that stand out from the mass become visible to their target audience through online searches. In this article, we’ll explain why domain authority is an important factor for web pages getting seen.
First, a quick recap: Targeted search engine optimization is based on four pillars. If all four are executed properly and maintained well, the odds of your content performing well increase dramatically.
This is the second article of our four-part series in learning how to get your content to the top of Google organic searches. We’ll take a deeper look into an often underestimated element — Domain Authority.
Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score developed Moz, a provider of SEO tools. It indicates how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score can range from 1 to 100 with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank. For example, Wikipedia.org has a domain authority of 94 and Facebook.com is scored at 96.
Why domain authority is important
While Moz gives a simple estimate for domain authority, Google’s methodology for ranking websites is much more nuanced.
Though it’s not a ranking factor, the authority of your website in the eyes of Google can influence how well you can rank in search engine results. Google wants to provide reliable information and results. This means that the more authority you have, the more potential you have to attract customers through organic searches.
If Google doesn’t consider your website important, you will rarely make it to the top of search engine results for your target keywords. Thus, improving your reputation and building trust with search engines should be important factors in your SEO strategy.
How Google determines the authority of a website
SEO practitioners have long debated how Google measures the authority of a website. In the search engine world, authority depends primarily on how much credibility your website has built up online. This doesn’t mean that Google simply picks and chooses which websites it deems credible. According to Moz, 21% of Google’s ranking algorithm depends on “link authority characteristics.” This is the number of links to a domain and the quality of those links. Additionally, 19% depends on page-level link characteristics, that is, the number of links to a particular page. However, it’s important to note that this research is from 2013. Google has obviously changed its algorithms quite a bit. Search engines are pretty protective about their exact methodologies for weighing factors that determine authority. They don’t want to make it easy for marketers to subvert the algorithm!
Still, one of the most important factors in your site’s authority is the quality and quantity of links it gets from other sites, known as “referring domains.”
Search engine authority vs. user trust
Many marketers believe that the authority of their website is influenced by how trustworthy their visitors think it is. While it’s certainly valuable to have a website that users trust, their perception has nothing to do with Google’s evaluation of your authority.
A website’s authority is determined by the search engines themselves and essentially indicates how much weight they give to a particular website. A website can only reach users if it is “important” enough to rank well. Presenting a certain level of authority on a topic is what makes this possible.
Trust, on the other hand, is determined by individual users and refers to how much users can rely on a website’s information. While user trust does not directly impact rankings, it can influence behavior metrics like click-through rate (CTR) and dwell time.
Search engines determine how trustworthy your website is based on the following criteria:
- How many incoming links, or backlinks, your website has. If your website has many links from other credible and reputable websites, search engines can determine that your website is also reputable.
- How established your website is. As a general rule, the older the website, the higher its authority.
Users determine how trustworthy your website is based on the following criteria:
- Your reputation. If you have been in business for a long time and have a good reputation, users may trust the information on your website. The strength of brand recognition, not just among your customer base, but also your competitors, is not to be underestimated.
- Your reviews. Lots of positive testimonials prove that your business has satisfied customers, clients, or partners. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a quote you can feature on your website.
- Your posts. Lots of high-quality content shows that your company is an authority in your industry. Keep a good cadence to your posting schedule. It shows users that your company is actively growing, if not in size, in knowledge and expertise.
- Your reliability. How much can visitors can rely on your site for quality and accurate information?
5 ways to improve domain authority
We’ll start with the bad news. There is no shortcut to making your website authoritative. It will take at least a few months before you get the results you want. But there are a few things you can do to help your site climb the ladder to high authority faster.
1. Write high-quality content
Quality content shows your visitors and other big players in your field that you’re a trustworthy expert. But there’s more to quality content than just having accurate information. Google’s job is to give its users the best answer possible. Part of providing the best answer is shedding new light on a topic and not giving users the same tired information they’ve already heard (we’re looking at you, ChatGPT). Your content should be unique to your site and offer visitors something new.
The key to creating fresh quality content is to focus on topics that relate to your area of expertise. Not only will you know the topic’s background, but users will trust you to provide them with accurate information. You should also use as much detail as possible if you want your content to be considered high quality. Long-form content can help you get more traffic, page views and rankings. Therefore, it pays to go into as much detail as possible on topics where you are an authority.
Most of the content you create should be on “evergreen” topics, meaning topics that will still be relevant in the years to come. There’s nothing wrong with writing content about your company’s newest feature. But evergreen content is much more likely to attract visitors for many months or years — rather than just a week or two.
2. Provide a great user experience
If you have a site structure that is difficult to navigate, it will be difficult for Google to rank it as authoritative because it doesn’t provide a great user experience. Use a clear navigation bar and a sitemap so that your users can easily find their way around your website.
Another user experience factor is page loading speed. It should be at the top of your website goals. Internet users live in a world where they expect immediate results to their requests for information. If your pages take more than 2 seconds to load, you should definitely work on improving your speed. Otherwise, users are likely to bail out from your site.
3. Employ a link-building strategy from authoritative sites
As we mentioned earlier, links are the most important factor in determining authority. There are a few ways you can build them from quality sites. The first is to cultivate relationships with leaders in your industry. When you reach out to bloggers, news editors, and other influential people in your industry, you can offer to write original articles or submit other content like infographics or research. When they publish this content on their websites, they will use backlinks to your company as a source, thus your authority and trustworthiness will increase.
Be careful not to get caught in cheap link-building schemes that seem too good to be true, though. Stick to collaboration with reputable resources that have a meaningful connection to your brand or industry.
4. Link to credible sites
It would be nearly impossible to explain every topic in detail on your website, right? But you still want to be a pillar of authority and a resource of valuable knowledge. It is important to link to other credible sites that users can click on to get more information. A moderate number of links can help direct users to other resources that might help them. But be careful — using too many links can make your text difficult to read. And the “quality” of these external links is crucial to your perceived authority, too. When you insert a quality link to a site, you’re associated with a site that has good information on the topic. If you link to a site with low domain authority, the fact that you vouch for that information could be questionable to search engines like Google.
You should also avoid linking to an external page if you have an internal page on your own site that you could link to.
5. Use social media to generate traffic and establish your brand
Like many marketers, you may think that the more pages your website shares on social media, the more Google would consider your website authoritative. However, this is not entirely the case. In general, social media is not used as a ranking factor. There’s no way Google could crawl every tweet or Facebook post. Using incomplete data could skew rankings and Google obviously doesn’t want that.
While social media is not an important factor in your authority, it can help indirectly with other authority-related goals. You can use social media to build relationships with industry leaders (e.g. win them as followers for your company). Later, you can use those relationships to build equity that has a direct impact on your authority.
Social media is also a great place to build brand awareness visibility. So, by building connections with industry leaders, promoting your brand, and generating traffic, you can slowly get more high-authority sites to link to your site.
How long does it take to see an improvement?
As we said earlier, it won’t happen overnight. But you might still be wondering, generally, how long it takes before your website becomes recognized as an authoritative resource so you can start climbing the SERP rankings. Review the steps we have covered, and that can give you some idea of whether your site needs quicker fixes or long-term efforts. It can range anywhere from several weeks to several months. There are simply too many moving parts and contributing factors to know the exact timeline.
Building relationships with high-profile people takes time, especially the kind of valuable relationships you need to get links from their websites. It also takes time to prove that you are providing trustworthy and accurate information that is worth linking to.
High authority sites don’t award links without careful thought and consideration. Be prepared to invest a lot of time reaching out to editors and bloggers before any of them are willing to link to your site.
How do you regain lost domain authority?
Certain signals can indicate you’re getting some negative hits on your website’s authority, thus diminishing its ability to rank high in SERPs. Fortunately, it’s very unlikely that you have destroyed your website’s authority to the point of no return. If your website authority takes a nosedive, there are several ways you can regain your previous rankings.
You should first start by removing all bad links that lead to 404 error pages.
Make sure all your outbound links are high authority websites that provide valuable information to your visitors — and are not broken links.
In general, a holistic, adaptive strategy when it comes to SEO will be your best resource. Here at Rellify, we work diligently with clients to make sure that every single aspect of their content strategy works towards the larger goal of achieving higher rankings on search engines and gaining more customers. Whether you’re just not sure where to start or you need a full-scale content overhaul, Rellify’s expert content services can help.
Preview – Step 3: Relevance
OK, so we’ve covered technical SEO in Part 1 and now domain authority in this article. In Part 3 of this Rellify series, we describe how to write relevant content that will be rewarded by Google in search results. Then, check out Part 4 on the importance of the user experience.