Domain Rating (DR) is a ranking metric developed by Ahrefs which shows the strength of a website’s backlink profile on a scale of 1 to 100. Domain Authority (DA), on the other hand, is a metric developed by Moz that is a predictor of how well websites will rank on search engines.
Just to be clear, Domain Rating has no direct effect on a page’s ranking on Google. High DR websites tend to rank highly on SERPs only because they also score well on Google’s ranking algorithms (it’s correlation, not causation). However, DR is still a useful measure of gauging a website’s link popularity and its ability to get traffic from Google searches.
What is domain authority?
Domain authority, or “DA,” is “A search engine ranking score that predicts how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). A Domain Authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.”
It’s important to note that domain authority predicts success, it doesn’t necessarily represent success. The metric is not used by Google and boosting your DA won’t automatically make your website rank higher in Google search results.
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In a nutshell, 😉 your website’s domain authority score will help you determine your competitiveness in your niche. This, in turn, will help you choose keywords strategically.
For example, let’s pretend your website’s DA score is 56. If you’re competing for a specific keyword against sites with domain authorities between 39 and 47, you’ll know that a well-written blog post or web page has a good chance of ranking. But, if you’re competing against sites with domain authorities in the 80s, you’ll probably want to target a different keyword.
Other measures of page authority
Until about 2019, Moz’s domain authority metric was the gold standard when assessing websites’ reputations. Moz allowed anyone to perform unlimited free domain authority-checks anonymously. Through a little page on their website, users could type in a website’s URL and get domain and page authority results immediately.
As it happens, Moz made the decision to remove this feature from the public, requiring users to create accounts and provide an email address before using the tool. As a result, bots and automated systems that were using Moz’s DA metrics were unable to continuously ping the form, so other companies stepped up to the plate and devised their own domain reputation ranking tools.
These other tools don’t use the expression “domain authority” and are named close variants like “domain reputation” or “site authority,” but mean to ascertain the same phenomenon—a site’s specific reputation score.
It’s important to note that most of these systems do not play nicely with one another. A Moz DA of 51 might be equivalent to a 76 in another tool. Whichever metric of page health you use, be sure to keep it consistent.
How to check domain authority
Domain authority may seem complicated at first. Fortunately, checking the DA score for your own site is super easy. Just follow these four steps:
- Pull up Moz’s free Link Explorer tool.
- Type your URL into the search bar near the top of the page.
- Sign up for a free Moz account. Already a member? Log in.
- Analyze the data that Moz gives you.
It’s worth mentioning that while Moz created the domain authority metric, many other SEO tools have developed their own versions as well. For instance, Majestic has Site Explorer and Ahrefs has Domain Rating. You can use one of these tools instead, if you prefer.
What’s a good domain authority score?
You just plugged your website URL into one of Moz’s tools and took a look at your DA score. Now you’re probably wondering, “Is that good?” It’s a fair question. It’s also the wrong question. You should be asking, “Is that good for my site?”
As mentioned previously, domain authority scores range from one to 100. Every website starts at one and begins to climb as it gains backlinks and popularity. A good domain score depends on the domain authority scores of your direct competitors.
Let’s return to our previous example and pretend that you have a DA of 56. This is much lower than Google, which ranks in the 90s. But since your hypothetical site doesn’t compete with Google for customers, this comparison is irrelevant.
After researching the scores of your direct competitors, you realize that most of them are in the mid-forties, which means your DA of 56 is excellent.
To determine if your domain authority score is good or not, compare it to your competitors’ scores. If it’s higher, you’re doing well. If it’s lower, you have work to do. Simple as that.
Boost domain authority in 3 steps
We’ve covered a lot so far, but there’s still an important topic we need to address… How to increase domain authority! That’s what we’ll discuss in this section. Follow the three-step process outlined below and you’ll be well on your way to a higher DA.
1. Get the basics right
First things first, make sure your website is set up properly. That means optimizing your on-page content, making sure your site loads quickly, and building a mobile-friendly site that’s easy to surf on a phone or tablet. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Don’t neglect your internal links as they help search engines like Google crawl and index content. Just make sure that your anchor text matches the page you’re linking to.
- Test your website for mobile-friendliness. Mobile optimized sites offer better user experiences and increase the likelihood that your content will secure backlinks.
- Ensure your website loads quickly with PageSpeed Insights. Slow sites have high bounce rates, which is a big red flag to Google and the other search engines.
2. Build high-quality backlinks
When it comes to domain authority, high-quality backlinks are king. The more you have, the higher your score will be. We’ve written an in-depth post on link building, which we definitely suggest reading. But for now, keep these things in mind:
- Create great content: Authoritative websites will only link to your content if it’s remarkable. So take your time and create in-depth blogs, videos, etc. that are better than what’s already on the internet. It will be worth the effort, guaranteed.
- Promote your content: Great content alone isn’t enough. Give it a boost by promoting it to your email list and social media followings. Doing so will help you get eyes on your work, which will boost your backlink opportunities.
- Implement a link building strategy: Top-notch content and a consistent promotional strategy will get the ball rolling. But you’ll also want to take a more proactive approach to link building. To do this, contact authoritative sites and ask them to link to you. Just know that there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about it, which we cover in the link building article referenced above.
- Commit to guest blogging: Finally, guest blogging for reputable sites can be a great way to build backlinks. For one thing, you may be able to link to your own website in the content you write. And second, the folks who read your guest post might enjoy it, check out your website for similar content, and then link to some of your posts.
3. Reduce low-quality backlinks
Not all links are created equal. To boost your domain authority score, you need to secure high-quality links and eliminate low-quality ones. But this begs the question: what’s a high-quality link?
A quality link is one that comes from a reputable site. For example, a link from the New York Times would be considered high-quality because the publisher is known and respected. Links from unknown, spammy websites, on the other hand, would be considered low quality.
The easiest way to eliminate low-quality links is to use a tool like SEMrush, which will help you identify backlinks that harm your domain authority score. Once you have the complete list, manually remove them if possible, or disavow them through Google.
How are these metrics calculated?
On the linked help pages above, the three providers also reveal more about how these key figures are actually calculated.
Moz does this based on its own link index (“Domain Authority is based on data from our Link Explorer web index”), Semrush does the same (“The second algorithm uses backlink data”) and, unsurprisingly, the calculation from Ahrefs is also based on links.
In view of the fact that Moz positioned its value as an alternative to Google PageRank at the time, this is understandable and consistent. The other two providers then copied adapted this procedure.
Let’s make it clear: Domain Authority as well as Authority Score and Domain Rating are proprietary key figures from three providers, all of which are calculated on the basis of link indices crawled by the providers themselves.
How does Google actually do it?
However, Google only covers a part of the entire Internet (the middle circle) because the Googlebot has no access to the full content range. Either because it doesn’t know it’s there, because it’s not relevant enough for resources to be spent on it or for numerous other reasons.
From this crawled content, Google again only uses a selection (inner circle) for its link index. Google is very good at not rating unnatural links. Disallow files are also evaluated, the numerous versions of nofollow attributes are taken into account and more.
The take-away: we don’t know how big the internet is. We also do not know which part of it is recorded by Google. We know even less about which of the indexed links are used by Google for ranking.