Google Originated Domain Authority; Now Has Discontinued It
Google announced quite a while ago that they would no longer create a numerical “domain authority” number (between 0 and 100). So, that’s the end of it isn’t it? Well, yes and no. While you can no longer get a numerical value from Google, many other services provide their own derivative of that number (I say derivative because, of course, Google never revealed exactly how they calculated their value).
A single value has a lot of uses: i) it quickly summarizes the strength of one site versus other sites; ii) by tracking the change in value, one can “track” progress from month-to-month or period to period; iii) the impact of making certain changes or doing different things can be measured, and pretty quickly too; and, iv) a change, i.e., drop, in domain authority can provide early warning that whatever you’ve been doing isn’t working, or something you were doing has negatively impacted your site’s authority. So, yes, a good handle on domain authority is a useful tool, even if it doesn’t come from Google.
Exactly What Does Domain Authority Mean?
Domain Authority (DA) is a numerical search engine ranking score and indicates the likely rankings for a company’s keywords will rank on the search engine results page (SERP). So, if a company is providing air conditioning service, a domain rank of “45” means the keyword, “air conditioning” service is more likely to rank higher than for a competitor’s keyword where that site only has a domain authority of “12”. But, hold the fort. The DA gives the ranking for the entire site. Google associates keywords with pages, not the entire site. Thus, Page Authority (PA) also comes into play. The PA can vary widely from the DA, and usually does. This means we must look more closely at the components that go into DA and PA, which are similar but not the same.
Domain Authority is calculated by evaluating multiple factors, including linking root domains and number of total links to other sites meaning that the authority of the other site is also taken into account. These factors are combined into a single DA score. We know today that Google also takes into account the content on a given page when ranking keywords. DA and PA scores are general in nature, i.e., not related to a specific keyword, so a separate evaluation must be made of the support of the content on a page for a specific keyword. Complicated, huh. As noted earlier, these DA and PA scores can be used to compare websites or track the relative ranking strength of a website, and specific pages, over time.
When looking at multiple DA or PA numbers, remember that the scale is logarithmic, i.e., q “20” isn’t ten times stronger than a “1)’ its 10 times stronger, so getting from a “10” to a “20” takes far more effort.
How Many Factors Actually Go Into the DA/PA Score?
Lots. Here’s one list gleamed from the internet:
However, within the last year, Tim Soulos of Ahrefs conducted an in-depth study and concluded backlinks had the highest co-relation to Domain Authority and therefore Ahrefs would exclusively use backlinks to create their domain authority numbers (it’s believed Google used over 200 factors and SEOMoz, now simply “Moz”, uses 40 for a ”simplified” number).
If backlinks are so important than just produce more, right? Not so fast. First, backlinks also have relative ranking factors, and too many from one source can become a negative. Here’s a quick look at backlink factors:
SEOMoz, Ahrefs, Majestic, and other services have their own ranking factors, as does Google. However, there are three things we do know that Google considers in their ranking determinations:
1. Too many from one source, i.e., domain, may not be good (it’s believed they discount excessive links from a single source).
2. Content from the source page relative to the keyword improves value of links. Thus, foreign language sites, unless germane to the keyword, and content not relative to the keyword diminish the value of links.
3. Google looks for patterns: too many from on source, all done at one time, all links are “do follow”, etc. can diminish the value of links. One easy way to see how Google discounts links is to check a service like Ahrefs or Moz and then compare the number of links they identify versus how many Google identifies in Webmaster Tools. No comparison; Google will show far fewer almost always (it’s not that Google doesn’t see them, it’s that they don’t value them).
4. Google undervalues profile links, and certain social media links (we believe Facebook and Twitter links aren’t highly valued because they are too easy to autogenerate, but that’s our guess). Sites from authoritative sites, like ESPN for sports keywords or any news website, have high creditability.
What Can Change My Domain/Page Authority?
Here are three sure ways to improve your DA and PA scores:
- Your link profile growth hasn't yet been captured in our web index.
- More high-authority backlinks. The more relative they are to your products and services (often, professional associations and product vendors may allow you to put a logo and/or backlink on their site linking back to you or linking to their site).
- Content, content, content. Don’t hesitate to add more content to your site on either the product/services pages or through blog entries (tagging blog content and lining to your other internal pages is important). We have been used to writing 500-word pages and blogs. We now shoot for 1,000. In the best of all worlds, we would do 2,000. (Studies have shown lengthier content gets better rankings.)
- Guest blogging or article writing. Posting a meaningful article on a high-authority site can really boost your site’s authority. Real estate websites have this down to a science. You would be amazed at what they will accept to publish, i.e., new hires, moving, new products, or pretty much anything else you can think of.
One area where there is not general agreement is on the value of YouTube videos. This author has seen videos get ranked in a matter of weeks; others are more sanguine. I believe they are of value. You can produce very creditable videos using PowerPoint. So, how hard can it be? They don’t have to be professional, just informative and useful. How long? Even 30-60 seconds works; although, again, longer is better. Again, don’t forget to tag your videos. That’s what gives them their real “juice”. (Hosting videos on your own site? Don’t. Use YouTube. It’ easy and you can still show the videos on your site using the YouTube link. Remember, Google owns YouTube!)
We would be glad to give you a complete analysis of your website pages and SEO tagging issues. No charge.