Domain Authority is in my opinion the single greatest indicator of a sites ability to compete organically for search traffic. It is a great question and its simply complex. Keep in mind Domain Authority or DA as we shall refer to it pretty much here on is the single best number to predict ranking ability and we know that the top 3 positions consume over half of all searches so it can be directly attached to traffic.
A few disclaimers: Domain Authority is not a Google creation it is from Moz.com and it is their educated guess at how Google see’s your authority. But it is not Google’s so remember that. Secondly I am going to go over this in a higher level and use some half truths for simplicity. If you want the whole truth just read the articles or Google the topics discussed for greater detail. Finally, most of what I will show you are other people’s guesses as to what goes into Moz’s Domain Authority which again is a guess about Google’s metric on a site. Google doesn’t tell us exactly and they shouldn’t, Moz doesn’t tell us either because they want you to pay for it. Moz isn’t the only one guessing, a lot of folks guess and some include Majestic’s Citation Factor and Trust Factor. SEOProfiler has it’s LIS. For simplicity and since I’m the one running this show we’ll focus for now on Domain Authority by Moz.
Now it’s a simple number from 1 to 100 but it isn’t like a ladder with even steps, as you climb the steps get bigger and it takes more to gain a level. So from DA 1 lets say you gain 5 backlinks and two are from sites that have a decent DA 40 and Moz bumps your score up to a DA 3. If you gain 5 more links to your site and they also have similar metrics as the last bunch you might assume you’re set to have a DA 6, but you get surprised when it is reported as a 4. Another set of 5 and it stays a 4. DA levels are harder to improve the higher you get your site.
What Determines Domain Authority?
Domain authority is the best metric because it provides us with a single number but its based on some rather key and diverse factors. Yes, it is backlinks but its so much more than that…but it is largely backlinks or incoming links from other domains. These serve as citations, they’re references from other entities that acknowledge publicly that this site they are link too, yours is authoritative. Coupled with “anchor text” or the words that make up a link that aren’t the address they can define a site. More on that towards the end. This is anchor text it has a link but the anchor text serves as the vanity description of the content at the other end of the link. The link comes from another site to yours and depending upon that site’s authority the link is more or less powerful than another.
We’ll talk in greater depth about SEO Backlinks but for now let’s just understand that backlinks are votes from other sites. Not all backlinks are created equal. The more backlinks the more authority, and one vote per site. So 800 links from another site you own are not worth 25 from 25 sites.
In the graphic to the left links are the blue AND red slices of the pie and together they make up 49%. The next biggest element is SOCIAL MEDIA MENTIONS. I do that in all caps because I’ve always included social media as an element of reports I offer in client proposals and I get told often they don’t care about all that. I just sit back and scribble down that they don’t know what they don’t know yet.
Social Media Mentions
Sure you need an account and you need followers but to get those followers you need to post regularly. Five or Six times randomly during the year isn’t regular. Thats why so many people feel social media doesn’t matter because they were unable to tap into the great interest on Facebook in their widgets. News flash no one is really going to be interested in your widget but you and a handful of individuals. Thats why your messages need to have more than just “buy our widget.” If you are a church for instance a weekly devotional or prayer list is better than telling people to come on Sunday week after week. The biggest mistake is not including a link to your site in your post. While there may be a link off of your profile page to your site your message can be repeated by others and each repeat or share is from their profile. It may mention you and likely link back to your profile but that is still one link to your site. Include a link.
Domain Age Matters And It Should
So you’re going out there and you found a domain name thats available and you want to outrank your competition in a month. SEOs laugh out loud around the globe…Highly unlikely, it’s partly you lack street cred. I’d love to rank number one in the keyword Louisville SEO but I don’t. I’m the 89.8th result. MatthewLeffler.com is 352 days old as I am writing this. The top result for Louisville SEO is 9 years and 207 days old. Indirectly they’ve got 9 years worth of content, returning traffic and backlinks than I have and so they are given a bonus for that longevity. Partly to prevent searchers from getting a completely different result every time a new domain picks a keyword. Its easier though as you age, the difference between 5 yrs and 9 years is trivial and the distance between 1 day and 1 year is a stretch. Sometimes buying an existing domain thats relevant to your business will give you a way around this, but you’re at the mercy of what is for sale and like a foster kid you don’t know about it’s past.
Brand Search Volume
Sometimes in SEO it feels like you’re swimming with Joan Crawford. This one I feel is a bit much … brand search volume is how often people are looking for you. Well isn’t that impossible until they know about me and the reason they don’t know about me is because you have me on page 4? Couldn’t brand search volume arguably be covered in social media mentions and backlinks? We’ll now that we got those out of the way, nobody ever said life was fair, Tina.
I’ve decided that I’ll figure out a way to sneak a reference to a favorite movie of mine into every post from here on.
But I digress, so your brand search volume does make sense to be included because people searching for Coca Cola do not want to see Pepsi. I’m from deep Coke territory and even Taco Bell has stopped asking if I want a Pepsi. So has Google it appears.
Incidentally I would suspect that local plays into this heavily. Google knows where the searches are coming from so they understand the foot print of your business. Which is why Googling the best landscaper in town is different in each town. Food for thought if you build a regional powerhouse and expand into a new city.
Domain Authority Case Study – Project No Wire Hangers
Sorry I wont make this all about that movie but we all know …. NO Wire Hangers. For our purposes hangers are domains and they can be wire or wooden. Depending on the hanger or domain your attempts to rank for a keyword will be affected, like the clothes you hang on them. I’ll show you several domains stats that I have built completely alone over several months. It hasn’t been a dedicated effort so these numbers could have been better but the effort has been the same. Some are older than others some are the same age. We’ll dissect these domains and metrics extensively.
Matt’s Project Hangers
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Feel free to look into them and make some assumptions. You may find tools that I have discussed previously useful in “auditing” the domains. Much like a Sciencetologist audits a person with toys and wild claims so does your SEO and look we have just about as many acronyms. Now go and let your Thetan figure out where the keywords were in the graph. Spoiler … anchor text that you had no control over … officially. Here is a further reading on the power of anchor text…in 2004 “Miserable Failure” was George W. Bush’s Whitehouse biography page and no one optimized it for that.