Exploring Website domain authority - what is it and how can it guide your digital success
Domain authority is one of the most important factors when buying websites, link building, and ranking. Overall it’s a massive factor in how successful a website is.
So how exactly do you get website authority?
A mixture of many moving parts all helps to make a site authoritative. One of the best and quickest ways to increase authority is to acquire external links from high authority domains. This is a signal to search engines that your content is valuable.
If you are sitting there feeling unsure and a little disconcerted, then fear not as we take you through the process of checking your site's domain authority or other sites.
Get on the train to domain authority and check out the seven steps to checking the authority of a website…
#1 Checking the domain name
The first place to start checking for authority is in the domain name. Several URLs will immediately indicate the power of the website.
Websites that end in .gov, .edu, and .org are generally trusted sources, and it’s an excellent indication to see one of these in a website URL.
Don’t be too quick to tick this box. Some misleading sites acquire a .org in their URL when they have acquired the .org in a shady manner and should not have the .org.
This is because the process is not strict enough, and the approval process is relatively easy.
The real winners are the .gov and .edu domains, which are far more challenging to acquire. These are almost always authoritative sites.
Another great check is the general structure of the URL slug. If the slug has a bunch of mumbo jumbo with no clearly defined categories and valuable information, it’s cause for suspicion.
High authority domains will always have well-structured URLs.
#2 What value does the website offer?
So this is much less of a definitive metric that requires research and a bit of personal opinion.
Looking into the value a website offers is an excellent indication of authority. Say, for instance, you are looking at a specific niche (finance). You have an absolute gem if you can find a website with unique information or a helpful tool.
Make sure you fact-check the info for validity or use the tool to see if it works.
A website that offers unique content will most likely have strong domain authority due to inbound links to the unique content.
#3 Are the information sources legit?
A great way to assess a site's authority is to look at the credibility of linking and linked sources.
So how do you do this?
If a website claims specific statistics and facts, check that there are links or sources of information and that these sources are from other high authority sites or academic/ peer-review sources.
This will indicate how credible and reliable their information is.
The issue with the internet is that anyone can fabricate information. Search engines like Google check your information against historical data to try and sift out false information, but it’s not an exact science. Some incorrect information does slip through the cracks.
Always remember that credential-based information is far more trustworthy and authoritative than opinions of non-qualified individuals.
What can you do to ensure that you are checking correctly?
Follow the links and sources of information. Check that they come from authoritative sites and sources that support their validity.
#4 Top quality links (inbound)
The quality of inbound links is a significant factor in determining domain authority. After all, inbound links are the gateway to ranking and becoming authoritative!
Need a bit more about why inbound links matter?
Think of these links as a sort of verification. A high authority site linking to another website signals to search engines that the information on the target website is credible.
These links also share their authority with the target page, which helps that page rank through sharing link juice. More visibility in the SERPs means more traffic!
Inbound links signal to spiders (web crawlers) that a site has authority in a particular niche. This means faster indexing of pages and quicker link building.
If you find a website with spam links from low authority sources and no-follow links, it generally means that the site in question is not-authoritative.
So how do you find this information?
Using an SEO tool such as Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz is the easiest way to find the inbound links of a website.
All you need to do is enter the URL, check the backlinks section on any of the tools and look at the sources of the links.
#5 Look at the quality of the outbound links
Outbound links can be just as important as inbound links. You need to assess where the website is sending links.
Notice that outbound links are heading to terrible information and just about any site under the sun. It might indicate that the website in question is selling links against Google’s guidelines.
What you need to keep in mind when checking outbound links…
Look for legitimate links to niche relevant websites. Any link to non-niche-related sites is a red flag.
A general rule of thumb is to steer clear of any sites that link to gambling, XXX content, and drugs.
This is not an exact science, and there should be leeway given for some low-quality outbound links as it’s possible that a couple slipped through the cracks when link building.
#6 Does the website have good functionality?
Low authority sites have poor user experience and a bad layout. You might encounter slow load times, 404 error pages, broken links, and generally poor design that makes the website useless.
It is more likely not authoritative if you notice these issues on a site.
Another sign to look for is a lack of updated/ new content. If the website is not being cared for and updated, it’s a good bet that it’s non-authoritative.
What can you use to analyse this?
For DA, indexing, broken links, error pages, and rankings, you can use Semrush, Ahrefs, or Moz.
To check site speed, useGT Metrix; you will see the load speed and the factors causing slow load times. Site speed is essential for user engagement (bounce rate), and low engagement sites are not authoritative.
If the site does not operate correctly, it’s not the be-all-end-all to determine functionality, so check more than one factor before deciding that the functionality is poor.
#7 Does the site have user engagement and trust?
Engagement on a website is another factor to consider when assessing a site's authority. Organic comments and interactions mean that real users engage with the site attributing to the website's trust.
A website with no users, testimonials, reviews or anything else could be untrustworthy and non-authoritative.
Where can you find this info?
Look on the homepage of the website and the main pages for reviews and testimonials. This is generally where sites will post this information.
Another great way to see customer interactions or opinions is to look at the Google SERP for their Google My Business information. Here you can easily find company information and customer reviews.
Finding legitimate and relevant company information alongside honest reviews and user interactions is a great sign indicating the site is authoritative.
Bringing it all together
It’s a bit of a lengthy process to assess whether a site is authoritative or not entirely. It would be best if you had diligence when considering all the factors before making your final decision.
Only looking at the DA score using an SEO tool can be misleading and shouldn’t be the only factor you consider. Like everything, some sites always manage to get through the checks.
These sites are on thin ice as every Google update could spell disaster for them. They are tanking their rankings and wiping their authority.
The last place you want to be is associated with a non-authoritative website. In the same way, you are the average of the company you keep; your website is the average of all linked websites.
So make sure you choose wisely when associating with or purchasing a website.