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Trust Your Gut?

You are a small business owner who has been trying to optimize your website for a while now. You want to know whether you’re making progress. Rather than just trust your gut, are there any objective measures you can use to assess your website power and influence?

The answer is yes, there is a 3rd-party option available. I’ll explain it below.

Domain Authority

Domain authority (DA)  is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz, a search engine optimization (SEO) tool maker, research organization, educator and though-leader. DA predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages (SERPs). Moz evaluates over 5 trillion pages and greater than 35 trillion links when deriving Domain Authority.  It is a “roughly logarithmic” score between 1 and 100, the higher your score the better.

A logarithmic scale means that every time your score improves, it’s exponentially harder to achieve that same progress again. In other words, it’s a whole lot harder to bump your score from 60 to 61 than it is to go from 0 to 1 or 1 to 10.

domain authority mountain

Domain Authority, adapted from the 2008 Elliance Page Rank Explained infographic

Domain Authority is calculated daily.

It is important to note that domain authority has NO influence on your ranking potential. Google does NOT use domain authority. It is a third-party predictive metric, that is all.

How To Determine Your Domain Authority

There are a couple of different ways you can find your website’s domain authority. The easiest is to use the Moz Link Explorer tool. The other is to download and use the Moz toolbar, available for Chrome and Firefox.

open site explorer tool by Moz

The example above shows where you can enter your domain name when using the Link Explorer tool (previously named the “Open Site Explorer” tool). Note the update stats in the red box on the bottom left under “Mozscape Index”. That’s how you can tell whether scores have been updated since you last checked.

You will have to sign up for a free Moz account in order to see results.

Enter your website’s domain name (URL) in the top left window shown above and press enter.

Here’s a sample result for www.google.com. Its domain authority is 100. (No surprise there!) Domain authority is for your whole site. Page authority is for a single page. In this example, the page authority (97/100) is for Google’s home page.

example domain authority for Google

Your other option is to use the Moz toolbar. After you install the toolbar, website domain (and page) authority will be displayed below search results and at the top or bottom of pages displayed with your browser.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see in search results.

moz toolbar search resultsHigh-level website metrics like page authority (PA), domain authority (DA) and the number of incoming links and linking root domains (RDs) is shown below individual search results. You have to subscribe to Moz to see the actual link and root domain counts. If you’re not a subscriber, it will display “PRO ONLY” instead.

This is what you see when you have the toolbar installed and visit a web page. This example is for the Moz toolbar page itself.

snapshot showing the moz toolbar in use on a website

You’re shown the exact same scores you saw in search results, with the exact same caveat, just at the top or bottom of the page depending on how you’ve configured the toolbar.

Sample Scores

To give you a flavor for Domain Authority scores, I sampled some national and local sites. Here are the results.

  • Google (100)
  • Wikipedia (98)
  • Linkedin (97)
  • Amazon (96)
  • Verizon (86)
  • Comcast (81)
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art (69)
  • Wawa (62)
  • Pep Boys (61)
  • Main Line Health (57)
  • West Philadelphia High School (56)
  • Acme Markets (54)
  • Peco (52)
  • The Episcopal Academy (36)
  • B-SeenOnTop (34)
  • Martin Main Line Honda (25)

Remember, DA is a score between between 0 and 100. The higher the better.

How To Use (and Not Use) Scores

So now you have the scores, how should you use them?

Domain authority’s true value comes in as a comparative metric. I recommend you baseline your, and your competitors’, website scores before you begin optimization. It’s your starting point, your line in the sand from which you can measure improvement over time.

Be realistic. If you’re a small retail website, for example, don’t benchmark yourself against Amazon. Pick a small niche player like yourself and note both your starting metrics and the date on which you captured them.

Because domain authority has its shortcomings and tends to fluctuate over time, it’s best to look for trends and not obsess over short-term fluctuations. If you’re doing what you need to, you should see a slow and gradual improvement in your site’s Domain Authority scores over time. The rate of improvement will slow as you gain authority given the logarithmic nature of the metric – it gets harder as you “climb the mountain”.

Look for relative differences. If your score drops or jumps significantly one update, do competitor scores show a similar pattern? If yes, that could signal the change is a result of Google algorithm changes or score sample sizes and targets rather than anything you, the competition, or the market may have (or not have) done.

Keep perspective. Remember these metrics are just one measure, a snapshot in time reflection of your website performance. Ultimately, achieving your company’s goals and objectives are going to be your best measure of success. None of these metrics mean squat if site visitors aren’t converting.

Don’t use domain authority to measure the success or failure of your efforts to optimize your website and content. DA is but one metric. Remember the goal of SEO is to help you achieve your business objectives. Instead of using DA all by itself, work with your SEO company to come with a short-list of key performance indicators that will measure whether you are making progress toward your business objectives, things like search impressions, traffic, conversions, time on page and site, backlinks, and reviews.

So what do you think? Will these scores be able to help you? Do they make sense? Do you prefer others? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll get right back to you.

IMAGE CREDIT: Featured image by Cojharries (Own work) (CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL), via Wikimedia Commons