Much of what goes on in the SEO industry comes from reacting to Google’s algorithm and the changes they make to it over time. In order to measure how Google changes, and to gain some idea of what they change beyond what they simply state, third party developers have tried to calculate their own forms of ranking. Simple ranks, like Alexa, measure a single variable and give some basic statistics. Moz’s Domain Authority is a logical extension of the concept and brings much more to the table.
What is Domain Authority?
Experienced SEOs will already know this, but here it is again; Domain Authority is a site-wide measurement of a range of factors, all of which have something to do with your Google ranking. They are often included because they are factors in Google’s algorithm, and they are weighted to approximate the algorithm itself. Moz is, essentially, trying to reverse-engineer Google in order to give webmasters a better tool to estimate their SEO position and the effects of their changes.
Of course, Domain Authority is very much a beat of its own. It doesn’t include everything Google does, nor could it; without direct insider access to the existing algorithm, there’s no way they could create one accurate enough to satisfy. Rather than attempt to add more factors to refine the metric, Moz has simply refined what it measures and made it into its own thing.
Domain Authority is a scale from 1 to 100, where 100 is the Platonic Ideal of a website. Very few sites – only the larges, like Facebook – have ideal Domain Authority scores. It’s also a logarithmic scale, meaning that as you grow higher in the ranks, it gets increasingly difficult to further increase. A brand new site can quickly grow into the 50s and 60s, but increasing from there into the 80s is exceedingly difficult.
Domain Authority should not be confused with Page Authority, though they are much the same thing. They are both authority rankings measured by Moz. The difference is that Domain Authority covers the entire site and all subpages, everything on the domain. Page Authority applies just to the one page.
Calculations of Authority
What goes in to calculating Domain and Page Authority?
• Domain age. Simply put, older domains are more authoritative than newer registrations.
• Popularity of the domain. A popular site is more likely to be more valuable than an unpopular site, and thus has a higher ranking.
• Assorted domain factors. These include domain uptime, updates and link profiles.
• Search visibility. A higher position in the results pages means a higher authority. Moz can use this as a metric because it is not part of Google; Google themselves couldn’t use this as a metric without a cyclical effect on growth of sites.
• Link profile. More outbound links to valuable domains, more incoming links from valuable domains and the like. This is a detailed calculation of the quality of links and their direction, including if they are reciprocated.
• Content. Of course content is included. More content of a higher quality is better than less content of lower quality.
Frequency of Updates
Now we come to the core question; how often does the Moz Domain Authority update? This is an important question. Webmasters like to analyze statistics to watch the growth of their site. They want to see what effect their changes have on their sites.
Unfortunately, Moz is slow to update. Keeping metrics for a large portion of the Internet is a time and resource intensive task. On average, Moz updates Domain Authority once or twice each month. That’s not the full story, however. Some information may take several updates to show, particularly links, which are an important part of the ranking. As such, it’s impossible to use Domain Authority as a real-time analytic for page quality. It’s good to check occasionally, but you won’t be able to watch your changes visibly move your ranking.
You can see the update content of Domain Authority and the other Moz metrics here: http://moz.com/products/api/updates. You can also measure your Domain Authority itself here: http://www.opensiteexplorer.org/.
Rising in the Ranks
In light of this, what changes should you make to increase your Domain Authority such that you see a visible increase when it updates?
• Let your domain age. There’s nothing you can really do about this one, short of keep with the same domain. Some people like to change domains and rebrand their business fairly frequently; this isn’t a great way to keep up with Domain Authority. You can, if you’re looking to get in to the web right now, purchase an old existing domain if you like. This will give you a bit of a head start, though you may have to deal with the reputation the old site had, if any.
• Produce a constant stream of high quality content. You don’t have to post every single day, but you can post 3-4 times per week for a powerful effect. Post as often as you can support it with quality content. Keep in mind that better content in general is more useful than worse content more often.
• In your content, don’t forget keywords and other SEO tricks. Obviously you shouldn’t just ignore Google in favor of Moz’s metrics; Google is important to your growth, Moz is just an indicator of said growth.
• Build incoming links. More links is better, in almost every case. The exception is when you’re paying for links from unreliable sources, or the links are coming from known spam domains. Do everything you can to build incoming links from authority sites. High profile sites in your niche have a high Domain Authority on their own, and can pass some of it to you. Don’t worry about targeting specific .edu or .gov sites; they can be beneficial, but no more so than any other authority in your niche.
• Build strong internal links. It’s not really enough to just provide a related links box on the sidebar or the bottom of an article. You really should maintain a database of the subjects of your existing content, their lengths, ages and traffic. When you mention a subject you’ve written about before, link to that article. Internal links help spread traffic throughout your site. Essentially, think of it like the phenomenon of “getting lost” on Wikipedia. You want people to read your content and open two or three other links throughout to read more, and do the same with each other piece of content. More content with more strong internal links helps.
• Work on your social media interaction. Social signals are not a part of Google’s algorithm today, but there’s always the possibility they may be relevant in the future. Likewise, social engagement includes getting people to share your links, which creates backlinks from a high authority site. It’s powerful for SEO and for user engagement, which means it’s useful for improving your Domain Authority as well.
While you wait for your changes to be measured and factored in to your Domain Authority, you should spend your time taking steps to improve that authority.