Domain Authority: What It Is, and How To Improve It
Our independent research projects and impartial reviews are funded in part by affiliate commissions, at no extra cost to our readers. Learn more
A good domain name should be simple, short, and relevant. However, it’s not always that easy to have the perfect domain name. It also needs what we call ‘domain authority’. But what is domain authority?
On the internet, whatever you seek is also seeking you. And no, that’s not just us being profound. SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is the process by which website owners tailor and manage their site so it appears first on the Search Engine Results Page, or SERP.
The first result on a SERP typically gets 25.6% of all the clicks. The meaning of domain authority is to have your site on the most SERPs possible, preferably in that first position. If it falls too low on the SERP then you are going to lose out on precious traffic. Good domain authority is a combination of good SEO and a great domain name, plus other factors we’ll get into.
So come along with us as we teach you the best domain name practices and how you can achieve domain authority.
What Is Domain Authority?
Google ranks and searches for websites using a variety of measures and criteria, a lot of which they keep hidden. But, we do know that domain names are important factors.
Domain names are like your site’s public address. They tell Google (and everyone else) exactly what they are using a simplified string of characters, like a sign in front of a house. Domains are separated into three distinct parts, the Top-level Domain, the Domain Name, and Subdomains. The entire thing (what you see in the URL bar at the top of the screen) is called the Root Domain.
365.5 million domain names were registered by the end of 2021, so you’ll be facing a lot of competition for that coveted #1 spot on the SERP. Your goal, as a website owner, should be to use SEO and make sure your domain is the strongest in the land. But how do you even know how well you’re doing to begin with?
This is where Domain Authority comes in, which is a ranked score from 0-100 of how often your domain name appears in Google SERPs. Originally developed by Moz – though nowadays a number of SEO software companies have created their own version – domain authority calculates a score using machine–learning algorithms. This is based on a number of factors, but most prominently how many external sites link to yours.
Google can’t just rank sites just depending on how many times a keyword appears. Unscrupulous website makers could then game the system by just repeating that word over and over again. Google has to rank the SERP on what is the best quality site, and a great sign of quality is if other websites link to yours as a source, making your site an “authority.”
How Does It Work?
A domain name can be split up into four separate parts:
- https:// – the Protocol
- www. – the Subdomain
- websitebuilderexpert – the Domain Name
- .com – the Top-level Domain
HTTPS is an encryption code used widely on the internet. HTTPS (rather than HTTP) means that you have a secure connection via SSL and that you are safe from anyone getting your information. It’s not actually part of the Root Domain, so we won’t go into too much detail here.
Subdomains are the third level of the domain hierarchy and are included as part of the Root Domain. The most common subdomain is www. This indicates that the website is part of the World Wide Web, the web of content and connections we typically associate with the Internet.
However, subdomains can be used creatively to indicate different sections of a website or better communicate what that website is. For example, www.websiteexample.com may have an online store and so it may utilize a shop.websiteexample.com subdomain to let visitors know they are now in the online store section.
A fully registered domain name is able to become a subdomain at any time, meaning you can include extra suffixes to better indicate purpose. A college website might have a separate page for UK students, therefore instead of just a regular .ac suffix they have a .ac.uk, or a .ac.fr for a French-translated page.
Having these clear signifiers makes it easier for searchers, and Google, to find your site.
Domain names are second on the hierarchy, and the part you will have the most say in. Unlike the others, there is no set list of agreed-upon domain names. They can be anything you want, so you have to make sure that they represent your website well.
Domain names are typically bought from domain name registrars like domain.com, GoDaddy Domains, and Bluehost. While domain name costs vary, a domain typically costs between $10 – $15 per year to keep. However, that is for a wholly unique domain name. The simpler and more memorable the domain name, the more expensive it will cost. Voice.com sold for $30 million in 2019!
Another issue you have is that just because you have the perfect idea for a domain name, doesn’t mean it’s yours. Many people buy up domain names so others cannot use them or variations of them.
Typically, when choosing a domain name, you want to keep it short, simple, and without hyphens and numbers. If you can put your keyword in, do so, but don’t overdo it. Google will know if you’re keyword stuffing and won’t rank your site favorably.
Top-level domains are the tippy top of the domain hierarchy and are the suffix that appears at the end of the Root Domain. Some common ones are
In fact, .com is the most popular TLD, with 37.1% of all domains ending in .com. This has led to a certain “trust” factor for sites with a .com ending. Researchers have found that users won’t trust sites that break away from the norm and that .com earnt an average trust rating of 3.5 out of 5, with .co and .org getting 3.5 and 3.3 respectively.
For good SEO, it’s not recommended that website owners stray too far away from the trusted TLDs when choosing a domain. You want your site to have good domain authority and appear in the most amount of relevant searches. If your users aren’t feeling that your site is trustworthy, then Google isn’t going to rank it high in a SERP.
Why Does Domain Authority Matter?
Continuing on from answering what is domain authority, you should consider it important because it’s a good metric for seeing how well your site is competing in the SERPs. While it is ranked from 0-100, a “good” score or a “bad” domain rating can only be measured against the scores of your competitors. YouTube, for instance, has a domain authority of 100 because it’s a massive site and anyone searching for YouTube isn’t going to be looking for anything else.
However, if your search is quite a broad topic, then you’re going to get a wider range of sites appearing in the SERP. A domain authority score for “shoes” might only be around 50-60. It’s important, therefore, that your domain name appears and looks trustworthy.
Naming your site www.please-click-here-we-have-the-information-we-promise.com is vague, long, and not reliable at all, even though it may well be content-wise. It’s best to keep it simple and readable. If you already have a brand name, then it’s best to just make your domain name the same to reduce confusion.
However, if you want to really optimize your domain name for SEO, then it’s best to try and incorporate your keywords into your domain name.
A major way Google ranks and indexes sites for the SERPs is through keywords. If you search something like “whales” then Google is going to try and recommend all the sites that prominently feature the word “whale,” as well as related topics such as “sea”, “dolphins”, or “Moby Dick”.
Having a keyword in your domain name is a great way to let Google know what your website is about and so increase your domain authority. An issue many trying to improve their SEO basics for the first time is that they don’t know what their keywords are, ie: what people are actually searching to find their site.
Keyword research is the main process of finding out which keywords you target and also what other searches are being made by your visitors. Some of the main keyword research tools are Ahrefs, Semrush, and WordStream. With them, you’ll be able to see how much traffic search terms generate, as well as all the related keywords. For instance, you might think searching “running shoes” generates the most traffic for running shoes, but from keyword research, we can see that actually a specific brand of running shoe has the most.
Calculating Domain Authority: The Contributing Factors
Increasing your domain authority is dependent on a number of elements. We will get to the specific steps needed to increase domain authority, but first, let’s get you a world-class domain name.
1. Keep It Short
While it’s good for SEO to include keywords and be descriptive, sometimes simple is better. If you want people to continue to come to your site, it needs to be short enough to easily remember and type in.
The average length of a domain name is between 7-15 characters, but 70% of them are 8 characters and under. It’s also no coincidence that human short-term memory starts to falter at remembering strings of numbers over 7 characters.
2. Keep It Simple
While it can be tempting to add numbers or hyphens to make your domain name stand out, don’t. This just confuses people trying to type in your website and makes it look messy.
Compare these two domain names and tell us which you think looks better:
Domain name 1 is clearer to read, but much more of a pain to type out. Additionally, if you told someone the title of your website, which format are they more likely to default to? Both examples are too long as well.
3. Keep It Memorable
A lot of the best internet brands use short, fun words for their brand and domain names that stick in people’s minds. Uber, Fiverr, and Monzo are all two-syllable words that have a fun sound at the end that also makes it easy to remember.
We recommend you check out your competition and have a poke around various domain registrars to check what’s available. There’s nothing worse than coming up with what you think is the perfect name only to find it’s already snatched up.
4. Use the Right Top-level Domain
Another important feature to include is the right TLD. .com is the most common and most trusted, but .net or .co is also fine.
We’d recommend avoiding less common – and so less trusted – TLDs like .biz, .shop, or .company. You just aren’t going to get the same level of trust from visitors and that will significantly harm your chances of gaining high levels of traffic.
How To Increase Domain Authority
Increasing your domain authority score is proving to Google that you are a trustworthy source for whatever your visitors are searching for. In a way, Google needs to vet your site, and the domain authority calculators operate and decide on a score based on this level of trustworthiness. So let’s see the top five ways you can increase your domain authority.
1. Get Quality Backlinks
The number one way to prove your website’s trustworthiness is if other sites trust it enough to backlink to it.
Keyword research tool Ahrefs did a study where they found that 55.24% of websites don’t generate organic traffic due to a lack of backlinks.
The simplest way to get referrals is just by asking. Yep, you can’t avoid networking even in the digital world. Many SEO specialists have a long list of contacts and operate a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours”-type system when it comes to having backlinks on each other’s sites. It’s all quite wholesome when you think about it.
Top Tip!Don’t get involved with dodgy link exchanges in desperation! Buying backlinks through Google may seem like a neat hack, but Google can detect when these links have no value other than a backlink.
Another avenue is answering journalistic prompts on sites like HARO. By helping out a journalist or online publication, your site can be backlinked to as a source, giving your website the organic traffic and trustworthiness it needs to improve your domain authority.
2. Create Quality Content
The other way to increase backlinks and organic traffic is to just have amazing, out-of-this-world content on your site so that other sites will backlink to you unprompted. Sounds easy enough, right?
We kid, but if people are finding your content helpful, they will naturally want to share it with others and backlink to it. This is an option where the content will come first. If you are just making it to get backlinks, people will be able to tell. You need a certain amount of passion.
The content does not have to be written, either. It can be videos, infographics, podcasts, slides, or anything that takes your fancy. If you have a visitor analytics feature or plug-in on your site, have a look at what is attracting the most amount of attention and give your audience what it wants!
3. Remove Bad Links
Having links to spammy sites, or dead ones, can incur major penalties from Google. The search engine needs to see that your site is fresh and actively being worked on. Bad or broken links show negligence or, even worse, inactivity.
To avoid this, make sure you have a link audit every few months, removing and updating any bad links to fresh content. This shows Google that you’re keeping your visitors updated and improves trust.
4. Optimize Web Structure
Another way to improve domain authority and domain rating is to have a user-friendly site. All the backlinks and trust in the world won’t help when a visitor can’t find where the menu is or how to find the About Us page.
Remember when we mentioned having different subdomains for different parts of your site? Well, while this can be helpful for web structure, it’s been shown to actually get in Google’s way when crawling your site.
In general, it prefers having subfolders over subdomains, so instead of blog.website.com, you have www.website.com/blog/.
5. Get Better Internal Links
While having backlinks are important, it’s also crucial you have internal links to your own pages to keep visitors engaged. 51% of SEO experts say blog posts should have two to three internal links at least.
The more links that point to a certain page, the more “link juice” it is perceived to have by Google. This not only increases its authority but helps Google better crawl your website.
Conclusion: Key Takeaways
What a journey that was! We hope you now feel like an “authority” on what domain authority is and how you can use it to not only increase your SEO but also improve your website in general.
The first step is understanding what a domain is, from the Subdomain to the Domain Name to the Top-level Domain. Once you’ve understood that, you can move on to improving your domain name and picking the perfect one, and then finally raising your domain authority score.
Remember, your domain authority score is mainly a comparative tool, so you can measure your site’s success against your competitors. Don’t be bummed if you get quite a low score to begin with – different industries will have different levels of domain authority.
Finally, follow these five tips for increasing your domain authority:
- Get Quality Backlinks
- Create Quality Content
- Remove Bad Links
- Optimize Web Structure
- Get Better Internal Links
With these tips, you’ll be top of the SERPs in no time!
Leave a comment