You’ve probably wondered what your company would have to do to rank in the first position in a Google search. That’s pretty prime real estate considering that companies landing in the top spot have a 200% higher click-through rate than the company that shows up in the number-two spot. So how do companies get that spot?

If that’s something that’s piqued your curiosity, then you’ve probably also explored the answer, which is that Google uses a number of criteria—the current list is 209—to decide where a page ranks on a search engine results page (SERP). You’ll often hear that the domain authority of a website is pretty important to Google, and you may be wondering what domain authority is and how Google uses it.

So, domain authority is something Google uses to rank websites?

Well … no. In summarizing that list of 209 factors, the author even lists the most important Google ranking factors, and domain authority is number three. It can be confusing then, when Google says it doesn’t use domain authority at all in ranking websites for SERP. What’s going on?

What, then, is domain authority?

Domain authority was invented by Moz, a website that licenses software to help companies monitor their SEO through a variety of tools. Its software can provide companies with a lot of information and guidance with targeting keywords, tracking keyword ranking, improving page optimization, and examining every page and link for issues that would prevent search engines from fully crawling a site.

In the course of developing software, Moz also developed a score that ranks websites from 1 to 100 on what came to be known as domain authority. (They also have a page authority ranking, which is exactly as it sounds; similar criteria are applied to a single page rather than an entire site.) A higher domain authority score corresponds to a greater ability to rank on a SERP.

The Moz domain authority score is based on over 40 factors, including MozRank, a score indicating the popularity of a website based on the number of backlinks, and MozTrust, a score indicating the quality of backlinks; for example, backlinks from universities, major hospitals, or government sites get a high trust ranking, whereas links from Crazy Bob’s Mortuary and Steakhouse, not so much.

What good is a domain authority ranking?

Big websites with thousands of excellent backlinks such as Wikipedia are going to score high, and your truly excellent website that sells locally made widgets and offers free delivery and great customer service, scores a 10. How is that fair? Won’t the big guys always get a higher score?

Moz advises not to compare your domain authority score with sites such as Facebook or Amazon but compare it to websites that are your direct competition. If a local competitor has a site with a domain authority score of five, then your score of 10 is pretty good and, in a local search, you’ll rank higher than the competition.

If Google doesn’t use domain authority to rank websites, what’s the point?

Remember those 209 factors Google uses to rank your website? A lot of those same factors are used to create your domain authority score. So, while Google doesn’t use anything called domain authority to rank websites, the domain authority score from Moz is a good indicator of how Google is going to rank a site compared to the competition.

How can I find my website’s domain authority score?

It’s easy to know what your domain authority score is. There are several websites that offer free domain authority, page authority, and MozRank scores. Check out the scores for your company and then do the same for your competitors’ websites.

What can be done to improve domain authority?

There are some unknown factors that are considered when figuring a domain authority score, but many issues that could result in a low score are pretty obvious and can be easily identified and fixed. Navigate through your website, looking at it objectively, and ask these questions:

  • Does the structure of your website make it easy to navigate?
  • Will the user’s experience be a good one?
  • Do your website’s pages load quickly?
  • Do you have a lot of internal links that link to blogs or videos elsewhere on your site?
  • Are you active on all the social media sites so users can link back to your company’s website?
  • Do you have high-value content that other sites will want to link to?

If you find improving your domain authority to be confusing or intimidating, or you don’t have time to do it, we can help. Leave your website to the professionals at McFadden/Gavender. Our experts will dig deep into the analytics of your website and design a strategy to move your company up in Google’s ranking. Contact us and let’s talk! We’ll show you how we can take your brand further.