Page and Domain Authority: How Authority is Determined

by | Apr 12, 2019 | SEO Services | 1 comment

In SEO, authority refers to two metrics: Domain authority (site-wide factors) and page authority. Both of these metrics can impact the search rankings of every page on your site. Although “domain authority” itself doesn’t exist, the individual factors that create the metric do have effects in other ways. This off-page success factor is very important to know about, but can be difficult to understand fully since Google uses multiple undisclosed metrics. Note that there is a lot of speculation regarding some of Google’s metrics, and there’s likely to be some disagreements from one article to the next regarding these topics. Google doesn’t calculate “domain authority” directly, they prefer to calculate authority on a page-by-page basis because even popular sites have low quality pages. Even so, we’ll mention site-wide signals that are often thought of as domain authority before explaining page authority.

What is Domain Authority?

The term domain authority was created by Moz, and the algorithm for calculating it exists completely independent of Google. Even though this isn’t an official Google metric, understanding the individual factors that determine authority can help your rankings. Domain authority refers to your website as a whole, and is a measure of how widely recognized your site is in its topic or field. Domain authority is difficult to achieve, and just as difficult to maintain. The authority of your website is a conglomerate of a number of ranking factors that directly affect search in their own right, and many people believe that “domain authority” doesn’t exist as its own ranking factor. Google has rejected the idea of sites having more authority, although measures of authority such as backlinks and visitors we know to directly affect search. This suggests that “domain authority” isn’t an official metric, but is simply a measure of a few other important measures. Domain Authority checkers online use their own formulas, and will generally report numbers that indicate your domain health, but don’t necessarily reflect any factor that influences your rankings. 

How is Domain Authority Measured?

There’s a number of site-wide factors that influence domain authority. The first of these is incoming links. There are a number of backlink metrics (number of links, number of referring domains, link quality, link relevance), but it will be simplified to one category here. Having a large number of relevant backlinks is the most important backlink metric for your domain authority, as each link counts as a vote for being an authority within your focus area. Having a lot of high quality backlinks from sites unrelated to your own helps your site be viewed as most trustworthy, but gaining authority status is done through getting links from other sites in the same discipline.

For example, ESPN is an authority on the internet for sports. Almost every sports website in the world will link to ESPN at some point, which counts as votes of relevance and quality within the topic of sports. When people search for a topic relating to sports, search engines know that pages on ESPN will be relevant, and give their pages a boost (especially if the search intent isn’t clear). For ESPN, having a lot of backlinks from high quality sites is important to their ranking, but relevant links is what helps them establish authority within their topic.

Relevant backlinks suggests who the authority in a topic is, and the following factors play a part in confirming whether or not an entire site is trustworthy and authoritative:

  • User experience: An authoritative website is likely to have a lot of visitors, and keep visitors on the site for a long time. Measures of positive user experience help determine if individuals find the same site to be an authority.
  • Having a complete site: You need to have a complete website featuring a sitemap, an abundance of quality content, and an effective structure. This again relates to a positive user experience and signals trust.
  • Regular updates: A site that is updated regularly is another general trust factor that all authoritative sites will have. Posting content will show that the site is up to date and active.
  • Domain age: Age of your domain is only a modest factor, but search engines like to see websites that have been around for a long time since spam websites are unlikely to last.

What is Page Authority?

Google has said in the past that individual pages do have authority measures, and most measures of authority are done on a page-by-page basis. An individual page is generally considered authority when it is crawled often due to an effective link structure that prioritizes the page. Again, page authority checkers will utilize their own formulas in order to guess how Google will view page authority, but they won’t necessarily line up since no one knows the exact factors Google or other search engines use.

For many years, page authority was determined by an algorithm known as PageRank, which looked almost exclusively at links. This looked mostly at internal link structure, determining which pages the website itself found to be the most important. The past years has seen a significant upgrade over PageRank, and Google is now using artificial intelligence as one of the major factors to determine page authority.

How is Page Authority Measured?

The artificial intelligence used by Google is known as RankBrain, and it is one of the most important factors in determining authority of a page.  RankBrain also relates to page authority because it is largely used to understand the intention of search queries, and connect complex searches with general pages of authority within a topic. By definition, artificial intelligence is able to teach itself and draw new connections in the same way humans can. This makes identifying authority metrics for pages all the more difficult, as they could change at any point and are incredibly complex.

Still, there are other factors that influence page authority that are straightforward.

The biggest factor of determining page authority is links, just as was the case with PageRank. This includes an effective internal link structure, as well as inbound links. When your website is crawled, pages that are linked most often will be ranked highly within your site. Linking often to a page not only allows it to be indexed more regularly, it also shows search engines that you find this page important on your site. This does little to establish authority regarding a specific subject or topic area, however. To have a page be considered expert-level and authoritative for a specific search query or topic, you need an abundance of relevant links to that page. This is the same as establishing site-wide authority within a topic, so long as all the links are pointed toward the specific page.

Other metrics that could influence page authority are social shares and user experience. Sharing is a less reliable version of backlinks, where each share is a vote towards content being quality. User experience includes people staying on the site for a while, suggesting the content was interesting and unique.

 

How Authority Impacts SEO

In many circumstances, domain authority can act as a final effort for search engines to connect you with relevant material. If the keywords used in a search don’t bring about any incredibly relevant results, which usually happens with extremely long searches. If there aren’t many pages about a specific search, sites that are considered authoritative in the topic area are likely to appear. Otherwise, domain authority as a whole doesn’t have a great impact.

Page Authority is incredibly important for SEO, however. If a page has a low authority, it is unlikely to rank high in search, especially for competitive keywords. This is partially due to the low authority, but also because less-linked pages will be indexed much less often, which has its own impact on search rankings.

A page with a high authority will get a boost for its primary keywords and usually ranks for more keywords. This means that page authority can help you in a variety of ways. The combination of all the factors that impact your authority are also the biggest trust indicators of your site.

What You Can Do

Getting a good domain authority and page authority isn’t easy, but there are many things you can do to at least improve your situation. Follow these tips to improve the authority of your website, and improve the rest of your ranking factors along the way:

  • Use a sitemap. XML Sitemaps are in incredibly beneficial for internal link structure, and can help get the most traffic and link juice to your most important pages.
  • Prioritize pages. Have a plan regarding which pages should get the most authority within your site. Whichever pages you most want to rank for should be linked throughout your website. Including a link in the footer of each page is a great way to do this. Most sites have their home page as their most authoritative page, so linking on your home page can also help a little. Remember that authority when using internal links can’t be spread equally to each page. Although an effective link structure will help maximize the amount of authority pages you can have, not every page can have high authority because authority is relative to other pages on the site. Make sure that important pages are prioritized as necessary.
  • Optimize your sales funnel. This is similar to prioritizing pages, but the former is more about letting bots find your important pages. Optimizing your sales funnel involves creating a clear path for how users will navigate your website. This will help your conversion rate, and for SEO purposes it will help drive more traffic to your important pages, which should help their authority. Know how people navigate your site by looking at data in Google analytics or by seeing for yourself which pages you appear on the most when navigating your site.
  • Get links to your important pages. This is much easier said than done, but there are a lot of great ways to increase backlinks to your important pages. Make sure the page is user friendly, share it on social media and on forums, and ensure the content is high quality. If you are actually somewhat of an authority in your field, you should be able to get some pages recognized as such.
  • Keep your content fresh. Google and Bing both love fresh content. Keep your authoritative pages updated regularly, and keep the rest of your website updated.

 

Although there are some questions regarding what constitutes domain authority and page authority, they still have a powerful effect on search rankings. Domain authority doesn’t directly impact rankings, but is a valuable metric because it tracks a variety of signals that do directly affect search. Page authority has its own direct affect, and acts as a major indicator of trustworthiness. Using page authority to improve your SEO ranking will help immensely, but it is far from the only SEO success factor. Find out what else you should do to get your site on the first page of search engines. For further help optimizing your site, request a competitive analysis to see how you stack up to your competition and how you can be the best in market.

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