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What is Domain Authority? (+7 Free Domain Authority Checker Tools)

Rachel Kerr
What is Domain Authority? (+7 Free Domain Authority Checker Tools)
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What is Domain Authority? Domain Authority (DA) is a search engine ranking score that was developed by Moz. Its job is to predict how likely a website is to rank on search engine result pages. Domain Authority scores range from 1-100 – the higher the score, the greater the website’s ability to rank.

But Domain Authority isn’t everything and, in this article, we will take a closer look at why we don’t think it tells the whole story.

Is Domain Authority A Ranking Factor in Google?

There is much speculation within the SEO community when it comes to answering ‘Is domain authority a ranking factor in Google?’. We can say with some degree of certainty that Domain Authority is not a metric that Google uses to rank websites in its algorithm. Domain Authority is a third-party metric created by Moz, and they have confirmed it is not a metric used by Google:

Moz quoted on domain authority“Domain Authority is not a metric used by Google in determining search rankings and has no effect on the SERPs.”

How Is Domain Authority Calculated?

If you want to know how to check against your competitors, Moz provides its domain authority checker tool for free so that you can compare your clients’ sites against their competitors.

Moz domain checker screenshot

The score you receive is calculated by assessing factors such as the number of total links, root domains, and more, and is largely based on two key areas: Age and trust: Longstanding domains with a healthy track record of engaging content have earned their right to rank. There are many factors that contribute to a well ranking website, and one of these is the age of the domain. There is some debate in the SEO community that older domains can result in better rankings in search.

Domain Age Checker is a free online tool that lets you find the age of a domain or website, from the date it was registered. You can also check the age of your competitor’s domains to see whether this could be a contributing factor for them outranking you.

🐝 Hive19 Tip: Find the age of a domain by using The Wayback Machine

Popularity: The popularity of your website is important because the number of visitors is equal to the number of opportunities you have to attract new customers. The more visitors, the more opportunities your website has to share its brand, create an impression, and build trust. With a popular website, you can generate better leads, solve problems, and sell your product or service.

Website popularity includes quality backlinks and a high number of unique linking domains (the more people linking to you that have quality websites, the better). You can find out about how to analyse your website’s backlinks here.

What Are Domain Authority Metrics?

Domain Authority metrics are used for assessing, comparing, and tracking a website’s performance. Put simply, metrics are numbers that provide you with important information about a process under question. They provide accurate measurements about how a process is functioning and create a base for you to suggest improvements.

We’ve taken a closer look at the top-level metrics available through Moz’s free Domain Authority Checker:

SPAM SCORE
1%
What is spam score?Using 27 common features, Spam score represents the percentage of sites that Moz has found with similar features to those that have either been banned or received penalties from Google.
1-30% = Low-level of spam, 31-60% = Medium-level of spam, and 61-100% = High level of possible spam.
RANKING KEYWORDS
53.9k
What are ranking keywords in Moz?The number of Ranking Keywords show how many keywords your website (or a specific page) is currently ranking for in Google SERPs.
LINKING ROOT DOMAINS
8.5k
What are linking root domains?A Root Domain is the highest (hierarchical) level of a domain. For example, the Root Domain for Hive19 would be hive19.co.uk. The number of Linking Root Domains shows the number of unique third-party websites linking to your domain.
DOMAIN AUTHORITY
56
How is domain authority calculated?Domain Authority is a score on a 1-100 logarithmic scale used to predict how likely a website is to rank in the SERP. The score combines over 40 signals that are measured and tracked by Moz.

Domain Authority metrics provide information on target keywords, overall site score, and the quality of your links. Marketers are often attracted to Domain Authority because it is tangible and, as human beings, we are obsessed with comparing numbers and evaluating percentages. Therefore, we consider a score out of 100 as tangible, concrete evidence that something is or isn’t working.

However, measuring metrics in isolation is not a good strategy as it does not provide a full picture view.

Let’s take a look at why this is.

The Problems With Domain Authority

One of the common problems we have with Domain Authority is how the metric is often misused. This means that marketers often prioritise getting links over a certain metric or they focus on increasing their own Domain Authority score. The problem with focusing on Domain Authority alone is that it can be both unreliable and inaccurate. Read on and we’ll tell you why.

Third-Party Metrics

Moz uses around 40 different factors to calculate Domain Authority, including the total number of links and the linking root domains. However, this is not nearly complex enough to accurately calculate the ranking ability of a domain or the strength of its links.

In contrast, Google has been crawling the internet since 1993 and their algorithms are thought to use at least 200 factors to calculate page ranking scores. What’s more, Google’s algorithm is constantly learning and changing, making it difficult to make guesses or predictions – like you can with more simplistic domain authority systems. This, in turn, provides far more accurate results.

Domain Authority Is A Prediction

Seeing an increase or a decrease in your Domain Authority does not always directly correlate with a change in your rankings. In fact, some websites that have high domain authority scores have lower rankings. This is because Domain Authority is a prediction and a simple one at that. Even Moz says so:

Moz quoted on domain authority as an approximate for Google“Domain Authority is a score (on a 100-point scale) developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines […] over 40 signals are included in this calculation […] this metric is meant to approximate how competitive a given site is in Google.com.”

PageRank dropped by Google

Back in 2000, Google released its very own ranking system called PageRank. However, it has since been dropped because Google didn’t want marketers to focus so intently on a single metric.

This again confirms that a single score should not, and would not, be enough to determine a domain’s true value. Instead, it should always be a combination of multiple factors.

Seven free Domain Authority checker tools

Ahrefs Domain Authority Checker

Ahref’s Website “Authority” Checker”

Ahref coined their own metric in Domain Rating (DR) which is based on a similar 0-100 point scale to Moz’s and other free domain authority checker tools. DR shows the strength of a target website’s backlink profile compared to the others in Ahref’s database on a 100-point scale, which as of February 2020 is over 177 million domains (this number excludes any spam sites within their database).

SEMRush's Authority Score checker

SEMRush’s “Authority Score”

Unlike other tools that utilise or replicate Moz’s data, SEMrush provides marketers with its own Authority Score. The metric (similar to Moz) assigns a score to a given website from 1-100 measuring the authority or strength of a site’s organic reach based on the quality of its links.

Majestic's Site Explorer

Majestic “Site Explorer”

Majestic’s Site Explorer analyses websites against its own metrics of Trust Flow (TF) and Citation Flow (CF). TF measures the overall quality of a domain or specific URL based on the Trust Flow values of the URLs that are linking to the target domain. The higher the TF, the higher the probability the website is to be authoritative and as a result, potentially rank in SERPs.

Ubersuggest Backlinks

Ubersuggest’s “Backlinks”

Backlinks, from well-known digital marketer Niel Patel, is a free link analysis tool. SEO professionals use Backlinks to review any specific URL, whole domain and any subdomains. It shows a quick overview of a site’s domain authority as well as other key metrics.

SE Ranking's Domain Trust measure

SE Ranking’s “Domain Trust”

SE Ranking’s Domain Trust is an aggregate domain quality score. The score is calculated based on a number of factors including the number and the quality of a website’s referring domain and backlink profile.

Linkgraph's bulk checker

LinkGraph’s “Bulk Authority Checker”

LinkGraph’s Bulk Authority Checker allows SEO professionals and marketers to assess the authority of different (competing) domains. Alongside the Domain Authority check, the tool compares Page Authority, External Root Domain Count and Subdomain Spam scores across all competitors.

SEO Review Tools website authority checker

SEO Review Tools’ “Website Authority Checker”

SEO Review Tools partnered with SEMrush for their Website Authority Checker tool. Using SEO Review Tool offers marketing professionals metrics such as DA score, Page Authority, backlinks/external links, an estimation of a website/URLs age, and social media scores (Facebook and Pinterest only). Marketers can utilise this tool by checking the current authority of a domain as well as page-level analysis, understand the value of new referring domains linking to your website, research the SEO strength of competitors in organic search and finally, discover new for linkbuilding opportunities.

How we work at Hive19

Although we take Domain Authority into consideration, we prefer to measure a website’s authority and strength using a wide range of weighted metrics that include organic traffic, number of outgoing links and much more. This, combined with our manually applied relevancy score provides a more all-encompassing indicator of how well a website is performing against competitors, and any opportunities for link placements. This allows us to analyse and understand the history of a domain and how well it is predicted to do in the future, ensuring long-term growth for our clients’ backlink profiles.

At Hive19, we believe that topically relevant links are more important than Domain Authority. Topically relevant link building means providing a destination page that is on topic and useful to the user; it makes link building more organic and provides better value for the user.

In a recent Google Search Central SEO hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered “What matters the most, the number of unique referral backlink domains or the total number of backlinks?”

John Mueller on quality over total number of links“We try to understand what is relevant for a website, how much should we weigh these individual links, and the total number of links doesn’t matter at all. Because you could go off and create millions of links across millions of websites if you wanted to, and we could just ignore them all.”

The average user doesn’t care about domain authority. In fact, the average user doesn’t even know what domain authority is. They are just visiting websites and consuming content, searching for a solution to their need. Whenever a user clicks on an external link, they expect that the destination page will expand on what they have just learned.

Relevant links are essential to ensure the user stays on the page, receives the information they need, and perhaps even converts at the end of it. If you don’t provide any of the above because you were too busy chasing down domain authority on its own, you will have lost a potential lead. Statistics even show that if 100 consumers had a bad experience on a website, 88 of them won’t come back.

Quality content that ranks well is dependent on what the user will find most useful to their search query.

We provide high-quality, topically relevant links for our clients, regardless of domain authority. This ensures that when the user clicks on our link, it takes them to a page that is useful to them – creating a connection and bridging the gap between the content and the business behind it. Overall, this creates a far better user experience, improves brand authority, and attracts engaged users.

Domain Authority vs. Serving Your Business

Sometimes, it can be easy to get all caught up in the technicalities of SEO and link building. There is so much that goes on behind the scenes to help a website rank well, but some marketers can forget that these strategies exist to serve the client.

At Hive19, all our marketing efforts are focused on serving our clients. When users are typing questions into Google, they want an answer. For example, “can I feed my cat oranges?” users are looking for one of three things:

  • A “yes” or “no” answer
  • An explanation (the why)
  • The truth

Google exists to give searchers what they are looking for by serving them with the most relevant content. We ensure your business provides that because, it’s fair to say that Google looks at the most relevant content over the websites with the highest domain authority scores.

In the words of Dr Pete Myers:

Dr Pete quored on Google having no obligation to marketers“Google has no obligation to us as marketers. Sites don’t deserve to rank and get traffic simply because we’ve spent time and effort or think we know all the tricks.”

Final thoughts

At Hive19, we know how many exceptional SEO tools are available to help us deliver for our clients. Many of these tools help us do our jobs better, allowing us to provide higher value for our clients.

In an industry where things are so frequently changing and there are so many intangible elements, it is often a relief to find something tangible like a 1-100 score system. And, while we don’t want to be overly negative about domain authority, we want to highlight the importance of not chasing after domain authority in isolation.

Over the long term, this kind of system can be a beneficial way of measuring the progress of your site, how well it ranks, and the strength of its links, etc. But it is a very thin line.

We recommend using domain authority metrics sparingly and sensibly. Make sure you don’t forget about the metrics that really matter – traffic, engagement, and relevance. By prioritising these three factors, you will find far more success, for both yourself and your clients.

How can Hive19 Help?

Are you looking to build authority online, grow your search traffic and increase rankings? Hive19 can help. We take a data-driven approach to content and link building to earn topically relevant links from industry-leading publications straight to your site and provide positive results for your brand. Each campaign is tailored to your business and based on over 40 metrics, including competitor research and industry-specific topics. For more tips and guidance as to how your business can build authority and stand out among your competitors, read more on our blog or download our free eBook today.

Rachel Kerr
Content Writer
Rachel is an experienced SEO copywriter. With a Master of Arts degree in Creative Writing, Rachel can seamlessly craft her writing to suit any audience, helping clients connect with the people they want to. Having worked for print and digital, she knows what it takes to write content that sells. Rachel's content doesn't just connect with her readers, it also extends into SEO strategy, driving traffic and conversions, and providing value for the client.

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