Alright friends, today we are going to explore one of the biggest myths in blogging…
Domain authority (DA) is a metric invented by Moz to estimate a site’s ability to rank in Google search results.
Your ability to rank content is what will make or break your business. If you haven’t got traffic, you haven’t got anything and as discussed many times before, I believe that traffic from Google as opposed to traffic from social media is more sustainable and easier to capture.
Domain authority is one of the best free metrics available for estimating a website’s ability to rank and whenever I’m browsing the web, I always have my DA checker Chrome plugin turned on – go download it now, it’s free.
OK, good! You’re back and you have Moz’s DA checker plugin installed and turned on, excellent…
Let’s do a quick experiment – Make sure Moz’s DA checker is turned on and then Google something related to your niche.
Chances are you’ll find a mix of very high DAs on the front page and then some lower DAs in there also.
DA is a great tool for sizing up your competition and seeing what it’ll take to get on the front page of Google for your target keyword.
One of the initial stages of my keyword research is often to simply Google my target primary keyword and check out the domain authority’s of the search results – if every single result on the front page is from a site with a significantly higher DA than mine, I may need to rethink whether or not I want to go for that keyword.
If however, there are some results from sites with similar or lower DAs than mine, I know that if I produce better content than the competition I will almost certainly take their spot as our sites have a similar ability to rank so it’ll all come down to who can produce the best content and build the most links to that content.
The lower DAs appearing on the front page are the ones that are of more interest to you – these guys have managed to rank despite having been marked as less powerful than the other, higher DA, sites.
This means that these lower DA sites are doing something right – perhaps the content is really great, maybe the on-page SEO is next level or perhaps there are some very powerful links pointing to the content; whatever the reason, this is the kind of content you should aim to emulate.
Moz updates DA scores for sites about once a month and when this happens most sites will move up or down by a few points. Try not to get worked up by these movements, your DA makes no difference to your actual ability to rank.
Moz calculates DA based on several factors, the two most important of these are – the total number of referring domains linking to your domain, the total number of links pointing to your domain. Check out this post for my top tips on how to build links.
Ideally, you want to have as many links from as many different websites as possible… The greater the number and quality of the links that you have pointing to your site, the more trust Google will instil in your website and the more likely it is to rank your content.
But here’s the thing…
DA does NOT take into account several other important factors; namely the length of your content, average dwell time on your site or optimisation for keywords.
I’ve seen a fair bit of confusion in some of the blogger groups I keep an eye on and indeed some folks do misunderstand the concept of DA and think that if they get a high DA, all of their content will instantly jump to the front page of Google.
That isn’t how it works
Whilst it is true that a site with a higher DA is more likely to rank content than a site with a lower DA, I have seen thousands of examples of low DA sites beating high DA sites in the search results pages because the lower DA sites have better off-page SEO or have created better content.
Yes, it is! Let me tell you why…
Domain authority is invaluable as a tool for guesstimating the value of a link from another website.
You don’t have access to that site’s google analytics, you don’t know how much traffic that site is pulling in and it’s therefore pretty difficult to guess how valuable a link is going to be from this website.
DA takes the headache out of all this by providing you with an estimate of the value of the link.
If you’ve had a blog for a while, chances are you will have received plenty of emails from advertisers, SEO agencies and ‘fellow bloggers’ (often SEO companies in disguise) asking to contribute a guest post to your site.
The only reasons to EVER publish guest posts are…
1. Receiving a backlink from a high quality source in return.
2. Receiving some genuinely very high quality copy on a topic that interests you.
3. Can charge for placing the content (i.e. a sponsored post).
I’ll level with you – I probably did $100,000 worth of sponsored posts on The Broke Backpacker between 2014 and 2017. For a while, I was certain that sponsored posts were going to be my golden ticket.
I created a network of thirty other sites, some which I owned and some which I co-owned, to maximise the amount of money I could make out of one client – sometimes I would land deals worth up to $5000 across these sites.
I had a dedicated manager running this network of sites and hitting up hundreds of potential clients every day. We made a lot of money.
I know the sponsored post industry inside out and the single biggest factor that 99% of advertisers are interested in when they are looking for to pay for sponsored content on blogs is domain authority.
The higher your domain authority, the more you can charge.
Many bloggers chase sponsored posts as it’s easy money, bloggers are often obsessed with improving their DA as it means they can charge more for sponsored posts.
Personally – I have now stepped away from sponsored posts altogether and sold my share of the sponsored post network I ran with a partner.
Sponsored posts are like crack – it’s pretty easy to score and the easy money will make you feel great, the problem is that you’ll waste more and more time chasing sponsored posts and won’t actually focus on growing your site’s passive income streams.
It’s the same with press trips – I see a lot of travel bloggers going on tons of press trips.
Sure it sounds like fun – getting paid a couple of grand to go on a trip but at the end of the day, it’s cash in hand, it’s never going to be passive and so you’ll always be chasing the next hit, never certain that you’re going to make any money and never working on actually building something.
I prefer to wake up in the morning having known I will have made at least a few hundred bucks whilst I’m sleeping – that’s real freedom.
Anyways – I digress – my point is that many bloggers have an unhealthy obsession with domain authority because many bloggers are reliant on sponsored posts.
Domain authority CAN however be a useful tool…
As discussed earlier, simply browsing with Moz’s DA checker turned on will allow you to quickly get a feel for the competition on the front page for various keywords – this is invaluable information.
When you pair Moz’s DA checker with the free keyword volume checker – Keywords Everywhere – you can get some pretty powerful insights on potential keywords just by casually Googling and noting volume and potential difficulty – i.e. how many really high DA sites are on the front page versus how many front page slots are occupied by lower DA sites.
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DA is important… It’s a valuable metric that will enable you to quickly ascertain the estimated value of a link and how much to charge if you decide to sell links.
DA changes frequently – don’t stress about it.
DA does not directly affect your ability to rank – it’s simply an estimate of how easily you will be able to rank.
Use competitors DAs to quickly gain a snapshot of the rankability of a keyword. If everybody on the front page of search results for your target keyword has a much higher DA than you, understand that it will be tough to rank and you will need to pull some next level content out of the bag… Or, find an easier keyword to go for.
Remember, great SEO can beat a competitor with a higher DA than you.
Got any questions, hit me up in the comments!
Founder of The Broke Backpacker and Co-Founder of Ditch Your Desk, Will has been on the road for over ten years. He is a Crossfit fanatic, crypto enthusiast, marijuana connoisseur and the master of the handstand pushup. Addicted to building businesses and climbing mountains, Will plans to settle in South America.