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How to Increase Domain Authority (Without Hurting Your SEO): A 4 Step Approach

How to Increase Domain Authority (Without Hurting Your SEO): A 4 Step Approach

This is our step by step guide on how to improve your Domain Authority (DA) in 2020.

I will show you the exact steps we followed at the start of our business that helped us increase our website DA from 1 to 11 in just under 8 weeks.

To be specific, you will learn the following as part of this post:-

  • What is DA & PA in SEO?
  • How to interpret Domain Authority rightfully (and not going crazy)?
  • 4 steps to off-page SEO (and better DA) – with screenshots

Here we go.

If you are an SEO beginner, one of the first few things you would have come across is the importance of Domain Authority (DA) in SEO.

Most probably, you might have focussed your entire SEO might just to improve on this number.

If yes, hold on for a minute.

What if I tell you that you have been seeing DA with the wrong lenses all this while?

In fact, chances are that you might have been improving your Domain Authority but harming your SEO.

Want to know how?

Keep reading.

But first, let me clarify one thing right at the start.

This article is more about doing the right off-page SEO, especially in the early days of your business.

A higher Domain Authority is just a byproduct.

What is Moz Domain Authority (and Page Authority)?

Domain Authority (popularly known as DA) is a numerical score maintained by an internet company called Moz. It varies between 1 to 100 on a logarithmic scale (with 1 being the least value). That means it’s relatively easy to go from 1 to 10 than from 10 to 20.

DA of a website largely indicates the relative quality and relevance of backlinks built over a period of time (though there may be more factors that go as part of DA, as explained in this blog post).

DA of your website fluctuates as the link profile of your or other websites change.

That means DA doesn’t make sense when seen as a standalone number, it should always be seen as a comparison against a peer.

Moz Page Authority score (called Moz PA) is a similar concept but at an individual page level (instead of the entire domain).

Don’t miss the following video available on Moz to understand the concept of DA in full detail.

How to use Domain Authority Correctly

Why is Domain Authority important?

First the good news.

Time and again, Google has clarified that Moz DA is not a ranking factor for its search algorithm.

That means a higher DA doesn’t guarantee the first-page rank. It’s just an indication that a particular website may rank higher compared to its competitors, purely basis the off-page SEO (more specifically the backlink profile).

Similarly, a lower DA is an indication that it may get tough to beat your competitors for the first position, purely basis your weaker backlink profile.

Important to note is that these are just probabilities, that too considering the backlinks.

2 interpretations emerge from here (these are tongue twisters so I request your patience):-

#1. A higher DA website can get itself ranked on search engine with lesser SEO efforts, than required by a lower DA website within the same niche.

#2. Alternatively, a lower DA website can get itself ranked on search engine with more SEO efforts, than required by a higher DA website within the same niche.

And now the best part.

Google’s algorithm is shifting from “number of backlinks” to “the quality of content and it’s fitment to a search query”. Therefore, the SEO effort that we just talked about has more to do with your quality of content than the quality/number of backlinks to your domain.

Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not that backlinks are dead. They are still important, it’s just that the weight for quality content has increased multifold in the eyes of Google.

Coming back to the question: how to rightly interpret DA? 

Consider Domain Authority as an indication of the SEO effort that’s required to outrank your competitors:-

  • If the gap in DA/PA between you and your competitors is high, focus on your content first. Make it 10X better and do extensive on-page SEO. Do the stuff that’s in your control before you put in the effort on link building.
  • If the gap in DA/PA between you and your competitors is low, even slightly better content with basic on-page SEO can help you beat them. And more effort you put in, the easier it will be to capture the top spot.

As an example, here’s my DA15 personal project that ranks in the top 3 searches for a very competitive keyword. All thanks to some awesome content and extensive on-page optimization.

Ranking at top with DA 15_SERP audit_onpage champ
My personal project (with DA15) ranking against DA50+ websites. (Screenshot via SERP Audit functionality of OnPage Champ)

How to increase the Domain Authority of your website in 2020?

Remember, improving Domain Authority requires that you work on your overall SEO.

To start with, I am covering 7 must follow things to implement if you want to increase your website DA.

1. Optimize your on-page content

On-page SEO is about optimizing your web page and content for improving the user experience (and your search engine visibility).

It helps build a solid foundation for your search journey. 

Some of the important on-page SEO factors include: 

  • Proper use of headings and subheadings within your content
  • Optimized meta title and description
  • Page URL structure
  • Include your focus keyword
  • Sprinkle your LSI keywords evenly (no keyword stuffing)
  • Optimize your images and videos alt-text and other parameters
  • Add links internally (as well as externally)

2. Improve your internal linking structure

The internal link structure helps users navigate the website with ease. 

It not only improves user engagement but also makes it easy for Google to crawl your website better. 

Here are some of the best practices to help you improve your internal linking:

  • Build relevant content so that you can interlink
  • Don’t try to keyword stuff your anchor text 
  • Make all internal links ‘do-follow’ to pass the link juice
  • Link pages only when it can benefit your users

3. Build links

You need to build links to improve your DA. There is no substitute for that.

However, just ensure you build quality links that align with your industry as well as your product/service.

Also, as I have repeatedly said, don’t be so lost in building links that you end up harming your SEO.

More about building links in the 4-step approach below.

4. Remove bad and toxic links

Having a broken or bad link attached to your website (both internally and externally) can hurt your SEO (and your domain authority). 

That’s why, once in a year, you should thoroughly check your link profile and remove all links that are toxic. 

Look for backlinks that are coming from bad sources as it can negatively impact your domain authority. Besides, you should update your internal links that are broken. 

5. Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly

Having a mobile-friendly website has become mandatory for improved SEO performance.

More and more users are now performing web searches through mobile devices. 

A mobile-responsive site means your page and font size automatically adjusts to your user’s screen size amongst other parameters. 

If your website is not mobile-optimized, they will leave your site immediately. It results in a huge loss in the number of visitors. 

To check if your website is mobile-friendly, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. It will analyze your site and send out a nice report with recommendations on how to make it mobile-responsive. 

You don’t have to check every link on your website manually. Luckily, there are awesome tools available to help you manage all your links in one place. 

6. Increase the loading speed

Page loading speed not only impacts your ranking and domain authority, but it has a direct correlation with your user’s experience. 

If a page takes too long to load, users end up leaving your website. It increases the bounce rate. 

7. Increase social signals

Top ranking pages tend to have more social media mentions and interactions than the pages with low ranks. 

Social signals can help improve your domain authority and the chance of ranking in search engines. 

So start promoting your content on social media and encourage your audience to like, share, and comment on it. 

You can even include social sharing options directly from your blog pages. 

[Case Study]: How we improved Domain Authority of our website from 1 to 11 in 8 weeks

Right from the very start, our philosophy behind SEO, specifically off-page SEO, is to generate relevant traffic and drive signups for our product.

Even if there’s a no-follow link or an unlinked brand mention, we still wholeheartedly participate provided we see a traffic opportunity in return.

Here’s a chart of our referral traffic since we started. Not something extraordinary, but this metric is our North Star for everything off-page.

Referral Traffic screenshot
Our referral traffic

 

Here’s how our Moz DA changed over the same period:-

How OnPage Champ improved its Domain Authority

Coming to the details, these are the exact steps we undertook:-

Step # 1: Start with social media profiles

Backlinks from social media don’t carry much weight in the DA calculation.

I reached this hypothesis after spending considerable effort towards social media (but without even a single point improvement in my DA).

Irrespective of its impact on Domain AUthority, social media is extremely important for your starting SEO.

That’s because it signals a natural backlinking process.

Why?

Because a newly launched business can’t get links right from day one.

If that’s the case, the backlinking is not natural (in 99% of the cases). And Google hates what’s not natural.

The natural first step for a business is to set up its social media profiles, point to their homepage , post regular updates about their products/services, and so on.

These social backlinks won’t have much DA value but have lots of SEO value.

My Suggestion: For initial 2-3 weeks of your website, forget about your DA and work on sending the right social signals to Google.

We did the same at OnPage Champ. Our first month was focussed on maintaining an active presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and Quora; and getting traffic from those platforms.

Step # 2: Do relevant directory listing

Next, create your business profiles on general web 2.0 directories.

While many people would argue that directory submission is dead, I have a counter-argument here.

Spam and irrelevant directory submission is dead. Posting on directories that rank high for search keywords, drive traffic or send a positive signal to Google still makes sense.

Here’s a ready list of 39 directories that we considered as part of our off-page SEO effort.

→ Open the Google Sheet Now ←

Please note that  I am not saying that you post on all these directories. Find the ones relevant to your business and then get going.

My Suggestion

The speed at which you get backlinks matter to Google.

A sudden burst of backlinks followed by a dry spell may indicate something fishy.

Therefore, it’s important to spread out this effort. Submit no more than 5-7 listings a week and keep doing that for atleast a month or so. That’s what we did for OnPage Champ.

Step #3:  Be present on industry portals

Next on the list should be building your presence on industry specific portals.

This activity is part of directory listing, just that I focussed on SaaS and Startup focussed directories, that’s why a separate category.

These include some well-known portals like AngelList, Crunchbase, Beta Pages, etc. and some not so well known portals like Listly, BrownBook, etc.

Again, you shouldn’t list on these portals to just get a backlink (you anyways get a no-follow backlink from the majority, with some even providing a do-follow backlink).

Idea is to build a presence on portals where businesses like yours exist. Afterall, you are known by the company you keep.

The real motive to get listed is that these portals have high rankability on Google. That means an SEO boost, especially for your brand related keywords.

Additionally, platforms like BetaBound offer beta testers for free. Now that’s a jackpot.

Here’s a list of 38 such Saas and Startup portals where you can get yourself listed (obviously you need to filter this list further).

→ Open the Google Sheet Now ←

My Suggestion

This step can be interchanged or combined with Step #2. But if you have just started, let it be the 3rd step. By the time you start with SaaS based listings, you might have a beta product to show to your audience.

Just make sure you are not overdoing anything.

Maintain a fixed run rate so that your link building speed can be sustained.

Step # 4: Do guest blogging

As you all know, guest blogging when done right, is the easiest way to get a backlink.

Do guest blogging because you want referral traffic, not because you want a do-follow backlink.

More important is that you write content relevant to your industry and on a relevant website so that the value of the backlink increases many folds. (You can refer to this list 125+ websites where you can do guest post.)

On a separate note, it took us just 5 guest posts to reach a DA of 14.

Here how the DA of OnPage Champ grew vs. the guest posts we published (between Aug to Nov 2019).

Our Guest Post Profile vs DA

(Just a caveat: guest posting wasn’t an isolated activity and we did directory listings side by side, so interpret the data accordingly.)

As part of my initial guest blogging outreach, I covered topics like SEO, social media and startup growth hacks.

And since I was writing in-depth content, I happen to be lucky to get a do-follow backlink from all the platforms.

But the thing that matters the most, we are still receiving highly relevant referral traffic from these websites, and it’s actually converting into beta signups.

That’s what matters to us.

My Suggestion

Guest blogging is not just about writing stuff and getting it published.

It’s about relationship building with other bloggers and convincing them to market your content.

Start the relationship exercise early on since it takes time to build.

Read more about the best practices of guest blogging.

Some more steps to improve your Domain Authority

Should you worry about low Domain Authority?

If DA is not a ranking factor, why should you worry about it?

I can think of 2 reasons. You should be worried because:-

  • DA is a vanity metric. It feels good to be an owner of a DA40+ website than a DA20+ website.
  • Good backlinking automatically translates to a higher DA. However, a higher DA may not result in a good backlink profile.

Good backlink profile means relevant and contextual backlinks to your content, something that Google not only loves but also uses as a ranking factor.

Good backlink profile results in more first page rankings, higher referral traffic and increased conversions on your website. And it also helps you increase your Domain Authority.

Alternatively, backlinking done just to pump up your DA won’t solve any SEO purpose. In that case, DA will be reduced to a vanity metric like it is for most of us out here.

Treat DA as an effect generated because of the right cause (i.e. off-page SEO).

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

#1. What deteremines Domain Authority?

There are 40+ factors which Moz claims to include in the Domain Authority calulcation, but the prominent ones include linking root domains and the number of total backlinks.

#2. Does Domain Authority affect SEO?

Time and again, Google has clearly specified that Domain Authority is not a ranking factor. Website with a better DA has more probability of ranking higher than a website with a lower DA, but it’s not a universal fact. There is no guarantee.

#3. How long does it take to increase Domain Authority? 

It depends on the pace at which you build backlinks, plus the Domain AUthority of those backlinks. There’s no fixed answer to this. Just keep in mind that it’s easy to go from DA 5 to 10 than DA 15 to 20.

#4. What is a good Domain Authority score?

Anything above DA 50 is awesome. Anything between 25-50 is decent enough. But don’t just go by only Domain Authority. It’s a vanity metric and is not a complete reflection of your SEO strength.

#5. How to build Domain Authority fast?  

Build backlinks from high Domain Authority websites. But be cautious. Irrelevant backlinks might hurt your SEO, though it may improve your DA score. Tread with caution.

Closing words

If you would have read this story closely, you would agree that I haven’t done anything extraordinary or out of this world.

All the steps highlighted above are logical and easy to do.

What separates us from the majority is that we prioritized traffic building over DA. DA just improved on its own.

If you have a new website and are not sure where to start, follow my footsteps and see both your traffic and DA rise upwards.

Summarizing the entire story

At OnPage Champ, we eat, breath and live on-page SEO and we will keep doing that without worrying about our DA.

That doesn’t mean we will stop doing off-page. Our objective behind off-page SEO will always be traffic, not just backlinks.

I will publish another post highlighting the effort we put in to increase our DA from 11 to 22.

Meanwhile, what’s your thought on improving your website DA? Do comment below.

21 thoughts on “How to Increase Domain Authority (Without Hurting Your SEO): A 4 Step Approach”

  1. Great post and useful information on how to increase domain authority of website.Domain authority is important for site to rank higher in search engines. It defines the score of website for increasing.thanks for sharing this.

      • बहुत अच्छा आर्टिकल है इसे पढ़ने के बाद मेरी बहुत सी भ्रांतियां दूर हुई है । मैं समझता था कि सिर्फ da ही सर्च इंजिन रैंकिंग का आधार है पर मैं गलत था।

    • You need to create backlinks from authority websites. That’s the only thing that can quickly move the needle. Unfortunately, there’s no other easy way out.

  2. We can’t just think about ranking for certain keywords and getting authority backlinks. We have to think about tons of other factors that influence ranking.

    One of those factors is Domain Authority (DA) developed by Moz.

    DA is measured on a scale of 1 to 100. The closer we are to 100, the more traffic and better ranking we’ll have.

    Here are some different strategies for getting your DA up.

    Conduct a link audit
    Get high-quality links
    Create content your readers will love
    Improving both your on-page and off-page SEO
    Mobile-first SEO

    A good DA works very well for long-term SEO and of course, online marketing as websites with higher DA and traffic are placed higher than those who have less DA.

  3. Yes, I totally agree with your opinion. Excellent points you have mentioned now I can know how I can increase my Blog’s DA. You are unquestionably right. Domain Authority is an overall website’s SEO score. Many webmaster SEO people do more wrong than good to their domain by spending for cheap links on Tumblr and other freelance sites.

    In short, CONTENT IS KING, and then I would like to add an extension to that; TRAFFIC means royalty for the king. Smart SEO people and developers create a new site, produced high quality of content and distribute it into social medias, and after one week, their content went viral really fast, their sites have ranked up to #1 Google for Long Tail Keyword. Moreover, I think that having high-quality backlinks is the most important factor that makes a great impact on DA. Of course, there are loads of other factors that affect SEO; however, HQ backlinks are absolutely essential for a good DA level.

    Anyways, thank you very much! I find this post to be very useful!

    • Hi Shyam
      The answer is not as simple as the question asked.

      Are you guys in the same niche? If yes, you then need to audit the backlinks, both the numbers and the referring domains.

      In my experience, backlinks are the single biggest contributing factor in DA calculation.

      Last, DA is not at all a function of the website age. It might be a contributor but not big enough to move the needle.

  4. Hi Tushar,

    Domain authority is important to determine the quality of the blog or website. Improving domain authority is not easy. It is nto jsut abotu backlinks but also about engagement, social shares and organic traffic.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Gaurav

      As an experiment, don’t build any link and keep doing engagement, social shares and building organic traffic. Your DA won’t move much. I m telling this from my experience with multiple web properties.

      At the end of the day, backlinks have the most weightage in DA calculation.

    • Jaydip, in my opinion, there’s no need to focus on DA as a metric. Focus on your SEO, build backlinks that lift your brand and traffic without worrying about DA. IT will automatically improve. As a case in point, I doubled my organic traffic in just a month without any improvement in my DA (it stands at 21 as of today).

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