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30 min read

How to Increase Domain Authority [And Reach #1 on Google]

Stewart Dunlop


Chief Link Building Strategist

If you want to generate more organic traffic to your website and improve your spot in Google search results, working on increasing your domain authority (DA) is a good place to start.

While domain authority doesn’t directly impact your Google ranking, it does provide an indication as to how relevant, authoritative, and credible your website is—three factors that Google considers when ranking your site.

In this article, we will discuss:

➡️ What domain authority is and why it’s important.

➡️ Why you should increase domain authority for your website.

➡️ How domain authority works and how it is calculated.

➡️ Some proven strategies for building domain authority.

➡️ How you can improve your rankings on Google.

What Is Domain Authority (DA)?

Domain authority is a website metric that has been created by the search engine optimization (SEO) tool, Moz. This metric indicates how authoritative a website is. It does this by analyzing the site’s backlink profile and giving it a score out of 100.

A backlink profile is a collection of links that point to your website from other domains.

Backlinks are considered a good measure of a site’s authority. In theory, this is because websites will only link to other sites when the content is worth linking to. Technically, if a site has a lot of backlinks, it means that many different people have vouched for the quality of the content.

The right number of backlinks that are of high quality is a vote of confidence for your website and indicates to Google that it’s worth ranking.

Predicting How Likely a Website Is to Rank on Google

While domain authority doesn’t determine how well you will rank on Google, it can be useful when trying to outrank your competitors.

If your site has a similar or higher domain authority to those at the top of search engine results pages (SERPs), you may be able to rank alongside pages that are well-optimized for the keyword.

Moz isn’t the only company with its own algorithm that provides a score based on backlinks. The Ahrefs domain rating (DR) score is a popular alternative.

Like DA, DR also considers a website’s backlink profile and creates a score that estimates how authoritative a website is out of 100.

There are some differences in how the two scores are calculated, which we’ll explore later in this article.

Why is it Important to Increase Domain Authority?

For many competitive industries, Google will only display results from highly authoritative domains. This means that if your website does not have high domain authority, you may struggle to rank on Google.

SEO software ranking DA

However, it’s important to remember that the Google Search algorithm doesn’t directly consider domain authority when ranking websites. This is because DA is a subjective score that was granted by a third-party company.

🤔 Why Is DA Important, Then?

The factors that increase domain authority coincide with those Google uses to rank websites, making it appear to have an impact.

These factors include:

  • The number of domains that link to your site.

  • In turn, the number of sites those domains link to.

  • The authority of the domains that point to your site.

In this article, we’ll dive deeply into domain authority (DA) and similar metrics. We’ll also highlight some of the strategies we use at LinkBuilder to increase the DA of our client’s websites.

How to Check Your Domain Authority?

There are a number of free SEO tools that you can use to check your domain authority.

Simply enter the URL of the website you want to search for, and the tool will show you its domain authority score alongside other useful information. This includes things like top pages by links and the number of ranking keywords.

DA analysis tool

A useful option for checking the domain authority of many websites is the Moz Bar Google Chrome plugin. It provides real-time domain metrics as you browse the web.

The tool is free to use, although you must sign up for a Moz account first.

With the Moz Bar, you can:

  1. See the website domain authority score you visit. Ensure the tool is active and that you’re logged in to your Moz account.

  2. See the domain authority, Page Authority (PA), and the number of links each page has in the Google search results. This is an easy way to gauge how difficult it will be to rank for your chosen keyword.

pizza recipe serp

Another option is to use Ubersuggest to search for a site’s domain authority. Just head to the tool’s home page, then search for the site you want to learn more about.

It shows you the Moz domain authority score alongside useful information like traffic and the top keywords a site ranks for.


If you want to know the Ahrefs domain ranking of a site, you can find this easily—even if you don’t have a subscription.

Just head to the authority checker on their website and enter the URL of the site you want to search for. There is no limit on the number of searches you can carry out.

Ahrefs domain rating check

Why You Should Consider Your Domain Authority

People commonly use domain authority for two reasons.

The first is to measure the success of their off-page SEO and link-building efforts. People think that if their site’s DA and DR are increasing, their strategy must be working.

In many cases, this is true. If your site is new or has a low domain authority, you will likely see results fairly quickly as you build backlinks.

But, as your domain authority score increases, so does the number—and quality—of the links you need to attract to see improvements. This means you could build many links but not see much of a DA improvement.

Another issue is that as the scores are relative to other websites, you can end up in a situation where your DA or DR goes down despite significant link-building. This happens when other sites build links faster than you do.

So you shouldn’t rely solely on DA to measure whether your SEO efforts are working. Be sure to keep an eye on multiple metrics.

👀 Other Metrics to Keep an Eye On

  • The number of links that point to your site.

  • The number of referring domains.

  • Your inbound traffic.

  • Your Moz Spam Score.

  • Your ranking for individual target keywords.

  • Your average ranking.

Website owners also use domain authority when deciding which relevant keywords to target.

If the sites that rank for a particular term have high domain metrics, it may be difficult to compete with them in the SERPs. But if your website has a similar or higher domain authority to those already on the SERPs, you have a good chance of ranking with an optimized piece of content.

Of course, DA is just a guide. Many other factors influence whether a piece of content will rank well on Google. Some other questions to ask include:

  • Does your content match searcher intent?

  • Is it optimized for its target keywords?

  • Do you have internal links pointing to it?

  • Have you built external links to the page?

  • Is the length of the content similar to other pages in the SERPs?

How is Domain Authority Calculated?

It’s useful to know how domain authority is calculated if you want to increase your score. Neither Moz nor Ahrefs provides full transparency about how they work out their scores. But this is what we do know here at LinkBuilder.

Moz Domain Authority

There are several factors that Moz uses to calculate domain authority. The tool combines all the data it has about a domain into a single score. This score is a logarithmic rating out of 100.

We know it considers:

  1. The total number of links pointing to a domain.

  2. Metrics about the linking root domains.

Ahrefs Domain Rating

Ahrefs’s domain rating score is similar to Moz’s domain authority. It is also a logarithmic score that is calculated out of 100, and that is relevant to other sites in the database.

However, Ahrefs provides more detail about the factors it uses in its calculations. These are the top three influencing factors:

  1. The number of websites that link to your domain. Nofollow links, which don’t impact search rankings, are discounted.

  2. The domain rating of the sites that link to your website. A high DR website link will typically have more impact than a link from a low DR one.

  3. The number of sites a domain links to. A link from a site that rarely links to other domains is worth more than one from a site with links pointing to many domains.

Beyond these three factors, Ahrefs also says that:

  • You will only see a DR boost the first time a site links to you. Multiple links from a single domain will have the same impact as a single link.

  • If a site’s DR increases after linking to you, the improvement will be reflected in your domain score.

What Is a Good Domain Authority Score?

The highest domain authority score you can get is 100. The biggest, most authoritative sites on the Internet tend to have a domain authority of over 90, while top publications typically score above 70 or 80.

Here are some examples:

  • The BBC has a DA of 95 and a DR of 92.

  • Neil Patel has a DA of 86 and a DR of 91.

  • Ahrefs has a DA of 78 and a DR of 90.

The good news is that you won’t be competing with the above sites for your rankings in many cases. So what you consider a high authority domain will depend on the websites that currently rank for terms you want to target.

If you are in a competitive niche like SEO software, for example, then a DA score over 80 is a high DA.

SEO software ranking DA

Most of the top-ranking pages come from sites with a domain authority score above 70. It will be hard to rank at the top of the SERPs for this term if your site isn’t on a similar level.

In less competitive niches, a high DA site may have a lower score.

For example, the highest-ranking website for the search term “dentist in Edinburgh” has a DA of 18. So, a DA score of 20+ would be considered very high in this local industry.

low domain authority rankings

The key is to look at the top-ranking websites you compete with and decide for yourself what a high domain authority score would be.

Is a Low Domain Authority Score Bad?

Having a low domain authority isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it doesn’t mean you won’t rank on Google.

All sites start with a low DA before they have attracted backlinks. The only exception is when a site is built on an existing domain that already has links pointing to it.

There are plenty of low domain authority sites that rank for low-competition keywords that bring in organic traffic. Also, if you want to rank for low-competition keywords, increasing your website’s domain authority might not be a priority.

For example, the site below has a DR of just 1.9, yet it receives thousands of visitors every month, according to Ahrefs.

Ahrefs screenshot

There are also plenty of examples of high domain authority sites that are low-quality or spammy.

Websites built on expired domains or those that have suffered from a Google penalty can have high domain scores while being low-quality and having little organic traffic.

⚠️ What Is a Google Penalty?

Also known as a manual action, a Google penalty is when a human reviews your website and finds that you are breaking its guidelines.

A Google penalty can result in your website being removed from the SERPs entirely, and you may see a significant crash in your traffic.

Recovering from a Google penalty is difficult, so our advice is to do everything you can to avoid being penalized.

Read our full guide on Google penalties to learn how to avoid a manual action against your website.

When assessing the quality of a website, you should consider several other factors in addition to domain authority, including:

  • How the site ranks on Google.

  • How much organic SEO traffic it receives.

  • Whether or not it has a unique design, versus a generic templated layout.

  • If it publishes high quality content.

Domain Authority vs. Page Authority

Page Authority (PA) is a similar metric to domain authority. But instead of ranking the site as a whole, it looks at a single page.

Improving the Page Authority of an article compared to its competitors can help low domain authority sites outrank competitors.

In fact, Ahrefs found that the number of links pointing to a page was a better indicator of whether a page would rank on Google than DR. Links pointing to a page are a factor Moz uses when considering PA.

As you build your page authority, your domain authority will also typically increase.

How Many Links Do I Need to Increase Domain Authority?

There is no definite answer to this question, as both Ahrefs and Moz use more than just the number of linking domains to calculate their website authority rankings.

In one of their blog posts, Ahrefs provides a useful table that shows how many linking domains the average website has at each DR level. You can use this to guide your efforts as you try to increase your domain authority and Google rankings.

This table highlights the challenge of continuing to increase your domain rating as you reach the upper limits.

🔗 Calculating How Many Links You Need

The average website with a DR of between six and 10 has around 30 referring domains.

The average domain with a DR of between 11 and 15 has 44 referring domains.

This suggests you need to attract links from around 14 more domains to move into the next bracket.

The average site with a DR of between 41 and 45 has 263 linking domains. This is compared to sites with a DR of between 46 and 50, which have 352 linking domains—an increase of 89.

At the top end of the scale, the difference in referring domains between a site with a DR of 91 to 95 and one with a DR of 96 to 100, is over eight million.

Why Is It Worthwhile to Increase Your Domain Authority?

We mentioned in the introduction that domain authority isn’t a Google ranking factor. If this is the case, why should you bother trying to increase your score?

The answer is that increasing domain metrics is typically a sign that you are building your website right.

Domain authority is mainly influenced by the links that point to your site. If people are linking to you, it usually means that they like your content and find it useful.

Also, Ahrefs discovered a correlation between having a high DR and ranking highly. Sites with high domain metrics dominate many competitive, profitable search terms.

Increasing your site’s DR to the level of your top competitors doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll rank for the terms you want to. But when done in a way that complies with Google guidelines, it certainly won’t hurt.

This brings us to the final point of the article: How to increase domain authority.

Put simply, the best way to improve your DA is to land backlinks from authoritative sites. If you aren’t currently trying to build links, then putting in place a good link-building strategy will help.

💡 The Importance of Earning High Quality Backlinks

When working on achieving more inbound links, it’s essential to aim for high quality backlinks. Quality links include those that:

  • Come from high domain authority websites.

  • Appear naturally in the root domains’ content.

  • Are relevant to your website.

High quality backlinks indicate to Google and other search engines that your website is trustworthy and credible. This could potentially improve your ranking in search engine result pages (SERPs).

If your domain metrics are currently low, you should focus on attracting as many dofollow links as possible.

Dofollow links are those that allow Google to point back to your site, which can improve your overall authority.

⭐️ How to Avoid Attracting Bad Links

Although backlinks are crucial to increased domain authority, if you want to improve your Google ranking, it’s important to avoid building low quality links.

You can avoid earning bad backlinks by keeping a close eye on your backlink profile. If you spot a low quality link, you can contact the website owner to remove the backlink. If all else fails, you can disavow the link.

Check out our complete guide on disavowing backlinks without hurting your website.

Here are the top strategies we use here at LinkBuilder to earn our clients high quality links and increase domain authority scores.

attracting links

✅ Create link-worthy content

Creating content that people want to link to is the first step to better link-building. People typically link to unique content like:

  • Reports or studies.

  • Breaking news where you are quoted as a reliable source.

  • Interesting opinions and viewpoints.

  • Useful tools.

  • Interesting long-form content.

  • Statistics roundups.

Your content should be world-class and better than anything else out there on the topic. If it isn’t, website owners are likely to link to competing sites over yours.

The ideal scenario is that people will find your content naturally and link to it in their articles.

Unfortunately, this often doesn’t happen. Especially if you don’t have much traffic in the first place. In this case, you may have to promote your content via outreach.

👉 Tips for Creating World-Class Content

  • Use the SkyScraper technique. Analyze your competitors’ content and produce a piece that is better than theirs.

  • Back up any statements you make with real statistics from studies and reports.

  • Add something unique. An original insight from an expert in your company adds value to your content as these are nuggets of information that wouldn’t be found elsewhere online.

  • Include strong call to actions (CTAs) in your content that drives readers to take action.

  • Invest in proofreading and editing services to ensure your content is completely error-free. Spelling and grammatical errors immediately lower the credibility of your writing.

✅ Outreach to other websites

Once you have created great, linkable content, it’s time to reach out to others in your niche and ask them to link to it. Contact other websites and tell them about your site and content.

Below, we highlight the only possible ways you can realistically earn links through outreach.

how to get links

You can find the ideal websites to contact—known as target sites—using Ahrefs. Put your website or another in your niche into the “site explorer” and then click on “competing domains”.This will bring up a list of similar sites.

It’s then a case of finding out who runs the website you want to target and sending them a message or email introducing yourself and asking them to link to your content.

Keep in mind that you aren’t the only site performing this kind of outreach. Many webmasters are inundated with outreach requests.

You can try to make your message stand out by offering something in return. For example, by saying you’ll share one of their posts on your email list or your social following.

Check out the video below to see the blogger outreach strategy we used to generate over 30 free links in a month for one of our clients. We did this without paying for a single link.

✅ Persue unlinked mentions

Unlinked mentions is a link-building strategy where you look for instances of a website mentioning your business, but they haven’t added a link to your site.

You then get in touch with the people running the publication and ask them to link to you. The owner will often be happy to do so.

While it sounds like a lot of work, it’s easy to automate much of the process. Simply set up a Google Alert for your brand’s name. When you receive an email or notification, head to the web page to see if it has also linked to you. If it hasn’t, send them an email asking for the link.

This strategy works best for established sites. If people don’t already know about your website, they are unlikely to mention you.

✅ Consider niche edits and paid links

Niche edits are when you ask a website owner to link your article to their existing content. When it works, it’s an easy way to get links to specific content on relevant sites.

The downside is that if a website owner agrees to do this, they will often ask you to pay for the link.

While paying for links is technically against Google’s Search Essentials (formerly Google Webmaster Guidelines), it is common practice in many niches. It can be tough to see any progress without purchasing links.

Check out our guide on niche edits to learn how to use this strategy correctly.

✅ Create an internal link structure

While backlinks are important to improve domain authority and search rankings, having internal links placed in your website content is essential, too.

An internal linking structure involves inserting links to other parts of your website within your content with the aim of driving conversions and sales. This forms part of your on-page SEO. The benefits of having internal links include:

  • Passing link juice from one page to another.

  • Keeping your readers engaged.

  • Creating a user journey from wherever users land on your website.

  • Helping Google crawl and index your pages.

✅ Pay attention to your technical SEO

It’s worth noting that domain authority is also based on various aspects of technical and on-page SEO. For example, site speed—which is how long it takes your website to load—impacts your domain authority score.

Working on aspects of technical SEO, like improving your site’s speed and performance, may improve your domain authority.

Better yet, it may also improve how long users stay on your site. Even as much as a one-second delay in loading speed can lose up to 11% of website views. Customer satisfaction also decreases by 16% if your website loads slowly.

✅ Try HARO

Help a Reporter Out (HARO) is a link-building goldmine. It is not only one of the most effective ways to get links from high-authority websites, but it is also one of the most effective ways to get links in general.

HARO links

The service is a set of daily email newsletters that contain requests from journalists for expert input into their stories. If you’re an expert in a particular niche, you can attract a backlink by answering the request.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Head to the HARO home page and sign up for the newsletter. Choose to receive the general email or one related to your field.

  2. HARO sends out the general newsletter three times a day. Each one contains requests from journalists for story input.

  3. Search for requests that you can provide an authoritative answer to.

  4. Follow the journalist’s instructions when replying to the story and include a link to your website. It can help to set up a bio and profile picture in advance that you can easily share.

  5. The journalist will choose the answers they like for their story.

  6. When the story goes live, you’ll get a backlink.

While HARO is easy to use, it is also very competitive, and many people reply to each request.

To increase your chances of being chosen, you should reply quickly and in a way that makes it easy for the journalist to use your quote. Try to keep your answer short and concise unless specifically asked for more detail.

Take a look at our guide for using HARO to build links for more insight into this strategy.

✅ Guest posting on high authority sites

Guest posting is a link-building strategy that has been around for years. But it is still an effective way to get links from high DA sites if you follow some best practices.

First, you have to avoid spammy sites that would accept any guest blog post in exchange for a fee. Instead, look for quality sites with a high DA, an engaged audience, and real traffic.

Sometimes such sites will have a “Write for Us” or “Contribute” section on their website, but they often won’t.

You then need to pitch quality articles that will genuinely add value for the website’s readers. Instead of looking at it as a form of link building, you should approach the website as if you are a writer pitching an article.

Here are two examples of high-DA sites that accept quality articles.

➡️ HubSpot

HubSpot is a site with a domain authority score of 92 that is actively looking for guest posts for its marketing, sales, service, and website blogs. The company knows that getting input from experts in the field is an excellent way to generate interesting posts for its audience.

But, the site has very high requirements for the type of posts it allows on its blog. Its marketing blog has a long list of requirements. These state that it typically only accepts:

  • Original experiment or analysis posts.

  • Canonical posts that go into great depth on a particular topic.

  • Graphic posts.

Creating this type of content isn’t easy. But if you can meet these editorial standards, you will get a valuable and authoritative link from a DA 92 site—we've managed it before.

➡️ Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur is a DA 92 site that accepts guest submissions in its Entrepreneur Leadership Network section. Like HubSpot, the company has stringent editorial standards about the type of article it will publish.

You can find out more about their publishing guidelines on their website. Articles you submit to this website should:

  • Offer a fresh approach to the subject you want to cover.

  • Focus on a narrow area or niche.

  • Be practical and instructive.

  • Not be overly promotional of your business.

➡️ Finding guest posting opportunities

The above two examples are suitable for websites that operate in the business or marketing niche. Your article probably won’t be accepted if it’s on a different topic unless you can find a good angle.

When looking for opportunities of your own, think about the top publications that cover your industry and research whether they accept submissions.

Then think about story ideas that will resonate with the site’s audience and pitch them to the publication. If there are no specific guest post instructions, consider contacting the website editor or owner.

✍️ Tips for Crafting an Epic Guest Post

When you write your guest post, keep these tips in mind:

  • You want your content to be informative and educational. Spend some time doing in-depth research so that you provide the reader with valuable insights.

  • Data-led content is extremely popular and typically performs well. Including some interesting statistics—or running your own studies—should grab the reader’s attention.

  • Keep the website’s audience in mind. You want to create content that will resonate closely with the site’s readership, as this will make them more likely to take action and potentially visit your backlink.

  • Follow the format of the website’s posts. The site owner might be explicit about the formatting of the guest post you submit. If not, take time to look at their live guest posts and be sure to format the blog post you submit accordingly.

✅ Target sites with decent traffic

Moz’s DA score considers whether the links come from legitimate sites with real traffic. If it doesn’t, then the link will likely be discounted by the algorithm.

There are several easy ways to check if a site is legitimate or not.

First, use an SEO tool like Ahrefs, Moz, or Ubersuggest to see whether a site has real traffic from search engines.

These tools show approximately how much traffic a website gets each month. At Linkbuilder, we target sites that attract at least 1,000 organic visitors monthly.

Sometimes a site on a downward spiral will still have some traffic, so look out for the general direction the traffic is heading in. If it has recently had a sudden drop, it may have suffered a Google penalty. This can be a sign of a low-value site.

Also, look for the types of keywords a site ranks for. A spammy site may still get traffic from low-value keywords.

You can also check a site’s social media accounts to estimate whether it receives traffic from these channels. Look for active accounts with posts people comment on, like, or share.

The final quality check is simply looking at the website itself. Spammy sites will typically have several signs that suggest that it is low-quality. These include:

  • Articles on a large number of seemingly unrelated topics. These often include posts about casinos or gambling.

  • Posts that are short or poorly written.

  • Many articles are written by a “Guest Author” or accounts with similar titles, but the site itself creates little original content.

  • Articles that include unnaturally placed backlinks.

✅ Consider growing websites

It can be beneficial to gain links from sites that are in their early stages but are growing. If you get the chance to receive a link from a site that appears to be new, then it could be worth targeting them.

Use a tool like Ahrefs to see how a website’s backlink profile is growing over time. If the site shows a growing trend, it could be a sign that it will continue increasing in the future.

✅ Prioritize backlinks from sites that don’t link out much

Ahrefs considers the number of sites a domain links to when calculating DR. So, links from publications that don’t link out much are more valuable than those from sites with similar authority that link to many other domains.

You can use Ahrefs to see how many domains a site links to. Click on “Outgoing Links” and then “Linked Domains”. This will show you how many different domains a website links to.

Don’t Get Too Caught up with Domain Authority

As mentioned above, domain authority is comparative, and your score may decrease even after improving your link profile if other sites have built links faster.

But remember that DA considers all websites, not just those in your niche. If you have improved your backlink profile faster than your direct competitors, you may find that you still have a DA advantage, even if your overall domain authority score has decreased.

If fact, you can run an excellent link-building campaign but still not see much improvement in these metrics due to external factors.

Try not to get too hung up on increasing your DA if your site seems to be moving in the right direction in other ways.

Wrapping up on How to Increase Domain Authority

If you want to increase your website’s DA, it’s essential that you engage in link-building activities. But these can be difficult to do yourself.

If you don’t have the time or expertise to implement your own link-building campaigns, consider hiring experts like Linkbuilder to do the job. We specialize in building high quality links at scale for businesses in various niches.