One of the most misunderstood SEO and link building factors is authority. What makes it so hard for a new site to score and what makes some sites get away with more unnatural behavior than others? Let's explore domain authority and how to use it to your own benefit.
The RAT Checklist
Good links have RAT, which comes down to:
- Relevance: All factors related to the theme of a link. From anchor text to incoming links of the website that links to you, they all influence link relevance.
- Authority: The remainder of this article will dig into this topic.
- Transfer: Link value that's transferred from page to page by followable links. PageRank comes close to indicating link value transfer.
Authority Comes With Age
The main ingredient of authority is time. Websites gain authority by behaving themselves for some time, having links pointing to the site for a longer period, and having other authority sites linking to them.
New websites should gather authority as soon as possible. Link acquisition should start as soon as the website has gone live. These links have to ripen over a period of a couple of months before they gain full effect.
Being associated with spammy tactics negatively influences authority. If your site receives many links from spam networks, or if you use black hat SEO techniques, much of your authority can be lost. It will take some time to regain your authority if you mess around in these areas.
Authority is Domain-wide
Authority affects an entire domain name. A new page on an old website needs to receive enough link value, but can rank from day one.
When setting up a marketing campaign, this influences the choice of doing this under a new domain of under a subsection of your main domain. Scoring in Google's organic results with a previously unused domain within a short timeframe is nearly impossible.
Subdomains start out with the same authority as their www parents, but when they start out linking intensively to low or negative authority websites they can lose theirs without affecting the rest of the domain too much. This effects the choice between using subdomains or subdirectories, because activities within a directory influence the entire (sub)domain it's on.
Examples of Authority
Domain authority in the eyes of Google is best found by doing a generic search query.
You might think a search for "www" shows w3.org and a lot of technical guides to the web. However, it shows sites that have been around for some time, have great links to them, and mainly link to each other. They keep away from spammy tactics, and most of the time they're well-known names.
A search for "www" in country specific Google versions shows you local authorities.
If you categorize scoring sites, you might come to descriptions like: Big companies in transport, telecom, tourism and health care. Universities, big media companies, government agencies, and charity. Search engines, social platforms and big online sales platforms.
As you can see, a broad spectrum of sites you might call an authority in real life as well.
You can reduce the time needed to gain authority by receiving links from authorities. If you get a link anywhere on an authority domain, it rubs off some of its authority to your domain.
The exact location only influences relevance and transfer and doesn't make much difference for authority. When a domain scarcely links out, you gain a lot of authority from such a link.
When a big company changes its name or merges and transfers to a new domain you might think they would have to start out from the bottom again. For reasons like this, Google transfers almost all authority value through a domain-wide 301-redirect. When you want to boost a new site, you can consider taking over an existing domain or look for bankruptcy.
Links from authorities aren't easily acquired because they're careful when linking out. Use the Bing operator "linkfromdomain:authority.com" to discover what they already link to. Discover why those sites are being linked to and, by emulating that strategy, you might get great authority links.
Authority is a factor that could give the benefit of the doubt when unnatural behavior is discovered. When a new site suddenly receives a lot of porn links it is damaged for life and probably banned from the Google index. When you direct these same links at Wikipedia it has no negative effect at all.
The more authoritative your domain is, the more damage it can sustain. Spammy tactics affect domain authority, so keep away from them at all costs.