Domain Authority Factors – SEO Case Study #3

As a part of our SEO Survey we took the time to take a closer look into one of the toughest ranking factors to score, domain authority. The thing with domain authority is that it is not all black and white and even the best efforts can reach a dead end. Well, that can be said for almost every part of SEO, but domain authority is something we all want in the long run and should pay close attention to legitimate SEO strategies if we want to achieve it.

So let’s take a look at the graph based on our SEO survey:

Domain Trust-Authority Factors

Before we dive into the explanations and analysis let me just address one issue, brand search volume. As some of you might know brand search volume is not a ranking factor, simple as that, it is a correlation metric, and it is just there for known authority brands, it is in no way a ranking factor. So why did we put it up there? Obviously to test the surveyors, but I have to say that only a very small number decided to skip that answer, but most of people gave it a score of 1. That goes to show that either they think it is worthless, or they know it’s not a ranking factor and simply gave it the lowest score from the offered ones. Well, with that being said, over 30 people gave it a score of 2 or higher, we won’t comment on that one.

Let’s compare the results from the perspective of professionals and beginners; you will see some obvious differences:

Domain Authority by Professionals:

domain authority professionals

Domain Authority by Beginners:

domain authority amateurs

The fist obvious thing we can see is that amateurs put more weight on the number of links rather than quality of the links. Also, beginner’s thing that domain age is a bigger factor for trust and authority then social media mentions. You see, domain age can get you just to a certain point where search engines know that you are here to stay, and that in the time you have been there you didn’t engage in black hat SEO strategist and went against their guidelines, but that is it. Social media mentions are a real time factor that is on the rise, and I would personally put more weight into them then domain age which is just a technicality of sorts, while social media mentions show your website’s popularity and reach. And the last one, brand search volume, well, it’s easy to say that a majority of professional SEO’s placed either no score or gave it a 1.

Link Diversity/Quality

Link Diversity

This goes as a no brainer, link diversity and quality is what will create a highly natural link profile that will add to your domain trust and authority. Out of all the metrics presented here it is very obvious that gaining authority is achievable only if various resources, websites, types of websites recommend you. The more diverse the voting directions the stronger your influence and authority will be.

Number of Links

Number of Links

We should maybe break this graph up by beginners and professionals, as most beginners placed a score of 5 and 4 to the number of links, none of the beginners placed a score of 1 or 2 to this metric. Although the number of links is important, what is more important is the number of linking domains. So if you have 20,000 links coming from 250 domain you are good, but if you have 50,000 of links coming from 50 domains, well it’s easy to guess who will win in that situation.

Domain Age

domain age

Quite a bit of confusion around domain age as a factor for domain authority. It’s easy to see that most people don’t know what to make of it, honestly I’m not an expert on the subject, my personal opinion is that domain age goes to a certain level and then stops. Why would a 4 year old domain with extra quality content and great number of linking domains have to suffer because his competitor is a 15 year old domain? There is no reason, which is why you can see plenty of new sites outranking the fossils of the internet world.

Social Media Mentions

Social Media Mentions

As you can see people don’t know what to make of social media mentions as well, they are quite divided. They understand that it has some value, obviously just one person placed a score of one, but at the same time it seems they realize that there are more important factors at the moment. The thing is that social media are a great influence on our traffic and brand reputation, as such they are becoming more and more valuable asset for internet marketing, as such it is quite logical for search engines to include them as one of the metrics to determine authority and trust of a domain.

We won’t present the brand search volume data as it has no effect. The more popular and trustworthy a brand is the higher the search volume will be, and if we are talking about known brands in the offline world, well that would give a great disadvantage or newcomers. Yes, Google looks at the brand search volume, but it doesn’t include it in their measurements to determine the authority of a domain.

To achieve domain authority you will need time, you will need plenty of websites voting for you, high traffic and great number of social mentions. You need to monitor your brand name reputation at all times. The thing about domain authority is that it is quite difficult to achieve, but quite easy to lose. So be careful what you do, as one small mistake can cost you a lot in the online world.

About The Author

is the founder and CEO of Practical SEO and also a passionate blogger. All of his free time he dedicates to his Practical SEO blog and giving free advice as well as participating in the blogging community.

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15 Response to Domain Authority Factors – SEO Case Study #3

  1. Josh on July 4, 2011

    I love these case studies. Very interesting comparing the pros and beginners answers. A lot of newbies tend to think that quantity of links is more important, however as of my experience, quality is the key to gain more trust to your site from SEs.

    Just my 2 cents.

  2. Mitchell@Best G0ld Buyers on July 4, 2011

    Interesting article. I liked the quick read, shows that diversity is what you should aim for.

  3. Mark of Success on July 6, 2011

    Hi Zarko,

    It’s been some time… Hope you have been doing great! I just came back to blogosphere and presently doing the rounds to say hello to my blogger friends.

    I read this case study and found it interesting. I even read the first two case studies before taking the time to leave this comment. Good data and good analysis! Keep it up!

    I’ll see you around…


  4. Zarko on July 6, 2011

    Hey Mark, long time :) How have you been, the last I heard from you, you were in Japan during the crisis… Hope that went well for you, anyway, good to have you back :)

  5. Anna on July 6, 2011

    So as far as I got from the charts link quality is the first point. Sure, but I think it is really ahrd to find reliable sites with good page rank and reputation. I don’t believe in any edu or gov sites as it is impossible at all to get such links.

  6. Zarko on July 6, 2011

    Hi Anna,

    actually it is not hard at all to find high quality sites, mind the pagerank as it is not a value for high quality anymore and shouldn’t be taken for granted, just do a search for 5 of your keywords, eliminate obvious competitors and tell me if there aren’t 20-30 or more quality sites you can try to get a link from. Also, you can go for competitor research as well as guest posting on quality blogs. Link building has never been so easy in my opinion as there are more and more sites to get links from, with that there are more quality sites.

    It’s not impossible to get .edu links, but you need to present them with the highest quality content or opportunities, a well done research will be welcomed by most related edu sites, and I am talking from experience.

  7. Martin@CDL Practice Test on July 7, 2011

    The reason beginners go for numbers over quality is that it’s easier to build low quality links than high quality links. You can go on fiverr and buy 20k spammed to death links for $5, but if you need quality you actually have to work for it. And when you’re new to this you want fast results.

  8. Sam@Social Networking Website Design on July 7, 2011

    Good to read this and I think social media is a great help to promote your business and to increase your sales as well.

  9. Mark of Success on July 9, 2011

    Hi Zarko, the nuclear crisis in Japan was one hell of a story. I had written some updates on my blog during those time, and just wrote a new post to outline my current situation. Do check it out when you can make some time.


  10. Roland@rome hotels on July 15, 2011

    You can really see the big difference between a beginner and a professional in domain authority. As we can see on the circle graph the beginners put more weight on the number of links rather than its quality and thinking that the domain age is a bigger factor for trust and authority than social media. The point now is if you are a beginner you can compare the result of this graphs and make it as a reference to where you are going to put more weight..

  11. Justin@Payday Loans on July 26, 2011

    So according to your graphs social media is now much more of a factor in domain authority than before. Are we talking mainly Facebook Likes and things like that or is it more from just a presence on different social media sites. Does social bookmarking fit in social media or is that considered spam?

  12. Zarko on July 27, 2011

    HI Justin,

    It’s safe to say that Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and now Google+ have the major hand in improving our authority and even rankings, but any website falls into that, the question is only how active you are and if you can be considered authority in your field for a given social network. If you can somehow convert traffic via bookmarks then sure, but that is incredibly hard these days, people rely on social networks to find new content more and more, real live recommendations instead of looking at the bunch of spammy links that people will post on bookmarking sites…

  13. Previous Case Studies on July 27, 2011

    [...] Domain Authority Factors [...]

  14. Amit@Forklift Training on July 30, 2011

    It’s a mistake every beginner makes, i believe, focusing on the number of links instead of the quality. I wonder if the process can eventually be reversed and gain authority again the right way.

  15. Michael@Comprar Hosting on January 23, 2012

    There is a reason why beginners focus on the number of links and the reason is because they don’t know how to acquire high quality links. I didn’t knew were to find them one year ago.

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