SEO 101: Part 3 (Authority)

Domain authority is a critical pillar of SEO success. The best way to build your domain authority is through quality backlinks, an off page SEO tactic that can take considerably more work but can be highly effective if done right.
Written by
Jennifer Chu
Published on
February 19, 2024

SEO 101: Part 3 (Authority)

Continuing with our SEO 101 series, we will cover Part 3, Domain Authority, in this article. Check out the other articles in this series below:

  1. Content
  2. User Experience
  3. Authority
  4. Technical SEO

Understanding Domain Authority

Domain authority is a measure of the power a domain holds with search engines — the overall trustworthiness, relevance, and popularity of the entire domain. It’s important, because site authority is tightly correlated with search rankings.  As your site's authority grows, search engines are more likely to trust the content you produce. This trust results in higher organic rankings, which, in turn, drive more traffic to your website.

Domain rating correlated with keyword rankings, credit aHrefs

Compared with content, authority takes much more effort and time to improve since most of these activities are what we call off-page SEO. Factors that influence authority include the number and quality of backlinks, the age and reputation of the domain, and the footprints of your online presence, such as your social media influence.

Improving Domain Authority

To boost your authority, you need a multi-faceted approach that involves not just creating content, but also ensuring it reaches and resonates with a wide online audience.

Build Backlinks from Reputable Sources

Many people have this notion that if you build it (your website), they will come. This is not entirely true.  My good friend and co-worker had a great analogy that she used to say to clients — if you build a beautiful new house but there are no roads leading to the house, no one’s going to magically show up at your door no matter how well you optimize your Title and H1 Tags.

Building backlinks like building roads for domain authority

Accumulating backlinks (links from other websites pointing to yours) is perhaps the most influential element in building site authority. You need to build roads (backlinks) to your house for people to be able to discover you.

But not all backlinks are created equal. High-quality, relevant backlinks from authoritative domains in your industry carry more weight than those from unrelated or spammy websites. Roads from large towns bring more traffic than roads from other single, remote homes. In fact, too many backlinks from spammy sites can actually hurt your authority too, as Google may perceive your site as suspicious.

Ways to build backlinks

1. Guest blogging

Write articles for other websites or publishers in your niche. You can include your website in your profile description or reference your website in the actual content of the article. Consider the domain authority and relevance of the sites you are reaching out to. Again, quality backlinks that brings a relevant audience are key. Smaller, niche sites may also be more receptive to guest posting.

As we mentioned in the Content part of this series, authorship is becoming a bigger factor in rankings. Guest blogging can help you build credibility as a writer -- remember, credibility as an author is influenced by E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness).

2. Create tools

Create quality, shareable content also naturally encourages others to link back to your resources. Have you built handy calculators, templates or other tools that users can easily access or download? Have you done any unique, proprietary research that other publishers would want to share with their audience?  Here's a Salary to Hourly Wage Conversion Calculator that Kim built:

Salary to Hourly Consultant Rate Conversion Calculators
3. Be part of the conversation

Participate in industry forums and conversations and providing comments with a link back to your site can also help. Chenell Basilio recently dissected the growth of Ben’s Bites in her newsletter, Growth in Reverse.  She calls it “Become the Reply Guy”. Ben grew his newsletter to 110K partly by commenting on relevant tweets, like this:

Replying to tweets for backlinks, eg Bens Bites. Credit: Growth in Reverse

4. Look at the competition

Evaluate your competitors’ sites and their backlinks.  Identify which backlinks are from high authority websites, and reach out to those websites to see if they would be interested in linking to your content as well. You’ll need a tool to do this at scale — Ahrefs was built to do this, but SEMRush also offers backlinks reports as well as Google Search Console (free, but only offers a sampling).

5. Collaborate with creators

Reach out to influencers for reviews or to engage in content collaboration which can result in organic backlink generation. It brings diversity of perspectives, taps into new communities, and may lead to backlinks from various platforms.
You can also go back to your older articles, add links to any products, businesses or people that you reference, and add links to those respective sites. This could help you create those opportunities with potential partners.

6. Broken Link Building

Lastly, broken link building can be a win-win for you and the site you're helping, by replacing outdated or broken links with your own relevant content. Again, this is something you should do at scale. There are may backlink audit tools that wil scan a website to identify and provide a report on. 404 (page not found) errors.

Build Internal Links

Internal links are hyperlinks that direct to another page on the same domain. While internal links don’t actually improve your domain authority, they can pass incoming authority along to other pages.  They support a good user experience by making your content more easily discoverable (see the roads analogy above). They also help search engines understand the structure and hierarchy of a website, aiding in the crawling and indexing of web pages.

At a prior company, we had a product that could automate the internal linking of high performing pages to pages with low SEO performance. Our clients saw lifts of 300+% in organic traffic from non-branded keywords 1-2 months after implementation.

Using Anchor Text

Anchor text refers to the clickable text in a hyperlink that directs users to another web page. It is usually (but not always) blue, clickable text that is underlined. Anchor text provides contextual information to search engines about the content of the destination page.

For example, in the beginning of this article, we linked to Part 1 of our blog series with this link: SEO 101: Content. I used the keywords "SEO 101" and "content" in the anchor text. Here's what the HTML looks like:

<a href=””>SEO 101: Content</a>

The use of targeted keywords in anchor text helps search engines understand the relevance and topic of the linked page. It provides a signal to both users and search engines about the content they can expect to find when they click on the link. When search engines crawl and index web pages, they analyze the anchor text to determine the context and relevance of the linked content.

It’s not always possible to control anchor text when it’s in a backlink on another domain, but you can sometimes request the publisher or writer to update the anchor text to something more meaningful.

For your own internal links, you should definitely be adding anchor text.

Anchor text helps SEO by providing valuable context and relevance signals to search engines, improving the visibility and ranking of linked pages for specific keywords.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, domain authority is pivotal in SEO and cannot be overlooked. A methodical approach to backlink acquisition will drive your website's credibility. There’s no shortcut to authority; it's earned through consistent, top-notch work and staying engaged with your community.

Link Building Best Practices

  • Build backlinks from reputable, authoritative domains
  • Avoid links from spammy sites with low domain authority
  • Use internal links to pass incoming authority to new or low visibility pages
  • Include your targeted keywords in the anchor text of your links
  • Be careful with paid links. While tempting and easier to do than earning links, it may have far less impact if not a negative impact on your authority (aka spammy, low quality)

Read our final part in our SEO 101 series, Technical SEO

Follow our beginner SEO 101 series

  1. Content
  2. User Experience
  3. Authority
  4. Technical SEO


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