In the world of SEO, domain authority is the major player. Almost every strategy you adopt—from onsite content to navigation tweaking to offsite link building and social media marketing—will in some way contribute to your overall domain authority, which will then play an imperative role in determining your rank for various searches. Obviously, the higher this authority is, the better, and most search marketers do a pretty good job of adding things that add authority to their sites.
The problem usually comes in the form of unseen or unnoticed “authority killers” which actively bring your authority down, sabotaging your efforts. It’s hard to always catch these authority killers, due to their innocuous nature, but it’s important to look out for them and squash them as soon as you can:
404 errors are simple in nature and relatively easy to fix, but they can slip by unnoticed by even the most watchful developers—even for weeks or months. If Google expects to find a page of yours at a certain URL, and it instead encounters a 404 error, your domain authority will take a hit. Even worse, the meta information for your page might show up in Google search results, stopping people from ever coming to your site. You can scan for 404 errors in Google Webmaster Tools by looking for Crawl Errors. From there, you can either fix the page in question, update your sitemap, or establish a 301 redirect, which directs users and bots to a new appropriate page instead.
Duplicate content can come in a few different forms. If you have an article or a paragraph on one of your pages that’s a carbon copy of some other section of content on your site, that counts as duplicate content. If you have two identical meta tags or page titles, that counts as duplicate content. If you have a http:// and http://www. version of a page (and you haven’t canonically distinguished which version Google should consider primary), that counts as duplicate content. Dupe content is always bad, though it will only crush you if it’s great in frequency and persists for a long time. Use Google Webmaster Tools to scout for instances of duplicated content and either replace them with new content or create canonical tags to distinguish between versions.
Google uses networks of links to help it understand the context and level of authority of different sites. As you’re well aware, any links pointing to your site from high-authority sources can actively add to your authority. What you may not know is that Google also looks at the types of links you post. If you link to well-researched, high-profile sources, you’ll be seen as a greater authority. If you instead have a bunch of links pointing to nonsense sites with thin or irrelevant content (not that you would), it could compromise your reputation. Search your old content for outdated, broken, or irrelevant links and get rid of them.
It’s important to let Google know what URL structures you’re using onsite so it can properly index and “understand” your site. If your current sitemap notes pages that no longer exist, or having missing notations where current pages exist, it could detract from your overall authority. Most developers and search marketers treat this as a once-and-done item, but it should really be updated every few months with the latest layout of your site. Almost all sites go through changes on a regular basis.
The better your content is, the higher your domain authority will be, but thin or irrelevant content can actually bring your score down. You may adhere to best practices as often as possible, but in a rush or in a previous, misguided attempt to rank, a few pieces of bad content might have slipped through. Take the time to wade through the old pages of your site’s blog (and other pages where you have significant content), and update or get rid of anything that doesn’t positively add to your image.
There was a time when more pages was always a good thing for SEO. More pages meant more indexable content, and more chances to rank in Google for various queries. Unfortunately, this led to a corresponding trend of business owners adding pages for the sake of adding pages. Even without the motivation, it’s easy for new pages to get added without an explicit purpose. Be sure to clean house of these empty pages, as they can take away from the authority of your entire site.
Hopefully, your entire site is mobile-friendly—you can test for sure here. Still, there may be a handful of features of your site that aren’t optimized for a great mobile experience, such as improperly formatted images or buttons that are hard to click with fingers. Work to optimize every inch of your site for mobile users, as they’re now the majority population. Even if these tweaks don’t actively increase your domain authority directly, they’ll at least improve your overall user experience.
These seven authority killers can drag down the efforts of even the best-laid SEO strategies. There’s no single “best approach” to catching them, but in my experience, it’s best to designate a single person to run a clean sweep of the website on a regular interval. For example, you could check for these outliers once a month if you have a small site or once a week if it’s larger. Doing so will keep your site healthy, and prevent your authority from tanking.