In the SEO world, authority is what counts most. A higher authority means more respect from Google and other search engines, and more respect from search engines means higher rankings for more queries. If your site has a high enough authority, you’ll rank naturally for any queries that might be relevant to your brand and company, but authority isn’t easy to come by. It can’t be purchased, stolen, or requested; it has to be earned.
To make matters even more complicated, authority is invisible, and difficult to precisely quantify. Some companies have tried to produce a definitive “authority” score, like Moz’s MozRank, but since Google doesn’t explicitly publish its ranking algorithm, it’s tough to know exactly what goes into a calculation of authority.
That being said, there are some important signs that only indicate sites with high authority:
Google doesn’t exactly frown on new players, but it does favor older, more established domains over new, unproven ones. Like it or not, if you’ve only been around for a year or so, you’ll have a hard time ranking against a major competitor with 10 years of domain history (assuming all other factors are equal). There’s no real substitute for this quality, and you can’t push time forward, so remain patient and work on establishing the other qualities on this list while your domain gradually earns more experience here.
Google heavily favors sites that post new content on a regular basis. A site that has posted a new article every day for the past five years will have a much higher authority than a year-old site that occasionally and sporadically posts new content. However, be warned that quantity isn’t everything here—in fact, a site that posts occasional, yet high-valued content will likely earn more authority than a site that posts constant, yet low-valued content. Make an effort to post new material consistently, but make sure it’s original, informative, or otherwise valuable to your users.
It’s impossible to exist as an authority unless you also cite outside authorities. Imagine turning in a research paper in college without a list of references; the same principle applies here. You can certainly post your own thoughts, opinions, and knowledge, but if you want to exhibit yourself as an authority, you’ll have to occasionally cite valuable outside sources. University and government sites, with .edu and .gov domain extensions, are good here, as are major industry experts. Try to back up all of your claims with pre-existing research, even if those claims are original.
Even more important than your links to outside sources are the links your outside sources point to you. An external domain linking to yours is an indication that your domain has provided original value worth citing, which immediately factors into your overall authority. Of course, not all links here are equal—links from high-authority sites, sites within your niche, and links from a diverse range of sources are all more valuable. Work to increase the value and volume of these links over time by syndicating your greatest content and offering guest posts for external blogs.
Onsite content can factor heavily into your overall domain authority, so make sure each of your pages is up-to-date and well-written. The three most important factors for onsite content are conciseness, which means you can’t include any fluff, informational appeal, which means your content must be valuable, and specific, which means your content should be written for your industry and target audience. To achieve higher ranks for certain topics, you’ll have to pay attention to your precise phrasing, but for domain authority, good, descriptive content is plenty.
The technical structure of your site needs to be up to modern standards. Your site map and navigation should be clear and decipherable. Your title tags and descriptions should be adequately and concisely filled out. You should also be including org microformatting, to ensure Google can pull rich snippets from your site. If you’re concerned you aren’t providing Google what it needs from a technical perspective, you can always log into Google Webmaster Tools and run some auditing scripts to see if there’s anything that needs correcting.
This is a big one, especially now that the majority of online traffic comes from mobile devices. Your site needs to be responsive, or at least optimized for mobile, and all your images, video, and content should load quickly and completely across all web browsers and devices. If Google detects any hiccups, errors, or ridiculously slow loading speeds, it could cause your domain authority to take a hit. On the other hand, if your site loads fully and quickly on every conceivable device, you’ll enjoy a much higher authority.
If your site displays most or all of these signs, it means you’re in good shape, authority-wise. If you notice yourself missing most of these, you definitely have some work to do. Even with all these factors in tow, you can always stand to improve your domain authority (and by extension, page authority) by writing better content more frequently, earning more inbound links, and making onsite tweaks that improve user experience.