Domain Authority (DA) is an important SEO ranking factor that is partially controlled by things off-site such as backlinks. There are a number of different domain authority checker tools that you can use for free to check your site’s rating.
In some ways, you can control your DA by creating a large amount of high-quality content on your website, but you won’t be able to increase your rating overnight.
You can’t control the age of your domain name at all, but older sites are considered to be more important than those registered this year.
Backlinks from other websites are key to improving domain authority. You can take steps to naturally grow these inbound links. However, this needs to be done gradually over time.
This article is going to give you a crash-course in DA so you can understand how this number is calculated. I’ve also reviewed the best checker tools that let you look up and monitor your site’s ranking.
What is Domain Authority?
Technically, search engines like Google are NOT actually using domain authority in their ranking algorithm. It is not a direct ranking factor, even though a lot SEOs may believe that it is directly used.
With that said, DA is really an arbitrary number that doesn’t guarantee placement in search engine listings. However, it is still important because the factors that are used to calculate DA can still be used directly in algorithms.
Domain authority is a metric you can use to compare the importance of websites.
A site with a DA of 100 is more important than one with a rating of 20.
Moz created this metric as a way for website owners to gauge their potential in the SERPs (search engine results pages), but rankings are still ultimately determined by content.
The actual number is calculated using a variety of data including total incoming links, total linking domain names, keyword usage, total number of keywords used, content quality and more.
To make matters a bit more confusing, some competitors have created their own ranking metric, such a Ahrefs Domain Rating. In many ways, they’re the same thing but they’re calculated in different ways so certain factors link backlinks could have a heavier weight on one rating over another.
Ultimately, you do NOT need to obsess over the ratings for your website, especially when your site is new. The info returned by these tools can vary from one to the next, so none of the data should be considered 100% accurate. Keep building high-quality content and backlinks over time to get your ranking to increase.
DA vs PA
Page Authority (PA) is another Moz ranking metric that is very similar with one key different you should remember: PA tells you the importance of a single page and DA tells you the importance of the entire website.
This additional metric can be used to figure out which individual pages on a website are more important than others. PA also matters when it comes to backlinks. A link from a high PA page will improve your PA & DA more than a link would that comes from a low PA page.
When you’re trying to get backlink from a powerful and authoritative domain name, you won’t get the full power possible with a link from a brand new page. However, if you could get a link from an existing page with a higher PA, your site would benefit more.
Moz will use a combination of these factors when determining authority ratings. How the internet connects with itself tells a lot about which domains and pages are more important than others.
A higher PA page is more likely to have a higher search engine ranking, but the content is still the #1 factor.
Using Moz, you’re getting data straight from the source so you know it’s the most up-to-date rating. Their tool is free and doesn’t have any limits on usage, which is great compared to many of the other options. To get started, just type your domain into the search box and click the ‘Analyze domain‘ button.
I want to point out that I’m actually using NeilPatel.com for the example searches in this guide and not SideBacon.com (even though the search bar shows my domain name). SideBacon is a new domain name, less than 40 days old as of the time of writing this article. This blog was actually started earlier this year on a different domain name that I later switched to SideBacon. My DA is only 13 right now, which is actually pretty good for a domain less than 40 days old. A more established domain will provide more results for many of these online tools, so I wanted to use a site other than mine for most examples. I do use this domain for one example later in this guide though.
You can see the basic results that are returned by Moz below. The first number is your Domain Authority rating. They also tell you how many domain names link to your site, the number of keyword phrases with rankings, and a spam score. You want these numbers to be as high as possible except for the spam score, which should be as low as possible.
Below the initial results, Moz gives you even more information about your site. First you’ll see a list of the top pages on your website, based on Page Authority ratings (which is mostly based on inbound links). You’ll also see a list of the highest DA domains that link to your site, but this list could contain “nofollow” links. This info can be especially useful when you’re researching your competitors for backlinks.
Next up is a graph that shows domain name links being discovered and lost each day over the last two months. New websites may only gain links in the beginning, but it’s quite natural to lose them over time. A lot of websites are built and then disappear after a few years, which is why it’s normal to lose links. Don’t freak out if you see this happening to your site, especially when it’s older and more established. This particular domain is almost 25 years old, so it’s expected that some old sites linking to it will go offline over time.
Keywords are listed next. The Top Ranking Keywords on the right aren’t usually helpful, but Keywords by Estimated Clicks can be really useful. This is a combination of keyword rankings, traffic and estimated CTRs used to guess the amount of monthly clicks a site is receiving from specific keywords. It gives you a quick view of the most useful search rankings for the domain name, which is excellent to know for your competition.
Featured Snippets can bring a lot of search traffic for high volume phrases. Check this list for your own site. These top 7 keywords have the most traffic of any keywords where your site has a search ranking, and all of them show a featured snippet. “Yes” in the Owned column means that your site is used as the featured snippet. If you see “No” here for any keywords, check the schema of that page and be sure you’re providing featured snippet markup. You have a good chance to claim ownership and more traffic for these keywords when you target this list.
The graph shown here tells you Keyword Ranking Distribution. It’s a good general overview of your SEO efforts. You can quickly see how many keywords you rank in the top 3, top 10 and in other positions. Your site will start off heavy on the right side of this graph and start spreading to the left as it grows.
It’s always a good idea to know your competitors. The keywords you use on your website will group you with other domains that target many of the same words. It can be tough to get your first rankings when you have to compete with old, high-authority domains. On this list, it is easy to focus on the DA rating for each site, but the most important piece of data here is actually the Visibility rating. The picture below is a good example to use. Facebook is in that list, but it only ranks at 1.59 for visibility. Sure, it’s a high authority website, but the Visibility number tells me that it doesn’t really have a lot of content and search rankings in my niche. I’m more concerned with competitors with a high visibility rating – they will be tough to beat.
The last part of the Moz checker tool lets you know the Google Questions that delivers the most traffic and exposure for this site. These are People Also Ask questions that need to be targeted on your site with a special HTML markup. If you put effort into rankings for these questions, you may want to use this tool to check your progress. Otherwise, it can be more useful to view this info for competitors.
Overall, I’d give the Moz tool a B+ ranking. It gives you the basic info you want with some extra, useful data. However, some of the info returned isn’t very useful most of the time. It’s great to use for quick research or monitoring your DA over time, especially if you don’t want to worry about search limits imposed on other options.
Ahrefs is a really popular website for SEO research. Their backlink checker is great, but it’s full features are locked behind a rather expensive paywall that isn’t really worth it for new sites.
They do have their own authority checker tool that works similar to Moz. However, they use their own metric called “Domain Rating” (DR). In many ways, it is a similar rating metric as Domain Authority, but DR is entirely based on backlinks. DR looks at the total number of domains linking to a site and considers the authority and number of outgoing links for each domain to apply a weight to each link.
With that said, I view DR solely as a backlink power metric while DA can be backlinks and content.
Start using their authority checker by entering your domain:
The small amount of information below is all you get from Ahrefs, but you can click on ‘Top 100 Backlinks‘ to research the inbound links for that site using their normal backlink checker tool (that has limited free usage).
Overall, I rate Ahrefs tool as a C. It’s not completely useless since it uses a unique metric just based on links. However, you’re not actually getting the true DA rating of a site this way and they really don’t give you much data to use.
Neil Patel UberSuggest
The domain I’ve been using for the research examples in this guide, NeilPatel.com, also has their own tool called UberSuggest. I like the brief but useful information that it returns, but it has one major downside. You only get 3 searches per day for free and have to pay to use it more than that. Some of the info returned is also limited for the free version.
Type in your domain or a competitors to get started:
Search options shown to the right of your domain let you search exact URLs or entire domains. You can also change the language and country being targeted, something I don’t see available on most other DA tools.
You’ll first see a traffic overview in the results. It gives you an estimated number of organic keywords that rank for the site along with an estimated amount of monthly organic traffic. Overall, I do not consider these numbers to be very accurate, but they can give you a general idea of the level of traffic on a site if you’re considering a guest blog post.
UberSuggest does provide the real DA rating from Moz. They’ll also tell you a total backlink count along with how many of them are “nofollow” links. This link count is much higher than I’ve seen on any of the other tools, so it makes me wonder about it’s accuracy. It’s quite possible it may not account for lost links over time or just be an estimate.
The data graphs on Neil Patel’s tool are limited to the last four months for free users. In most cases, I don’t see a need for long-term historical data here though. It is still interesting to see how organic traffic has fluctuated for a site recently.
The second graph tells you about your positions in the SERPs. It’s similar to the data that Moz provides, but I like the way this graph displays it and it counts rankings up to 100 (Moz stops at 50). Hover over a bar for a month to see the break down on the number of keywords that rank in a variety of positions.
I really like this next feature – it’s my favorite part of Ubersuggest (just not worth paying for it in my opinion). This list tells you the top pages that get traffic from SEO and social media sites. You can also view these lasts based on the country to see how it changes from one location to the next. I like the social media data found here, something I don’t see on any other other DA checkers. Research competition this way to see what their most popular content has been.
The final table tells you about the best SEO keywords for the website. It’s similar to what you’ll find on Moz but the data is displayed better here, plus it gives you more info than Moz. This is also a good way to research competitors to see which keywords have the biggest impact on their traffic. It can be tough to compete with high authority sites for their top ranking keywords, but when you target less powerful competitors you can sometimes take keyword rankings from them with this strategy.
Overall, I give Neil Patel’s UberSuggest tool a B- rating. The info it returns is great, but the limit of 3 daily searches is rather restrictive for free users.
I’m not a personal user of Loganix, and I was tempted to skip it for this tutorial. It’s the only one that I’ve reviewed on this page that requires an email address to use. You’re still just registering for the free version that has a limit of 10 daily searches and you’ll probably get marketing emails too. I joined with an email I don’t use often so I could check if it’s worth using and pass the info along to you.
It works just like the other tools to start – enter your domain name to get the results:
You’ll be shown a long line of information for your domain. I’ve broken this down into two parts below to make it easier for you to view on this website.
At first glance, I didn’t know what the data in this table really meant. Most of it uses abbreviations as column identifiers and there’s no information on the page about what they mean. Upon closer inspection though, you can see logos that go along with the numbers to indicate what they mean. Loganix seems to aggregate data from a number of different sources to give you all of the relevant authority numbers in one spot.
The first group of data in the picture below contains…
- Moz DA = Domain Authority
- Moz PA = Page Authority
- Ahrefs DR = Domain Rating
- Ahrefs UR = URL Rating
- Majestic TF = Trust Flow (backlink rating from set list of trusted sites)
- Majestic CF = Citation Flow (backlink rating)
- Majestic RATIO = TF / CF Ratio
The second group of data below contains…
- Majestic TTF = Trust Flow scores within Categories
- Ahrefs RD = Referring Domains
Other information in this second group is fairly self-explanatory. This is some of the data that UberSuggest was providing too.
Overall, I give Loginix a B- rating. I like that they give you numbers from three different DA checkers in one place, but it’s annoying to have to provide an email to use it for free (plus the 10 search per day limit doesn’t help).
Website SEO Checker
WebsiteSEOChecker is either run by or simply partnered with SEMRush and Majestic. Results from this tool link up to those sites to provide additional information. However, SEMRush provides limited info for free users, so this particular tool seems to be to generate leads for those other paid services. Start a search by entering your domain on their website.
The information returned by this tool uses a lot of abbreviations that can be confusing at first. You can hover over a column title to see what it means, but I’ve provided a list for you below too:
- TB = Total Backlinks
- QB = Quality Backlinks
- PQ = Percentage of Quality Backlinks
- MT = Moz Trust Score (1-10)
- SS = Spam Score
- OS = Off-Site SEO Score
The only info that Website SEO Checker really tells me that I haven’t found on other tools is the domain age, but that’s not exactly how to find out in other ways.
I mentioned earlier in this guide that I wasn’t using SideBacon’s domain name for the examples because it’s a new site. I included both sidebacon.com and the original domain I used for this blog below. The other site was much older but wasn’t a blog for most of that time. I wanted a relevant domain name for this blog, so SideBacon was born (but this blog is older than the SideBacon domain).
Overall, I give WebsiteSEOChecker’s tool a D rating. I really wouldn’t recommend using it for any reason. Almost all other options are better.
Small SEO Tools
My least favorite option is Small SEO Tools. Searching requires the full URL, as seen below (you can’t just search the domain name itself like all other tools).
The results that are returned are very basic. It’s all data direct from Moz, so you’re much better off using theirs instead of this knock-off version. The “MR” metric here is Moz’s Trust Score.
To make matters even worse, one tiny piece of data is hidden in a separate excel spreadsheet file – a total link count for the site. Why exactly they chose to show the other info except for this one thing and make you download a file to access it? Your guess is as good as mine.
Overall, SmallSEOTools gets an F- rating from me for their Domain Authority checker – I don’t a worse grade to give. Lazy programming and a general lack of data are all major downsides to using it.
Plugin for Chrome
The easiest and fastest way to check DA and PA ratings is with a plugin extension for Chrome that has been made by Moz. Once you download the plugin from the page above, it should get enabled automatically. Refresh the page or visit another website to get the Moz bar to display at the top of your browser.
At first, you won’t see DA & PA data – it will be blank and give you a warning message. Click on the gear icon on the right side of the Moz bar to open the box you see below. Then click on the Sign Up button. You’ll need to create an account on Moz through that page to be able to use this Chrome extension. Once you sign up, you’ll also need to click a link in your email account to verify. Then you can come back to the plugin, click the gear icon again, and click on the Log in link to enter your account credentials.
Once you’re logged into the plugin, you can browse the internet as normal and automatically see the Page Authority Rating, Domain Authority Rating, Spam Score and backlink count for the page you’re viewing.
Overall, I’d give the Moz Chrome plugin tool a rating of B-. It’s easy to use once you get it set up, but it won’t ultimately give you a ton of data. It can be useful when you’re browsing the web looking for sites to target for guest blogging.
Tips to Increase DA & PA
In general, you really shouldn’t put much effort into trying to boost or raise these numbers. Yes, higher numbers are usually better, but they won’t actually bring you search engine rankings.
Focus on the three recommended steps below to get higher PA and DA ratings for your domain:
- Be Patient – The best websites take time to build their PA and DA naturally. Focus on quality and try to be patient to see the results from your efforts.
- Create High-Quality, Keyword Targeted Content – Without great content, other sites won’t want to link to you. Start here or it will be hard to reach your Domain Authority rating goals.
- Build Backlinks from Relevant Websites (Try Guest Blogging) – Use our competitor backlink analysis guide to learn how to find where your competition got their inbound links.