Can You Trust the Site Authority Metric?

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Vanity metrics can be really effective at either making you feel good or making you feel bad about a website’s performance. And, depending on how these metrics are calculated, they may or may not be based on meaningful factors for your website.

More than one SEO platform offers a site authority type of metric that attempts to tell you how good or bad your website is compared to others like it, or over a period of time.

Domain Authority (DA) is one such metric offered by Moz. Semrush has an Authority Score as well.

For users of platforms like these, it can be a handy metric at first glance and is certainly a well-liked feature. There is nothing wrong with these metrics, per se, and it’s clear a lot of thought has gone into creating them.

However, too many people mistakenly believe that search engines like Google value these metrics. They try and try to improve their DA or other site authority score, thinking that doing so will boost their rankings in search. If that’s you, let me save you some time: Google does not use DA or any other third-party metric in its algorithms.

As with any data point you might glean from analytics, wisdom must be applied.

And there’s always more to the story.

The Story behind a Site Authority Metric

There is a long history behind the idea of a single site authority metric. This Search Engine Journal article does a good job of chronicling it, so I can just summarize it here.

Basically, years and years ago (from 1999 on), hypotheses began to form about some overall site authority measurements that Google might use for ranking. This idea became associated with Google’s PageRank.

As Barry Schwartz pointed out in the SEJ article, the concept of a domain authority metric is useful to SEOs only “as a catch-all for all the quality signals that Google uses.” It’s based on the tool maker’s or SEO’s best understanding of what determines overall website quality. But it isn’t a Google formula, and it definitely isn’t a ranking signal.

Let me explain …

First, the SEO tools that use these metrics have developed a set of factors that they believe can impact a website’s ability to rank based on industry knowledge and occasional folk tales.

However, there are hundreds of factors in Google’s actual algorithms, which may or may not coincide with the SEO platform’s assessment of what it takes to rank or what is considered quality. (And Google is constantly tweaking those factors.)

Some people also may not understand that the Domain Authority metric does not come from Google, nor does Google use it in any ranking algorithms. It’s simply a feature of some SEO tools out there.

Google’s John Mueller had a cheeky response to a Reddit thread in which the user asked if domain authority existed:

John Mueller's response to a Reddit thread asking if domain authority exists.

The Truth about Google and Site Authority

Of course, Google does have a collection of factors it uses to determine the authority and quality of a website and its webpages. But it has never been confirmed that there is a single site authority metric that Google uses.

Instead, when it comes to the authority of a website, Google outlines several factors it takes into account in its Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines:

1. The authority of the content creator
2. The authority of the content itself
3. The authority of the website as a whole

Links and mentions are very likely to be a part of this, but maybe not all.

(Related: Complete Guide to the Fundamentals of Google’s E-A-T)

Secondly, and building on the first point, the search is extremely complex. Search engines essentially apply a different algorithm to each search query, with different factors and weights based on the intent of the search.

(Related: SEO Should Beat the Competition, Not the Algorithm)

It is far more important to understand how to compete and win (and how you are tracking) for each individual query you’re targeting than to get an arbitrary number related to how good or bad your website is as a whole.

(Related: What Is a Whole SERP SEO Strategy?)


You might wonder why I’m beating a dead horse since Google representatives and others have repeatedly denied that the search engine uses DA or any other single metric for site authority.

The reason is that people continue to use this type of site authority score as a vanity metric for various use cases. For example, to sell links, domains, or try to pull the wool over someone’s eyes about their so-called services.

The problem is that it’s a made-up number that may or may not reflect a website’s true quality or its ability to rank.

So, the bottom line is: When reviewing performance reports, make sure you really understand the numbers you are looking at, what they actually mean, and if they reflect true performance.

This is true for any report generated on a website from any analytics or SEO platform and especially true for a site authority metric.

Again, there is nothing wrong with SEO technology companies wanting to create metrics their users might like. It is how the users understand those metrics and take action on them that is important.

And unfortunately, some metrics are just vanity metrics that don’t offer a true picture of performance or specific steps to take. That is where both discernment and SEO experience come into play.

Let us know how we can help you. If you’re interested in expert assistance with your website SEO, here’s where you can start the conversation.

FAQ: How does the concept of site authority metrics impact website ranking and quality?

Site authority metrics are pivotal in determining website ranking and overall quality. These metrics, such as Domain Authority and Authority Score, indicate a website’s credibility and influence within its niche.

Site authority metrics are not merely arbitrary numbers; they reflect the culmination of various factors that establish a website’s reputation. These factors include the quality of content, backlinks, user engagement, and industry relevance. A higher site authority metric often correlates with improved ranking potential and enhanced visibility on search engine result pages.

Search engines like Google value authoritative and trustworthy sources. When a website boasts a high authority metric, search engines are more likely to consider it a reliable source of information. As a result, the website is positioned prominently in search results, driving organic traffic and elevating its online presence.

The concept of site authority metrics is intertwined with the quality of a website’s content and user experience. Websites consistently producing valuable, relevant, and authoritative content tend to attract more backlinks, shares, and engagement. This virtuous cycle enhances the site’s authority metric and delivers valuable information to users.

For website owners and digital marketers, understanding the dynamics of site authority metrics is essential. To boost site authority and subsequently improve ranking and quality, focus on these actionable steps:

  1. Create High-Quality Content: Craft informative, original, and authoritative content that addresses users’ needs.
  2. Build Quality Backlinks: Foster genuine connections within your industry to earn high-quality backlinks.
  3. Enhance User Experience: Ensure a seamless, user-friendly website interface that encourages engagement and sharing.
  4. Leverage Social Proof: Showcase endorsements and testimonials to establish credibility and authority.
  5. Monitor and Adjust: Regularly track site authority metrics, adapt strategies, and refine your approach based on data insights.

Site authority metrics wield substantial influence over website ranking and quality. By strategically aligning efforts with these metrics and focusing on delivering value, website owners can pave the way for enhanced visibility, credibility, and user satisfaction.

Step-by-Step Procedure to Maximize Site Authority Metrics’ Impact on Website Ranking and Quality:

  1. Understand the fundamentals of site authority metrics and their significance.
  2. Evaluate your current site authority metric through tools like Moz or Semrush.
  3. Audit your website’s content to ensure it is informative, valuable, and authoritative.
  4. Identify opportunities to create comprehensive, well-researched content on industry-related topics.
  5. Develop a link-building strategy that prioritizes high-quality, relevant backlinks.
  6. Foster relationships with other authoritative websites for potential collaboration.
  7. Optimize on-page elements, such as title tags, meta descriptions, and headers, for SEO.
  8. Enhance user experience through intuitive navigation and fast-loading pages.
  9. Encourage user engagement through interactive elements and social sharing options.
  10. Leverage social proof, such as user reviews and endorsements, to establish credibility.
  11. Regularly monitor site authority metrics and track improvements over time.
  12. Analyze user behavior and adjust content strategy based on user preferences.
  13. Stay updated with search engine algorithm changes and adapt strategies accordingly.
  14. Continuously refine and optimize your website’s content and user experience.
  15. Collaborate with industry influencers to amplify your website’s authority.
  16. Participate in relevant online discussions and forums to establish thought leadership.
  17. Conduct outreach campaigns to earn high-quality backlinks from reputable sources.
  18. Implement schema markup to enhance search engine visibility and credibility.
  19. Embrace data-driven decision-making by analyzing website performance metrics.
  20. Stay committed to delivering value and relevance to your audience, ensuring sustainable growth in site authority metrics, website ranking, and overall quality.

This article was updated on December 22, 2023.  

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (5)
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!

5 Replies to “Can You Trust the Site Authority Metric?”

Very helpful. Looking forward to learn more from your website and give me some ideas!
Thank you!

The matrix is the representation of the website whether it is good or bad. Many people believe the site matrix because of it you can easily compare multiple sites in a short time. This blog is really knowledgeable.

After a long time, I found your website which gives detailed information about every SEO topic.
Very helpful. Looking forward to learn more from your website and give me some ideas!
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Being an authority regularly implies being a broadly perceived forerunner in your field or business area, and that is exceptionally helpful when the objective is to rank well naturally.

Great site pages ought to inspire significant collaborations with clients. Parts of those cooperations might be measured through commitment measurements like time on page, skip rate, normal meeting length, etc

John Muller just tweeted that they do have their own tools to check the website, metrics. It’s hard to confirm that there is Site Authority, but I believe it does affect the site healthy direct or indirect way.
Thank you for sharing this helpful article!


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