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Determining the level of authority, or “power”, a site has in regards to SEO is very important. You need to know how strong your competition is in order to determine what it’s going to take to outrank them. In the past you could look at the Google Toolbar PageRank that Google publicly disclosed. It provided a rough indicator of authority, but even that was often times determine site authorityway off. You would see sites with a PageRank of 0 outranking sites with a PageRank of 5 or more on a regular basis (for example). Google no longer updates their PageRank though.

The total number of backlinks to the ranking page was something that used to be focused on in a big way as well. The only problem with that was, and is, that quality was far more important than quantity. However, up until a few years ago the quantity of backlinks was much more important to Google in determining authority than it is today. So the overall backlink quantity to the ranking page has also been “thrown out the window” as an authority indicator.

That leads us to the present state of SEO. What is the most effective way to determine the authority of a website?

Since the beginning of search engines, the best way to determine the authority of a website is to analyze the sites that rank for any given keyword and determine what they have in common! When this is done you have a lot of BIG data to analyze. So the goal is to figure out the most simple metrics you can that are consistent with the top Search Engine results.

As you may know, I love SEO! I love data analysis too. So I’m always testing and comparing data to figure out what works and what doesn’t. What I have found to be the most effective way to determine the authority of a website for the average Internet Marketer, without getting too complicated and technical, is to look at the MOZ Domain Authority (DA) of the domain, and the total number of unique domains linking to the site (not just to the ranking page).

The DA of a domain is determined by multiple factors that MOZ looks at in order to determine how likely the site is to rank in Google’s search results. If I want to get a general idea of a site’s authority, this is what I look at.

The total number of unique domains linking to a site, in itself, is too raw to give any more than a rough idea of a sites authority. But when analyzing keyword competition, it is very powerful! Simply plug a keyword into Google and then find the total number of domains linking to each of the top 10 results. If you find a site that has 100 or less, great! If you find one with 50 or less, even better. If you find one with 15 or less, you’ve found GOLD (if the keyword has much search volume).

Keep in mind, the quality over quantity factor remains. The quality of the referring domains is a big factor to both the DA and the ability to rank with fewer referring domains. So if you find a keyword that has a top 10 competitor with 25 unique domains linking to it, 26 isn’t necessarily going to beat it. But if you get 26 solid links, you have a very good chance at it! (Reaching out to site owners in my niche and offering a unique article in exchange for a link at the end of the article to my site often results in mid to high-level links for me.)

This is how I do my own simple, quick and accurate keyword research and it works! I eventually achieve top-10 rankings for most of the keywords I choose to target as a result of using this method.

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