January 26, 2023 (Updated: May 4, 2023)
If you work with SEO, you know it can be a numbers game. Though you’re trying to appeal to your audience and searchers, you still have to play the right technical cards to get Google to pay attention to you. That’s why SEO metrics are so popular with marketers and strategists. These little numbers help you understand how your SEO strategies are working and what you can do to improve them. Today, we’re looking at a battle between domain authority vs page authority metrics to decide which one is a better predictor for how your content performs in search:
Domain authority (DA) is an SEO metric that predicts how well a website will rank on a search engine results page (SERP). A variety of SEO factors influence your scores, like link quality, domain age, and the number of inbound and outbound links you have on your site. Your DA score can range anywhere from one to 100. A larger number typically shows you have a better chance of ranking higher on a SERP.
Page authority (PA) is an SEO metric that predicts how well a specific page will rank in search. Moz determines PA based on data collected from its web index. It accounts for dozens of factors and uses machine learning to make a calculation based on predictions from analyzing thousands of SERPs. Your PA score for any page ranges from one to 100. Higher scores typically correspond with a better chance of ranking on a SERP for that page’s target keywords.
Though not the same metric, DA and PA have many characteristics in common, like:
Moz, an SEO software company, developed both the domain authority and page authority ranking metrics to help users predict search engine ranking. These are just two of the over 55 SEO tools the company offers to help brands and content creators improve their search visibility. Though other services like Ahrefs and SEMRush offer these metrics and scores within their SEO analysis programs now, Moz did it first.
Page authority and domain authority both use a scale of one to 100 to calculate your predictive scores. In most cases, a score of one means you have a brand-new website or page. An extremely low score could also mean your content needs work to become more competitive in search. Most sites and pages never reach a perfect score of 100. That’s reserved for big-name websites, like Google, or the most popular and informative content pages on the web. Most DA and PA scores fall between 20 and 80 on the scale.
Both calculations use a logarithmic scale. In math, this type of scale shares a vast amount of data in a condensed format. Essentially, everything your DA and PA scores calculate shouldn’t be able to fit neatly on a number line. But they can with a logarithmic scale. On this type of scale, the closer you get to its high end, the bigger the gap between each number.
For PA and DA, that means the closer you get to 100, the harder it is to increase your score. It may be easy to jump from one to 10, but not as easy to move your score from 70 to 71.
Programs calculate page authority and domain authority in the same way, just on different levels. DA calculates the score across your domain and all its properties. PA calculates your score for an individual page on that domain. Moz is vague when describing exactly how it calculates DA and PA, but it’s clear that it uses the same information and machine learning models to get the scores for both.
We also know that the machine learning calculations for both rely on a variety of data points from across your SEO profile. When these data points change (sometimes daily) it causes fluctuations in your PA and DA scores. Both scores relate to all the other domains and pages on the internet, too. When the most authoritative domains or pages—like ones from Amazon or Google—increase their SEO or link profiles, less authoritative sites decrease in relation. Moz then adjusts everyone’s scores accordingly.
Neither PA nor DA is a direct search engine ranking factor. Having a high or low score for either metric doesn’t mean your domain or page will or won’t automatically rank in its niche or for its desired keywords on Google. Instead, both scores are predictive measures. The scores only estimate if you could rank better on SERPs. Since neither is a direct ranking factor, your scores are relative. You should look at the DA or PA scores for your closest industry and content competitors and see what the range is for your niche or topic.
If your domain or page falls within the same range as your competitors, you’re doing well. Even if your PA is 25 out of 100. If your score is lower than the industry average, you need to do some work on your SEO to make your pages or domain more competitive in search. If your scores are much higher than those of your competitors, congratulations. Your team is killing its SEO game.
Moz has tools that allow you to check both your DA and PA for free online. The PA checker exists under the name Link Explorer. To find the PA for any page, simply enter a URL into the box and click the “Get free link data” button. You need to create a free Moz account to view the results.
Link Explorer shows you the PA of the exact page URL you entered and the DA of its domain. It also gives you information about linking domains, inbound links, and ranking keywords. With this free program, you can only run 10 queries per month. If you’re looking to do a more extensive analysis, you may consider a different free tool or spring for Moz’s paid version.
Moz also offers a free Domain Authority Checker that provides more domain-specific data. It also lists your top seven pages by links and their PA. This program limits users to three reports per day but doesn’t require a Moz account to get your results. Outside of Moz, Ahrefs offers a Domain Authority Checker that provides data for its domain rating (DR) metric, similar to domain authority. SmallSEOTools has a Page Authority Checker and a bulk Domain Authority Checker. If none of these tools fit your needs, a simple Google search for page or domain authority checker brings up more results.
If page authority and domain authority were the same things, they’d have the same name. Here are the biggest differences between the two metrics:
The biggest difference between these two metrics is what they measure. PA predicts the chance of a single page ranking in search. DA predicts the likelihood of any page from your domain and its subdomains ranking in search. That’s it. Really. It’s that simple. PA is more specific, so it can help you decide how to prioritize SEO optimizations to get a better organic ranking for individual content. These actions influence and raise your DA score by association.
Even though DA and PA programs calculate the scores similarly and they use the same scale, DA scores are often higher than PA scores. Domain authority uses calculations from across your domain to calculate your score. This means the program crawls and combs all your pages, your subdomains, and other related content to come up with that number. Your page authority score relies on the data from, yes, just one page.
The more available data the program combs through, the higher the potential score. Think of it like taking a test in school. If you take a five-question quiz and miss two questions, you’re going to get a “C” on it. But if you miss two questions on a 50-point test, you get an “A” on that assignment. Don’t get discouraged if most of your pages fall between 20 and 40 on the PA scale, especially for newer content. It doesn’t mean your pages stink.
Yep. You read that right. Domain authority analysis and scoring actually put more emphasis on on-page SEO factors than page authority calculations do. Moz does not take on-page SEO elements like keyword usage and content optimization into consideration when calculating PA. It does for DA. The company doesn’t give a straightforward answer for why, but we can speculate.
Likely, looking at on-page factors at the page level would give certain pages an unfair ranking advantage. They’d take away from an “even playing field” so to speak, since PA scores are all relative to one another. With DA, since there is much more data to collect and analyze, stellar optimization on one page won’t throw an entire calculation out of whack.
When deciding whether to look at your PA or DA numbers for SEO, it’s important to consider what you want to learn during your analysis. Do you want to see how a specific page is performing? Or do you want to know how well your brand does in search overall? If you’re looking for more general information, DA is a better metric option. It gives you a comprehensive view of the niches where your content appears and how your brand stacks up overall to competitors online.
If you want to learn more about how specific content appears in search or what keywords or specific page ranks for, PA is a better metric to look at. It gives more in-depth information on the page level, which you can compare to your other pages or specific pieces of competitor content. No matter whether you look at one or both metrics during your SEO analysis, it’s important to remember that both PA and DA are comparative metrics. Because they’re not direct ranking factors, you shouldn’t have an arbitrary “goal” score in mind that you’re trying to hit.
Instead, look at the PA and DA scores for your top competitors to get an idea of the range for your niche. Again, like most other analyses, PA and DA work better together. The more you understand how your pages rank individually, the more insight you get about how your domain ranks. It also helps to use PA and DA scores with other SEO metrics to get a better idea of not just how your website and content might appear in search, but how they actually do.
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While we know it’s important to think about the numbers when working with SEO, they’re not the only things that matter in analysis. Data without context can throw your strategy into a tailspin. It’s important to know the “what” associated with your marketing strategy and that comes from the numbers. But you also need to know the “why.” Why is my score so high or low?
To take that a step further, you need to understand the factors that influenced the why. When you can find and analyze all these pieces of your SEO, you’ll get a better understanding of your performance and how it can shape your strategy moving forward.
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