Domain Authority vs Which One Carries More Weight?

Nov 22, 2011   //   by Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe   //   SEO Blog  //  19 Comments

what makes domain authorityA lot has been said about domain authority and its influence on your search engine rankings – whatever the keyword.

The topic of domain authority has been of interest to me for a while now for two reasons:

  1. I want higher rankings with less work for everything I publish on Traffic Generation Cafe.
  2. As an affiliate marketer, I want for my reviews of products to be ranked above all others.

And who doesn’t, right?

That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today and it’s not because I have the answers, by the way; rather, I want to see what you think and if you agree with my conclusions on the importance of domain authority.

What is Domain Authority?

Domain authority represents the overall “strength” of your website over time.

What Influences Domain Authority?

  • Time
  • Links from established authority sites
  • Social media presence (tweets, likes, plus ones, etc.)

It’s extremely important to note that authority affects the ENTIRE domain.

Any newly-published page on an authority domain has the potential to rank from day one without much link building effort.

And that’s exactly what brings me to the core thought of this post…

Trusted Domain Authority vs New

Let’s say you are about to start a marketing campaign for a new product you’d like to promote.

Do you set up a brand new keyword-rich (most likely product name) domain or do you set up a page within your existing authority domain with the same keyword-rich permalink?

Ranking in Google organic results for a new domain within a short period of time is just about impossible.

However, leaning on the existing authority of an established site just might give you the edge to show up on that first page very quickly.

Here’s where it gets tricky though: I’ve seen it go both ways.

Allow me to give you a couple of examples.


Keyword “list building tips

ranking for list building tips

When performing a search with Google Incognito (the best way I found to get the least “biased” results from Google), my post on list building tips ranks #2 out of some 137M results.

Interesting thing though is that I never intended for this post to rank for this keyword.

As a matter of fact, I tried to get it ranked for a different keyword quite persistently, targeting all my on-page optimization for that keyword, as well as building some strong links with keyword-rich anchor text.

And yet, the post quickly ranked for “list building tips” and not really for my targeted keyword.


The only thing that connected my blog post to “list building tips” was the slug:

Of course, I since then reoptimized my post for the new keyword, making sure I kept my accidental rankings and my post still remains at the top of Google.


Keyword “traffic generation

ranking for traffic generation

Click on image to enlarge

This is a screenshot from my trusted Market Samurai, which shows my blog currently ranking in spot #2 for “traffic generation”.

Which site is ranking #1? Exact match domain.

If you take a look at the stats in the screenshot, the only thing that site has on me is age; my blog looks a lot stronger for all other indicators like link building, on-page optimization, etc.

So does it mean that they have domain authority purely because it’s an older domain or because of the keywords in the domain?

You tell me.

By the way, it’s nice to see Wikipedia trailing behind in spot #3 for a change. I wouldn’t be surprised if they push me down though.

Marketing Takeaway

As I said in the beginning of this post: I didn’t write it because I knew, rather because I didn’t.

Do you?

In your experience, is it easier to rank a page on an existing authority site or a brand new keyword-rich (or even better, exact match) domain?

Your best guess will be fine as well.

Image source: Don Moyer on Flickr

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Ana | Traffic Generation Cafe

Traffic, traffic, traffic... Can't do without it, but don't know how to get it? Ana does, and she freely shares her best advice on how to increase web traffic on her Traffic Generation Cafe blog. And don't forget to pick up Ana's 7 Steps to Complete Search Engine Domination free SEO report while you are at it - stop hoping for more search engine traffic and go get it!

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Comment Policy

  • Yoj says:

    Hey Ana,
    As a blogger, your objectives is the same as mine. Are you really sharing this kind of strategies in your article? I cannot believe it. :D. But you are a good man for sharing this tips. It is a raw material for my blogging job. Thanks.

  • Tessa says:

    For several keywords i have noticed that most authority site Wikipedia ranks #03 and the site with keyword-rich domain ranks at top position. So Google looks for more signals along with authority such as keyword-rich domain, social signals etc. And also it is easy to remember the site with keyword rich domain names.

  • Shiva

    Well, this is rather a totally confusing question but still if I had to come to conclusion as to which would rank better, I would say Authority domains, since Google already sees these kind of sites as an authority so whatever gets posted in these blogs get better ranking and I think when we build links towards these posts then the posts can rank on top for these keywords.

    • Ana

      I am definitely leaning in that direction as well, Shiva.

      It just makes more sense.

      For instance, my today’s blog post ranked on Google in #2 position after news within an hour. I am sure it’s because of my site’s authority, since the only links to the post were from social media shares – not very valuable.

  • Kevin says:

    Some sites which I compete against on any one of my sites are always up against those 15 year old domains. I might have more and better inbound links, better keywords, content, etc, but they still hit that #1 spot due to domain authority. It’s frustrating, but I believe that the new Google updates are making ways for those who follow best practice constantly and consistently to break through old, crummy domains lacking everything.

    I have seen the scraper sites and stagnant ones beginning to die off in order for those who responsibly use social networks, blogging, etc to take their place. You might not have the domain age, but with other high ranking factors involved in your site, I think you can edge the old farts out. It just takes some patience for you to prove to Google that you can keep the routine up, as well.

    • Ana

      I agree with you, Kevin – Google still gives a lot of weight to the factors, like age and ignores the relevancy or freshness.

      Of course, with their recent Google Fresh update, we all hope things will change.

  • Frank says:

    The problem is, the search engines keep changing the goal posts. I have this pretty random way of getting my keywords ranked – loosely based on the old 3 to 6 percent keyword density model. I must say though, on the few occasions where (parts of) my domain name is included in the search string, I have seen that I positively outrank the competition. It’s definitely something I will experiment with.

  • Steve Jones

    Exact match domains have almost always given a huge ranking boost and that has not changed. We are selling keyword domains to developers at the same level as we have in the past despite Panda and other Google updates because they still work.

  • Jon

    Excellent strategy. I think that it’s easier in a niche site to add a new category for a product promotion with quality content rather than starting a 3-5 page mini-site 100% focused on that product. An added benefit doing this in an established site is the ease of internal linking.

  • Marbella says:

    Good written Ana, you are absolutely right that it is better to open a new page on the existing website. But it is also important that you have to have the keywords in the title and description like you have in you “list building tips” to get the best ranking.

  • Jon Cooper

    Regardless of which one is better, you should be focusing on DA because it’s much more future proof. Google has always put a ton of weight on exact match domains, but in the future that might change – what won’t change is Google’s growing love for brands, so try and become one.

  • […] my existing domain authority and a few quick links, they both showed up on the first page that very day (I didn’t take a […]

  • Hiren Modi

    Good to know about domain authority. I am working on link building campaign for my eCommerce website. I have compile one excel sheet which helping me to know about page rank and alexa rank. I am pro member on SEOmoz and come to know about domain authority. So, which one is best figure to justify during link building campaign? Can I focus more on domain authority rather than page rank or alexa rank?

    • Ana

      I do find that I rely more on domain authority numbers, Hiren.

      Since PR doesn’t get updated often enough, those numbers are pretty much out of date the second they are posting, whereas domain authority is constantly updated and I find it to be a pretty good reflection of the current state of any site.

  • Sasha says:

    I only try to buy exact match domains and I’ll tell you little “secret”.
    There’s a tool called KeyDomainTool that helps you find exact match domains very fast.
    But if you ask me, I think domain age is more important than exact match.

  • Jamy Hoster

    Well I think domain name with keyword have less hard work to get on top of search engines.