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Anton Marchenko

SEMrush Authority Score Explained

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Anton Marchenko
SEMrush Authority Score Explained

If you’ve used SEMrush before, you may have come across Authority Score. In this article, we’ll explain what Authority Score measures and how it may help you when making marketing decisions.

SEMrush Authority Score is our compound metric used for measuring a domain's or webpage's overall quality and SEO performance. The score is based on many metrics (more details on that below) that represent trustworthiness and authority and uses a neural network and machine learning to ensure the score is always accurate and fresh. 

You can find this score when researching a domain or webpage in Domain Overview, Backlink Analytics, Backlink Audit, or the Link Building Tool on SEMrush.

Showing Authority Score location in semrush data

Check the authority score of your domain with the free website Authority Score checker below.

How Authority Score is Calculated

Authority Score is the result of calculations run by a neural network algorithm that uses machine learning to measure every domain’s authority based on quality, popularity, and backlink signals. 

The calculation is carried out in two steps:

Step 1. Our initial machine learning algorithm uses organic search data, website traffic data, and backlink data to understand the rankings of the most popular and trusted domains on the web.

Step 2. The second algorithm uses backlink data to detect how a website increases or decreases its authority by gaining links. The metrics in this calculation include: 

  • The number of referring domains pointing to the site

  • The authority of each referring domain

  • Follow vs. nofollow links pointing to the site (inbound links)

  • Follow vs. nofollow links pointing away from the site (outbound links)

  • The number of outbound links from each referring domain

  • The total number of backlinks pointing to the site

  • The number of referring IPs pointing to the site

  • The number of referring subnets pointing to the site

The value is measured on a scale from 0 to 100, with the latter being the strongest. The final score is measured in relation to the most authoritative domains. There are only a few domains on the Internet with the highest scores - 99s, 98s, etc.

What is a Good Authority Score?

Authority Score serves as an indicator of the overall quality of a domain or webpage. Looking at the graph below, you may notice that the first domain has more backlinks, referring domains and IPs but its Authority Score is lower than that of the second domain. This means that the backlinks, referring domains and IPs of the latter are simply of better quality - this website seems to be executing a higher quality SEO strategy. 

Website Authority Score comparison Website Authority Score comparison

In general, it may be more convenient to get a link to your website from the second domain, and that link may positively contribute to your website's Authority Score but the necessity for that really depends on your website's industry, niche, and marketing tasks and goals.

Considering that, what number may be called a good Authority Score? Usually, a score of 0 means that a domain is the weakest. But in general, Authority Score is used more for domain comparison, and not for determining how good/bad domains are on an absolute scale. This means you should judge a page or domain’s Authority Score in relation to similar websites in the same or neighboring niches. 

Website Authority Score comparison in SEMrush Backlink Analytics Website Authority Score comparison in SEMrush Backlink Analytics

For example, let’s say you’re trying to build links to a product page on your website that sells cast iron skillets. First, you’ll want to gather your prospects - sites that post content about food and cooking. 

Then, when evaluating these prospects, you should avoid comparing the Authority Score of a small niche blog to the Authority Score of a huge website like foodnetwork.com. 

In turn, you might misjudge the value of a link from a blogger, like in the example below (this is a screenshot of the comparison feature in the Domain Overview report). 

domain overview data

This blog, caseythecollegeceliac.blogspot.com, has a much lower Authority Score than foodnetwork.com. 

However, sometimes a link building prospect with a website that shows a lower Authority Score may be reasonable. Highly competitive niches and websites see higher average Authority Scores, while more low-key niches or websites will have lower average Authority Scores. 

If we compare caseythecollegeceliac.blogspot.com to its closest competitors, we can see that it actually has a higher Authority Score than the rest. In this comparison, it may be a quality, narrow-focused prospect for pitching a topic like “gluten free cast iron skillet recipes,” but it may not work well for a broader topic like “best cast iron recipes.”

Comparing domains and scores example

How to Use Authority Score for SEO

The Authority Score may provide useful data that may help you to improve your link building when looking for quality domains, and to increase your website's authority by tweaking your SEO efforts. Some ways to use Authority Score in your SEO workflow may include:

  • Competitor analysis

  • Judging link building prospects

  • Judging domains you want to buy

  • Tracking the impact of an SEO campaign over time

  • Watching out for negative SEO

In these cases, Authority Score Trend may be handy. It could help you compare how much work a site needs to catch up to its competition or how much potential benefit a new investment or partnership with a website may bring. 

Website Authority Score Trend Website Authority Score Trend

If a domain’s score is upwards, it may be a sign that the site is actively working to improve its online presence and reputation. It may also be a sign of inefficient SEO strategies amongst competitors.

If a domain’s score is downwards, it could mean that the niche the website operates in is very competitive and it is falling behind, the recent site's SEO efforts are ineffective the site may have suffered from a negative SEO attack, etc.

These are just a few reasons that may lead to a drop or rise in Authority Score, the list is not comprehensive. The possible reasons why a domain's Authority Score decreased or increased could be detected only after carrying out a comprehensive analysis of its SEO performance and the actions of its competitors.

Using the SEMrush Link Building Tool For Link Building

In SEMrush’s Link Building Tool, we have a column called “Rating”. It may help you to find niche-specific domains to get links from and, therefore, newly attained links from these domains may become one of the factors that might positively contribute to your website's Authority Score.

Some of the aspects that help us determine a prospect’s rating include:

  • The domain’s quality based on links, keywords, and traffic

  • The domain’s relevance based on common categories

  • The domain’s health based on its own toxic backlinks

SEMrush Authority Score Explained. Image 6

A higher domain rating means there may be a more realistic possibility to attain backlinks than from the ones with the highest Authority Score. 

The table below is from the Link Building Tool, ranking a domain’s link building prospects by Authority Score.

image.png

These sites have really high Authority Scores in the 80s and 90s, but we rate them a 2 out of 5 in terms of Rating. Getting a link from these websites for our project domain (lodgemfg.com) might be difficult, that is why they get a low rating. If we filter by Rating instead of Authority Score, we’ll find prospects we rate the best to have scores ranging between 38 and 53. 

image.png

Out of the domains in this screenshot, jovialfoods.com has the highest Authority Score and therefore may yield the best impact if you could get a backlink from their site to yours. 

How to Increase a Domain's Authority Score

One of the ways that may contribute to the growth of your Authority Score is to get quality backlinks. These can be defined as links from trustworthy domains that are relevant to your site. 

Some strategies may include: 

The following will not directly increase a domain's Authority Score:

  • Receiving more links from a domain that already links to your site

  • Receiving more website traffic

  • Adding more pages to your website

  • Acquiring more organic keyword rankings

  • Acquiring more “nofollow” backlinks

  • Acquiring more UGC or sponsored backlinks

SEMrush Authority Score Explained. Image 9

Should you concentrate on link building only? Remember that Authority Score is a compound metric based on different factors and indicators - you should not rely on one of them individually, including focusing strictly on link building or something else. Gaining a higher Authority Score is always about the cumulative effect of all your SEO efforts. 

In our recent study, we have discovered that domains with better overall keyword rankings had higher Authority Score but that does not mean that you should focus on getting more keywords only.

All your efforts should be in-line with a multipurpose SEO strategy. Gaining keywords that bring traffic to your website is just one of the actions among many you may consider to improve your Authority Score. It is not a magic bullet that will make your score rocket up.

SEMrush Authority Score Explained. Image 10

SEMrush Authority Score FAQ

What is a good website Authority score?

It depends. In general, you cannot call one Authority Score good and another bad. While a score of 0 means that a domain is not the strongest, Authority Score is used more for domain comparison, and not for determining good/bad on an absolute scale. 

What you can do is discover your competitors and then benchmark where their Authority Scores are, and aim for a score that is equal to or above theirs.

As for looking at the trend, we recommend checking whether the domain's Authority Score trend is falling or growing. You can visualize this in the Backlink Analytics or the Backlink Gap tool.

SEMrush Backlink Gap Tool SEMrush Backlink Gap Tool

Why did my score go down?

If a domain’s authority score is going down, it may be the result of the following actions:

  • Your website was outperformed by niche competitors. 
  • Your recent SEO efforts may be less effective.
  • You may have suffered a negative SEO attack.
  • Your backlink profile demands a clean-up from toxic links, etc. 

These are just some actions that may be the reason for Authority Score to go down, the list above is not comprehensive. Moreover, there can be a number of simultaneous reasons for a drop in Authority Score. Each site's case is strictly individual. You should run an in-depth analysis of your website's SEO performance and that of your competitors' to find out the possible reasons why your Authority Score went down. 

Is a low score indicative of a spammy domain?

We can’t say for sure that a low score means that a domain is spammy. When you see a low score, it may mean the site has fewer trust signals than a reputable site may have. We recommend investigating the sites with low scores to find out if they, in fact, appear spammy, or if they are perhaps just brand new websites that are not established yet.

Can Google Penalties affect the score?

Directly, it is very unlikely. Receiving a Google Penalty won’t impact your site’s Authority Score immediately. 

However, after receiving a penalty, we recommend removing and disavowing backlinks in pursuit to lift a penalty and prevent possible negative consequences to your Authority Score. 

Should I report my client’s increase in Authority Score to them in a regular report?

Yes, if you explain to them what it is. Just don’t rely solely on Authority Score for a domain’s overall performance - use it in conjunction with other key metrics like conversions, organic keyword positions, traffic, etc. 

Show your client how their site’s Authority Score compares to other sites in their same niche (remember, it is a comparative metric, not an absolute metric).

Do more backlinks from the same referring domain boost Authority Score? 

No, once you have a backlink from a website, getting more backlinks from the same website will not increase your Authority Score. 

For more link building tips, check out Link Building for SEO: Which Strategies Work in 2020 (and Which Don’t).

Anton Marchenko
SEMrush

SEMrush employee.

I lead the content production for the SEO team at SEMrush. Got my Bachelor's degree in Political Science in the mid-2000s, worked as a journalist, speechwriter, and political consultant, but eventually got into IT and have been happily working in the industry ever since.
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