How to increase your website authority: a data-backed study
You know you need a good website domain authority (Domain Rating) to rank well in the SERPs.
But do you know:
- What is a “good” website domain authority?
- How can you (quickly) increase it?
- Why should you increase it?
Using data from the 49 SaaS businesses with the fastest growing Domain Rating (DR) in the last two years, we find out.
Website authority, Domain Rating, and Domain Authority defined
Before we dive into the study, let’s briefly cover the definitions. Website authority is an SEO term used to measure a website's strength and predict how well it will rank in the SERPs.
Domain Authority and Domain Rating are metrics created by Moz and Ahrefs, respectively. The metrics score a website from 1 to 100 based on how well it will perform in the SERPs and can be measured with various online DA authority checker tools; the higher you score, the better you should rank.
While both metrics are unique, they both measure the authority of a website to offer predictions of how well it will rank in its competitive landscape.
How we measure Domain Rating (or Website Authority)
We’ve used Ahref’s Domain Rating (DR) metric for our study, so we’ll stick with their definition and calculations. Ahrefs “measures the relative strength of a site’s backlink profile compared to every other site in their index” by analysing:
- How many websites link to your site
- The Domain Rating for the websites linking to your site
- How many websites link to each referring domain
This study aims to determine how the SaaS companies in our sample increased their Domain Rating in a short period and what organic benefits they got as a result of their hard work.
There are tons of great articles available online (like this, this, and this) explaining how to increase your DR, but we wanted to use data to answer this question for companies looking for actionable ways to get started on their SEO journey.
For this reason, the study analyses businesses that have successfully increased their Domain Rating in a relatively recent and short period. The goliath brands that may have spent years (and thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of dollars!) to achieve this goal were excluded.
To gather our sample, we headed to GetLaka and compiled a list of SaaS businesses founded within the last two years (as of June 2022). This yielded 499 SaaS companies. Next, we used Ahrefs to find the current DR for these companies. The sample we selected is the 10% with the highest DR. This shaved our selection to 49 SaaS companies that significantly increased their DR in a recent and short period.
We first used Ahrefs for the quantitative data, analysing the following core metrics for the 49 domains to find out what these companies had done to increase their DR:
- Number of referring domains
- Average Domain Rating for the referring domains
- Median Domain Rating for the referring domains
- Organic traffic
- Organic pages
Once we had this information, we applied good ol’ fashioned elbow grease to dig into edge cases and uncover juicy titbits that you can implement in your link-building strategy today.
Our data gurus crunched the numbers. Our content whizz’s then transformed the thousands of rows of spreadsheet data into actionable insights. All of this shows you exactly how to increase your DR — and why you should.
How to increase your Domain Rating
To kick-start our analysis of the 49 SaaS businesses, we took a high-level look at some of the common questions about how to increase DR:
- Do more referring domains really mean a higher Domain Rating?
- How many referring domains does that mean?
- Does the Domain Rating of the referring domains actually matter?
- What’s the optimal Domain Rating for your referring domains?
- How quickly can you increase your Domain Rating?
- Does a higher Domain Rating mean more traffic and organic pages?
Using these questions as a launch point, we analysed how long the 49 SaaS businesses had taken to increase their DR and the corresponding results in terms of organic traffic and ranked pages.
Do more referring domains really mean a higher Domain Rating?
Read any blog on Domain Rating, and you’ll find out that your DR is directly related to the number of referring domains you have.
Heck, it’s how Ahrefs calculates it.
But what can our group of high-achieving SaaS teach us about the volume of referring domains and its impact on Domain Rating?
We calculated the average DR of our SaaS companies and the average number of referring domains between May 2021 and May 2022. We analysed whether the DR increased when the number of referring domains increased.
As you’d expect, we ascertained that as the average number of referring domains increases, the DR also increases:
Graph one: Average number of Referring Domains versus Average Domain Rating
There’s no huge surprise here, so let’s keep digging.
How many referring domains does that mean?
Let's look a little closer at the graph above. We can see that the companies with a DR of 38 have amassed just over 800 referring domains during the 12-month period. While companies with a DR of nearly 60 got more than 2000 referring domains in the same period.
It’s not an exact science, but this indicates the volume of links you may need to reach a DR in the high 30s (spoiler alert: you’ll see why this number’s important later!)
But is this true for all the domains? Does this relationship hold true for the domains in our group with the highest year-over-year growth rate?
Let’s look at the SaaS with the fastest growing DR from our sample. This rocketship experienced a whopping 4000+% growth in DR from May 2021 to May 2022.
Graph two: Domain One Average number of Referring Domains versus Average Domain Rating
We can see the DR increases as the number of referring domains increases. In fact, in one year, the average DR increased from 1 to 55, and the average number of referring domains increased from 40 to over 600.
Another company also experiencing hyper-growth increased their DR by a massive 2000+% from May 2021 to May 2022.
Their average DR increased from 2.9 to 55, and the number of referring domains increased from 3 to 518 in the 12 months.
Graph three: Domain two average number of Referring Domains versus Average Domain Rating
Both hyper-growth SaaS companies got more than 500 referring domains in the same period, achieving DRs of 55 and a growth rate of 4000+% and 2000+%, respectively.
Not bad for a year's work.
Interestingly, if we compare their results with the aggregated data of the 49 SaaS companies in graph one, the two top guns achieved the same DR but with significantly fewer referring domains than the overall group average.
- The individual hyper-growth companies needed 500+ referring domains to achieve a Domain Rating of 55
- The group average showed that 1900 referring domains also achieved a Domain Rating of 55
What did these two high-flyers do so much better than the rest?
We’ll soon see that it’s not only the number of domains that counts— the quality of those domains also directly impacts the DR.
Key takeaway: Your DR will increase as you get more referring domains. On average, expect to need at least 800 referring domains to achieve a DR of 38 or 2000+ for a DR of 58.
Does the Domain Rating of the referring domains actually matter?
Our SaaS sample has shown that the more referring domains you get, the higher your DR grows. Nothing mind-blowingly new yet.
But, we also know that some of our SaaS companies had fewer referring domains yet achieved an equally high DR.
How important are the DRs of the referring domains? Let’s delve a little deeper into the data and find out.
We’ll start by looking at the three companies in our sample with the fastest growing DR.
Graph four: Average Domain Ratings of the referring domains of our Top Three domains in the dataset
For our three top dogs:
- More than 30% of their referring domains are from businesses with a Domain Rating higher than 30.
- And the SaaS company with the fewest referring domains (slightly over 30) had 60% of its referring domains with a Domain Rating of more than 30.
Now let us compare this to the whole group.
Looking at the graph below, we can see the sample DR growth rate as a percentage from May 2021 to May 2022 versus the average DR of the referring domains.
The trendline shows that companies with referring domains with higher DRs have a faster DR growth rate. This indicates that if the average DR is 25 for the referring domains, the growth of the SaaS sample company is negligible within the 12-month period. In contrast, for those with referring domains with an average of 28+, we see a growth rate of between 10% and 160% for the same period.
Graph five: Year-over-Year growth rate from May 2021 to May 2022 versus Average DR of Referring Domains
We split our sample into sub-groups to understand what the companies with the fastest growth were doing differently. Our sub-groups are:
- Hyper growth: Domain Rating increased more than 100%
- High growth: Domain Rating increased 50 - 100%
- Medium growth: Domain Rating increased 10 - 50%
- Low growth: Domain Rating increased by less than 10%
In the table below, we can see the 19 domains in our hyper and high growth sub-groups. The average DR of the referring domains was 31.
Graph six: Growth Rate from May 2021 to May 2022 and Average DR of Referring Domains for Hyper Growth and High Growth Domains
In contrast, the average DR of referring domains for medium and low growth companies was 26.
Graph seven: Growth Rate from May 2021 to May 2022 and Average DR of Referring Domains for Medium and Low Growth Domains
One may assume that the difference between 26 and 31 is small enough to be ignored, but it makes a significant difference. To supercharge your DR, your referring domain’s DR should be considered. Aim for websites with a DR higher than 30.
Key takeaway: If you want to increase the growth rate of your DR, aim to get referring domains with DR 30+.
- What’s the benefit of increasing your Domain Rating?
- Does a higher Domain Rating mean more traffic and organic pages?
How quickly can you increase your Domain Rating?
How quickly can I increase my DR? Let’s see how the data answers this million-dollar question!
Looking at the graph below, we can see a quarter-over-quarter increase in the average number of referring domains and the average DR.
We analysed the quarterly growth rate of referring domains and the corresponding change in the DR. On average, we see a 9% increase in the DR for a 30% increase in referring domains.
Graph eight: Growth Rate of number Referring Domains versus Growth Rate of Domain Rating
Key takeaway: Increase your referring domains by 30% per quarter for a 9% increase in DR.
Does a higher Domain Rating mean more traffic and organic pages?
The analysis clearly shows that the more referring domains you acquire, the higher your DR. It also shows that the SaaS companies with the fastest growing DR had a higher percentage of higher-quality referring domains.
Simply put, the number and quality of referring domains positively affects your DR.
This begs the question, “why do you need to increase your DR, especially when Google states it’s not even a ranking factor?”
How much truth is in the statement that a higher DR means more traffic, more keyword ranking, and more organic pages?
Let’s consider the 49 domains from our datasets and check whether the increase in DR impacted their increase in organic traffic.
Graph nine shows the average DR and the average organic traffic. The trend indicates a positive relationship between these two metrics for our sample period.
Simply put, as the DR increases, the organic traffic to the pages increases.
Graph nine: Average Domain Rating versus Average Organic Traffic May 2021 to May 2022
Remember we discussed the average number of links companies needed to get a DR in the late 30s? Based on this analysis, if you can do it, your traffic is likely to start increasing.
The research indicates a real sweet spot around a 40 - 50 DR. But if you can reach the lofty heights of DR 55+, you’re off to the races.
Key takeaway: Aim to get your DR over 35 for the highest increase in organic traffic.
Organic pages in the SERPs
We see an interesting trend when we look at all relationships between the average number of organic pages and the average DR across our group of 49 SaaS.
The trend line highlights that the number of organic pages increases as the DR increases.
Graph ten: Average Domain Rating versus Average Organic Pages from May 2021 to May 2022
Like organic traffic, we can see a clear upward trend and an uptick in the late 30s (this number crops up again and again). And again, once companies reach the early-mid 40s, they see a real return on their SEO investment in terms of the number of pages ranked.
Key takeaway: Aim to get your DR to over 35 for the highest increase in organic page ranking.
Thanks for reading our data-backed analysis on increasing your DR. Based on the 49 SaaS companies analyzed, here are our key insights to superpower your DR:
- To enjoy a Domain Rating over 38, our sampled SaaS companies have at least 800 referring domains.
- The websites that experienced 2000%+ growth in their Domain Rating got 50% or more referring domains with DR 30+.
- Companies that increased their referring domains by 30% per quarter enjoyed a 9% increase in Domain Rating.
- SaaS companies with a Domain Rating over 35 experience the highest increase in organic traffic and organic page ranking.
We hope we’ve given you some tips to begin, continue, or superpower your link-building journey 🚀 Let us know how you get on.
Strategically Content Writing Agency has worked with hundreds of clients, including SaaS brands like the companies featured in this article, to scale their content creation and grow their organic traffic. Get in touch to see how we can grow your business with content.