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What Makes An Authoritative Website? Building A Site You Can Trust

Authoritative Website header
Authoritative Website header

An “authoritative site” is the holy grail of SEO – it’s what everyone wants to build and the kind of site every SEO wants to receive links from.

But what actually is an authoritative site? How do search engines quantify what seems like a gut-feel metric on whether a site is trustworthy, or not?

An authoritative website is recognized by search engines as a trustworthy source of information.

These sites often dominate search results.

Understanding the characteristics of website authority can help you craft more effective SEO strategies.

And that’s what we’re going to reveal in this guide. We’ll break down exactly what makes a website authoritative and how search engines can tell.

You’ll also learn practical ways to increase the authority of client websites.

We’ll cover:

  • What an authoritative website is
  • How to measure website authority
  • Why website authority is important for SEO
  • The characteristics of an authoritative site
  • Examples of authoritative websites
  • How to increase website authority

What Is An Authoritative Website?

An authoritative website is seen as a trusted and credible source of information. It’s the type of site users turn to for reliable answers, and search engines rank highly – because they trust its content.

Search engines like Google love authoritative websites because they offer users relevant, accurate, and helpful information.

Several factors contribute to website authority.

For SEO agencies, understanding these factors is key to getting better results for your clients.

Metrics to Measure Website Authority

Measuring website authority isn’t easy.

However, some metrics can help you get an idea of how users and search engines perceive a site’s authority.

Domain Metrics (DA, DR, AS)

Many companies have created their own metrics that try to measure the overall influence or authority of domains.

Some of the most popular are Domain Authority (DA) from Moz, Domain Rating (DR) from Ahrefs, and Authority Score (AS) from SEMRush.

All of these metrics—and other proprietary metrics from other sites—attempt to quantify websites’ relative authority and strength.

Each has its own way of calculating scores and its own factors and nuances, but the upshot is that they attempt to assign a score to a website’s performance.

Taking several of these in combination is the best way to get an overall idea of a site’s health and performance, rather than just focusing on one score.

These metrics are helpful but do not provide a complete picture of website authority. So what else can we use?


Backlinks are links from other websites that point to your site. They are one of the most influential Google ranking factors and significantly impact your website’s authority.

Example backlink graph

The number of backlinks, the quality of the links, and the relevance of linking sites all contribute to website authority.


The amount of traffic a website receives can indicate how authoritative it is – especially organic search traffic.

It’s useful to look at where the traffic comes from. On average, websites generate 64% of their traffic from organic search.

Conductor traffic survey

A mix of direct, organic search and referrals from reputable sites suggests the site is authoritative.

As with other metrics, no external tool can give precise figures for a domain’s traffic, but they can provide a general estimation of how they should be performing.

Why Is Website Authority Important for SEO?

Website authority is one of the factors that Google uses to decide where pages should rank in search results.

In a 2020 interview, Google Senior Search Analyst John Mueller was asked if Google used a website authority metric:

“I don’t know if I’d call it authority like that, but we do have some metrics that are more on a site level, some metrics that are more on a page level, and some of those site-wide level metrics might kind of map into similar things.”

Google wants to provide users with the most reliable and relevant results for their queries. If your site is recognized as an authority, Google will likely see your content as more trustworthy and helpful.

That can translate into higher rankings.

And higher rankings = more organic traffic.

There is a direct correlation between where a page ranks in search engine results pages and clickthrough rate.

CTR by position graph

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Users are also more likely to trust a site that appears authoritative.

That can have a significant impact on conversions.

When users trust your site, they’re more likely to click your calls to action (CTAs) and take the desired action – whether it’s signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase.

The Characteristics of an Authoritative Website

High authority sites share certain key characteristics. These elements make a site look more credible to search engines.

Quality Content

The foundation of an authoritative website is high-quality content.

You want to provide real value to readers with in-depth information and actionable insights.

It’s about quality over quantity. In a recent survey, 83% of marketers said focusing on content quality rather than quantity is better – even if it means reducing publishing frequency.

Quality over content graph

Whether you’re writing a 1,000-word blog post or an expansive guide, your content should be well-researched and offer clear explanations. Keeping your content fresh and up-to-date with regular updates is also important.

If you need some help improving content quality, check out our guide on how to write a blog post. It walks you through the process of creating a high-quality, SEO-optimized post.


If Google doesn’t view your website as trustworthy, it won’t consider it authoritative.

Web design is super important here. A recent peer-reviewed study found that 75% of people judge the credibility of a website based on its web design.

Make sure your site is well-designed and easy to navigate.

It should also have an SSL certificate. When a website uses SSL, the URL begins with “https://” instead of “http://.” A padlock icon also appears in the browser address bar to signal the connection to the website is secure.

You make your content more trustworthy by providing author bios to demonstrate the expertise of the content creator.

Joe Davies author profile example

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An author bio can show users and search engines that the content is written by someone knowledgeable about the topic.

Backlink Profile

A website’s backlink portfolio is a powerful indicator of authority. Relevant, quality links show that other high-authority websites trust your content.

The most used metric for measuring the quality of a backlink is Ahrefs’ Domain Rating:

Domain rating stats graph

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But this only gives you an indication. The most powerful backlinks are from websites that are relevant to your content.

For example, a backlink from a relevant, high-authority website like TechCrunch would be incredibly valuable for a tech startup’s website.

The quality, quantity, and relevance of inbound links significantly impact authority and search ranking.

Topical Authority

Topical authority refers to a website’s level of expertise and credibility within a specific niche or industry.

Websites with strong topical authority are more likely to rank high in search engine results for relevant keywords. Google prioritizes content created by credible sources known for their knowledge of the topic.

You can achieve topical authority by consistently covering a specific subject area in depth. The goal is to become a go-to source of information on the topic.

Examples of Authoritative Websites

There are different types of authoritative websites. Some are globally recognized institutions, while others are smaller sites that have established themselves as authorities in a particular niche.

Niche Sites

Niche websites focus on a specific topic, hobby, region, or group of people. They create content that is tailored to the interests of their target audience.

Concentrating on a niche allows these websites to achieve a level of topical authority that broader sites struggle to reach.

Roasty Coffee is an excellent example of a niche website.

Roasty coffee screenshot

You’ll find blog posts covering everything from coffee brewing methods and coffee bean facts to equipment reviews. The content is well-researched and always delivers value to the reader.

Roasty Coffee has also secured backlinks from established domains like Wikipedia, Good Housekeeping, and Minimalist Baker. These links have helped Roasty Coffee become an authority in the coffee niche.

Government and Institutional Sites

These sites are some of the most authoritative sources on the internet. They represent the official voice of their organizations and provide accurate content on important topics.

Their domain extensions enhance the trust that users and search engines place in these websites. In the U.S., only qualifying entities can register a .gov or .edu domain.

The World Health Organization (WHO) official site is an excellent example of an authoritative website.

WHO screenshot

The WHO is recognized worldwide as a trustworthy source of health information. They provide in-depth, expert content on health-related topics.

And because the website’s content is often cited by news organizations and other health websites, WHO attracts a ton of relevant, high-quality backlinks.

Major Media Outlets

Major media outlets have several qualities that boost their authority.

First, many of these outlets have an established reputation for accuracy and reliability. Users and search engines see them as credible.

Media sites also continuously update their content to remain relevant, satisfying Google’s preference for “freshness.”

The BBC is a good example of an authoritative media site.

BBC screenshot

The BBC adheres to strict editorial guidelines to ensure the accuracy of its content. It also attracts backlinks from a wide range of respected blogs, government sites, and online publications.

Alongside the content and backlinks, the BBC does a great job of technical SEO aspects like loading times, internal linking, and site structure.

Professional Health Sites

Professional health websites cover a “your money or your life” (YMYL) topic, so their content must be accurate, evidence-based, and trustworthy.

Google scrutinizes YMYL sites, requiring them to demonstrate high levels of experience, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness (E-E-A-T).

Mayo Clinic has established itself as one of the most authoritative health websites.

Mayo Clinic screenshot

It provides detailed, easy-to-understand content on a wide range of medical topics. All of Mayo Clinic’s content is written or reviewed by healthcare professionals with verified credentials.

Industry Leader Sites

These sites are considered go-to resources within their industries. They provide valuable insights, research, and advice on topics that are relevant to a specific industry.

Industry leader sites invest heavily in SEO and content marketing. That includes solid keyword research, frequent content publishing, and excellent website architecture.

HubSpot stands out as a high authority site in the digital marketing industry.

Hubspot screenshot

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HubSpot’s blog content is well-researched and regularly updated. It’s one of the best online digital marketing resources. They also provide free courses and certifications to help professionals enhance their skills and knowledge.

This helps to establish HubSpot as a thought leader in the industry. They attract a ton of traffic and backlinks from reputable websites.

Online Forums and Communities

Specialized forums and online communities provide a platform for users to discuss trends, share knowledge, and network. They focus on a specific topic and allow users to dive deep into subjects with others who share the same interests.

Sites like Reddit and Quora were the big winners of Google’s March 2024 Core Update.

Aside from the high Domain Rating, Google views these sites as authoritative because they share real experiences and opinions of users. The content is authentic.

Reddit is the best example of an authoritative forum website.

Reddit r/SEO screenshot

With subreddits covering almost every topic imaginable, Reddit is one of the biggest online communities.

While the tone is generally more conversational, many subreddits have strict rules and guidelines to ensure the quality and relevance of content. Moderators enforce these rules to prevent spam and low-quality contributions.

This focus on quality content enhances Reddit’s credibility and authority for users and search engines.

How To Increase Website Authority

Increasing website authority is all about ensuring your site is credible and valuable to users. You want to make your site a trusted source of information that people turn to for advice and answers. Here’s how you do that for your clients:

  • Make sure all content is well-researched and informative and answers user queries in depth.
  • Highlight the credentials and expertise of content creators.
  • Keep the website secure with SSL certificates and implement transparent privacy policies.
  • Maintain up-to-date contact information.
  • Implement on-page, off-page, and technical SEO best practices.
  • Focus on earning high-quality backlinks from reputable and relevant sources.

  • Ensure information is regularly updated to reflect the latest trends and data.
  • Develop a comprehensive content strategy to become a topical authority.

Why Website Authority Matters for SEO

Google wants to provide users with the most relevant, trustworthy search results. That’s why it loves authoritative websites.

By focusing on the key characteristics that define authority – like quality content and backlinks – you can boost your client’s online visibility and credibility.

Website authority sets the foundation for higher rankings and helps to build trust with users. That can translate into more organic traffic and more conversions.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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