Different websites, particularly link building platforms, assign web pages an ‘authority’ score. While the term ‘authority’ may be somewhat arbitrary, as it’s not a term Google or any other search engine publicly recognizes, the term holds weight in how visible its impact is in search rankings. To put it simply, if a major website like CNN is linking to your website, it’s going to have a beneficial impact on your search rankings. This is because CNN is a major news outlet that is generally recognized as a helpful website, so Google will boost sites that are linked to these major publications in an effort to deliver users a positive experience. As a result of this relationship, citation building platforms like Moz and Bright Local assign pages an ‘authority score’ to best determine which listings provide the best boost for SEO.
During the early days of Google, page authority was calculated by a score called “page rank“. The volume of backlinks, as well as the reputability of these links, would help drive up a website’s page rank, which would directly influence said website’s search results. Although page rank is still around today, users cannot see their website’s page rank, as it has become just a part of Google’s hummingbird algorithm.
Essentially, if you publish similar articles about the same topic across various websites, the websites that have the highest authority are going to the rank the highest. Yet, over time, if one of the articles on the lesser platforms is more engaging, and just overall, better in terms of quality, it may begin outranking the articles on bigger publications.
While Google claims authority is measured on a page-by-page level, pages on a more authoritative domain will rank higher. However, it’s important to remember that authority isn’t one established ranking factor. As it’s just one (or several) of the several hundred signals that Google uses in its ranking algorithm.