For a while now, brand and authority have been key terms when discussing SEO. But if you start searching for what is an authority website, the information becomes very muddy or misleading. One of the most discussed description for authority websites is centered around the links (volume and quality) that the domain gets. From my experience and having a few clients that created online brands, this is a description that might lead SEOs on a wrong path and end with a penalty.
In my SEO strategy, there are 2 types of signs for a quality domain:
When looking in your web analytics, your top referring keyword should be the name of the website (the brand) and at least other 5 other strings from your top 20 should contain it.
This is a strong factor as it is usually related directly to natural human behavior and cannot be modified (so easily) or by any script kiddie. While this a positive factor, you should also monitor the graphs for your brand searches, because there seems to be a strong correlation between a decrease in brand searches and overall rankings.
For searches within your vertical, or for searches of competitors brands, your targeted brand appears as a related search
Every niche has easily identifiable brands (brands that always appear on niche related strings). Once your targeted domain starts to appear on related searches for them, is a sign for you that you are on a good path.
Why is it so important to have a brand/authority domain? Well, here are a few incentives for you:
- Once you are a brand on a niche, is easier to rank for niche related keywords
- Brands can avoid penalties for darker shades of gray hat SEO
- Brands get priority for rich snippets implementations
Can you build an authority / brand domain without links? Yes you could, but the strategies vary from niche to niche