In accordance with Betteridge’s Law of Headlines, the simple answer is no. But because I want to live up to my SEO role models’ expectations, I’m gonna go with their favorite answer for everything. “It depends”.
What does it depend on? Surprisingly, there’s a simple answer for that too. However, the only way to get to that answer is by determining why a page is ranking low. Before coming to a conclusion, I find it important to define certain aspects of our query.
What is Domain Authority?
Gemma Fontane’s blog defines domain authority as being a ranking metric that predicts how likely a domain is to appear in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) compared to its competitors.
That being said, Google doesn’t use domain authority as a ranking factor. It is simply an indicator as to how well your website can perform.
The metric was first developed by Moz. There are many platforms, such as SEMRush and Ahrefs, that developed their own versions of the metric since. A website can have a domain authority ranking from 0 to 100, with 0 being the lowest and 100 being the highest possible scores.
What impacts Domain Authority?
- One of the biggest factors that determine your domain authority is the number of unique domains that are externally linking to your website. It helps if the linking domains are from websites and blogs of a relevant field to your site because Google’s algorithm finds those links to be more valuable. Of course, getting links from higher domain authority sites is a huge plus.
- Another factor is the number of unique keywords that your site is ranking for (in the top 50 rankings).
- A third important factor is the number of unique pages that are linking to pages on your website. Again, high quality and relevant links hold more value than a larger number of poor quality links.
You’ve probably noticed that ‘low-ranking pages’ isn’t a factor on this list. Therefore, my initial answer was no, low-ranking pages do not directly affect a site’s domain authority. However, taking competition out of the equation, low-ranking pages can be an indicator of low quality content, a lack of link equity flow through poor internal linking, or technical page issues related to the core web vitals, among other factors.
The Dependent Factors
- If your pages are ranking lower because of poor internal linking, then the answer is no, those pages are not impacting your site’s domain authority.
If you need help finding ways to come up with an internal linking strategy, Neil Patel’s blog goes over The Seven Commandments of Internal Linking. I highly recommend giving them a try.
- If your issue is more technical and related to core web vitals, then the answer is again no, those pages are not impacting your site’s domain authority.
However, there is an indirect scenario where low ranking pages hinder the possibility of higher quality pages from ranking if too many them are linked to it.
Google Search Console usually notifies you about technical issues within pages. In this case, the fix depends on the specific issues that the page is experiencing.
- In the case that your pages are ranking lower because of the poor quality of your content, it might just be possible for those pages to be affecting your domain authority.
Assuming that the quality of content is your issue, the next question would be to ask yourself how low the quality really is. A quick note: If you are implementing any of the following tactics within your content, your entire site is at risk of being penalized by Google (if it hasn’t been penalized already):
- Using thin content (which is interpreted by Google as an attempt to create unnecessary pages in the hopes of gaining more traffic).
- Duplicate content (speaks for itself).
- Hidden text (this can be unintentional too. look out for text hidden behind images, at a font size of 0, or matching the color of the background).
- User generated spam (which can occur when you allow users to post comments without filters).
- Keyword stuffing (which is also considered a black hat SEO tactic)
Being penalized by Google for any of these issues can undoubtedly have a negative impact on your domain authority in the long run.
If none of these points apply to your content, it simply lacks elements that your competitors are talking about. In this case, you will experience a negative impact on domain authority if your content falls below the 50th position.
Should you delete your low ranking content?
Again, my answer is no, simply because you might miss out on keyword opportunities by doing this.
I would always recommend revisiting the page and figuring out the ranking issues before deleting anything. If the content is really that terrible, you can look at what your competitors are writing about to get some ideas (without copying anything).
If none of your efforts bear any fruit, you could delete the content as a last resort.
Writers at The Search Engine Journal asked Google whether removing content was a good idea and received conflicting answers. After some trial and errors, they eventually started deleting content and ended up with positive results (in terms of pageviews). However, this does not mean that your website would see the same results because, again, it depends on the situation. The writers came up with a simple guide that has you ask the following questions:
- Is your page getting any traffic?
- Does it have any link equity at all?
- Is your page in the top 10 results on Google?
- Will anybody miss the content when its gone?
It is only safe to remove the content if your answer is “no” to all of these questions.