Authoritative Source: What Is and How Can You Find It?

Website authority is an important factor in search engine ranking. But how can you spot an authoritative site?

In pursuit of greater website visibility, higher search rankings, and a top-tier reputation, you’ve likely come across countless pieces of conflicting advice. Try this, stay away from that. It’s easy to get lost in the SEO weeds. However, there’s one thing most industry experts agree is a vital consideration: authority. Without authority, your site will never achieve search engine prominence.

The phrase ‘authoritative website’ carries some elasticity amongst SEO professionals, but put simply, it refers to a trusted source that offers reliable information to users. A site’s credibility tends to go hand in hand with higher organic search results and in turn an increased number of customers.

So, how do you establish authority? With authority, of course.

Working on your off-page SEO with authoritative websites is a great way to boost your own digital credibility.

The first step is to identify quality sites to work with. In some cases, it’ll be obvious, but authoritative sites aren’t always so easy to spot. For example, many government websites rank on page one of Google, despite offering a poor on-site user experience.

Several factors can be used to determine whether or not a website is authoritative. Here are seven of the most reliable:

1. Domain

Analysing a website’s domain name is a good place to start. Those ending with the following suffixes are typically trusted sources:

  • .edu (educational)
  • .gov (government)
  • .org (primarily non-profits, NGOs, and educational platforms)

It’s key, however, to note that some sites may use a .org suffix to mislead and scam individuals, as there’s no rigorous proof or approval processes prior to purchase. In most countries, .gov and .edu domains are more difficult to register.

Domain names that are very long, awkwardly phrased, misspelled, or incomprehensible are more likely to be untrustworthy.

2. Website value

A website’s authority can be measured by the value it offers users. If, for example, you’re looking to earn links within a specific niche, finding a website that offers unique information that differs from every other run-of-the-mill source – provided it’s factual – is priceless in this age of website copycats and unoriginal content.

3. Reputable sources

Determining whether a website’s sources are legitimate is a viable way of distinguishing whether or not it’s authoritative. If, for example, a site includes countless statistics and bold claims but fails to back them up with references to other high-authority sites or peer-reviewed journals, this may suggest a lack of credibility.

Anyone can make up fake data. Search engines know this and prioritise sites that clearly reference their authors, as well as the reputable sources from which they’ve derived their stats and figures. Credential-based data is more regarded than opinion-based pieces from those without proper qualifications and/or justifications to their claims.

So, it’s wise to spend a few extra seconds scrolling down to an article’s reference list to see where their information originates from – and if said sources are worthy.

4. Quality inbound links

Inbound links are used to tell crawlers that a site is an authority on a particular niche. Taking a look at a website’s backlink portfolio is, therefore, wise in order to gauge which other sites are linking to the one in question. If said inbound links are from spam sites, the website is less likely to achieve authority status. Equally-qualified or more authoritative sources that link to the site are what you’re looking for. (1)

‘Link juice’ is another term worth familiarising yourself with. It refers to the value or equity passed from one webpage to another. The more quality links shared, the more authority gained. This in-depth article on WooRank goes into detail on the concept. (2)

5. Quality outbound links

Outbound links are just as important to analyse. These are the links from one website, to other external sites. If a website’s outbound links are relevant to their specific niche and appear legitimate – for instance, they are to .gov sites or journal articles – they’re more likely to hold authority. The same cannot be said about websites that link to questionable, inappropriate, or spam-infested sites such as those relating to porn, drugs, and/or gambling.

Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule here. Sometimes sites will incidentally link to low-credibility pages – either by mistake or without realising their so-called ‘source’ isn’t reputable. Use your own discretion.

6. Website functionality

If a website has a poor design, incoherent layout, malfunctioning components, glitches, and bugs, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it’s unlikely to be an authoritative site. Outdated content and the lack of an active blog may also indicate inadequate site functionality and status.

Other factors to consider include:

  • Not being completely indexed
  • Not recently crawled
  • No page rankings
  • Poor Moz ranking

7. User trust and engagement

Another key factor to consider is how active and engaged users are with a website’s content. This can be measured by how many organic comments, likes and shares are given by customers/users, as well as the quality of the audience the website has attracted.

If individuals are actively interacting with a site’s content, this indicates a level of trustworthiness between them and the site. Said user trust, in turn, indicates website authoritativeness – for if a site isn’t authoritative, it would struggle even to reach its target audience in the first place.

Final thoughts

When seeking to improve your search ranking and increase your site’s authority, it’s vital you make sure to partner with credible websites. The above factors are useful to help determine authority, but they’re not fool-proof. Don’t be deceived by fancy domains and clickbait. At the end of the day, the most important factor in off-page SEO is niche relevance. It’s better to earn links from sites within your industry than high-authority sites that aren’t remotely related.


1:   “What Is an Inbound Link? [FAQs]”, Source:

2:   “What is Link Juice?”, Source: