Zero domain authority? What to do next

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I threw this question about how to build a site with zero domain authority out to LinkedIn

But first, ask yourself: 

What am I growing my domain authority for?

You don’t need great domain authority if you’re only running ads to it. 

Or if you’re running a pure social play. 

You’ll be focused on conversions, not authority. 

But if you want to eventually have an SEO presence and have meaningful business results, you’ll have to grow your domain authority. 

Real quick: Domain authority is essentially a measure of the number of links you have, and the power of those links. A link from will matter more than your aunt’s account. I’m using domain authority and domain rating interchangeably here.

What would I do to grow a site with low domain authority? 

Recently, a founder pinged me for SEO advice. And his site was brand new, with zero domain authority.

If this is a legit business (and not a side hustle), with a legit marketing budget, here’s what I would do:

  1. Do dumb PR
  2. Cold pitch directories & listings
  3. Create some type of research report
  4. Create ~20 articles on one topic without worrying about ranking

Bonus: Create thought leadership

Double Bonus: Post on social every day (YouTube, LinkedIn, or Twitter)

Let’s break each of those down: 

  1. Do dumb PR: Dumb PR is any pay listing where you get on a bunch of random sites. Think YahooNews.. You know CISION PR or whatever it’s called? I would pay to get listed on that. For every new launch, for every new feature, for whatever. Do that like 2 or 3 times. Why? The links will be junk and probably no-follow, but it lets Google know you are alive and there is outside source pointing to you. 
  2. Cold pitch directories and lists. Pitch after the lists of “best of…” tools for your category. You may have to pay for this. Try not to, though. Keep going after these. The point isn’t to get conversions or traffic, but those sweet links. You will strike out, but keep trying. You’re not worried about how big the site is at this point, you just need anybody pointing back to you. 
  3. Create some type of research report. This could be commissioned from the outside, or from your own internal research. Some of it could be cribbed from Google, honestly, it depends on the industry. But this will give you a small hook for the dumb PR or a reason to cold pitch news outlets and blogs in your niche. You could even run a small Twitter or FB ad campaign to this. I wouldn’t gate it at this stage, you’re just trying to get attention. 
  4. Create ~20 articles on one topic (without worrying about ranking). Remember, if your goal is to build towards SEO, then the quality won’t matter that much. You’re trying to get Google to know you exist. I would write these 20 articles, at 1000 words each, and focus on particular feature or specific angle. Honestly, you could do these quickly with an AI-writing tool, knowing you will have to write them again. It’s about presence and leaving a footprint. 

I would do those steps in 1 quarter, and maybe even repeat in quarter 2. 

BONUS: Create thought leadership posts. This is your opinion, your contrarian take, your story. This is more about pain points and why you’re doing something a certain way. Build off of your research report and hope people refer back to them or link back. This is more of a brand play with social but it could provide the pillar content for your regular social cadence (See the bonus below). If you’re do

DOUBLE BONUS: Post on social everyday (Twitter or LinkedIn or YouTube). This is the modern blog post, for what blog posts used to do – i.e. build an audience. This can help you start to formulate ideas for blog posts and what you want your product to stand for (the story). I’m not sure this will necessarily help with linkbuilding and creating more domain authority, but it helps with your distribution, which could lead to more natural linkbuilidng. 

You can start to see how 2 different approaches (the bonuses vs 1-4) could lead to the same outcome: better domain authority. 

Here are some of the responses from LI.


Carsten has worked on and has gone from 0 to 30 in about 2 years using HARO (Help a Reporter Out).

This seems valuable if you have something to say, and your product and benefits relate to something semi-newsworthy. If you do the research report, this could be a good path to pursue. 

Focus on long-tail keywords with low competition? 

This suggestion from Ritoban and Samantha North makes sense if you’re trying to get traffic, but I don’t know if it helps with linkbuilding or domain authority. I can see how it could. If you’re doing my 20 post strategy from step 3 above, this would be a good approach especially if you’re trying to answer frequent questions that your target persona has. 

Guest posts? 

I received several comments with something like this

I get hit up for guest posts all the time, and frankly it’s quite annoying and I don’t do ask for or publish that many guest posts when trying to build my own site. I’d rather focus on lists and link exchanges. 

Why? Guest posts take up a lot of work on the receiving end. When someone asks me for a guest post, I have to:

  • Read it
  • Edit it for my style
  • Come up with an image for it
  • And format it to fit my content

Guest posts worked better when people weren’t sure what they were going to write about. Now, everyone has a solid content list, with vetted keywords. (Guest posts for a newsletter on the other hand….)

Buy links? 

This is from Ali Ali:

I’m not necessarily opposed to this. Again, you’re trying to get some sort of traction. Not all of the links would be bad (hopefully) and you need a leg up. The issue is that often you need other content (not just your homepage) to link back to, so then posting the 20 pieces of content or so would help in that regard. 

Expired Domains

Ronan suggests the ultimate baller move. Finding a relevant expired domain on a similar topic and then redirecting it to your new site will juice up your new domain so fast. Traffic Think Tank is also expensive, but you’ll learn a ton in there (so I’ve heard; I’m not in it!) But this is what the real professionals will do. I’ve heard of others doing similar things too.


Ben Goodey expanded on the directory point in this follow-up post. He specifically mentioned Yelp and a Google Business Profile as free, do-follow links:

Directories are uber important and can vary by industry. You can find specific niche ones, but G2, Capterra, Software Advice and the ilk make a ton of sense. They’re often pay to play, so watch the $$$ on that one. 

In addition, if there are any local business directories that your business or site could fit into, try and slide into those. 

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