Discover top guides, trends, tips and expertise from AIO Writers

Get the Topical Authority You Need for a High Traffic Site

John Pratt
Thursday, 3rd Aug 2023
topical authority

When I first started blogging, I had no idea what topical authority was or how important it could be in terms of writing great content. It wasn’t until a friend of mine suggested that I look into it that I realized just how valuable this concept could be.

Topical authority essentially refers to the credibility and expertise that you have on a particular topic. The more authoritative you are on a subject, the better equipped you’ll be to write quality content about it.

There are a few ways that you can go about building up your topical authority.

One is by conducting research and becoming an expert on your chosen topics.

Another is by networking with other experts in your field and guest posting on their blogs about how you used it to improve your blog posts.

Let’s dive deeper.

What is Topical Authority?

The term topical authority refers to authority over a broad topic or niche, rather than over a single subject or word.

Let’s use an example to illustrate.

Let’s say that your site has a fantastic landing page on “oranges” and that this page is part of a larger site about citrus, or even fruit as a whole.

site with topical authority on fruit

Source: Minneopa Orchards

Now let’s look at a competing site with a similar “oranges” landing page that shares the same quality as yours — but their site as a whole discusses only mandarin oranges.

site with topical authority on oranges - cuties

Source: Cuties

While the site may be an authority on oranges, it’s not necessarily the subject matter expert on citrus or fruit.

The orange-only site has a single page of content that only addresses questions about a certain type of fruit. There are no other pages of content or additional links that indicate the owner has extensive knowledge of the broader subject, or other types of fruit.

Meanwhile, the fruit site that creates pages focused on a single topic, like oranges, may have an advantage in terms of topical relevancy. This means that the site is more likely to be seen as relevant by Google and visitors for topics related to citrus fruit, rather than for topics related to only oranges.

topical authority on fruit

Source: Minneopa Orchards

It’s safe to assume that they’re trying to convey fruit topics, not simply trying to sell oranges. This is a great example of topical authority.

Why Should You Care About Topical Authority?

The topical authority on a given topic is the strongest signal in search.

A great way to build an authority site is to focus on a keyword cluster or group of related words. By providing lots of content on a very specific subject, you’ll become the go-to resource for that phrase.

If you care about any of the above, then you should care about topical authority.

More keyword-rich landing pages mean more opportunities for search engines to find your site, which will lead to more links and better search engine ranking.

Screenshot from Moz

How to Build Topical Authority

Topical authority is earned through the perception that your content is authoritative on a subject matter.

To build topic-specific authority, it is important to create high-quality, relevant content. It is also important to provide as much information on the topic as you can.

Building out your topic depends on research, including:

  • Keyword data.
  • Commonly asked questions by those interested or looking for information about the topic, or a sub-topic.
  • Speaking with subject matter experts (SMEs) or reading their material.

The more sources you pull questions from, the better.

If you want to be seen as an expert, you need to answer people’s questions. The People Also Ask (PAA) section in a search engine results page (SERP) has a trove of information about what your audience is asking.

Answer The Public and Keywords People Use are great tools for getting a feel for the types of questions people are asking about your topic. The format is a great way to show clients the types of questions that their target audience is asking.

One thing to keep in mind is that not all keywords are created equal. You’ll want to go back and check the search volume for each term.

To build a robust topical authority strategy that resonates with your audience and search engines alike, you need to start by selecting a broad topic within your niche. But remember, this isn’t about covering every possible angle. It’s about zeroing in on related topics that align with what your audience wants and needs.

Topic Clusters: A Key Element in Building Topical Authority

Once you have a broad topic, the next step is creating structured content around these key areas. This involves breaking down each main topic into smaller subtopics for more detailed exploration while maintaining relevance to the overarching theme.

This approach gives rise to something called “topic clusters.”

Topic clusters are essentially groups of interconnected web pages centered around one pillar page, all aimed at providing comprehensive coverage of a particular subject area.

Pillar pages serve as thorough guides on broader subjects, whereas cluster content delves deeper into specific aspects within those themes.

So if “content marketing” was our pillar page, then SEO strategies, social media promotion, and email marketing tactics could be potential cluster content.

Here Moz illustrates how to build topic clusters in the knitting niche:

Your goal is to create well-researched content that doesn’t merely answer user questions, but goes above and beyond by providing unique insights they won’t find elsewhere. This commitment to quality aligns with on-page SEO best practices where creating top-notch material significantly boosts overall organic reach.

Defining Your Brand Voice

Your brand voice plays an important part too. It must consistently reflect who you are as a business across all pieces you create, regardless of whether they’re blog posts or social media updates. This consistency helps build recognition, making users trust insights from you.

Get Authoritative Links Pointing to Your Site

Backlinks from authoritative sources are like gold stars that tell search engines “Hey, these guys know what they’re talking about.”

This concept isn’t too different from academic citations where researchers reference other works in their papers. The more times a work gets cited (especially by highly regarded authors), the higher its perceived importance becomes.

How Google Analyzes Topical Authority

Let’s review the three most popular arguments about how Google is measuring topical authority.

Entities

To understand which keywords are relevant to a certain piece of content, Google has to first assess how well that piece covers the given subject. This assessment is done by using RankBrain, which determines how likely a search term is to return a result in a Google search.

Google’s Natural Language Understanding (NLU) algorithm is designed to help the search engine serve up more relevant results. However, it is not known to evaluate content based on how well it covers important entities.

Neural Matching and Neural Embeddings

The neural matching algorithm is a type of artificial intelligence that helps the search engine understand the relationship between keywords and web pages.

By understanding these relationships, we can match pages to queries more effectively.

Google has looked at queries and pages as a whole to better understand their topics. This has given it a better idea of the underlying concepts that are being discussed.

While neural matching does help search engines understand how much content is relevant to a search query, it’s more of a ranking factor than a direct signal.

But, it doesn’t really say how to measure authority or expertise on the level of a domain.

Backlinks and Internal Links

Another question is whether it’s the content or the links that drive topical authority. We invented concepts like domain authority that sound fairly similar to topical authority.

In fact, some marketers like to use the term “topical authority” to describe the concept of building links from topically relevant websites.

So, does topical authority come from links?

While backlinks are a good indication of authority, I don’t see covering all aspects of a topic as the main driver of links.

I’ve never seen anyone link to another website just because it provides all the information on a topic.

But, by covering all aspects of a subtopic, you naturally create even more content for that topic.

If you want to improve topical authority, then the best way to do this is by interlinking other related articles on your site on the same subject. This will tell Google that your site is an authority on the topic.

Conclusion

Like it or not, we have to accept the fact that topical authorities are powerful right now. Their importance will decline in the future, as will many other natural search ranking factors. We cannot ignore them now, though.

And new ways are arising.

The only change here will be in how you structure your responses, as users will be more likely to click on your link if they see it in the answer itself.

This is why I mentioned using different formats, such as images, videos, or lists, that are longer and don’t appear in their entirety in the results. These can be advantageous as long as the content is compelling enough to drive a high CTR.

Build your topical authority and pay attention to changes in the future. This is the real battle to come, and you’re not just up against competitors, but search engines.

By becoming an expert on your chosen topics and conducting research, you’ll be able to write much better content that will resonate with your audience. So get out there and start building up your credibility.

Written by John Pratt

See more from John Pratt
UNLOCK YOUR POTENTIAL

Long Headline that highlights Value Proposition of Lead Magnet

Grab a front row seat to our video masterclasses, interviews, case studies, tutorials, and guides.

What keyword do you want to rank for?