topical authority

Get the Topical Authority You Need for a High Traffic Site

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.

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 page on “oranges” and that this page is part of a larger site about citrus, or even fruit as a whole.

Now let’s look at someone who shares the same quality of landing page but discusses only oranges.

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 widget. There are no other pages of content or additional links that indicate the owner has extensive knowledge of the subject.

A site that focuses on a single topic, like oranges on a citrus site, 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.

It’s safe to assume that they’re trying to convey citrus/fruit topics, not simply trying to sell oranges.

Topical authority is a type of authority on a specific subject.

The allure of topical authority and its simplicity is deceptive. The danger lies in its seduction.

The days of topical authority and the huge resources that went towards building it are coming to an end.

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.

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:

  • You can rely on 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.

Answer The Public is one of the best tools out there 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.

Breaking up content with subheadings is a great way to increase readability and make it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for. A great tool to help with this is

How Google Analyzes Topical Authority

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


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 webpages.

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 or not it is the content or the links that drive topical authority. We invented concepts like domain authority that sound fairly similar to topical authority.

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 driver of links.

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

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 linking to other related articles on the same subject. This will tell Google that your site is an authority on the topic.

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

Most articles out there about topical authority focus on other on-page factors like link building, on-page optimization, and targetting users’ intentions.

While the idea seems logical, is there a difference between the two?


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, or video, or lists that are longer and don’t appear in their entirety in the results themselves can be advantageous as long as the content is compelling enough to drive a high CTR.

Build your topical authority and pay attention to layout 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 today!

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About the author

Josh Slone

Josh is Chief of Staff at Content at Scale, running the in-house portfolio of sites as well as customer success for clients using our Content Machine.

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