Content Marketing

Topical Authority for SEO: Everything You Need to Know

23/04/2022

Just when you think you have all the answers to rank in top positions on Google Search, you realise your pages are struggling to rank higher. If that’s the case, consider looking into your topical authority.

If you’re familiar with your topic, you could predict which domains will rank on top for particular search queries. But sometimes. Google SERPs will surprise you with new pages and websites among top-ranking pages on specific topics.

Then it hits you — you realise that the domain you thought would top the SERP is short of the authority needed to rank the search query.

The most straightforward answer to why a website has ranked #1 on Google is that it must have high-quality content optimised for the specific topic. But that’s not all there is to it, as another serious ranking factor could be at play — and that is topical authority.

Topical Authority: In a Nutshell

If you’re here for a quick search, we hate to break it to you, but here isn’t a one-size-fits-all definition for topical authority.

That’s because topical authority impacts SEO differently and isn’t a tangible concept, so we can’t define it as firmly as being just about page speed or domain authority.

However, we can interpret topical authority by how it impacts your SERP ranking and how Google perceives your content.

In a nutshell, topical authority is a website’s perceived expertise or authority in a specific topic and niche. Take note that it’s how Google perceives a site as a reliable source of topic-specific information.

What’s The Difference Between Topical Authority & Domain Authority?

Topical authority differs from domain authority, although it frequently pops up when talking about domain authority (DA) scores.

Domain authority is a ranking factor that evaluates how your overall site ranks against competitors on specific search queries. On the other hand, topical authority assesses your expertise on a particular topic depending on your published content.

Moreover, Google uses topical authority to determine which sites have a deeper understanding and reliable knowledge of a topic. That means Google assumes websites with higher topical authority will always post valuable content and trustworthy information to users.

In short, topical authority guarantees Google that a site will best satisfy the topic-specific search intent every single time. That quickly falls within the search engine’s goal to deliver top-ranking content for its users.

Why Does Topical Authority Matter?

We’ve already established the topical factor as a ranking factor that can put smaller sites on par with competitive ones in Google SERPs.

It boils down to focusing on your niche and growing until Google sees you as a go-to site for queries related to your content.

Aside from that, you also benefit from topical authority indirectly.

Earn More Traffic and Links

Google is becoming smarter and more intuitive by the day, thanks to its algorithm updates that improve user experience. In that case, your readers will eventually consider you a reliable source as much as Google.

When your audience knows you’re consistently publishing in-depth content on your page, they will acknowledge your expertise and may link to your pages more than your competitor.

Keep in mind that topical authority shouldn’t be your front-and-centre for link building. But investing in topical authority will improve your organic link acquisition and traffic.

Establish Trust and Authority With Your Audience

Once you start developing in-depth and engaging niche content, you’re building a closer and stronger relationship with your target readers.

Sure, the internet is vast, and audience reach is crucial for any SEO strategy. But to do so, you need to establish a sense of belongingness to your audience since they will more likely recommend a service/product that they trust and love to their peers.

Once you build enough trust and bond with your audience, it’s a chain reaction from there. More traffic means more sales, leading to more reviews that attract more traffic, and the cycle continues.

How Crucial is Topical Authority to SEO?

Topical authority became vital to SEO when Google released its Hummingbird algorithm update in 2013. The update favours pages and content that satisfies user search intent, allowing the search engine to connect the dots between keywords and purpose.

Before the Hummingbird update, sites primarily relied on keyword optimisation to rank. That includes inbound link building with anchor texts and site engagements.

However, these SEO strategies are highly vulnerable and can be easily manipulated and exploited. To ensure high-quality content creators get noticed, Google implemented the Hummingbird update to highlight content and topical relevance rather than solely SEO techniques.

Building Your Website’s Topical Authority

Since topical authority isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept, there’s no fixed set of tips and steps you can follow to properly build your strategy.

But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for your site. Anyone can establish topical authority for websites with enough preparation and execution.

We’ll break down the process of building topical authority into two steps.

Prerequisites and Planning

1. Choose a Single Topic or Niche to Build Upon

Most brands often focus on publishing content on almost everything they want to talk about. But these posts typically don’t match what their customers are actually searching for, and instead build a divided wall between the brand and its target audience.

There’s no harm with writing a fantastic post about how your business started or soldiered through tough times. But you’ll most likely lose out from SEO rankings if your posts cannot sustain a specific topical focus.

2. In-Depth Content that Addresses Search Intent

We’re not advising you to stop posting short blog posts or product/service updates. But if your long-term goal is to step on the podium of your chosen topic, you need to meet Google and your audience’s expectations.

That’s something you can only get by posting extensive and in-depth content on a specific topic.

After setting these prerequisites and publishing in-depth content on a single topic, the next step should help Google notice you as a topical expert.

3. Building Topical Authority

The next step is publishing more high-quality content, aiming at a particular topic, and building a strong internal connection between your posts and pages.

That means you have to:

4. Publish Content Hubs for Relevant Topics

You want your site to be the go-to for Google and your audience when looking for any information on a specific topic.

You need to have a collection of pages on your website dedicated to a particular topic relevant to your product.

You need a content hub to establish your topical authority since it lets Google know that you’re fluent in the topic and have expertise.

Remember that you cannot achieve the same sense of authority with a highly diverse resource on scattered topics. That’s because linking relevant pages together builds semantic relationships to your site, another crucial Google ranking factor.

5. Implement Keyword Research to Develop In-Depth Content

Content hubs play a crucial role in boosting your topical authority. But if you don’t have enough resources and time on your hands, you can still carry on with your plan.

One way to do so is to redirect your resources and effort to provide in-depth information that satisfies user intent, thereby putting you in the limelight as an expert.

Implement keyword research and understand which LSI keywords make your content relevant to the chosen topic.

Will Backlinks Help Improve Topical Authority?

We’ve already highlighted how topical authority reinforces your expertise in the eyes of Google and your audience. Naturally, high-quality pages that satisfy search intent will drive traffic and organic links to your site.

But attracting links is half the battle. You also need to reach out to other sites and secure organic backlinks the old-but-gold way.

That means visiting other authoritative sites and topically relevant links to add to your link building strategy. Look for opportunities to secure inbound links from well-ranking sites that support your content and topic.

Link building strategies are a different topic of their own which requires an in-depth explanation. We have several dedicated posts on internal links and how each type of backlink contributes to your overall SEO strategy.

In general, keep your doors open for engagement opportunities such as sponsorships, press conferences, conventions, and events where you can get your brand to your audience and a backlink in front of Google.

Final Thoughts

Gone is the era of keyword-based SEO and exploitative practices as Google’s algorithm updates now favour search intent and high-quality content relevant to specified topics.

With Google and its users becoming smarter than ever, leading the pack and building a brand that is trusted within your market is crucial if you want to stay at the top of Google Search.

Hans Andrew Consuegra
Written by

Hans Andrew Consuegra

Hans Andrew Consuegra is a Content Specialist at Red Search. Andrew has over 3 years of experience producing creative content copies for various major industries including finance, health and media. He plays a core role in assisting the senior SEO team and is instrumental in the success of all his clients.

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