What is Topical Authority and How Do You Build It?
A complete guide to Topical Authority
Topical authority has been a bit of a buzzword for a couple of years within digital marketing and SEO in particular. But what does it mean? In this guide, we’re going to explore what topical authority is, and more importantly, how you go about building it as part of your content strategy. Before we get into it, we’ve also created a short video of this article if you’re in a rush.
So, with that in mind, let’s begin.
What is Topical Authority?
We like to think of Topical Authority like this:
“Topical Authority refers to the level of credibility or expertise a website and/or a content creator has about a given subject. By establishing topical authority, you signal to search engines that your content is relevant, valuable, informative and reliable.”
Martin Hayman, Founder, RankCaddy
In short, building topical authority is a vital way to ensure you meet Google’s E.E.A.T guidelines that were last updated as part of the Helpful Content Update in mid-2022. What’s more, you’ll also find that establishing and growing your topical authority will help you rank other content around the same subject.
For example, a site like Moz or Search Engine Land could publish an article around an SEO topic and there’s a very high chance it would rank highly for a wide variety of related keywords. Why? Because they’re two of the biggest sites in this area and have some of the most expert writers. But, imagine they suddenly published an article about gardening. In this case, it would be very surprising if they appeared for any keywords for this because it’s simply way out of their area of expertise.
But is this all as important as we’re making out? Well, yes. Let’s explore the importance of Topical Authority.
Why is Topical Authority Important?
We know about the importance of Topical Authority as we can not only see it in action when we study and observe the SERPs, but there is also evidence directly from Google. For example, the patent titled “Ranking Search Results Based on Entity Metrics” from 2015 suggests that the search engine considers the comprehensiveness of a website’s content around a specific topic when it determines its ranking.
Secondly, a 2017 patent titled “Website Representation Vector to Generate Search Results for the Website” suggests that Google may determine the relevance of a website to a given query by looking at the overall theme of the website. Moving forward to 2021, in their product post titled “How AI is making information more useful”, Google discusses how they are
“making it easier to explore and understand new topics with “Things to know.” Let’s say you want to decorate your apartment, and you’re interested in learning more about creating acrylic paintings. If you search for “acrylic painting,” Google understands how people typically explore this topic, and shows the aspects people are likely to look at first. For example, we can identify more than 350 topics related to acrylic painting, and help you find the right path to take.”
We’ve bolded the key sentence above to outline how Google makes it clear they understand how people interact with a given subject, and then later on in the post they say
“…to help you further explore ideas, we’re making it easy to zoom in and out of a topic with new features to refine and broaden searches… to see other related topics.”
This all confirms that topics, the user journey and the concept of topical authority is high on Google’s list of priorities. Finally, the concept of E.E.A.T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) is arguably the biggest argument for the existence and importance of Topical Authority as a ranking factor.
How Do You Establish and Improve Your Topical Authority?
Unfortunately, building Topical Authority isn’t just a case of creating and publishing tons of content. If only it were that simple. However, there are 4 core elements of achieving topical authority that when done well, with plenty of planning and strategic thinking behind it, should set you up for long-term success. Let’s explore them.
To perform well here, you need to create and publish content that demonstrates Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthines on a particular topic. In addition to that, it also needs to be high quality, helpful and informative. We still tend to default to copy-based content, but video, imagery, sound and other forms of interactive content all count here.
Your content needs to be genuinely high quality and provide real value to a user. With the rise of AI-created content that’s poor quality and lacks substance, users who need genuine information that’s written by a real expert will value high quality content even more. It’s no just the substance either, anything you create needs to be in the right format, have fantastic design standards, have plenty of high-quality imagery and video, and ultimately provide a fantastic user experience. A good way to do this is to analyse the competition for a given query. See what already ranks, and then ask yourself how you can make it even better.
Internal linking is vital for SEO in general, as well as building Topical Authority. They help with crawlability, user experience, creating topic clusters and much more. We’ve covered Strategies for Structuring and Interlinking Topic Clusters already, and Martin (RankCaddy’s founder) has also delivered a talk on Internal Linking at BrightonSEO, which you can see below.
Last but not least, backlinks from relevant, authoritative sites can really supercharge your Topical Authority to search engines as well as users. Although link building is one of the oldest SEO techniques, it’s still a vital part of your online tactics. We recommend engaging with like-minded and relevant authors, sites and social media influencers in your given area.
Find out more about topic clusters and building Topical Authority here:
- Examples of Successful Content Clusters in Different Sectors
- A Step-by-Step Guide to Creating a Topic Cluster Strategy
- The Importance of Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters for SEO
- How to Choose the Right Keywords for Your Topic Clusters
- Strategies for Structuring and Interlinking Topic Clusters