What is Topical Authority? Your Guide to Dominating SEO

Following my SEO and topical authority experiments, I've compiled this guide based on the knowledge I've gained.

What is Topical Authority? Your Guide to Dominating SEO

Topical authority helps websites establish a sense of trust in the eyes of search engines like Google as a go-to hub for specific categories.

While ranking for high-volume keywords is difficult, becoming an authority in that niche and then targeting those keywords improve the chances of ranking. 

However, even if you want to become an authority in your niche, it isn’t possible if you don’t have a proper strategy. 

In this article, we’ll discuss tips to help your website become a topical authority in your niche.

But first, let’s start with the basics.

What is Topical Authority?

It refers to a website’s credibility and expertise over a specific topic. It’s built by regularly making really good content about something important for your business. 

For instance, suppose you want to rank your blog posts around a parent topic, “backyard gardening,” if you have any idea about SEO, you’ll also know that writing an article about “backyard gardening” isn’t going to help you compete and rank. 

The reason behind this is this is a big topic, and you won’t be able to cover everything around it in just one article, and even if you create a very in-depth piece, chances are Google won’t rank you in the top results. 

To build TA around that topic and rank in the SERP, you’ll need to cover everything around the topic in multiple blog posts. These could be blog posts like-

  • "10 Essential Tools Every Backyard Gardener Needs"
  • "The Beginner's Guide to Backyard Gardening"
  • "Choosing the Right Plants for Your Backyard Garden"
  • "Seasonal Gardening Tips: Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter"
  • "How to Create a Beautiful Backyard Garden on a Budget"
  • "Organic Backyard Gardening: Tips for Sustainable Practices"
  • "Common Backyard Garden Pests and How to Deal with Them"
  • "Companion Planting: Maximizing Your Garden's Growth"
  • "Container Gardening: Growing Plants in Small Spaces"
  • "The Benefits of Backyard Herb Gardens for Cooking and Health"
  • "Backyard Garden Design Ideas for a Stunning Outdoor Space"
  • "Vertical Gardening: Making the Most of Limited Space"
  • "Troubleshooting Common Backyard Garden Problems"
  • "Harvesting and Preserving Your Backyard Garden Produce"
  • "Gardening with Kids: Fun and Educational Activities"

Note: These topics were generated using ChatGPT. The prompt that I used was-

I want to build topical authority around backyard gardening. Suggest some blog post topics.

You can outrank high-domain authority websites like Forbes, Entrepreneur, WSJ, etc., in certain niches by building topical maps. 

Despite lower domain authority, higher TA can lead to better rankings and traffic. 

For example, this is a pillar article from mostly.ai where they have covered “what is synthetic data.” It’s a definition type of article and is usually for the top of the funnel. If people are searching for “what is,” it usually has a bigger search volume and a little lower buying intent, but it’s a good start for figuring out what kind of content to create based on your target audience and where they’re looking.

Here, you can see that the pillar page from mostly.ai is ranking in the 4th position, which is good based on their domain rating and other websites that are ranking. Also, while the websites that are ranking above it are their direct competitors from a search perspective, they’re not their competitors from a business or product perspective. 

This means there is some TA here where mostly.ai is getting picked up as an expert in some sort of synthetic data. From here, it’s all on how the page is optimized now and getting it on that top five or three positions eventually.

The Relation Between Google EEAT and Topical Authority

Google's E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. It is a set of guidelines that Google uses to evaluate the quality of websites and content. Topical authority refers to how Google views a website's credibility when it comes to the content it publishes around specific topics.

Topical authority and EEAT are closely related concepts. To have high TA, a website must demonstrate that you/your website is an expert on a particular topic. This can be done by publishing high-quality, informative content that is created by experts and backed up by evidence. A website with high topical authority is more likely to be ranked higher in SERPs for queries related to that topic.

Google wants to rank websites that are experts on the topics they cover and that are trusted by users. When evaluating a website's EEAT, Google looks at factors such as the expertise of the content creators, the website's reputation, and the content's quality.

In short, topical authority is a subset of EEAT. A website with a high TA is likely to have a high EEAT for that topic. However, it is possible for a website to have a high EEAT overall but not have high topical authority in a particular area. For example, a news website might have a high EEAT overall, but it might not have high topical authority on a specific topic like medical advice.

How Does Topical Authority Work?

In 2013, the launch of Google's Hummingbird algorithm marked a significant shift towards prioritizing TA. This transformation overhauled the content ranking system, now primarily based on its relevance to a user's search query. Before the advent of Hummingbird, Google's search algorithms heavily emphasized keywords. Keywords were essential for Google to grasp the user's intent.

Nevertheless, Google faced a challenge in comprehending the context behind user searches.

Now, if you want to build TA, you would need to-

  • Add relevant keywords in the right volume. 
  • Create content that is easy to read and understand.
  • Create content that resonates with your readers. 

Question: To build EEAT, do we need to just focus on WRITING long-form blog posts?

The direct answer to this is NO.

This is a very common misbelief that to build EEAT, you have to write lots of long-form blog posts. 

However, the fact is to build EEAT, you can pick any form of content, or you can use multiple content formats to establish yourself as an “expert” in a certain niche. 

So, the best idea here is to create content in multiple formats like videos, podcasts, social media posts, and more. 

How to Build Topical Authority?

To build TA in a certain niche, you will definitely need to create truckloads of content. 

However, even if you are ready to do it, you will need to strategize the process. 

Here’s what a strategy to build TA should look like-

Step 1: Choose your Topic

This goes without saying: the first step is to choose a particular topic and build your content around it. 

For example, if you’re an SEO agency owner and you need to become a trusted agency in the niche, you would need to talk SEO as extensively as possible. 

But here comes the real question— Should the content topics be based on keyword research?

The answer is Yes and No. 

Yes, because when building a TA, you need to cover anything and everything around a certain topic, and sometimes, this would also include keywords with zero search volume. 

So, the way to generate topic ideas is to start with the cluster topics around your seed topic and then do the keyword research for all the content pieces you need to create. 

For instance, if you want to build TA around “SaaS Content Marketing,” here’s how your topics table should look like

Some of the keywords used in this table would have zero search volume, but still, they’re important because without covering them, you won’t be able to explain a topic in detail.

Step 2: Pillars and Clusters

Now that you have your set of topics you want to cover, here’s what you need to do-

  1. Create a pillar page like “What is SaaS Content Marketing.”
  2. Create cluster pages like Content Creation for SaaS, SEO for SaaS Content, etc.
  3. Interlink your pillar pages with your cluster pages. 

Another great way of collecting what content you should be adding to your pillars and clusters is by using Answer The Public. It will give you a list of questions related to your seed topic that you can answer. 

Step 3: Create Good Content

None of your efforts will matter if you don’t create unique and helpful content.

After all, what matters for Google is the value your content provides if you’re not a high DA website. 

So, create content that solves the problem or educates your audience for a specific niche. 

Here are a few tips for creating content that stands out-

  1. Interview subject matter experts and get their insights. This will just not help you create content that is unique but will also help with EEAT.
  2. Create content based on your experience. Your experience is unique, and if you create content along with data to back up, your content is more valuable than other websites that are just creating and posting curated content. 
  3. Answer the most asked questions. One of the missing parts in most content pieces is the direct questions and answers. While Google’s recent update reflects that FAQ sections won’t affect the ranking very much, FAQs are still a great way of answering direct questions from your audience. 
  4. Use multiple content types to explain in detail. Why just stick to blog posts when you can create videos, infographics, and podcasts and help your audience pick the type that fits them the best?

Step 4: Distribute

This is mandatory. Even Google needs to find you if you’re creating content. And this is where distribution helps. Don’t let Google take very long to find you. Instead, get so popular that it becomes impossible for Google to notice you. 

Also, if you want to speed up the process, don’t stick to only owned media but also earned and paid. The more Google sees you, the more it SEES you. 

Topical Authority FAQ-

What is topical authority?

Topical authority is a measure of expertise and credibility in a specific subject or niche. It is a way to assess how knowledgeable and trustworthy a website or content creator is regarding a particular topic.

Why is topical authority important for SEO?

Search engines, like Google, aim to provide the most relevant and reliable information to users. Websites with TAare more likely to rank higher in search results because they are considered more credible and trustworthy sources of information.

How is topical authority determined?

It is determined based on various factors, including the quality and relevance of content, backlinks from authoritative websites, social signals, and the reputation of the author or website in the industry.

Can topical authority apply to any topic?

Yes, TA can apply to virtually any topic or niche. It's not limited to specific industries. Whether it's health, technology, finance, or any other subject, TA is relevant.

How can a website or content creator establish topical authority?

To establish TA, you should focus on creating high-quality, informative, and well-researched content on your chosen topic. Building a reputation in your industry, earning backlinks from reputable websites, and engaging with your audience through social media can also help.

Is topical authority the same as domain authority?

No, topical authority and domain authority are different concepts. TA is about expertise in a specific topic, while domain authority is a measure of a website's overall credibility and trustworthiness. However, they are related, as a website with high domain authority can more easily establish topical authority.

How long does it take to establish topical authority?

Building TA is a gradual process and can take time. It depends on factors such as the competition in your niche, the quality of your content, and your efforts to promote your expertise. It may take several months or even years to become a recognized authority.

Can topical authority be lost?

Yes, TA can be lost if a website or content creator stops producing high-quality content, loses credibility, or becomes less active in their industry. It's essential to consistently maintain and update your expertise to retain TA.

What are some tools to help measure topical authority?

There are various tools and metrics that can help assess TA, including Moz's "Topic Authority," SEMrush's "Topic Research," and Ahrefs' "Content Explorer." These tools provide insights into a website's or content creator's authority in specific topics.

How can topical authority benefit my website or business?

TA can benefit your website or business by improving your search engine rankings, attracting more organic traffic, establishing trust with your audience, and ultimately increasing your online visibility and authority in your industry.

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