Topical authority is an SEO term that suggests your website is seen, in the eyes of Google and other search engines, as an authoritative source of information dedicated to a particular subject, topic or niche.
It’s a term that has had a lot of buzz in recent months. SEO jargon? Sure, but the fact that it has gotten so much traction in the industry shows just how important it is.
In basic terms, if you want to get your website ranking above competitors then you need to be focused on building topical authority to your domain in 2021.
But what exactly is meant by the term and what steps does a business need to take if it wants to achieve topical authority in search?
Here we take a look at topical authority and what it could mean for your content strategy moving forward.
What Is Topical Authority?
Google has the goal of providing its users with the best possible result for their search queries and so it’s understood that Google will often rank better those websites with topical authority over sites that are more impressive from a metric standpoint.
Search engines look at it like this: if a user is looking for “productivity apps” and there are two sites available, a website with thousands of accurate in-depth articles around productivity hacks, remote work productivity, how productivity is measured and then a website with a few productivity blogs amongst thousands of more general business posts, Google is going to prefer the one that focuses on productivity in all aspects.
It has better overall topical relevance and authority on the subject and therefore will rank higher for the search query, than the more general site.
Interestingly, we are starting to see that topical authority is often more important than the strength of the site, number of backlinks and number of unique referring domains.
We used Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer to explain this in more detail using the search term “valentine’s day gifts”:
At first glance, you would expect to see John Lewis (DR 83 and AR 6.4K) at the top of the search results. However, Prezzybox.com is ranked in 1st place.
Why is this?
PrezzyBox.com specialises in gifts for “Him & Her” whereas John Lewis (although much stronger in terms of metrics) lacks the topical authority for its domain with the site selling more general homeware, fashion, electricals goods.
This is just one example where a website with topical authority has outranked more established players.
Where Has Topical Authority Come From?
Topical authority can be dated back to Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update and the conceptualization of E-A-T in 2018.
In 2013, Google released the Hummingbird update. The update made a significant shift into truly understanding the context of the overall query and intent behind searches. In previous years, Google would see the words as separate entities and deliver results that may have totally missed the intent of the user and provided unrelated results in the SERP.
The Hummingbird update utilised long-tailed keywords for the first time in search with the goal of providing an answer that took into account the context of the query.
What is E-A-T? Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness.
Google introduced the concept of E-A-T to its team of ‘Quality Raters’ in 2018. Raters evaluate websites to ensure Google’s algorithm is providing the most accurate and helpful results to their users.
“You can view the rater guidelines as where we want the search algorithm to go,” Ben Gomes, Google’s vice president of search, assistant and news, told CNBC. “They don’t tell you how the algorithm is ranking results, but they fundamentally show what the algorithm should do.”
If you own or manage a website you need to be aware of E-A-T, especially if you are in the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) sector. This includes any website that offers information, advice, guidance on topics related to medical, legal, or finance sectors.
Google is particularly strict with YMYL sites, and rightly so – low quality YMYL pages have the potential to negatively impact a person’s health, happiness, safety, or financial stability. If the page is highly inexpert, unauthoritative or untrustworthy, it fails to achieve its purpose and therefore shouldn’t receive high rankings.
Having strong E-A-T is vital if you’re looking to build topical authority and rank in the SERP.
🐝 Hive19 Tip: If you’re interested in a little “light” reading, take a look at Google’s 175-page document that’s given to their dedicated team of quality evaluators: SearchQualityEvaluatorGuidelines.pdf.
Why is Topical Authority Important?
We see the potential that topical authority has for allowing sites to outrank larger and more well-known competitors.
The SEO industry really understands its importance too; it ranks amongst Ahrefs Top Ten Google Ranking Factors:
Building topical authority can be seen as one of the most important goals of your content strategy for 2021. Obviously there are many factors to consider when thinking about how you should create content, but it is clearly valuable to focus on topical authority when building your strategy.
It shows us that an interconnected strategy is essential when we think about content. It is no longer enough to think about individual pieces and ranking for very specific keywords.
Building topical authority not only helps you rank better in the SERP but it’s about showing your breadth of knowledge and expertise in your chosen field.
How Do You Build Topical Authority?
We have already discussed that topical authority comes from showcasing a broad knowledge across a specific topic. You achieve that through the content on your site, internal linking and the backlinks from external websites.
Using Hive19’s Knowledge Hub as an example, we want to create accurate, trusted, and reliable content around authority management and link building. So, we need content on strategies for building authority, as well as in-depth guides on specifics like how and why you need a backlink analysis.
To build topical authority, you need to showcase your knowledge across every aspect of your chosen topic.
In that sense, there are two main factors that you need to consider when attempting to build topical authority: on-page and off-page.
On-page Topical Authority
As we have seen: having a powerful domain isn’t enough for users and search engines to consider your website as having topical authority. You need to display knowledge across a wide array of topics in a given subject.
From our previous Hive19 example, you can’t just create a few brilliant posts about authority management and expect to top Google’s rankings, no matter how in-depth and useful those blogs are.
Instead you need to prove to Google that you know your stuff when it comes to your industry – and you do that through multiple blogs, over a period of time, all featuring unique insights, original observations, data-driven analysis and powerful internal links to additional resources already published elsewhere on your blog.
Now, if you’re wondering “how do I come up with relevant content ideas that make me an authority in my industry?”, say hello, to LSI Keywords…
Using LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) keywords will help generate unique keyword phrases directly related to your chosen subject. Use this data to optimise your on-page and off-page content for long-tail terms and phrases – this will help build topical authority to your domain.
What are LSI keywords?
LSI Keywords are keywords that are semantically linked to a primary keyword.
For example, if you sold ‘productivity software’ you might create blog posts around LSI keywords such as:
- advantages and disadvantages of productivity software
- productivity software for students
- productivity software definition and examples
- productivity software for windows
- best productivity apps for students
- productivity tools for business
And, if you were an SEO agency, you might target your on-page content to answer questions like:
- How to calculate cost per click?
- Do you need an SEO agency?
- What does SEO cost in 2021?
- How can I make money from SEO?
- Is SEO important to every business?
- How long does it take for SEO to take effect?
These are all examples of LSI keywords that can help inform your topical authority strategy.
4 Keyword Tools to Help Build Topical Authority
Below are some of Hive19’s top keyword tools which you can use to begin building topical authority today:
If you’re wondering where AnswerThePublic gets its data from, this consumer insight platform uses advanced search listening tools to tap into search engines (like Google and Bing) to gather autocomplete data and displays the results into a visual data cloud.
Here is an example of when we searched for LSI terms related to “link building”:
AlsoAsked is another tool which uses data from Google’s “People Also Ask” results.
The benefit of using AlsoAsked is that it shows the relationships between questions and topics depending on the query. If you’re familiar with AlsoAsked you’re likely to recall it being a free tool – well, as of 2020, AlsoAsked became a paid software. However, they still allow unregistered users up to 10 searches a month for free.
Here’s what happens when we searched for questions related to “link building”:
3. LSI Graph
LSI Graph is a free tool to help marketing professionals generate a long list of LSI Keywords to target and optimise their content. LSI Graph is also available to webmasters as a WordPress plugin.
Here’s an example of when we searched for “link building” LSI suggestions:
4. Keywords Everywhere
Keywords Everywhere is a (free) Firefox and Chrome extension that shows keywords in the right-hand side of Google’s SERP.
See a list of related keywords, a trend chart and a ‘people also search for’ widget. Keyword Everywhere also works for YouTube if you’re looking for ideas for video content.
Take a look at Keywords Everywhere in action after we searched “link building” directly into Google:
🐝 Hive19 Tip: Be sure to use these keyword phrases naturally in your content. Keyword stuffing is still a punishable offence in the eyes of Google.
Link Building For Topical Authority
The other aspect that we need to focus on is the off-page side of topical authority. Showing Google that you’ve got great content is one thing – but when Google starts seeing other sites linking to your content as an authority, that’s even better.
To showcase the importance and power of topical, relevant links we’ve cherry picked 20 statistics from industry leading research studies in 2020:
The links pointing to your site are well established as a vital factor in Google’s algorithm, but they are key for topical authority too.
When other digital marketing sites mention or link to your blog, they are effectively saying that you are an important resource that their audience would be interested in.
Google would calculate this ‘vote for your brand’ into your overall authority and see it as a true endorsement from a site that is also interested in the topic. And this does wonders for your topical relevance.
This is why, when you are considering link building, you need to look beyond simply getting sites with a lot of traffic or a high domain authority. Yes, these factors are important, but as we have seen above, Google values topical relevance above the strength of the site.
The links that you get are vital to the success of your website in establishing your topical relevance.
Building topical authority should be an integral part of your SEO strategy for 2021. It helps establish a positive reputation for your business with both search engines and searchers.
Although topical authority doesn’t always correlate to a guaranteed increase in page and domain rankings, accompanied with powerful link building strategies and targeted campaigns – you’ll be well on your way.
And that’s exactly where Hive19 can help. We are a link building company that specialises in the highest quality and, crucially, the most relevant, natural links.
We make topical relevance one of the most important factors when we earn links for our clients, and we can do the same for you.
We can even write the fantastic on-page content that can make your website considered an authority in the first place – if you’re interested in learning more, get in touch with us today and we can talk through how we can provide exceptional authority management.