Every website owner wants people to keep returning to their site and become a responsive, loyal audience. But this is only possible when you provide content that answers ALL their questions.
That’s the concept of building topical authority. Topical authority establishes your site as the go-to for a search term. Anyone who wants to know anything about the topic can find it on your website.
This article discusses what topic authority means and how you can work towards gaining such real estate in SERPs.
What is Topical Authority?
Topical authority refers to the level of expertise and credibility a website or content possesses on a specific subject or topic. It is an important aspect of SEO and plays a role in determining how well a website ranks in search engine results pages (SERPs).
To become the go-to in any topic, you must provide content for all parts and keywords. So, when a search engine user visits your website to read about something, they find more related content.
For example, to build topical authority on a keyword like “SEO Strategies for Small Businesses in 2023,” you must create content on ALL possible strategies your audience might need to run a successful SEO campaign. Such topics include:
- Overview of SEO for small businesses in 2023
- Keyword research and targeting for small business SEO
- On-page SEO best practices for small business website
- Off-page SEO strategies for small businesses
- Content marketing and SEO for small businesses
- Technical SEO tips for small business websites
- SEO analytics and reporting for small businesses and more
Topical authority makes a site with lower domain authority outrank a more authoritative site on search engine result pages. For example, examine the search engine result page for the keyword “best hiking boots for men.”
At first glance, you would expect a site like nytimes.com or forbes.com to rank as #1 – but that’s not true.
The site ranking #1 has the second least domain authority compared to the first ten top-ranking pages.
switchbacktravel.com is an online resource for those who love the outdoors. More so, they have
a category page on hiking products with various content around the target keyword, which gives them an edge over their competitors. In other words, they’ve built a topical authority around the search query, which some of their competitors (a more authoritative site covering general stuff) lack.
Although, you need to know that search intent also plays a big role in the result page.
You can read our blog post on what search intent is all about and how it affects SERPs.
SIDENOTE: Topical authority should not be mistaken for domain authority. Both are entirely different concepts, but important nevertheless.
While topical authority focuses on establishing you as an expert in a particular topic, domain authority is an SEO ranking score that tells search engines how authoritative your website is.
Topical authority deals mainly with content, while domain authority depends on other factors such as your website’s age, SEO performance, branded Google searches, backlink profile, content quality, etc.
Why Should You Build Topical Authority?
1. Improves Your SEO Performance
Topical authority is about creating topic clusters (groups of content) revolving around all aspects of the topic. By doing so, you saturate your website with quality topic keywords and long-tail phrases that tell Google that your website is an authoritative resource.
2. Increases Traffic
Who would want to visit multiple websites if they can get all their answers on your website?
Just a few people will do that! Imagine you create a cluster of topics around one keyword where your readers can move from one page to another. When readers can get all possible resources for a topic on your website, they will visit it more often. Most importantly, it increases your pages’ dwell time.
All these send a signal to the Google algorithm that your site is valuable and has the potential to satisfy other users with similar search intent. The result is a boost in ranking which converts to organic traffic for your site.
3. Builds Your Backlink Profile
Websites with strong topical authority are more likely to naturally attract backlinks from other websites in the same or related industry.
When other sites recognize the expertise and value of the content, especially link bait content, they link to it as a reference or resource, citing it as a trusted source of information. These relevant and natural backlinks contribute to the overall backlink profile of the site.
As such, their audience and visitors can check out your website for more resources on that topic, thereby increasing your traffic. That’s a double win!
Besides, backlinks are a vote of confidence by other websites. They tell Google that other website owners find your content credible, trustworthy, and helpful.
4. Establishes Thought Leadership
More than ever, consumers want more information before they buy any product or service. They want to be sure they get value for every dime spent.
As such, they seek out businesses that have built a quality reputation through their content. In other words, they seek out thought leaders.
Lisa Gately, a principal analyst at Forrester, defines thought leadership as an “intentional exercise of knowledge, skills, and expertise to increase awareness, elevate perception, and drive preference related to key issues that an audience cares about.”
Also, Michael Brenner, the Founder of Marketing Insider Group, says, “Thought leadership means you provide the best and deepest answers to your customers’ biggest questions in the formats your audience likes to consume them.”
A close look at both definitions shows that thought leadership can only be achieved with topical authority. You can only drive preference to key issues or provide the deepest answers to your audience’s questions if you exhaust all possible sides to a topic.
That said, how do you build topical authority?
How to Build Topical Authority in Six Steps
Let’s dive into how to build topical authority. Each step leads to the other, and iterating might not bring you the best results possible.
1. Do Topic-Based Keyword Research
Topic-based keyword research is finding keywords related to a topic. It is more in-depth than the standard keyword research because it allows you to see all the areas you need to cover and the available breadth of information on that topic.
However, the foundation of topic-based keyword research is discovering your seed keyword.
Seed keywords are keywords, usually one or two, used to find relevant long-tail keywords and phrases to the topic.
But how do you find your seed search term?
Look for keywords that represent an entity on search engine result pages.
We would have loved to explain what entities are, but that will tilt us off the main focus of this article.
But you can read our blog post on entity SEO. The article is a definitive guide on how to rank higher with entity SEO.
To speed up our seed keyword selection, we can get an archive of entities from Google.
- Go to Google
- Enter your broad topic in the search bar
- Click the Images icon (Google will provide a group of entities associated with the topic)
For example, if our broad topic is CRM ( which can also be our seed keyword), we need more seed keywords to expand the scope of our topic clusters (we will discuss this aspect later in this post).
We move straight to Google, enter the topic in the search box, and proceed to the image result.
From the result, we have a list of seed keywords;
– CRM marketing
– CRM business
– CRM software
– CRM customer
– CRM system, and more.
You are halfway done with your keyword research after discovering your seed keywords.
The next step is to generate long-tail keywords from your seed keywords.
Long-tail keywords are a vital instrument for building topical authority.
“Long-tail keywords = less competition, perfect for new domains. Building topical authority? Start with long-tails as stepping stones to short-tail conquest.” John Ozuysal, Founder of House of Growth.
You can get long-tail keywords from Google’s Autosuggestion, Google’s Also Ask Segment, Google Related Searches Segment, and keyword research tools.
Let’s use our first seed keyword as an example – CRM marketing.
From Google’s autosuggestion, we have:
You can check the People Also Segment and Related Searches Sections for more keywords.
Leverage keyword research tools or topical authority generator.
Keyword research tools help you automate your keyword research process. Enter your seed keyword, and the tool generates tens to hundreds of keywords. For example, the keyword.com keyword suggestion tool automatically generates tens of related keywords to your seed keyword.
Sign up for any of the plans, enter your seed keyword in the “keywords to track box,” and get a list of suggested keywords.
You can use other keyword research tools like Google Keyword Planner, Keyword Generator, and more.
You can also use a topical authority generator like ChatGPT or Alsoasked to generate a cluster of keywords for topical authority.
SIDENOTE: You need to examine the result generated by these keyword research tools because this software is not 100% accurate (they are AI).
The last stage of your keyword research process is finding semantically related keywords.
Semantically related keywords are keywords that are related to each other. In other words, they are terms that are conceptually linked.
For example,” online marketing” is related to “digital marketing,” “internet marketing,”etc.
The foundation of building your topical authority is settled – let’s proceed to the next stage.
2. Create Pillar Content
Pillar content is a concept in SEO that involves creating comprehensive and in-depth content that serves as the foundation for your seed keyword. It aims to provide comprehensive coverage of a particular topic and establish the website or brand as an authority.
The term “pillar” is derived from the architectural concept of a pillar, which supports and holds up a structure. Similarly, pillar content is a central pillar for a particular topic, serving as the main reference point for related subtopics and pieces of content.
Pillar content typically takes the form of long-form articles or blog posts that cover a broad topic in depth. It provides comprehensive and valuable information to readers, addressing their needs and answering their questions thoroughly. This content is often evergreen, meaning it remains relevant over time and doesn’t become quickly outdated.
Additionally, pillar content is usually optimized for relevant keywords related to its topic. Including these targeted keywords naturally within the content increases the chances of ranking higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) for those search queries.
To further enhance the effectiveness of your pillar content, it is often accompanied by a network of related subtopic articles or blog posts, often referred to as cluster content. These subtopic pieces link back to the pillar content, establishing a hierarchical structure within the website and signaling the importance and authority of the pillar content to search engines.
Overall, pillar content aims to provide valuable, comprehensive, and authoritative information on a specific topic, thereby attracting traffic, establishing topical authority, and improving search engine visibility for the website or brand.
3. Create Topic Clusters
Topic clusters are a group of content revolving around a topic linked within your website (internal linking).
This is the stage to optimize your long-tail keyword list. Use your long-tail keywords to form topic clusters for your pillar content.
But you need to use the best content format for the best result. Basically, your cluster content should revolve around guides, how-to content, what-is content, statistics around the seed keyword, trends around the seed keyword, and more.
- Each of your clusters must be capable of being standalone content in terms of content value.
- Each page must be linked to the pillar content and other cluster pages. The goal is to form a web of content structure through internal linking, a crucial ranking factor.
In March 2022, John Mueller, Google’s Search Advocate, was asked if internal links are still crucial to SEO if structured data for breadcrumbs are present.
He replied, “…internal linking is super critical to SEO. It is one of the biggest things you can do on a website to guide Google to your most important content.
The evidence is pretty straightforward. Internal links help people and search engines understand your site. Google gives internal links weight and uses them to help determine which pages are your most important.”
For example, if our pillar content is “ What is CRM Software?” our topic clusters can be:
- The Complete Guide to CRM Software: Benefits, Features, and Best Practices
- How to Choose the Right CRM Software for Your Business
- The Best CRM Software for 2023
- Frequently Asked Questions on CRM Software
4. Answer All Possible Questions
If you want your content to remain evergreen and valuable, you have to answer the deepest questions of your audience.
- Understand Your Buyer Persona
CareerFoundry Student Advisor Cicely Rose shares a comprehensive step-by-step guide to creating a user persona in their YouTube video.
- Satisfy Search Intent
The first thought that should pop up in your mind before creating content is search intent because if your pages are not satisfying search intent, they are irrelevant.
If you are struggling to ensure that your content aligns with the search intent, you have to step back and act like a reader.
- What are the questions a reader will ask about the topic?
Also, SERP analysis helps divulge search intent. Analyze the top-ranking pages for your target keyword and reminisce on the questions they are asking on their pages.
5. Link Building and Backlink Strategies
Link building is crucial to building topical authority because it signifies credibility. High-quality backlinks increase your website ranking and, in turn, inbound traffic. However, you have to be strategic when building links. You don’t want low-quality or spammy backlinks, which can harm your website ranking.
Also, you should ensure the sites that link to you are more authoritative and relevant. For example, if you have a blog about hunting, links from other authoritative hunting sites are more relevant than those from a health blog.
But how do you build topical backlinks?
- Guest posting
Create a guest blog on topically related websites. You can contact the site owners and provide a detailed overview of your guest post topic. However, ensure the guest post site provides a link to your website.
- The broken-link strategy
This process involves looking for sites that have similar content as you but have broken links within their content. You can reach out to the site owner or SEO expert, informing them about the broken link and requesting they link to your page; This strategy is a win-win for both parties – they provide a link to your site, and the other party fix their broken link issue.
- Ego bait
Mention key players and industry experts in your niche and reach out to them. These people have built a measure of influence and credibility you can leverage to get more inbound traffic to your website.
Before you start this collaboration, be clear on who your target audience is, the value you want from the collaboration and what you have to offer in return. Offering nothing in return makes you seem parasitic.
- Leverage industry forums and communities
Don’t be a lone ranger. Aside from creating relevant content, you need your industry network to build topical authority. As you engage others in these communities, you find industry leaders who will link back to your website because they find it relevant and vice versa.
- Use journalist request platforms
Platforms such as HARO, Qwoted, and helpab2bwriter gave the link-building strategy a new phase. You can get expert quotes for the article with a link to the provider site. Also, you can sign in as a source to submit insights and receive a link to your site if your insight matches the writer’s need.
6. Continuous Monitoring and Analysis
Publishing the content isn’t the end. You need to track your pages’ ranking continuously. Besides, periodic evaluation helps you stay on track till you achieve your desired goal.
– How well did your content perform on SERP?
– How many people visited your page?
– What’s your page ranking? and more
Answers to these questions will help you measure the success of your SEO strategy and provide an overview of your strengths and weaknesses.
However, you must hire a colony of SEO experts to manually track your pages’ performance, especially if you have a big website. But there’s an evolution of rank trackers, making keyword rank tracking as easy as preparing chicken pot pie.
However, choosing a rank tracker can be difficult. You need a tool that can provide accurate SEO rank tracking without you watching tens of video guides.
That’s why thousands of site owners prefer keyword.com.
Keyword.com is a SERP tracker that tracks the truth behind every keyword and provides a well-detailed report of your page’s performance on search engine result pages with competitor analysis.
You can analyze the percentage of searches landing on your site compared to your competitors with a daily rank tracking report to avoid keyword fluctuations.
Most importantly, with its one-click shareable dashboard, you can easily send the report to your client or team. Also, you can segment your keywords by topic or intent to have the best result.
Sign up for a free trial now to receive daily updates on your keyword ranking.
Finally, you must stay updated with algorithm changes and SEO best practices. SEO constantly evolves, and what was relevant yesterday might no longer be effective today. Even if you can’t keep up with EVERY update, ensure you take advantage of the important ones for your niche.
You can turn on Google alerts and follow SEO experts to stay updated. Also, do in-depth research on the latest update. However, take your time applying every SEO strategy. While you should be open to learning new things, ensure the SEO updates you want to apply have a chance of working.
Building topical authority is essential to ranking high in search results, increasing inbound traffic, and establishing your status as an industry leader. While following the strategies above will help, it’s important to note that building topical authority isn’t a one-off. You have to be consistent at it if you want consistent results.