Topical authority refers to the level of expertise and trustworthiness a website has in relation to a specific topic or subject area. In search engine optimization (SEO), building topical authority is crucial for ranking highly for relevant keyword searches and driving organic traffic to your site.
In this comprehensive guide, we will walk through everything you need to know about topical authority, including:
- What is topical authority and how is it determined?
- Why topical authority is so critical for SEO success
- Differences between topical authority and domain authority
- How to build strong topical authority for your website
- Tactics and best practices for improving topical authority
- How to track and measure your site’s topical authority over time
What Is Topical Authority and How Is It Determined?
Topical authority refers to the level of expertise, authoritativeness, and trust that search engines associate with a particular website for a specific topic. For example, WebMD has very high topical authority for medical and health-related content.
Search engines determine topical authority through a variety of signals, including:
- Relevance of content – The focus and depth of topically-relevant content on the site. Sites with numerous high-quality pages around a topic have greater authority.
- External references – The number and quality of external sites linking to the site’s content for that topic. More references indicate greater authority.
- Author profiles – The expertise and credentials of the site’s content creators for that topic. Authors with more subject matter expertise carry more weight.
- Popularity and user engagement – The amount of traffic, shares, links, and overall user interaction with the content. More popularity signals greater authority.
- Trust – The reputation of the site and authors as trusted sources on the topic. Trust is built through recommendations, longevity, and user satisfaction.
So in essence, topical authority is earned through building a site that users trust and recognize as an authoritative resource specifically for a focused theme or subject matter.
Why Is Topical Authority So Critical for SEO?
Building strong topical authority is one of the most important goals for SEO success. Here are some key reasons why topical authority matters:
Ranking for Relevant Keyword Searches
The higher your site’s authority for a specific topic, the more likely you are to rank for related keyword searches. Google wants to provide users with the most authoritative, trustworthy sites for any given query.
For example, a site with high authority around the topic of “organic gardening” will more easily outrank lower-authority sites for searches like [growing tomatoes organically].
Increased Organic Traffic
Higher topical authority leads to higher rankings and visibility for a site’s content. This directly translates into more qualified organic visitors that are interested in that topic.
Sites that are recognized as authoritative resources on a subject get far more search traffic on related queries. An authority site on “coffee” will get much more organic coffee-related traffic than a lower-authority site.
Greater User Engagement
When users trust a site as an authority on a topic, they are more likely to deeply engage with the content there. This means better bounce rates, time on site, pages per session, and overall user satisfaction.
Deep topical authority fosters loyal, returning visitors who interact more with the site because they trust it as an authoritative resource.
Increased Links and Mentions
The more a site is seen as an authority on a specific topic, the more others will reference it and link to its content. This boosts external signals which in turn improves authority and rankings.
For example, a high-authority site on “blockchain” will earn more links and mentions in articles on that subject, fueling its authority.
Topical Authority vs. Domain Authority – What’s the Difference?
While related, topical authority and domain authority are two distinct concepts:
- Domain authority measures the authority and trustworthiness of an entire website broadly. It applies to the overall domain’s reputation, regardless of any one topic.
- Topical authority looks specifically at authority within a particular topic or category. It focuses on expertise for select themes rather than the broader site.
For example, Wikipedia has very high domain authority – it’s seen as a highly authoritative source in general. But it may not have as strong of topical authority for, say, “Dutch impressionist painters” as a niche site dedicated specifically to that subject.
Typically, sites with higher overall domain authority also have greater leeway to build topical authority quickly. But new or lower-authority sites can absolutely gain topic-specific authority with the right focus and optimization.
How to Build Strong Topical Authority
Gaining topical authority requires an intentional, optimized approach across many factors tied to user experience and search engine perception. Here are key tips:
Create Topic-Focused Content
Build a site structure centered around a clear topic, with content strictly focused on that theme. Having many pages solely dedicated to the topic sends signals about your authority. Mixing in unrelated content dilutes those signals.
Optimize Pages for Keywords
Conduct thorough keyword research to identify terms and questions closely tied to your authority topic. Optimizing pages and content around those keywords shows clear topical relevance.
Create content that displays deep experience and expertise. Share knowledge authoritatively, cite reputable sources, provide unique insights, and establish your credentials.
Build Links from Relevant Sites
Earn links and references pointing to your content from other authoritative sites focusing on the same topic. The more contextual link signals, the better.
Gain Mentions and References
Build relationships with influencers and sites related to the topic to get mentioned as an expert resource. References reinforce your status as an authority.
Feature Author Profiles
Provide detailed author bios and background to convey subject matter expertise. The more credibility your writers have around the theme, the more trust they convey.
Design for Engagement
Optimize content format, presentation, and experience to encourage engagement. Authoritative resources keep users interested and satisfied with the content.
Track Metrics Over Time
Monitor key metrics like organic traffic, keyword ranks, and domain rating tools to quantify authority gains over months and years. Improving metrics indicates growing authority.
Topical Authority Best Practices and Tactics
Building authority takes time, but you can accelerate it by using the right strategies. Here are some key optimization tactics to employ:
- Identify a specific niche. Pick a narrowly focused topic that has strong search volume but limited authoritative sites currently. This makes it easier to rank fast.
- Create pillar content. Develop huge, comprehensive “pillar” posts around important subtopics, like “The Definitive Guide to X”. Such posts demonstrate expertise.
- Get listed as an expert. Build relationships with reporters and outlets tied to your topic to get quoted or listed as a contributor. Media references convey authority.
- Publish consistently. Establish yourself as a trusted resource by releasing new optimized content frequently over months and years. Consistency and longevity matter.
- Include FAQs. Address common reader questions in FAQ schemas on pages to show you understand users’ knowledge gaps related to the topic.
- Update old evergreen content. Refresh existing pillar content with new facts, research, and insights. Established pages that stay updated gain more equity over time.
- Display credentials visibly. Feature author degrees, certifications, and experience prominently on posts and bios. Explicit expertise builds authority faster.
Tracking and Measuring Topical Authority Gains
It’s important to monitor metrics over time to quantify authority gains. Here are key signals to measure:
- Google Search Console data – Track impressions and clicks for topic-related keywords. Rising metrics indicate greater visibility and authority.
- Rankings for head terms – Monitor rankings for your most important category keywords. Moving up for these terms shows authority gains.
- Organic traffic – Measure overall organic traffic from search engines. Better authority results in sustained traffic growth over time.
- Referring domains – Watch for increases in sites linking to your content, especially authoritative domains related to the topic.
- Expert citations – Count mentions and recommendations from influencers, media outlets, and profiles related to your niche.
- Social shares and links – Monitor shares and links of content on social media and community sites. Increases show greater trust and authority.
- Tools (Moz, Ahrefs, etc) – Check topic-specific authority metrics in SEO tools. Improving scores indicates you are on the right track.
Developing strong topical authority is essential for any site looking to rank well and drive relevant organic search traffic through SEO. By publishing trusted, expert content and earning references from authoritative sites, you can dramatically boost your authority over time. With the right focus, persistence, and optimization, your site can become the go-to resource in your niche.
Looking to build topical authority on your site? Contact 427 Digital today and start your topical authority journey right!