What is topical authority SEO?

Topical Authority is an SEO strategy that focuses on multiple keywords within a single topic. Topical SEO accounts for Entities (keyword relationships) and questions.

This article aims at helping you understand and implement topical authority for any website and any topic.

How did Topical Authority come about?

This strategy has emerged due to Google’s updates since 2018. It all started with the MEDIC update; where Google employees (Quality raters) all over the world started analyzing the results and evaluating #1 pages in Google. This update, along with the enriched database using the Search Quality Rater Guidance, has enabled the Search Algorithm to learn more about User Experience, and Search Intent.

The 2nd important update occurred in 2019 with the BERT update. This update accounted for all the data collected in previous years, especially by quality raters. Thanks to the immensity of data, machine learning was possible! Finally, Google was able to understand keyword relationships, and search intent.

These updates had a simple goal of improving the Search Experience by delivering results that match the search intent, but also understanding the relationships between keywords by looking into their correlation and mentions in various articles and web pages (Google calls web pages “documents”).

As a result, SEO specialists have started adapting their keyword strategy, and moved away from the page-per-page optimization model, to a holistic website-level of SEO. This shift has occurred with the goal of optimizing whole websites to reflect a single topic, and then within this topic all the keywords that are directly related, or indirectly related.


Why is Topical Authority important?

Topical authority, as an SEO strategy, is important because it tackles the improvements done to Google’s search algorithm, namely MEDIC and BERT. These updates made Google favor websites that holistically cover a single topic/niche. To optimize a whole website, a different approach was needed. An approach that differed from the traditional Keyword-focused SEO.


How do you achieve topical authority?

To secure topical authority you need to ensure that the whole website focuses on a single topic. Here are three important pillars of Topical Authority:

1. Content Clustering

Traditionally, the content was organized in silos. That has changed with Topical authority. Today we use content clusters, which is a more organic approach to content production.

In a nutshell, content clustering is the first step of topical authority SEO. It can be broken down into 3 activities:

  • Choosethe keywords that belong to a single topic
  • Content Planing for each specifc keyword
  • Create an outline of all the articles needed to cover the whole topic

An example of how to build a content cluster can be directly discerned from Answer The Public. See the example of the topic ‘ice cream’ below:

answer the public tool used for content clustering and topical seo

From this graph, you can see a list of keywords that pertain to the main topic ICE CREAM. In order to truly establish topical authority, you need to think about the questions people ask regarding the topic:

  • who
  • where
  • which
  • what
  • why
  • how

Answer the public pulls up all these questions and sorts them in a tree graph.

During the Keyword research phase, it is important to use as many tools as you can. The goal here is to understand how often a keyword is searched, and how difficult it will be to rank against existing competitors.

For each of these questions, you need to create content. You might need a whole article or just one paragraph. This depends on the search volume for these keywords. For example, look at the following 3 questions and the search volume for each:

comparing topical questions and content planing

In this particular case, ‘what ice cream can dogs eat’ has a high volume of 320 monthly searches. Such a query deserves a full article where, ideally, you would list a number of dog-friendly ice creams.

Conversely, the other two questions have a fewer search volume and can be easily answered with one article, maybe ‘Is ice cream good for you?.’

For a topic like ‘ICE CREAM’ you may have to have around 100 articles, given the high volume this keyword has:

ice cream keyword seo

As you can see, this is a well-developed topic with lots of searches, and a keyword difficult (KD) over 84. This means it will be hard to rank for this keyword, even with a topical strategy. In such a case, you might want to dig deeper and find a sub-topic that you can cover. For example ‘ice cream recipes’:

Additionally, content clusters can be outlined in your sitemap. This is a really good practice as Google will use your sitemap to understand what is your topic of focus.

2. Internal Links Scheme

Once you have published all the articles and tweaked the web pages on your website to reflect the targeted topic, it is time to think about how these pages link among themselves.

Internal Linking is an important SEO activity. Through links, Google can keep crawling and understanding how each page relates to the next one. This is easily done by inspecting the anchor text of each link and the destination URL.

This brings up the question of what is the correct way of doing internal links for topical authority. To answer this question, we will use SEO minion. This tool enables the SEO specialist to see the hierarchy of questions and adapt the internal linking to match this hierarchy:

topical authority seo and topical depth

The hierarchy is now easily discernable from the tree that branches out from ‘topical authority’ into 1st level and 2nd level questions. Just like the tree, your internal linking will spin off one page and link to the following.

Ideally, your H2 would link toward the H1 of the following page. For instance, you are writing an article about ‘Why is topical authority important?’ it is best to link to another article where you will go deeper into questions such as ‘How do you develop topical relevance?’

Internal links, as well as external links, play a major role in domain authority. The more links you have with the exact match anchor text pointing to your web page, the higher this page will rank for that particular term.

3. Entity Optimization for related terms

Entity SEO plays a major role in Topical Authority. Entities are important because they show the relationships between keywords within a single topic. In order to cover the topic successfully, then each article needs to be optimized for related keywords as well. This can be done using Text Optimizer. The following image is an analysis of a page that ranks very high for the term ‘ice cream’:

entity optimization for related keyword in topical authority seo

As you can see, Search Engines look into the content, identify keywords based on all the related terms to that keyword. With this information, Google knows where to place the web page in relation to the search query.

For example, if you writing an article about ‘ice cream flavors’ then you need to use keywords like:

  • ice cream flavors
  • vanilla
  • caramel
  • swirl

These keywords have been stored by Google under the sub-topic of ‘ice cream flavors.’

Aside from topical authority, entities are used by Google to generate featured snippets such as Knowledge graphs, and People Also Ask.


Topical Authority vs. Domain Authority

These two terms overlap, and indeed they are very similar. Let us look into the exact definitions.

Domain Authority

Domain authority is an arbitrary score given to a domain that reflects it’s strength across multiple dimensions:

  • Quantity and Quality of backlinks
  • Number of ranking keywords on Google
  • Organic traffic (number of organic sessions) to the domain
  • Number of indexed pages by Google

As you can see Domain authority is not a topical strategy. It is rather a Ranking strategy. In order to increase your rankings, you will focus on improving your domain authority.

How can topical authority build the domain authority

Topical Authority as an SEO strategy focuses on improving the rankings of a single topic. As a result, more people will visit your topical pages. Since Domain Authority depends on the amount of organic traffic you’re getting, this entail will be improved as a result of increased organic sessions.

What does it mean when a site has high domain authority

A high domain authority (DR) often reflects a high number of backlinks, organic traffic and keyword positions. The domain ranking metric is an overall indicator of how well a website is performing in terms of search traffic. Low DR means low traffic, High DR means high traffic.


What is Topical Depth?

Topical depth is the implementation of topical authority SEO in multiple levels. Some Topics are immense, as a result you will have many articles. Some of the articles will cover higher level keywords, other will talk about lower level keywords. Here’s an example of a topical depth, after breaking it down into levels:

topical depth and levels of keywords

The Topical Depth is 4 levels:

  1. What is ice cream?
  2. Is ice cream made out of pig?
  3. What is McDonalds ice cream made of?
  4. Is Blue Bunny real ice cream?

Does Topical Authority improve the E-A-T Score?

E-A-T stands for Expertize, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. The E-A-T score is directly affected by topical authority SEO.

Expertize

By implementing Topical Authority SEO, you increase the Expertize of your website. This is so because you are covering all important keywords that pertain to the main topic. This shows that you are an expert in this field.

Authoritativeness

Increase authority occurs when you implement the internal linking properly and acquire additional backlinks to your pages. Google uses backlinks and internal links, along with the anchor text to gauge the authoritativeness of your website.

While topical authority does improve this dimension of E-A-T, a much more powerful effect has the backlinks which you will acquire if your content really delivers value to the user.

Make sure your content is high quality, direct, and true! These will weigh in to increase the overall User Experience.

Trustworthiness

Topical authority does not directly affect trustworthiness. As a metric, trustworthiness is high when your web page:


about the author

Ali
Ali is a guest writer and a contributor. His specialty is SEO. Ali has 5+ years of experience in Search Engine Marketing. He has worked for corporations, small business owners, marketing agencies, and as a consultant. During his career, he has published many articles. Many of which you can find here on Aleph Website Blog.
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