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CONTENTS

What is Topical Authority?

Ways to Build Topical Authority

Does Topical Authority Really Matter?

What to Pay Attention to When Building Topical Authority

Final Thoughts

10 min

How to Build Topical Authority

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If you’re an SEO or content marketer in general, you’ve most likely been hearing the term topical authority a lot recently.

Considering how often it’s being discussed, you’d be right to assume that it’s pretty important and shouldn’t be ignored.

After all, considering how much search engines have evolved lately, simply creating good content isn’t enough to get you the results you want.

You need to go the extra mile and convince Google (or any other search engine) that you’re the go-to source for anything related to your niche.

Enter topical authority.

What is Topical Authority?

Topical authority is the process of helping Google (and other search engines) associate a website with certain topics that are closely related to the website’s identity and overall business goals & objectives.

After all, you might know that Google works with semantic associations, so it has to associate a website with a certain topic in order to consider it a relevant and trustworthy source; therefore providing it with visibility for keywords that are part of that topic.

To give you an idea of how this works, if an email marketing tool wanted a high ranking for a key term like email marketing, it would have to build topical authority for it.

This means that it would have to cover anything related to this topic through high-quality and authoritative pieces of content, such as:

  • What is email marketing?
  • Email marketing benefits
  • Email marketing tools
  • How does email marketing work?
  • B2b email marketing

And more, instead of focusing on just individual keywords.

This is why, more often than not, content marketers are baffled as to why an objectively great piece of content doesn’t perform well organically; the answer can often be correlated to the fact that the website doesn’t have authority for that specific topic.

So how can topical authority be built?

Ways to Build Topical Authority

Generally speaking, there are two ways to build topical authority, at least the way we see things at Minuttia.

Let’s have a closer look at them.

Way #1: Externally

The first way is external topical authority and refers to activities that happen outside of the site and (in some cases) we have minimal control over them.

If, for example, there’s a topic you’re interested in and you receive several positive brand mentions on that topic, this can contribute to your topical authority (even if they don’t link back to you).

To give you a brief idea, Backlinko, which is a well-respected source by SEO professionals globally, did a comparison between Ahrefs and Semrush.

In the case below, it favors Semrush when it comes to the topic of keyword research and talks positively about it.

Image Source: Backlinko

This mention provides the tool with additional authority regarding the topic of keyword research, especially since it comes from an authoritative external source.

Way #2: Internally

The second way is internal topical authority which involves activities that happen on the site and we naturally have more control over.

In order to get a full understanding of this, it’s important that we cover the dimensions that make up what we call internal topical authority:

  • Topic Breadth: The coverage of topics that are semantically associated with your main topic
  • Topic Depth: The coverage of subtopics that belong to your main topic
  • Content Optimization: Optimizing your content for a search audience
  • Crawl Efficiency: How easy it is for search engine crawlers to crawl the content on your website
  • Publishing Velocity: The frequency at which you publish new content
  • Content Monitoring: Making sure your content performs at its best at all times

As you can imagine, all of the dimensions above are directly proportional to topical authority.

This means that the more you invest in them and increase/optimize them, the more you should expect to have better results when it comes to topical authority.

To make things clearer, let’s assume we’re an outreach software company that helps its customers with link building, digital PR, and content marketing.

Let’s also assume that we want to gain visibility for a key commercial term like email outreach software.

When it comes to the topic breadth, we won’t only have to gain authority for the topic of email outreach, but also more topics that overlap with it such as…

  • SEO
  • Link building
  • Content marketing
  • Digital PR

…because some subtopics may belong in more than one category.

For example, the keyword “how to increase domain rating” belongs to both SEO and link building, right?

In a nutshell, as email outreach software, Google needs to understand that we’re able to talk about link building, since we’re able to talk about SEO, which is the broader topic.

Another dimension we should talk about is topic depth.

As you can see below, we have five topical areas and we have to dive deep into each of these categories, in order to start gaining visibility for them.

For example, since we want to develop visibility for the topic of email outreach, we should cover the subtopics of:

  • How to start an email
  • How to end an email
  • Best time to send an email

And more.

Similarly, to gain visibility for the topic of digital PR, subtopics like…

  • How to write a pitch
  • PR strategy
  • PR outreach

…should be covered, in order for Google to make the associations between them and for us to gain topical authority.

But how do you find the terms you need to cover?

That’s a valid question and the answer is keyword research.

Our keyword research process consists of the six following steps:

  1. Start by identifying the seed terms (e.g., link building, backlinks)
  2. Dive deeper and find the right semantic terms (e.g., DR, rankbrain)
  3. Identify the right branded terms (e.g., Ahrefs, Semrush, Clearscope), which are semantically related and can be valuable for comparison and alternative pages
  4. Identify which questions people have online in order to answer them, regardless of their search volume, according to SEO tools
  5. Once you have the topics and keywords, you need to classify them by using the right search intent
  6. Last but not least, you should assign opportunity scores in order to prioritize your most important keywords (download our keyword research template here)

When it comes to the fourth step, you should take a step back and look at the bigger picture; this can involve going to websites like Reddit to uncover questions your target audience might have.

For example, if you want to find good questions/keywords about link building, you can type the following into Google:

site:reddit.com/r/SEO/ link building

And uncover any opportunities you think are a good fit.

When we were listing our dimensions, we also mentioned the content optimization factor when it comes to building topical authority.

Briefly, some of its best practices include:

  • Solid processes when it comes to content briefing, in order to be able to move fast without breaking things
  • High standards when it comes to content creation, to ensure optimal quality for both users and search engines
  • Conducting additional actions to ensure content quality, such as editing, proofreading, and plagiarism checks
  • Lastly, the need to optimize for UX as well to make sure your readers have a great experience when reading your content

Moving forward, the next dimension is ensuring crawl efficiency and taking into account:

  • The URL architecture, which should be simple and evergreen
  • Internal linking and adding links to pages that are important to you
  • The fact anchor texts should be as natural and unbiased as possible

These are important because you want search engine bots to be able to understand your website’s structure and crawl your pages seamlessly.

Staying on the topic of crawl efficiency, it’s worth diving into URLs a bit more.

We generally have three types of keywords:

  1. Phrase match: Keywords that contain the exact words of the topic in the order they’re written (e.g., product launch checklist)
  2. Term match: Keywords that contain all the words from a topic in any order (e.g., how to launch a product)
  3. Semantic: Keywords that don’t belong to any of the above two types but are semantically associated with the topic (e.g., coming soon landing pages)

So for each of the cases above, how do we approach their URL selection to ensure and maximize crawl efficiency?

  1. In the phrase match example we mentioned, a good URL would be: domain.com/product-launch/checklist
  2. In the case of term match, a good URL would be: domain.com/product-launch/how-to-launch-a-product
  3. Lastly, when it comes to semantic keywords a good URL selection would be: domain.com/product-launch/coming-soon-landing-pages

Product launch would be our main subfolder.

On the one hand, phrase match requires more development time because it most likely won’t live under your blog section.

Plus, you have less editorial control over it, but it’s ideal for narrow topics like the product launch topic cluster that we created at Minuttia for one of our clients.

On the other hand, term match/semantic (subfolder) don’t require development time because they can live in your blog, you have more editorial control and they’re ideal for both broad and narrow topics.

Moving forward, we have publishing velocity.

While there are many opinions regarding this topic, in our experience the more content and the faster you publish, the faster you can expect to get results.

A great example is from a type of video conference software, which saw tremendous organic results after we published 50 pieces of content in 3 months, proving that velocity actually matters.

Last but not least, our final dimension is content monitoring.

In essence, once you find something that works, the next step is to maintain it and make sure it works every time by ensuring your content performs at its best at all times!

All in all, externally and internally are the two main ways to build topical authority.

Since building topical authority is not an easy task and is definitely a multidimensional process, you might wonder whether topical authority actually makes a difference.

Let’s have a look.

Does Topical Authority Really Matter?

The short answer is yes.

But the best way to make our point clear is through examples of websites that have established topical authority in their areas.

For instance, Investopedia is a well-respected site on the topic of online trading, considering it has over 67K semantically associated pages with that term in Google’s Index!

The same thing goes for HubSpot and the topic of content marketing, which has over 130K semantically associated pages with that term.

Our point is that with the level of competition out there, you won’t be able to establish topical authority by only publishing a few pieces of content.

The examples above and many more that we could mention, go really deep into each topic that they want to develop authority for.

So it’s clear that topical authority is important, but it definitely isn’t easy.

Let’s see why, before we wrap up.

What to Pay Attention to When Building Topical Authority

When you have the goal and plan to establish authority for a certain topic, you should be ready to overcome biases.

What we mean by that is that you’ll sometimes have to act in an unconventional way and target terms that don’t have search volume according to SEO tools, but are nevertheless important to you.

For example, following the product launch example we saw earlier, it would probably make sense to target a term like “b2b saas product launch”.

It doesn’t have much volume, according to Ahrefs, but would definitely contribute to our topical authority.

Second of all, you’ll have to stop thinking about keywords and start thinking about topics.

If you do that, you’ll understand that it’s not just about keywords but anything that’s related to the topic you’re interested in.

Plus, you’ll have to stop thinking about the keyword gap and start paying attention to the information gap.

According to sources, longer content and keywords aren’t key anymore, whereas more information, unique questions, and unique connections can play a key role.

You should also be able to produce content at scale whilst maintaining the quality, as well as avoiding AI-generated content that could get you into trouble.

What we mean by the latter is that while AI content is getting better, if you indeed decide to use it, you should definitely make sure that there isn’t any plagiarism, copied content, or anything else that can undermine its quality.

Alternatively, what you can do is focus on human-written content but consult AI for tasks like generating meta-descriptions, schema markups, etc.

Last but not least, be patient and don’t expect results to come overnight.

Let’s wrap things up with some final thoughts.

Final Thoughts

In a nutshell, SEO is becoming more and more complicated over time.

You need to understand the concepts of semantic SEO and how search engines make correlations between terms to really grasp the importance of topical authority.

At Minuttia, we’re staying up to date with what’s happening in the world of search engines in order to know what we should focus on to provide optimal results for our partners.

If you feel like you need any help with establishing topical authority, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team!

HUMAN CRAFTED
Human Crafted illustration
This piece of content is the work of a human mind.

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