What is topical authority?

Topical authority in SEO means that a website has a lot of expertise and trustworthiness in their field. This makes it more likely that Google will show the website in search results.

Rather than just build isolated web pages to match keywords that people search for, topical authority means your website has its relevant pages all linked together. This means people browsing your site can learn almost everything about your topic just by following internal links and reading your content.
You can find out more here:
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Why should content creators care about topical authority?

Topical authority helps with SEO and ensures that your content will rank highly on Google.

If you are a content creator, copywriter or content strategist and need a strong content plan, then you need to consider how topical authority can help your brand.

If you want to rank highly on top search engines, such as Google, then you’ll need to care about topical authority.

If people are searching for the topics that you cover, if your site practises good topical authority, then it means that your content is more likely to be in the top three search engine results on Google.

When did topical authority begin to take effect?

Back in 2013, when Google released its Google Hummingbird update, topical authority first started to gain prominence.

With the Google Hummingbird update, Google started analysing content differently and started using better strategies to help users searching for information on the web on their mobile phones.

Due to the Hummingbird algorithm, content was now ranked on relevance to the user’s search queries. Google could also analyse user content from more conventional searches and it began to accomplish this much faster.

What do we know about Google Hummingbird?

Google’s main goal is to fully understand search intent. Google Hummingbird helped with understanding what users meant when they searched for a term.

However, this will only become more and more challenging, as more users opt to use spoken language to search on Google and users are now using queries and questions to search rather than just keywords.

Once Google's algorithm figures out the user’s intent, it’s another battle to actually serve up timely, accurate and relevant information. In order to do this well, semantic search analysis is required.

What does semantic analysis mean?

Semantic analysis means extracting out the information of what the searcher means by understanding the meaning and relationship between words and phrases.

In order to do this, Google built a Knowledge Graph to find out how these related terms are all connected. This includes Google’s deeper understanding of synonyms.

As Google increased its knowledge of content and what users were searching for, topical authority became one of the big ways that brands could improve their SEO campaigns and content marketing.

What was Google’s approach before the Hummingbird update?

Before the Google Hummingbird update, Google mostly focussed on keywords, rather than topics and queries.

Keywords were essential because they helped to understand what the users wanted to see when they were searching for particular keywords.

However, Google didn’t understand the context behind the users’ searches, so often it was difficult for users to find what they were looking for on Google.

Google used to rely heavily on external links and other factors to determine how highly a page should rank.

Link popularity, number of pages that the content linked out to and the age of the domain or website mattered more than how useful the site could be to the user.

What was the problem with Google’s old algorithms?

Before Google Hummingbird was launched, Google's algorithm was primarily based on keywords. These old algorithms evaluated keyword location, the quality of inbound links, site speed and number of shares on social media networks.

The algorithm scored websites based on this criteria, but before the Hummingbird algorithm update, it wasn't very good at understanding content on a semantic level. This meant in turn that users weren't able to find the best website for what they were looking for.

However, these algorithms were incredibly easy to game, and these vulnerabilities could be easily exploited using black hat SEO techniques. This includes shady practices such as buying links, keyword stuffing and cloaking.

Google realised they needed better algorithms that understood website’s content better to prevent these loopholes being exploited.

How did topical authority impact Google’s ranking?

After the Hummingbird update, Google started to prioritise topical authority more and more.

This means that it became essential to write content which really corresponds to your niche’s main topics.

Topical authority also leans into on-page SEO strategies to organically and effectively grow a brand’s website authority.

This process can really help improve a website’s click-through rate.
Keyword Research
Content Audit

Keyword Research

Find all relevant and related keywords

Use different keyword research tools for broad coverage.

Cluster organic keywords into topics

Categorise keywords into related fields.

Import keywords into ranking tracker

Tag the organic keywords based on their topic.

Audit competitors’ rankings

Use the same keywords and categories.

Export and track

Use the tags in your keyword tracking tool to see your visibility compared to your competitors. This will show the broad area strengths and weaknesses of all the websites.

Our template will show you how to do this:

Content Audit

Make a pillar post

Target your broadest keywords.

Check your topic-specific keywords

  • Performing well - leave them as is
  • Ranking, but not highly - optimise
  • Not ranking - write new content for them

Improve existing cluster pages

Keep them up-to-date, informative and readable.

Write new cluster pages

Aim at topical keywords you’re not already ranking for.

Link them up

Pillar posts should link to all clusters and each cluster should link back to its pillar.

Ideal Content Structure

By the end of it, you should have a clean structure and content plan that’s easy to follow for Google and the user.

Topical Authority Audits

How to build better topical authority

There are many different strategies for building better topical authority, and it’s important to start building and maintaining topical authority in the right way. You don’t want to put in lots of hard work into your topical authority strategy for it not to be effective at all.

How quickly will topical authority start to work?

Topical authority will not give you successes overnight. It will, however, help grow organic traffic - and this will only increase over a long period of time.

A good topical authority strategy requires lots of research, work and patience to see results. Here are some things our team of SEO experts do to help to build your website’s topical authority.

Focus on your content strategy

The only way you’re going to be able to have good topical authority is if you’ve built a robust and well-researched content marketing plan.

Within your content strategy, you should involve pieces of content that are fundamentally designed to improve topical authority. Good examples of new content include a blog post and a landing page. In this content, you should include keywords and topics that you want your audience to learn.

What should your main focus be when creating content?

One of your primary focuses should be on creating content that shares knowledge. It’s important to find out what others are talking about in your industry and find out whether there’s any gaps in your content in comparison to theirs. Find topics that you’re well versed in and that are relevant to your industry and start writing about them, and then use these initial topics as a springboard to write about other leading topics.

What tools do we use to help improve topical authority?

We use tools such as People Also Ask and Answer the Public to find out what kind of questions our audience is looking for.

Designing content around what our clients and audience are already interested in will help create stronger topical authority site-wide.

How should you structure your topics on the site once the articles are published?

Once you’ve figured out your website’s main topics and talking points, structure the release date of each piece, so that by reading each piece of content in the order that it’s published, your readers are taken on a journey and will increasingly learn more about a certain topic as they read on.

Then, take the time to think about how you will share that content on your site.

Cluster your topics together

When researching your topics, you should focus on two or three key topics for your site.

These topics will become the pillars of information on your site, and you should focus on becoming the leading educator on these topics. These pillar pages should link to and from cluster pages, which go into more depth.

Find out more about pillar and cluster pages here.

Improving your Site’s Structure

Another way to improve your website’s topical authority is by changing the site’s structure to rank better.

What should a site structure incorporate?

Your site structure should already incorporate SEO indicators, such as using highly ranking keywords to describe your content.

You must research keywords and keyword volume thoroughly to ensure that you’re ranking for the right keywords. Then you can work out which keywords will work best for your topic clusters and articles.

When creating new pieces of content, content marketers should include keywords in both meta descriptions and meta titles.

Another thing to incorporate into your site’s structure is relevant links to other pages and articles to help build brand authority.

Is a sitemap essential for site structure?

A sitemap is crucial in digital marketing, and in terms of site structure, a comprehensive sitemap is really important.

A sitemap will help the landing pages and the blog pages make sense for the user’s journey.

Make sure you build relevant links

As mentioned above, building relevant external links is crucial to improve your business’ topical authority - in addition to creating topic clusters and improving your content output.

Even if your site is filled with great content, it’s a good idea for it to have links in it so the content ranks better.

When considering link building for topical authority, you must make sure that you’re linking to relevant websites. Getting links from businesses in the same industry and niche as yours will help your websites gain relevance and link.

No matter if a link links to a highly ranking site, if there’s little relevance between your website and the site, the link will still carry less weight.

There are a few different methods for gaining topical backlinks, these include: 

  • Guest blogging - get your website to create useful content for related websites
  • Skyscraper technique - create go-to resources for your niche
  • Ego bait - write about key players in your industry and contact them
  • HARO - make sure to get expert quotes for your articles

How should I use internal linking to improve topical authority?

Internal linking is an absolute must when considering topical authority.

Once you’ve written all these great new pieces of content to boost your site’s topical authority, it would be a shame if there was no internal link, so users couldn’t find it. 

Luckily internal linking is also helpful for search engines and the more internal links you have on your site, the better it is for SEO.

What is EAT and is it essential for topical authority?

E-A-T stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness and it has become increasingly important for SEO. E-A-T may not be a direct ranking factor, but the concept does help to inform ranking algorithms.

If you want to improve your website’s topical authority, it’s important to consider building your website’s reputation as a “subject matter expert”, which will contribute to the “A” (authority) part of E-A-T.

How can topical authority be measured?

It can be difficult to measure topical authority - particularly because there is a lack of clarity surrounding the term.

We know that topical authority can boost rankings and increase traffic. But if, as part of your comprehensive SEO strategy, you’re already fixing technical issues that have been impacting SEO or you’re already building links, how can you know the direct effect that your topical authority has on your website’s SEO?

At RobotZebra, we use a range of different tools to determine how much your work on topical authority has improved your website’s SEO.

Topical Authority FAQ


What is topical authority?

In SEO, authority refers to a measure of trustworthiness or credibility. For search engines, authority describes the level of importance given to each page or site.

Topical authority is a measure of authority that you can gain via content. However, this content must be informative, quality content. The more quality content on your site, the more people will trust your site as an authoritative resource on a specific subject.

Why is topical authority important?

Topical authority is a proven way to improve your keyword rankings. Many SEO experts will often point to backlinks to build domain authority, but creating lots of informative and quality content on particular topics on your site will also help you improve your keyword rankings.

Additionally, achieving topical authority is well within your grasp.

How do I build topical authority?

You can work towards building topical authority strategically.

Firstly, it’s important to analyse what your customers and clients are searching for, and whether your content answers all their relevant questions about your product or service.

Secondly, you should then map out all the content you want to create based on this research into topic clusters.

Then, you can work towards writing high quality content, while using SERP analysis and SEO data to find the best keywords to use.

What is a topic cluster?

Topic clusters are groupings of multiple pieces of content that share the same main topic and related subtopics. A topic cluster will create an in-depth and comprehensive coverage of a particular topic.

Each cluster is then linked from a relevant pillar. The pillar is a page that gives a more general overview of a topic, but it links to every cluster for users who want more in-depth information.

What is a topical map for SEO?

A topical map for SEO should outline all the content you need to make to achieve topical authority for one particular topic.

Topical maps for SEO are probably best understood as a type of blueprint for content creation. In order to create your topical map for SEO, you will have to understand how your main topics break down into subtopics.

How do I create a topical map for SEO?

Before you create any content, it’s important to have a guide so you know exactly what kind of content you should be prioritising. To create a topical map for your site you’ll need to understand:

  • Your main topics - broad, frequently searched-for keywords that will make up your pillar content
  • How these broad keywords break down into specific subtopics and categories. 

By creating this hierarchy, you’ll be able to see where you should focus your energies first. You should then create a content network for every sub-topic so that every possible question that might be googled for that topic is covered.

What is topical relevance?

Topical relevance refers to how relevant a target keyword is to the site. This is the process that search engines use to determine the authority that a site has over a particular topic. The higher topical relevance a site has, the more likely its content will rank well.

What is a topical website?

A topical website focuses on a couple of topics in its content and creates highly informative and quality content that users can rely on.

What are authority sites?

Authority sites are sites that are able to highly rank large amounts of relevant content within the business’ market niche.

How do I find the domain authority of a website?

It’s easy to find out the domain authority of a website. Here at RobotZebra, we typically use tools such as Semrush.

You can find out the domain authority of any website.

What is a topical backlink?

Topical backlinks are links to external websites that also focus on the topics that your site covers.

Google and other search engines can map out main topics covered on any website, so backlinks coming from sites that are related to the same topics you cover on your site will be given more weight than random blogs.

What is topical depth?

Topical depth or content depth refers to expert coverage of a broad range of subjects centred around one main topic. However, article length isn’t enough to create depth. You should consider covering a wide range of carefully selected subjects in your content strategy.

What is semantics in SEO?

Instead of writing content based on a few keywords, semantic SEO describes the process of writing content based on topics.

Google is getting better at understanding natural language, so matching keywords to the user’s search term is less important than solving their problem. This is because Google can now bridge the gap between ‘what the user typed in’ and ‘what the user is actually looking for’. That means Google is more rewarding for websites that cover entire topics instead of targeting specific keywords.

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