Search engine optimization (SEO) is becoming a more competitive practice, building links has become a daunting experience for webmasters and Google algorithms are ever-changing. And here’s the deal: You and I have to keep up with the changes in the industry in order to stay relevant.
While you could easily get your post on the first page of Google by publishing long-form content, there are many other tactics that play a role in earning the first page, and among many factors to consider is topical authority.
SEO has shifted from keyword optimization to topical optimization. And if you also want to thrive, you need to think about topical authority. So in this guide, we’ll look at how to establish a topical authority in your niche with your blog posts.
Simply put, topical authority can be defined as a website’s perceived authority over a particular niche or subject. It signals to Google that you have a deeper understanding of your subject matter and therefore can be trusted.
For your website to have topical authority, it needs to comprehensively cover different topics that are relevant in your industry and to your targeted audience. This is quite different from creating in-depth content about topics that do not correlate.
Also, it helps Google to promote top-quality and reliable information that will be valuable to their users and ensure that they get answers to their search queries.
Keyword optimization has always been an essential part of SEO and it remains important if you want to rank at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs). However, keyword optimization has evolved to become a topical authority. And here’s why: before, you can easily rank for a keyword outside your niche by optimizing for the keyword and building links to the post. This technique has helped authority sites with thousands of links to rank for keywords that have little to do with their site focus. However, with perceived topical authority, Google ranks sites that have a lot of content covered about a topic.
Instead of ranking a blog with a single piece of content targeting a keyword, Google ranks a site that covers all aspects of the topic and not limiting it to just a simple keyword, and not mere guesses either. Doing quick research on “ClickFunnels Pricing”, I saw something interesting as I expected – a domain, Khrisdigital.com, with a domain score of 14 is ranking higher than domains with scores of 88.
Diving deeper into Khrisdigital.com, I discovered the site has a lot of content on ClickFunnels. And that pretty much explains the reason for beating big authority sites on the SERPs.
Doing other research, it appeared the site also ranks for other keywords like “Best sales funnel software”. Needless to say, this is a typical example of topical authority. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Here’s a case study carried out by Neil Patel alongside his team to verify if keywords still do matter. In order to provide a detailed and accurate result, Neil Patel analyzed 203,900 data points.
And below is what he has to say:
“Our study analyzed select sites within a narrow niche and discovered how they ranked comparatively in select topics.
The top-ranked blogs did not necessarily have high keyword saturation, keyword representation, or lots of high-DA backlinks.
What did the top-ranked blogs have, if not keywords or backlinks?
They had strong topic coverage, few gaps in the topics that they covered, and comprehensive content within each of their chosen topic categories.
In other words, they had really strong content, instead of a really strong link profile.” – Neil Patel
Simply put, SEO in 2020 isn’t about keywords and backlinks alone, you need to put more focus on topical authority. Aside from the increased organic rankings and traffic that topical SEO offers, there are other benefits that come along.
Even established top blogs are still engaging in link building in order to get more links. But what if I tell you that natural links still exist and you can get them by exercising topical authority? It’s proven that exercising topical authority would earn you more links as an authority on that topic. Wat’s more, we don’t need to look too far to point out sites that are enjoying the grace of topical authority. They are all around in our industry but we don’t look into that direction but we are trying to force things our way – talking about link building.
Two examples that crossed my mind are Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and CopyBlogger. When it comes to content marketing, CMI is an industry leader and has gotten a lot of links naturally to their site all because they demonstrate authority on content marketing. When writing posts on content marketing, it’s a good idea to link to CMI because of their topical authority. Looking up “what is content marketing”, displays a SERPs result showing CMI owning the first three results.
Quite rare to see a site possess the first three results on the SERPs. This alone demonstrates the effect of topical authority.
And a look at CMI backlinks shows that it has over 10 million links pointing to their site. And definitely, a larger percentage of the links were acquired naturally.
Here’s how to establish topical authority with your site content.
The way to establish topical authority is by creating in-depth content. Start with a pillar content that covers the introduction to a topic and other things. Examples of pillar content are the ultimate guides on a particular topic. Content like this can be as long as 10,000 words or even more. Your pillar content should cover a lot more on the topic in order to make it useful for your readers. Pillar content helps you exercise and exhibit your authority on the topic. Creating a pillar content will make your readers aware that you are the right person to learn from and also make Google sight you faster.
You need to do more subtopics research to create “children” blog posts. These blog posts are targeted to answer more specific questions on the topic you are optimizing for. Instead of just creating content around sparse keywords, you create different content on a topic.
Here’s where topical optimization differs from keyword optimization. In keyword optimization, you only create content targeting your focus keyword and then leave the rest questions. However, with topical optimization, you don’t leave anything behind. You go as much as creating content on questions with negligible keyword volume. So much more than keyword volume, you need to create content on a topic by answering all possible questions and doubts on that topic. A tool that can help you with this is Answer ThePublic. This tool helps you curate questions regarding the topic you’re writing on and by so doing, you can cover enough on the subject to satisfy your readers. You can also use Quora to find out more questions readers are inquisitive about, then create content around them.
In order to fish out spammy sites that are creating low-quality content, Google has continuously altered its ranking algorithm.
One of the recent changes to the algorithm is the inclusion of LSI keywords. If you’re writing on a topic, there are some related keywords and terms that should naturally be reflecedt when writing; these are LSI keywords. But sometimes not being knowledgeable on the topic you’re writing on could make you skip those words and Google would be able to identify that and won’t list your as an authority.
For example, if you’re creating content on real estate, LSI keywords like a real estate agent, commission, property, rental property, residential, are what should naturally appear in your content. Needless to say, there are marketing tools to help you create amazing content by generating related terms for you.
The reason why LSI keywords have gained ground as a ranking factor is not far-fetched. If you truly are an industry expert, your communication should reflect some topical and niche related jargon. A typical example is that you can easily identify a doctor through the medical jargon he writes. So if you’re not a medical practitioner, it can easily be noticed by your copy and the content you create. Through your words and your voice, your readers too can detect if you truly know what you’re talking about. Because, if you’re an authority, your posts will be actionable.
Therefore, Google believes that by using registered words for a niche or topic, you do have authority or knowledge of what you’re talking about. Speaking of tools to use, you can use LSIGraph.
Establishing topical authority doesn’t stop at just creating content on a topic, you need to interlink to one another in order to make it easy for Google to crawl your content. Plus, interlinking your content makes it possible for you to easily circulate ranking juice to all your similar content. And the more interlinked your content, the brighter the signal that you are an authority in your niche. Obviously, the content you’re linking to should be related to the topic. In one sentence, internal linking strengthens your blog’s topical authority.
You still need links to your blog, however you need fewer links to move up your ranking position in the SERPs. Back to the case study with KhrisDigital, a site with few links and very low domain authority was still able to beat sites of higher domain authority. Therefore, you need fewer links to rank higher, if you exercise topical authority. But just like every other tip listed here, you also need to put the effort into getting more links. But this time around, it would be easier. As an authority in a niche, you have more chances of getting links naturally to your blog.
Domain authority is an awesome figure that has been in existence for long. No doubt, it is a good way of measuring the ability of your site to rank higher. However, topical authority is often a better metric we should measure. Instead of focusing on just building your domain authority, place more focus on building your topical authority.