See more articles

Topical Authority: What Is It And How Do You Establish It?

A cartoon illustration that visually explains the concept of topical authority.
A cartoon illustration that visually explains the concept of topical authority.

Topical authority measures how credible and trustworthy a website is on a given subject. It is a powerful methodology for enhancing your SEO.

Essentially, search engines will see you as an authoritative source if you publish plenty of high-quality content around a given topic.

This authority can translate into higher search rankings, more traffic, and increased customer trust.

In this guide, we’ll cover:

  • How topical authority works
  • Why it matters for SEOs and content marketers
  • Actionable steps to build and measure it

What Is Topical Authority?

Topical authority measures your expertise and authority on a specific topic.

Strong topical authority makes you more likely to rank high in search results for your target keywords.

For example, let’s say you run a personal finance website.

You’ve been writing in-depth, high-quality content for a long time. And you have built up a lot of topical authority on the subject.

If you publish a new article covering credit cards, it will rank higher and faster than a similar post published on a website that doesn’t usually cover personal finance topics.

The concept of topical authority gained prominence with Google’s Hummingbird algorithm update.

Before Hummingbird, Google relied more on keywords to understand what a user searched for. Hummingbird changed the algorithm, with content relevance becoming much more important.

Topic modeling, introduced as part of Hummingbird, allowed the search engine to consider the wider context of the search and the page providing the result. Any page demonstrating overall topical authority would be rewarded with prominence in answering the query.

Google’s E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) Framework

Google’s Quality Rater Guidelines highlight the search engine’s emphasis on topical authority.

These guidelines help Quality Raters evaluate search engine results. Google uses this feedback to improve the quality of results served to users.

In its latest update, Google emphasized “expertise” and “reputable websites” as indicators of page quality.

Increasing your topical authority will help you tick the boxes in E-E-A-T.

Demonstrable E-E-A-T, in turn, increases your perceived topical authority in a happy circle of increased reputation.


Why Is Topical Authority Important?

Topical authority is a big deal for several reasons.

First off, you need topical authority to rank for competitive keywords. Search engines look to provide their users with answers and results from the most reliable and accurate sources possible, so they reward your authoritative content with higher rankings.

These higher rankings mean more exposure, traffic, and potential customers visiting your website. Being the number one result in SERPs leads to an average CTR of 27.6%!


With topical authority a confirmed ranking factor for news results and an implied running factor from Hummingbird onwards, anything you do to increase your topical authority can boost your ranking chances, with all the benefits that leads to.

Topical authority also positions you as a thought leader in your industry. You can become the go-to source when people seek information on a topic related to your products or services.

This increased brand awareness and credibility can lead to more conversions and sales for your business as potential customers find you both knowledgeable and trustworthy.

How Topical Authority Works

Google hasn’t shared exactly how topical authority works, but there are some things we do know.

Thanks to a recent Google Search Central blog post, we know how topic authority impacts news queries:

It is important to stress that topic authority, as discussed in that post, is specific to the topic authority system introduced for ‘newsy queries’, as Google put it.

However, that’s not to say that it is not helpful to consider topic authority’s impact on regular search results and the concept of topical authority overall.

Zyppy SEO’s Cyrus Shepard shared his thoughts on the update:


Alongside updates like Hummingbird and the continued refinements to the QRG documents, we know that Google actively prioritizes content from authoritative sources.

What topic authority and the public releases for these updates show us is how Google codifies this authoritativeness and how we can build it into our SEO work for the best results.

Semantic Search

We can’t talk about topical authority without touching on semantic search.

Google uses semantic associations to understand the content of a website. It has to associate a topic with a website to rank it for related search queries.

If you post in-depth content around a topic, you’ll naturally include many relevant keywords. This will improve your semantic SEO and topical authority.

How To Build Topical Authority For SEO

We’ve covered what it is and why it matters. So how do you actually build topical authority?

Typical strategies can be split into two categories; internal and external.

Internal Topical Authority Strategies

Topical Clusters

Organize your content into topical clusters of pillar content and related sub-topics. This approach helps search engines understand the structure and relevance of your content while building your semantic SEO.

Start by identifying the core topic you want to establish authority on.

Once you have the core topic, create pillar content that serves as the foundation for the cluster.

Pillar content is comprehensive content that covers a topic in-depth. Think “ultimate” and “definitive” guides covering every aspect of a topic.

Here’s an example of a pillar page from HubSpot:

Next, identify sub-topics closely related to the core topic. These sub-topics will form the clusters around the pillar content.

Create smaller content pieces for each sub-topic. Then, you can link back to the pillar and sub-topic content within the cluster.

This structure helps reinforce the topical authority of the cluster.


Topic-Based Keyword Research To Create A Topical Map

A topical map is your blueprint for achieving topical authority. It helps you create a hierarchy and organize your content.

First, break down your main topic into subcategories.

Then conduct keyword research to identify relevant terms and build a content network for each.

An example of a topical map using SEO as the key phrase. Source.

Covering a wide range of questions and sub-topics increases your chances of gaining topical authority. It helps you build your appearance as an expert in the field and develops your semantic SEO as Google can more confidently associate your site with niche-specific relevance.


Meet Search Intent

Search intent refers to the reason behind a user’s search query. It can be:

  • Informational (seeking answers)
  • Navigational (looking for a specific website or page)
  • Transactional (aiming to make a purchase)
  • Commercial (researching before making a buying decision)

Providing content that matches the user intent is key for search rankings. It ensures you satisfy user needs and strengthens your topical authority.


Comprehensive And Authoritative Content Strategy

Aim to provide comprehensive, well-researched content covering the different angles of your topic.

This demonstrates expertise and signals to search engines that your content is a valuable resource.

Consider using various content formats to cater to different user preferences. For example, some users prefer reading articles, while others prefer watching videos.


Internal Links And Crawl Efficiency

Internal linking is crucial in building topical authority and improving crawl efficiency.

Strategically use internal links to connect relevant pages within your website.

Make sure your internal linking structure is logical and follows a hierarchical structure. This helps search engines understand the relationships between your content and the importance of each page.


Site Structure

A well-structured site helps organize and categorize content logically. It makes it easy for users to find the information they seek and for search engines to understand your content.

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Group related content together
  • Use clear and concise titles and descriptions
  • Use internal links to connect related pages

External Topical Authority Strategies

Contextual Link Building

Contextual links are from websites that are topically relevant to your content. These links carry more weight as they are from authoritative sources within your niche.

Reach out to industry-specific websites and offer to contribute guest posts. You can showcase your knowledge, gain exposure, and earn valuable backlinks.

You can also use a professional link building service for outreach and link placement.

Targeted link building can allow you to increase your topical authority by securing links from niche and industry-relevant sites that already have their own established topical authority.

Link building with expert quote sources can also secure links from reputable news outlets. You can leverage their existing reputation to bolster your own topical authority. If Google sees a well-regarded news outlet linking to you as a source, they are more likely to consider you an authority in your space.


Multi-Channel Authority

Consistently delivering high-quality content on different platforms can reinforce your topical authority.

For example, you can share your blog posts on social media platforms.

Social media does not directly impact SEO. But studies have shown a correlation between social shares and search ranking.

This cross-promotion helps drive traffic and engagement across different channels and increases your reach.


Reputation Management

Managing your online reputation can help build trust and authority in your industry.

Monitor your brand mentions, customer reviews, and social media interactions.

Ensure you respond promptly to feedback and address any concerns your audience raises.

Tools For Measuring Topical Authority

Building topical authority is much easier when you use the right tools.

Remember, no tool can actually build topical authority for you.

Instead, tools can provide insights into your links, content, and metrics which will help you assess your overall topical authority and opportunities for growth.

For keyword research, backlink analysis, and competitor analysis, consider using the following:

  • SEMrush
  • Ahrefs
  • Moz

To find question-based keyword opportunities, you can use the following tools:

  • AlsoAsked
  • SEO Minion
  • AnswerThePublic

Google’s People Also Asked feature can also provide valuable insights to guide your topical authority strategy.

What Is the Difference Between Domain Authority And Topical Authority?

Domain authority metrics are a measure of the overall authority of a website. They take into account factors like inbound links and domain age.

Topical authority is a measure of the authority of a website on a specific topic. Factors like content quality and the number of relevant pages on the website impact topical authority.

It isn’t a defined metric with a set score but a combination of factors to assess a website’s authority.

Tips For Building Topical Authority

Don’t Ignore Zero-Volume Keywords

Targeting keywords with significant search volumes is important. But don’t overlook relevant zero-volume or low-volume longtail keywords.

You can expand your topical coverage and capture more traffic by targeting these terms.

These keywords usually have less competition and are often lower down the sales funnel. They provide an opportunity to establish authority on specific subtopics within your niche.


Audit Content Performance Regularly

Schedule regular content audits to identify any gaps in your topical coverage.

Look for opportunities to expand or update existing content. In the latest State of Content Marketing: 2023 Global Report, 42% of respondents said updating existing content has boosted their content marketing value.

You can also remove or redirect outdated or underperforming content. This will improve your website’s overall quality and topical focus.


How To Avoid Cannibalization When Addressing Topical Authority?

Plan your content strategy carefully. Ensure each piece covers different aspects of the topic without duplicating or overlapping information. This is the best way to avoid cannibalization.

If you detect cannibalization, consider consolidating or redirecting similar content. You can also use canonical tags to indicate the authoritative version of a page.

Benefits Of Building Topical Authority

Firstly, becoming an authoritative information source on a given topic can massively benefit users, which naturally builds awareness and trust with your target audience.

Depth And Breadth Of Information

In-depth, comprehensive content answers users’ questions and addresses their pain points. Users can find all the required information in one place, saving them time and effort.

Enhanced User Experience

Websites with clear navigation and an intuitive user experience enhance engagement and satisfaction. Users can easily navigate between related pages and explore your content.


As for the publisher, building topical authority enhances your relevance eyes of search engines, while simultaneously building relationships with your target audience. Some of the tangible benefits include:

Natural Backlinks

Building topical authority increases the likelihood of earning natural backlinks.

Industry influencers and websites are likelier to link to your site if you publish authoritative and valuable content about related topics on a regular basis.

Exponential Traffic Growth

You can increase your visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs). Higher rankings lead to increased organic traffic that can grow exponentially over time.


Brand Recognition

You can build your brand by consistently delivering high-quality content on relevant topics.

This recognition from your target audience enhances your reputation and fosters customer trust.

How To Measure Topical Authority

Like all marketing tactics, you need to track your progress and identify areas for improvement. Here are some key things to consider:


Content Gaps And Breadth Of Topics

Regularly evaluate your content to identify content gaps or areas where you could improve your coverage. Keyword research and competitor analysis can help you find topics and subtopics you still need to address.


Growth Of Traffic

You can also track the growth of organic traffic to your website. A steady increase in traffic indicates that your strategy is paying off and your content resonates with your target audience.



Content Freshness And Publishing Velocity

Search engines value fresh and up-to-date content.

Publish new content that aligns with your topical clusters to demonstrate ongoing expertise and authority.

You can also monitor the frequency at which search engines crawl and index your pages. A higher crawl rate indicates that search engines recognize the value and relevance of your content.


Accumulation Of Backlinks

Attracting new backlinks indicates your content is recognized and authoritative in your niche.

Don’t just focus on the quantity of links you get; measure the quality too.

Securing links from established sources within your niche, or niche-specific content, can achieve better results than multiple links from irrelevant sites.

Become A Trusted Voice With Topical Authority

Building topical authority is a long-term strategy. It requires a comprehensive approach utilizing internal and external SEO tactics.

You’re making an ongoing commitment to deliver valuable and authoritative content to your audience.

But it is a worthwhile investment.

Websites with high topical authority are more likely to attract visitors, generate leads, and close sales.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

View All Posts

Become a Pro at SEO

Join 65,000 others and learn the secrets to SEO success with our weekly blog posts.