What is Topical Authority in SEO?

What is Topical Authority in SEO?

“Have you ever heard of ‘Topic Authority’? No? Don’t worry, it doesn’t make you uninformed. It’s just one of those technical terms we, web geeks, use to sound knowledgeable.

In fact, Topic Authority, is an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) concept. Its purpose is to measure the level of expertise of a website or web page on a specific subject. And guess what? Google loves it!

How does it work?

Imagine Google as a very diligent student always seeking the best information source for their presentation. If your web page is considered an ‘authority’ on a topic, Google sees it as a reference book and recommends it to all the other students. Otherwise, it’s relegated to the digital library’s depths, among forgotten pulp fiction and 80s cookbooks. This is one of the fundamentals of how natural referencing operates!

To determine your Topic Authority, Google relies on several elements:

Content relevance: This refers to the quality of your argumentation. Is your content related to the subject? Is it useful and informative for users? Or is it just a collection of nonsensical keywords? 

Content depth: Are you delving deeply into the subject or just skimming its surface? Long and detailed articles tend to receive higher ratings.

Internal linking: If multiple pages on your site address the same topic and are linked, it strengthens your authority on the subject. It’s like being an expert who has written several books on the same subject.

Inbound links: If other quality sites link to your page, it enhances your authority. It’s akin to other experts citing you in their work, and that’s Google’s historical recipe!

Here are some tips to enhance your Topic Authority:

  • Be exhaustive: Don’t just skim the topic. Research, find data, give examples. The richer your content, the more Google will favor it
  • Internal linking: Create links between your pages. But do it sensibly. Links should make sense and help users navigate your site.
  • Get quality inbound links: It’s similar to real life. If recommended by trustworthy individuals, it bolsters your credibility.

Focus on quality: Google’s becoming more demanding. Poorly written articles full of errors, with disastrous formatting, are like inviting a date to a restaurant serving soggy fries and expired burgers. It’s unappealing and makes one want to flee. Ensure your content is impeccable. Read, reread, then reread again.

Be patient: Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the same goes for your Topic Authority. It’s a long-term investment. Similar to nurturing a bonsai, it requires attention, time, and, most importantly, not leaving it on the windowsill during a heatwave.

Don’t forget meta tags: Meta tags are like labeling a jar of jam. If you don’t specify that it’s strawberry jam, how will people know? It’s the same with Google. Meta tags (title and description) help Google understand your page’s content, thus improving its referencing.

How do you know your topical authority level?

Of course, after all this work to become the web’s rock star, you want to know where you stand, right? So, how to know your Topic Authority?

Unfortunately, Google, in its great wisdom, doesn’t give us grades like at school. There’s no report card showing, ‘Great in internal linking, but needs improvement in content relevance.’ That’d be too simple, right? From the American giant’s side, we must make do with a few recommendations.

But don’t get discouraged! There are available SEO tools that can provide an idea of your positioning. They won’t give you a precise grade but rather an indication of how Google might perceive your site. Tools like SEMrush, Moz, or Ahrefs can help evaluate content quality, internal linking, inbound links, etc.

However, these tools also have their limits. They’re like those claw machines at fairs. They can give you an idea of the size of the plush toy you might win, but they’ll never tell you if you truly managed to grab the big pink rabbit.

Hence, use these tools judiciously and complement them with a good dose of common sense. If you adhere to SEO basics, create quality content, and notice an increase in organic traffic to your site, you’re on the right track. And if you see your pages starting to appear in the top positions of search results for relevant keywords, you’ve likely achieved authority status on the subject. Congratulations, you’ve become a web rock star!

Google provides examples of signals used

In an article published on May 23 on Google Search Central, Jennifer Granito delved further into a ranking system already familiar to SEO experts: Topic Authority. This provided an opportunity to better understand the functioning of this system, which aims to enhance the visibility of relevant and expert content in Google News and Google Search

The Topic Authority system implemented by Google uses several signals to understand the level of expertise of a publication in certain specific domains and thereby offer internet users relevant content that adds real value, especially on subjects related to health, politics, or finance. In her publication, Jennifer Granito specifies the most important signals used:

The reputation of a source for a subject or location: “Our systems understand publications that appear particularly relevant for subjects or locations. For example, they can determine that individuals seeking news on Nashville high school football often turn to publications like The Tennessean for local coverage.”

Influence and original coverage: “Our system examines original media coverage (for instance, the publisher who first published a story is cited by other publishers) to comprehend how a publication is influential and authoritative on a subject. In 2022, we introduced the ‘Highly Cited’ label to assist people in better identifying stories that have frequently been cited by other media.”

Source reputation: “Our system also examines the history of high-quality contributions from a source or recommendations from expert sources, such as professional societies. For instance, the history of a publication offering original reporting or a publication whose journalists have received accolades constitutes significant evidence of the reputation of news sites.”

Offering content reflecting true expertise

In her publication, Jennifer Granito indicates that Topic Authority is an important signal for better addressing queries regarding local news, but the system also serves a purpose for search: “Let’s say, for example, there was a flood in your area. The Topic Authority signal helps us identify content from publications in that region regularly covering topics related to your city and showcases them in search results. These are likely familiar publications that instill trust within the local community, even if larger national media may also cover the flood.”

With its Topic Authority, Google aims to prioritize local and expert sources, better equipped to offer original content related to specific subjects or regions that might interest certain internet users. To leverage this system, Jennifer Granito simply advises site publishers to offer the publications expected of them, i.e., content that showcases their expertise in their field.