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How to become an authority on a subject through building topical authority

You might be trying to work out how you can take your business or personal brand to the next level. You might be wondering what it is the people making the top money in your industry are doing that you’re not! How can you get your business into a position where leads come to you and you don’t have to constantly go out hunting for work?

This article shows you how to do just that! We’re going to be covering how you can become an authority on a subject through building topical authority. How you can become the guru of your industry that people know and respect. 

We will be covering everything starting with the basics, then digging deep into the exact process and also covering all the most common questions people have. 

Look no further than this article if you want to truly learn how to grow your website and business organically the right way.

Let’s go!

What we will cover in this article

What makes someone an authority on a subject?

Let’s start by answering a seemingly basic question, but one that needs clarifying from the word go! What makes someone an authority on a subject?

The first thing you’re likely to look at is their track record. It’s easy to slap some regurgitated words on a page but those words need to be backed up with actual experience.

Some things to look for are:

  • Documented evidence 
  • Relevant qualifications
  • Depth of knowledge
  • They are providing exclusive and unique information
  • They can thoroughly explain a topic within their field
  • They welcome questions and are happy to explain further
  • They have written literature on the subject
  • They have their own opinions on things 

When you’re analysing someone or their website, you should be asking these sorts of questions to yourself to decide on whether they are an authority on their subject.

What does it mean to have authority on a subject?

Having authority on a subject can be a great way to advance your career or business. It means people trust you, they trust what you say and do. They follow in your footsteps and you essentially become a thought leader. You are raising your status within your field. 

What does authority mean in writing?

Having authority in your writing can mean two things. Firstly, it’s the tone in which someone reads your content and secondly, it’s how they perceive you. By creating authoritative content you’re creating content that people trust and therefore want more of. 

What can it mean for your business to be seen as an authority?

Being seen as an authority in business will have a direct impact on the amount of money you can make. This will be in your personal brand, your business or even both! As already mentioned, people will trust you more and therefore trust what you sell is the ideal. It will also build brand awareness for your busniess

Why is content important to SEO?

Without content, there is no SEO. Content is the foundation of all SEO campaigns. Every other ranking factor in SEO is based around trying to get your sites content to rank and therefore seen by the people who need to see it. Content is what people read and judge when they land on your site. Having good quality content is the difference between someone staying on your site or bouncing right back off!

What Is Topical Authority?

Topical authority is being seen as an authority or expert within a particular topic. It’s you demonstrating that you know most of what there is to know within a certain topic. This can be shown through writing, video, in-person talks, social media. And anywhere where you can get in front of enough of your target audience for long enough. Topical authority is about going deep into a topic to show that you are more than someone that’s knowledgeable on something, to many you could be considered an expert within this topic. 

Why Should You Care About Topical Authority?

You should care about building topical authority because as pointed out earlier on, by becoming an authority in a subject, you’re gaining trust and respect from your audience. This translates into growing your personal brand and/or business. 

Building topical authority is an excellent way to show you are the leaders within your space. This means you will in most cases, be the obvious choice over most of your competitors, and quite often you can sell your products and services at a higher price point due to people perceiving everything you sell as better quality. 

topical authority
Topical authority

How to Build Topical Authority

Now you know what being an authority in your subject is and why building topical authority is important, let’s take a look at the actual steps you can take to reach this kind of status. 

Identify Content Gaps

A content gap is looking at any existing content on your site and looking for opportunities on which you can improve. For instance, you might see that within an article you previously wrote, under one particular heading you did not elaborate much. You can then decide if this heading could be turned into a whole new article. 

You’re ensuring that the reader can find out every bit of necessary information on the subject. If you feel like they then need to search Google for further information about something within your article, then that’s a potential content gap you need to fill.  

Create Topic Clusters

Topic clusters stem from what is called your pilar content. Pilar content is the main article that covers a subject. Content clusters are then essentially all the subtopics of your main article.

It’s important to understand this because it means you start to think of how your article can become many. You don’t just think about producing one article, you think about how your audience can get a deep understanding of the subject through creating lots of smaller articles.

Each of these articles should be hyperlinked/internally linked from your main article. This means as the reader reads the article, they can click links to find out more information on sections that you weren’t able to elaborate on within the main article. 

Understand User Intent

Behind every search is intent. Every piece of content you produce should be based on trying to serve the right intent.

The four main types of search intent are:

1) Informational

This is someone seeking purely information on something. It could be asking a question such as ‘when did the dinosaurs go extinct?’ or maybe something surrounding your products or services. 

2) Commercial investigation

This is someone who is looking to buy soon. They might search for things like ‘best laptops under £500′. 

3) Transactional

This is when someone is looking to buy. They might type in something like ‘lawn mowers for sale near me’ or ‘coffee shops in London’. They are just looking for the best place to buy from. 

4) Navigational

They know the company they want to visit, whether it be to get information from or buy something from, but they search directly for that company’s website/specific webpage. 

You need to understand what intent your content should have and write so it matches it. If you write with the wrong intent people will bounce right back off your page!

Use Proper Internal Link Structure

Proper link structure is linking off to the right pages internally and externally and also ensuring you’re using the right anchor text.

So, why would you link off to another article on or off your site?

Outbound Links

These are links that link to other people’s sites. The idea is that you are giving people more information about something you cannot cover within your article. You might have to link off to other people’s sites because if you were to cover it on your site it would go off-topic too much. You should only be linking to other high-quality articles.

You should also always link to original sources of information you use within your article.

Internal Links

Internal links very similarly to outbound links, should also link off to something you cannot go into too much detail on in your current article. For example, I could create a whole article just talking about internal linking. If I spoke about internal linking too much here, I would go off-topic too much. Therefore, you link to other content within your site that elaborates on subtopics even more. 

Anchor text

Quite simply, anchor text according to Googles guidelines should be descriptive of where it’s going. If you’re linking to an article about how to gain muscle if you’re over 40 then the anchor text should be describing that, and not something random or doesn’t tell the reader what the link is going to. 

Put yourself in the reader’s shoes. If there’s a link on a page surely you would want to have a good idea of where that link will take you before you click on it, to save you wasting your time clicking on something you don’t want to read! 

Follow On-page Best Practices

On-page best practices are the basic principles every web page should try to follow. 

  • Fast loading page speed
  • Correct structure H1, H2, H3
  • Meta descriptions
  • Internal linking
  • External linking
  • Alt tags and images named correctly
  • URL structure
  • A secure site (HTTPS)
  • Easy to read content

This should be standard for every piece of content you write to stand the best chance of ranking for the right keywords and to provide the user with the best possible experience.

Follow Off-page Best Practices

Off-page best practices are everything that is happening off your site. Although this is not happening on your site, you still have a lot of control over it. 

This includes:

  • Not spamming the internet with links to your site
  • Ensure all backlinks are relevant to your site
  • Only build citations on reputable sites that are relevant to your industry
  • Think about gaining links to sites that would send quality referral traffic to you
  • Always try to add value to the internet
  • Create content people will want to link to 

By not following best practices, you could end up with a Google penalty. Off-page SEO is about trying to promote your content. You’re trying to get more of the right kind of eyes on your content. The more relevant sites that link to your content the more Google will start to trust you.

Source High-quality Backlinks 

Apart from having good quality content that matches the searchers intent the next biggest factor that will get your content ranking is high-quality backlinks. So, what defines a high-quality backlink?

When deciding if a link is of good enough quality ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the site relevant to your website and the content it’s linking to?
  • Does this site get a good amount of monthly traffic?
  • How much relevant traffic does the linked site get?
  • Does it rank for keywords that are relevant to your business and industry?
  • Does it have a good design (not generic)?
  • What’s the content like throughout the site? Good quality?
  • Does it have a good reputation?
  • Does it have a good social media presence with an engaged audience?

Every site you gain a link from you should be asking these questions. Poor quality links will generally not affect your site at all, and you are wasting your time and money getting them. In a worst-case scenario, you could even end up with a Google penalty. 

Use Keyword Tools to Organise Your Topic

Keyword tools are a great way to save you a lot of time. Sure, you can do everything without them, but it will take you longer. Many of the best keyword tools you will need to pay for, but given the amount of time they save you they are worth every penny. 

Keyword tools allow you to enter a seed keyword (a main/broad keyword that would generate other related keywords). From the seed keyword, the tools will show you metrics such as search volume, intent, keyword difficulty, cost per click etc. They will also allow you to filter the results into questions or you could manually filter what the keyword should contain. You can use these filters to sieve through thousands of keywords and build a list of topics!

Forget about keywords and think about topics

So, I know I’ve just told you to use keyword tools to research keywords and find topic ideas, but you must think beyond keywords and think about topics instead. 

Quite often during keyword research, it can be easy to focus purely on numbers and target them in a literal sense. What I mean by this is, if you have a keyword such as ‘dog beds’, you need to think beyond just dog beds and instead think about how that keyword can become a large topic with lots of subtopics. You need to visualise writing an article about everything someone would possibly want to know about dog beds, and then how that article could link to many other related articles. 

Give Answers to Users Questions

Doesn’t matter what industry you’re in everyone has questions! Some are way more common than others. Some that drive you crazy with the number of times you have to tell people. It’s these questions that form the basis of a good topic!

As mentioned, keyword tools find a lot of the most common questions out for you, but there are a lot of stuff keyword tools miss. If you get asked something a lot, chances are people are searching for it too. 

Other places where people ask a ton of questions are in places like Quora, Reddit, Facebook, LinkedIn, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, forums and anywhere where your audience hangs out and they can discuss things!

Google itself provides a lot of good quality questions people ask in its ‘People also ask’ section. 

Finding related topics

Finding related topics to your main topics is essential to building topical authority. Finding related topics is a case of researching, and it also comes down to your judgment through your experience with your niche. 

You should, before you start writing your content sort your keywords/topic ideas into silos. You start with the most important topic at the top and as you come down the silo think about what other keywords/topics are relevant to the main one. By finding one main topic you will start generating more ideas for topics. Start at the root of the topic and build out from there.

Again, many keyword tools can do a lot of the heavy lifting by suggesting related keywords to yours. Google also has a section called related searches at the bottom of every search you make. 

Another good way to find related topics is to look at books. Head over to Amazon and check out the top books on your main topic. Some clever person would have already thought about related topics with their book, so all you need to do is look in the index to get some ideas for your content!

topical authority seo
Topical authority SEO

Hummingbird’s Impact on the Search Landscape

Google’s Hummingbird update back in 2013 was all about trying to better understand what people are looking for. Hummingbird was slightly different to other updates as it was effectively a whole new updated Google algorithm as opposed to making slight changes to the existing one. It’s all about trying to give the user the answer to their queries as directly, accurately and as quickly as possible.

Before Hummingbird, if you typed a query into Google such as a sum for example what is 23 times 5048, Google would present you with results where you would have to find a website that solved the equation such as a site with a calculator. Post Hummingbird if you search for that equation a calculator with the answer will come right up as a SERP feature telling you the answer. 

If for another example you searched for “the time” into Google it’s unlikely you would want to find pages about the history of time. You would more likely just want to know the time. 


Hummingbird was about trying to figure out better people’s intentions behind their searches. This is easy for humans to do but much harder for robots!

What is Semantic SEO?

Semantic SEO is about creating content that answers questions related to your main queries/target keyword. 

Quite often when you search for a problem you end up finding out more information about that problem than you anticipated. Let’s say you need to know how to clean your oven, so you search ‘how to clean my oven’. Semantic SEO means that as well as telling you the steps on how to clean your oven, it could also cover related questions and queries, such as the dangers or common problems people face when cleaning their oven, or what the best products are to use. 

You’re especially trying to think beyond just the initial keyword and build up highly relevant pages that will give someone a deep understanding of a subject. 

This means you will likely rank for more than one keyword, answer lots of related questions and therefore rank for much longer. 

You can see semantic SEO on the search engine results pages. You can see the ‘what people ask’ section of Google and also at the very bottom related searches. These are all questions and queries that Google sees as related to your main keyword. 

What Contributes to Topical Authority?

What are the different factors that contribute to topical authority? By now you should have realised that the main factor is building depth of information on a topic. Starting with one main topic and then digging deeper and deeper into that topic by creating other articles and then linking to it from the main topic. 

Your content should be like a tree. Your main topic is the trunk and all the other articles linking off down the branches. Your content should never go any deeper than 4 tiers though. 

Tier 1 would always be your home page, of the site’s overall topic. 

Tier 2 would then be the next most important topic, and then you use tiers 3 and 4 to filter down and cover everything you need to in more depth. 

Domain Authority

Domain authority is a ranking given to your site originally by Moz, but it has been adopted by many other SEO software companies since. The idea is to help people quickly judge what level of authority your site has quickly, without having to dig too deep into other factors. Domain authority is influenced by the number of backlinks your site has and also the amount of content it has. 

Domain authority can give you a rough idea of the kind of authority a site has, but unfortunately it can be manipulated easily and it’s also not an official Google ranking. 

Page Authority

Page authority is similar to domain authority except it’s purely about the particular page you are on as opposed to the whole domain itself. The same as domain authority, it can give you a good insight into a page’s authority but it’s not always very accurate, and you would require to do some more research to find out its true authority. 

Is Topical Authority the same as Domain Authority?

Not really. You could look at a website with a domain authority of DA60 and at first glance, you might think it has a higher rating than say a DA25 website. But if the DA60 gets 1000 visits per month and the DA25 gets 10000 visits per month the DA 25 would likely be a better website.

Topical authority comes down to having great content that is structured logically. Constantly adding quality content to your site will build topical authority and also improve domain and page authority. 

To summarise this section, take domain authority and page authority with a pinch of salt. Instead, judge a websites topical authority by the quality and depth of its content and also the amount of relevant traffic it gets for that content. 

A website without traffic is useless, even if it has a high DA!

Topical page rank

The dangers of writing poor content

The web is abundant with poor quality content and ironically you probably don’t see much of it because it doesn’t often rank! Having said that some low competition niches still rank with terrible content. 

How does Google view word count?

How long should your content be so it’s the optimum length for Google to rank? Well, there has been a study to show that most of the top-ranking articles on Google are around the 2000 word mark. Does that mean everything you write needs to be 2000 words?

Absolutely not!

There is such a thing as writing too much and there is also such thing as writing too little. Your content simply needs to be as long as it needs to be. Put it this way, if someone asked you a question you don’t think about how long your answer needs to be, you just tell them the answer and it takes as long as it takes for you to explain to them. It’s the same with your content. Ideally, you don’t want to waffle, you want to get to your point as quickly as you can. 

You can rank pages that are about 500 words long or you can rank pages that are 10000+ words long. And everything in between.

What is long-form content?

Anything over about 1000 words is considered long-form content. Long-form content is about going into depth on a particular topic. It, therefore, needs to be long enough to cover everything you need to. There is no limit to how long-form content can be. Google will index every bit of it. 

What is thin content?

So, although I said you need to write as much as you need to, there is such thing as thin content. Thin content is content that lacks depth and is repetitive. You’ll also often find thin content has a low word count, usually below 500 words.

The length of your content is not a ranking factor. But having thin content can hurt your page. 

Think of it this way, if you only have a tiny amount of text on your page, there aren’t enough words for Google to consider your page as an authority on the subject. 

Going back to a real-life example, if someone asks you a question and all you can do is give them is a super quick half-arsed answer, they will be left still not knowing the answer to their question. So, would you think they know what they’re talking about? Probably not!

Do the number of published pages matter in SEO?

Yes and no. Yes, because you need a certain number of pages to be seen by your visitors and Google as an authority. If you have one page of content on your site, it’s not going to have enough content for you to go into depth on a topic, and therefore for you to prove you know what you’re talking about.

No, because on the other hand if you had 1000 pages of content and they are either irrelevant or poorly written, that’s also not going to position you as an authority.

Simply put, you need enough quality content to go deep enough into topics and show you have expertise within this field. 

Every site and niche will be different on the number of published pages you will need. 

Never think blasting out hundreds or thousands of articles will give you the edge.

It’s about quality, not quantity. 

Only start thinking about quantity if you can maintain the quality.

Will a detailed article or cluster always outrank a short article?

Not necessarily. Again, it comes back to the quality of the writing. If your short article hits the spot, has everything it needs in a short amount of text and matches exactly what the searcher is looking for, it could easily outrank longer more detailed articles or clusters of articles. 

However, if you can create a cluster of articles that match the quality or improve on the quality of the short article we just spoke about, you could quite easily outrank it. 

Search intent 

If you don’t understand search intent, it doesn’t matter how good your content is because no one will want to read it!

As mentioned earlier, search intent is the reason why someone is searching for a keyword. It’s their intention behind the search. Let’s say someone is looking to buy 18” car tyres and they find your website telling them every bit of information on 18” tyres. That’s not what they are looking for. If they intend to buy 18” tyres, your page should be a sales page for 18” tyres, or tell them where they can buy them from. 

With every keyword you target, you need to understand the search intent behind it. You can do this by simply doing a Google search for your keyword. You then need to review the search results to see what kind of results come up. 

Some keywords have multiple search intents. You will see this if you get a mixture of results. For example, you might see a few long-form informational articles, you might see videos, images, and listings selling products. 

There are 4 main search intents:

  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial investigation
  • Informational

Although these are the main 4 search intents you can go even deeper into this:

  • Research Intent
  • Answer Intent
  • Local Intent
  • Visual Intent
  • Video Intent
  • Fresh/News Intent
  • Split Intent

You need to understand this before you start creating any content to ensure you create the right kind of content.

How to develop an SEO strategy around Topical Authority

Planning is one of, or if not the most important part of creating topical authority. If you do not take the time to plan it will just be guesswork and you’ll be creating all kinds of random content. 

Your starting point is the concept of your site. Your sites concept is effectively the seed keyword (the keyword that generates all the other ideas). Let’s say for example your niche is flooring. Your seed keyword might simply be ‘flooring’. 

Flooring is what we would call your tier 1 keyword. You only have 1 keyword/site concept in tier 1 and this would be your homepage. 

You then have another 4 tiers if you need them. Your tier 2 keywords should be the next most important keywords. So for example from our initial keyword of ‘flooring,’ your tier 2 keywords might be ‘wood flooring’, ‘carpet’, ‘vinyl flooring’.

As you go deeper into your topics you will start to include tier 3 and 4 keywords. Deciding which tier you put the different types of content in mainly comes down to your knowledge of your niche. What do you think is a logical way for people to consume the information?

Let’s say you create a tier 2 article on ‘wood flooring’, telling your audience everything they need to know about wood flooring. Now, as we mentioned previously in this article think of that article as a tree trunk. As you go up the tree what other articles could you create from that one article so you can go much deeper into the topic?

Many people do not need to go deeper than tier 3, but you can go to tier 4 if needed. However, your content should never go deeper than tier 4 as beyond that point would start creating a poor user experience. 

Which tools can be used for topic research?

There are a ton of great tools to do topic research with. The most obvious ones are keyword research tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Ubersuggest, Google Keyword Planner etc. Some tools are free and some cost money. However, if you’re serious about your content the paid tools are always worth the money. 

Although not tools exactly, but some other ways would be looking in places like forums, Reddit, Quora and social media. See what’s hot, what are people talking about?

You can also look at Google trends, this is a great way to research trending topics! 

There are websites such as Answer The Public that provide some great ideas for keywords and topics. 

Lastly, one of the easiest places to look is simply Google search results. Do some competitor research, what are they talking about? Look at the ‘people also ask’ section on SERP’s, and also the related keywords at the bottom of the search results. 

There are a ton of free tools, paid tools and quality websites you can get an endless supply of ideas from. Many of these sites are absolute goldmines!

What are SEO mistakes content writers make?

Content writing and writing for SEO are two different things. Writing content that ranks requires a ton of planning to try and work out what search engines and users are looking for. On the other hand, content writing for places like social media or printed content does not need to take search engines into account.

Here are some of the main issues I have noticed:

  • Not taking into account search intent
  • Poor linking; internal and outbound
  • Linking to your competitors
  • Poor page structure
  • Poor research
  • Writing to a word count
  • Not updating content
  • No fact-checking
  • Not linking to sources 
  • Not bolding keywords
  • Writing in big blocks
  • Not making sentences short sharp and snappy
  • Not making enough use of bullet points and numbering 
  • Not thinking about SERP features such as featured snippets

Can you Really Rank with only High Topical Authority?

If it’s quality content and you produce enough of it consistently then yes. However, all content needs backlinks to promote it across the web, so you will also need to start building backlinks to your content. It is possible though, that by producing enough content and getting it shared enough, it will pick up backlinks naturally. Whether this is enough for it to rank would depend on how tough your competition is.

Always promote your content as much as possible to get the most out of it and to solidify your place on the top spots of Google. This includes spending money on paid ads if possible. 

The Advantages Topical Authority has on the Internet

You are essentially creating a better internet. You’re creating high-quality in-depth content for everyone to enjoy and access with ease. If everyone thought along the lines of trying to get away with as little as possible to rank on SERP’s, the internet would be a poor resource. You’re creating something that will help people far and wide. You’re creating something with long-lasting results. Everything you do in your business should be based around helping someone with a specific problem or need. Your content is no different. 

Conclusion: How to become an authority on a subject through building topical authority

So, that is how to become an authority on a subject through building topical authority. Hopefully, now you understand what you need to do to become a force to be reckoned with in your niche or industry. This is what all the top bloggers and businesses are doing, and if you’re serious about your business it’s what you should do too!

Becoming an authority on a subject is about demonstrating you have experience, expertise, your own opinion on topics and your always happy to embrace people’s questions. By doing this you will gain trust with your audience thus leading to growing your business.

Topical authority has huge benefits for SEO. By starting with your main topic and linking deeper into other sub-topics you’re showing search engines your depth of knowledge. It will also improve the length of time visitors stay on your site as they venture deeper into your content. 

Building topical authority starts with planning. You should identify content gaps, create topic clusters, understand user intent and make use of effective internal linking and outbound linking.

Following on-page best practices is essential, if your site has a poor user experience people won’t stick around. Also, follow off-page best practices to promote your content across the web effectively. 

Keyword tools can be a great help to find and organise your topics. However, don’t become too obsessed with keyword figures such as search volume or cost per click. Your goal should simply be trying to provide your visitors, with the best, most useful and relevant content on the web.

Semantic SEO is especially important as this means you’re covering your topic in its entirety, leaving no stone unturned and also creating more opportunities for deeper content. 

Topical authority is built by creating in-depth quality content consistently. Page authority and domain authority are simply unofficial ways to understand quickly if a page is considered authoritative or not. However, take this metric with a pinch of salt as this can easily be manipulated. 

Writing poor content is a big no-no. You’re always better off spending more time on one piece of content than creating tons of poor articles for the sake of speed and churn. Therefore, the number of pages on your site is not that important, it’s more about the quality of each page. 

Wordcount is not a ranking factor and there is no word limit for content on Google. You only need to write as much as necessary. You should use your intuition as to how many words you think is appropriate for each topic. It is important to know that there is such thing as thin content. Having too little content on a page signifies to Google there isn’t enough information to show your expertise in a subject. 

Developing your strategy starts with your tier 1 site concept. From there you create up to 3 more tiers so you can go into enough depth on your topics. 

There are a ton of tools out there free and paid that will help you with research. These tools will make your life way easier and are highly recommended if you’re serious about your content. 

To get started, start building a list of relevant keywords and then sorting them into their correct tiers. Start with writing your tier 2 content as soon as you can, so you can start creating tiers 3 and 4 soon after. 

Alternatively, you can get in touch today to see how we can help you with creating a content strategy that will rank on search engines, get your website visible to the right people and subsequently generate your business more leads. 

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