AI generated image of a dog standing in front of a whiteboard giving a lecture to an audience of other dogs on the topic of cats.
This entry is part 5 of 21 in the series Topical Authority

The lead post in this series is Mastering Topical Authority: A Comprehensive Guide to Boost Your SEO.

At it’s core, the Google search engine is a very sophisticated and complex pattern recognition engine.

And to achieve their stated goal of helping us find the most relevant and authoritative answers to our queries, Google has introduced the concept of Topical Authority and is making it into a central theme for their algorithm.

It helps determine which webpages and websites are MOST relevant and authoritative for our search queries.

EEAT and Topical authority

Another concept Google is pushing is EEAT, which stands for experience, expertise, authority, and trust.

The meaning of this is extensively documented in the Google Search Quality Rater Guidelines, which the human search quality raters Google hires (through third party vendors) and uses to help Google figure out what high quality authoritative content “looks like” to the pattern recognition software that is their search engine.

Simply put, the more of a subject matter expert you and your website are perceived to be, the higher you and your website rank.

I say “you” above because with the change from EAT to EEAT (experience was recently added) Google appears to be treating writers as well as websites as relevant and authoritative.

Measuring topical authority

Google does not disclose a specific methodology for measuring topical authority, but of course people have made attempts to reverse engineer this and have come to some conclusions.

Google appears to use qualitative metrics such as the “value” (and yes, this is somewhat subjective and I expect difficult to quantify) of the content and the reputation of the author, and quantitative metrics such as the number of topically relevant links to the content.

It appears as if these metrics are “rolled up” into some kind of a “authority and expertise” score.

Topical authority signals and content analysis

It’s necessary to look back to the 2013 Hummingbird update to better understand this concept of topical authority signals.

Hummingbird was the start of matching SERP results to “user intent”, and this in turn reinforced the concepts of “reliability” and “authority” within their algorithm.

Google has moved further towards this idea with subsequent algorithm updates.

Topical authority and search performance

After a decade of matching SERPs to user intent, Google has gotten pretty good at prioritizing webpages and websites that best answer our queries.

This in turn has pushed us all into publishing more comprehensive in depth answers, which in turn has given Google more data for better matching SERPs to our queries.

This has created a bit of a virtuous cycle, where SERPs that better match user intent encourage us to all publish content that provides more in depth comprehensive answers, which gives Google more data which which to tune their algorithm, which in turn pushes us to FURTHER create comprehensive in depth answers, etc.

Google has a “topical authority system”

This is according to an article on the Semrush website.

They talk about it’s use for news sites, and it’s not clear if it’s used for other sites as well.

The exact quote is:

Note: Topical authority is particularly relevant for news. Google uses a dedicated topical authority system to prioritize results from “news teams that are intimately familiar with the location and topic.”“.

Internal links and topic clusters

Once upon a time we created “pillar posts” and “snippet posts“, but the new name is “topic clusters”, and it is a better name.

A topic cluster is when you organize the content on your website into a series of posts, or perhaps a main post and several sub posts, where each sub post discusses a different aspect or nuance of the broader topic.

These posts link back and forth to each other.

When you do this with your in depth authoritative content, it seems you very definitely boost the topical authority of your website.

What SEO and blogging pros say about topical authority

Writing Studio

“Why is an association between a domain and keywords important? It comes down to “topical authority”.”.

Productive Blogging

“The more high-quality, well-written, helpful pieces of content on a given topic there are on your site, the more likely your website is to be perceived as a trusted source of information on that particular topic – by both Google and your readers.”.

Lumar

“When a website consistently delivers high-quality content around certain subjects or topics, it’s more likely that the site will be considered an authoritative source and subject matter expert—by users and search engines alike.”.

Clearscope

“To be rated as very high or highest quality content, you must have a “very high level of expertise, authority, and trustworthiness” and a “very positive website reputation.”

Building authority as a subject matter expert for particular topic signals to searchers and Google that your website is trustworthy.

Establishing this reputation of expertise helps improve your rankings on search engine results pages (SERPs) and strengthen the association between your brand and relevant keywords.”.

In closing

Google is committed to the ideas of topical authority and EEAT, and like it or not, they do, for all practical purposes, make the rules for search.

If you want to be found, you need to embrace these ideas.

Series Navigation<< Importance of topical authority in search engine rankingsStrategies for building topical authority >>

Kevin Carney
Kevin Carney

Like many people, Kevin "fell into" SEO by accident, back in 2009. Over time, he developed a keen interest in the concept of a "digital marketing divide" where brands with big budgets have significant advantages over small businesses. This led to the development of a SaaS platform to help "newbies" grow their topical authority, for both writers and websites. https://organicgrowth.biz.

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