This AI generated image shows a walrus setting on a stool in front of an audience of seals having a "great thought" represented by a light bulb in a thought bubble. It accompanies a blog post titled "Why is it important to build topical authority?" and represents both topical authority and thought leadership.
This entry is part 21 of 44 in the series Topical Authority

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

The short answer: building topical authority increases the search rankings of your website.

But there’s more to it than that. Much more.

First, let’s talk about who can acquire topical authority

The website? The company? The brand? The writer? Someone the writer frequently refers to and quotes?

The short answer to all the questions above is “yes”.

Which is why there is much more to topical authority than “website rankings”.

Every person and entity mentioned above can be seen as authoritative, and the means of being seen so is similar.

Demonstrate expertise and trustworthiness.

Say stuff that is meaningful and helpful. Show your work.

In regards to “someone the writer frequently refers to and quotes”, sometimes topic experts don’t write much, perhaps because they’re not great writers or perhaps because they’re too busy with other work.

But since what they know helps the business and website acquire topical authority, writers who are not topic experts write for them.

In these situations the writer can ghost-write under the name of the topic expert, or they can “share the work” and the writer can write under their own name and quote the topic expert often.

I do not know which of those methods is “better”, but I personally believe that identifying the writer and the topic expert separately is the right thing to do. It feels more honest.

Now, let’s talk about why it matters

Expertise, trust, and credibility

Everything that follows flows from this.

The entire concept of topical authority involves being seen as an expert, who can be trusted, and says things that are true.

Brand recognition

As I mentioned earlier, the idea of topical authority “spills over” to a brand.

But for brands it’s more complex. A brand can have some aspects in which they have a great reputation, but other aspects in which they don’t.

I’ll use Wells Fargo bank to illustrate this point.

They’re a “too big to fail” bank, so your deposits are safe, possibly even if you have in excess of than FDIC limit.

But… They were fined $3.7B for an array of violations across several business lines that caused thousand’s of their customers to lose their homes and vehicles.

As long as you watch your statements closely, challenge anything you see that they do wrong IMMEDIATELY, and stay with it to resolution, you’ll be fine.

They also once got caught illegally up-selling and cross-selling products to customers who didn’t order them.

But if you want to know about investing in bonds, they’ve got a great article on their website!

So for deposit safety and website content, they’re great!

SEO rankings

Continuing the example of Wells Fargo, they have a website that shows expertise, authority, and trust.

When I googled for “investing in bonds” that page I mentioned above shows in SERP position #4.

That’s what we all want, and when you publish enough high quality content, it can happen for your website too.

Content engagement

Content engagement is both a “cause” of topical authority, and an “effect”.

As people start to comment on and share posts you’ve written, it starts a virtuous cycle where Google finds them more useful (more engaging if you will) which in turn attracts more engagement, which in turn causes Google to find them more engaging, etc.

Thought leadership

Not every agrees on a common definition of thought leadership, but I like this one:

“… a person who is specialized in a given area and whom others in that industry turn to for guidance.”.

Obtaining and growing topical authority can help establish you (or the topic expert you’re writing for) as an industry thought leader.

In closing

Topical authority is more a framework than a ranking system, but the framework includes things which will boost the search rankings of your website.

So building your brand, your thought leadership, etc, is not comingled with boosting your site’s search rankings.

Series Navigation<< What is the topical authority ratio?What is a topical map for SEO? >>

Kevin Carney
Kevin Carney

Kevin "fell into" SEO by accident, like many others. The SaaS platform to help writers boost their topical authority came years later after various SEOs said it was something they would like to see.

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