This AI generated image shows a dolphin at a whiteboard giving a lecture to an audience of dolphins on the topic of fish.
This entry is part 10 of 44 in the series Topical Authority

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

What topical authority is

As this post is part of a series on topical authority and this question is answered in depth elsewhere in the series, here I’m providing a very basic definition.

What follows is a pretty self referential definition, but it’s also true.

Topical authority is when Google, other search engines, and generative AI engines perceive a set of pages on your website to be authoritative and trustworthy enough to prioritize in SEPRs and answers.

Why topical authority matters

The short answer is because Google says so.

Their dominant position in search has allowed Google to dictate the rules of search. They created the concepts of Topical Authority and EEAT, told us all to go there, and over time updated their algorithm to force us all to go there.

The publishing of in-depth comprehensive content that covers multiple aspects, nuances, and perspectives on a topic in detail, helps establish your website (or at least a portion thereof) as a go-to source for answers about a certain topic.

And the umbrella term used to describe this is “topical authority”.

How topical authority is tied to search rankings

Per Google, they prioritize websites that have good reputations, and webpages that have high topical authority.

So again, per Google, the connection between topical authority and search rankings is very direct.

Additionally, websites considered to be reputable, have strong EEAT, and high topical authority are considered, again per Google, to be pretty much immune from being deranked easily by a future algorithm update.

This is not to say they can’t be knocked off page one by better more trustworthy and more reputable websites and pages, but they should never disappear from SERPs after an algorithm update.

Maybe move down a SERP position or two as they get displaced, but never simply disappear.

How topical authority is tied to AI generated answers

The answers provided by AI engines come from webpages. Some such engines, such as Perplexity AI, show their work and provide links to where the answers were found.

This means that not only does the generative AI revolution not negate the concept of topical authority, it strengthens it.

However, generative AI engines do raise the bar in terms of your answers being featured.

AI engines are creating an SEO landscape where only the very top search result for a given prompt is featured.

Whether that answer will or will not contain an answer from your webpage depends on multiple factors, one of which is how well your answer satisfies the prompt.

So while AI engines effectively present only the top SEO result, we are now searching with full sentences and in some cases paragraphs, so the old dynamic of matching webpages to “search intent” is also changing.

Unless people start massively sharing complex prompts, different “searchers” are likely to get get answers from different sources depending on the wording of their prompts.

What can we expect the future to hold?

The first obvious answer is, for reasons stated in the prior section, topical authority will likely become more important, not less.

And competition for that “top” slot should push us all to publish content that does a better job at answering questions.

AI responses are about answers, not “content” per se, I expect this will alter the way we write, for the better.

While I also expect AI tools to get much better at detecting AI generated content vs human generated content, I’m not sure this will be as big an issue as some think.

If the content provides a solid answer for the prompt, does it matter HOW webpage containing the answer was written?

But, I further expect most AI to write substandard content, as AI is a bit of a “regurgitation engine” where it guesses (and sometimes does an excellent job) what words and phrases might reasonably come next.

So they’re so far bad with originality, truth, abstract thinking, and other things we humans find easy.

In closing

The links between “topical authority” and SERPs as well as generative AI answers seems to be very direct.

Topical authority will likely be more meaningful in the future than it is now.

It will likely shift the way we write, for the better.

And is going to be here for a while.

Series Navigation<< Explanation of the difference between topical authority and domain authorityHow to leverage topical authority to improve search rankings >>

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.