When a user searches out a particular topic, they want to find someone who knows what they’re talking about. Search engines don’t have access to professional certificates, and neither do their users. How they decide on who is an expert and who isn’t is by using other websites. Using the collection of relevant links and information between related sites, a search engine can decide where to include specific pages in their ranking. However, as Searchmetrics notes, backlinks are not the only criteria that search engines use when ranking the expertise of pages.
WebFX mentions that Google has an obscure methodology for determining the authority of a particular site. Generally, many website owners believe that the trust that their users have in them is what builds their authority score. Research into the actuality of the authority rating shows that this is a misconception. We already know that a site will only reach users if it has enough authority to rank well. The broad criteria that search engines use to rank site authority includes:
- Reliability of the site
- Volume of Posts
- Business Reputation
- How long the site has existed for
Each of these elements contributes to how much a search engine considers a page as an authority. Page authority is an accepted driver of traffic, but the term topical authority is a bit more nebulous.
So What Is Topical Authority?
SEO marketers have understood for years the importance of keywords in driving search engine traffic. However, search engines have shifted away from keyword-based searching to intent-based searching. Using their well-trained AI, a search engine can try to figure out what a user’s searching for and give them that result immediately. Topical authority, according to Niche Pursuits, is the idea that a website is an expert on an entire topic, not just one keyword.
Topical authority has a lot of weight in the new age of search engine results, even though it’s not a blatant SEO element. Users tend to prefer getting expert advice rather than advice from someone who doesn’t seem to know what he or she is doing. SERPs always want to deliver the most relevant results to their users. The only way they can determine the expertise of a particular site stems from what others in the same niche think of that website. Since search page indexers aren’t going to go through every single mention of a web page, the only thing the engine can depend on is the cross-linking of web-pages from one authority site to another. Two of the upgrades to Google’s search engine algorithm demonstrate this ideal perfectly.
Understanding Google Panda and Google Hummingbird
The two major Google algorithm updates that impact the role of topical authority on how the search engine ranks web pages are known as Panda and Hummingbird. Google Panda, according to SEO Theory, establishes a rating for a website based on the quality of its content. It does so by determining the length of the topic, the author’s authority, and the presence of any useful links within the body of the text.
Google Hummingbird was a reworking of Google’s search algorithm to use semantics when searching – in other words, the company’s first foray into intent-based search results. Word Stream mentions that with the inclusion of Hummingbird, Google was able to create elements such as the Knowledge Graph that made searches more intuitive and less time-consuming for users.
How Topical Authority Influences Ranking
Both of these algorithms play a unique part in the establishment of topical authority. Panda addresses the quality of content and the authority score of its creator and the site that houses it. Hummingbird takes the user search term and determines the topic that the user wants to learn about. Then it accesses the list of sites referenced by Panda for that topic and serves the user the most relevant results, placing those that have more authority at the top of the SERP.
As Moz notes, Google’s algorithm updates have classified the relevance and authority of a site based on its links to other sites. Thanks to how the algorithm currently works, a website’s location on the search results may be determined on the relevance to a specific topic, not necessarily a particular keyword or key phrase. While keywords are still relevant, they aren’t nearly as crucial to a web page’s success as the topical authority.
Critical Methods of Building Topical Authority
Websites who aim to build their authority score can set about doing so in several ways. Crafting a single entry about SEO doesn’t make a website an authority on the topic. There are hundreds of thousands of other sites with authors who have created hundreds of articles on the subject. The quality of the content that a page presents along with authority links to back up its presentation is what helps it to rank on search engine results pages. Two of the most crucial considerations that a site should have when attempting to build topical authority are:
- Expert Knowledge: Does the information presented come from an expert in the field? Discussing a particular subject or topic through a guideline or technical article allows you to demonstrate your expertise. Google will take notice of the structure of the material along with the relevant links to other highly authoritative sites as well. Breaking down complicated terminology into simpler terms is an ideal approach to this.
- User Intent: We covered intent-based results and semantic search earlier. What is it that you want this particular site to demonstrate to a user? Topical authority tries to cover every single aspect of the topic. With this goal in mind, if you’re crafting content about a particular topic, the aim should always be to present exhaustive details. Cover the question thoroughly, even the branches that you can expand upon later. Offer the reader the information they want, along with all the supporting information that might lead them to look for something else that’s related to the topic which you covered.
Becoming a Topical Authority
Becoming an authority on a subject online doesn’t necessarily require a degree. Authority websites are those that offer information to users in such a way that makes it easy for them to educate themselves. For a website to set itself up as an authority, it shouldn’t only offer advice on a specific set of keywords. Instead, it should aim to cover a topic entirely so that you reward users for reading the content. Topical authority again reinforces the idea that the quality of content matters more than the volume or the keywords contained therein – A critical part of a business’s content strategy in 2020.