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How to build topical authority and become the go-to source in your niche

Boost your visibility and get your site to the top of those search results by building topical authority that lasts.

Tom Amitay - Organic marketing & SEO expert
By Tom Amitay
Lia du Preez
Edited by Lia du Preez
Romi Hector
Fact-check by Romi Hector

Updated June 13, 2024.

a computer monitor sitting on top of a desk

Key takeaways

  • Topical authority indicates a website's expertise on a specific topic, which is important for high rankings and user trust.
  • Google uses topical authority to prioritize sites with real expertise.
  • Building topical authority involves creating informative, engaging content optimized for E-E-A-T.
  • Measure topical authority by monitoring ranking keywords, average positions, estimated organic traffic, and branded search volume.

Gaining visibility and trust around specialized topics is vital for brands today, but earning recognition as an authority in competitive spaces dominated by heavyweight sites can seem impossible. That's where topical authority comes in.

By consistently publishing comprehensive, accurate information around a niche, you can demonstrate credibility and build authority over time. Let’s explore actionable strategies for organically building topical authority and becoming a go-to resource even in highly competitive specialties.

What is topical authority and why does it matter?

Topical authority refers to the depth of expertise, experience, and trustworthiness that a website has established on a specific topic. Websites with strong topical authority on a subject provide extensive, accurate, and credible content within their niche.

For example, if a tech website wants to build authority around smartphones, publishing a single article about smartphones probably won't be enough. Instead, they need in-depth, comprehensive content exploring niche aspects like:

  • The best smartphones according to multiple relevant categories
  • In-depth side-by-side comparisons of different smartphones
  • Articles consistently keeping up with and analyzing the latest smartphone technology trends and innovations
  • Troubleshooting guides diving deep into common smartphone issues like battery drainage, software bugs, connectivity problems, etc.
Example of website with extensive and accurate content within their niche

Topical authority signals to search engine algorithms that your site can reliably be used as an authoritative source of information, leading to higher search rankings, increased visibility, and improved user trust overall.

Example of a site with topical authority ranking first on SERP

» Find out the impact of AI on topical authority

How Google uses topical authority in rankings

Google uses topical authority to determine which sites should rank higher for certain queries because they understand that sites with more high-quality, relevant content and expertise tend to provide more helpful results.

Essentially, Google wants to show users the sites most qualified to answer their queries.

Example of website with topical authority ranking well for related topics (CDC)

If Site A has published 50 in-depth, useful articles about "SaaS marketing" while Site B only has five, Google understands that Site A has better topical authority. Therefore, Site A earns priority ranking for related searches.

How to build topical authority

Building topical authority can be challenging, especially for competitive topics where the top search results are dominated by established sites like Wikipedia and WebMD. However, with a well-thought-out content strategy centered around demonstrating your expertise, it's possible to build authority and recognition organically.

There are two main ways for sites to build topical authority.

1. Valuable content on topics in your niche

The more high-quality, relevant, useful content you produce around a topic, the more authority Google gives your site for that subject. Informative, engaging, optimized content showcases valuable expertise in search engines.

Google recommends optimizing content for E-E-A-T—expertise, experience, authority, and trust. This helps showcase firsthand knowledge and unique perspectives, not just content created to satisfy the algorithm.

a blue background with the words google, expertise, expertise, authority, trust,

Let's say you run an e-commerce site specializing in selling security cameras. Creating comparison articles, buyer's guides, installation tips, and other camera-centric content displays your niche credibility.

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2. External trust signals

Links from other websites to yours signal trust and strengthen your topical authority, especially if those sites also have strong authority. These referrals validate you as a trusted source that top players can connect to their reputation.

Similarly, when real people search for your specific brand name, it reinforces your industry recognition and expertise credentials. Being recognized by consumers as an authority-worthy brand boosts your topical authority.

» Learn how to stay ahead of Google's changes to search

Maintaining hard-earned topical authority

Gaining topical authority takes consistent effort over a long period of time. Many sites fail to maintain focus after initial progress, losing the search visibility they worked so hard for. To maintain topical authority:

  • Create evergreen content, and be sure to update it regularly
  • Track Google search algorithm updates and adjust your optimization strategies accordingly
  • Optimize your content for evolving search result formats like featured snippets and Google Search Perspectives.
  • Keep an eye on how you rank for keywords related to your niche. Consistently ranking for these in the long term signals durable, trustworthy authority.

How to measure topical authority

You can accurately measure strengthening topical authority by tracking the following:

  • Total ranking keywords related to your topics
  • Average ranking positions for keyword clusters
  • Estimated organic traffic from keyword groups
  • Branded search volume

Relevant keywords with improving visibility, especially for competitive searches, demonstrate growing topical authority. Keyword tracking is important as it allows you to optimize content and avoid keyword cannibalization. The goal is to create relevant content without duplicating it.

Entail AI's content strategy software simplifies the entire process of measuring topical authority by helping you map relevant topics, understand their potential value, group them into clusters, and more.

a screenshot of a table

This data is compiled into reports like this one, allowing you to easily assess your website's authority on specific topics by examining factors like traffic, impressions, average position, and overall impact.

Stay top of mind as an authority

Gaining traction as a reputable authority can be challenging, but your commitment will pay off over time. By creating high-quality, authentic content that spotlights your expertise and sticking to best practices that build user trust and value, you slowly but surely elevate your site’s authority.

Stay patient and focused on providing value for your audience, and you'll steadily grow into an established high-authority site.