Once upon a time, an effective SEO strategy was dependent upon inserting the relevant keywords and backlinks into articles and web copy a specific number of times. Including the right percentage of the right keywords and links was the magic equation that would get your site ranked higher in Google.
These days, it’s not so simple to obtain a high Google ranking. As Google has become much more intuitive, the equation for what makes a solid SEO strategy has grown to include several additional factors. While keywords and backlinks will always be relevant, Google has broadened its SEO algorithm to detect the difference between high-quality content and fluffy garbage. If your content is poorly written or lacking depth, it doesn’t really matter how many keywords you stuff in there – Google won’t recognize it to be worthy of a high ranking.
In addition to factors like natural language, context, and meaning, topical authority has emerged as a very important aspect to consider when creating the type of quality content that Google will deem worthy of a high ranking. Here, we’ll explore the subject of topical authority to help you set your content up for success.
What is Topical Authority?
Topical authority can be defined as having perceived expertise over a broad niche or set of ideas, as opposed to having expertise over a specific term or idea.
For example, suppose there’s a featured article on a website about the history of Red Delicious apples. Suppose the site focuses on various things that are the color red. If the same article appears on a website that focuses on all types of apples, that would be the site that would gain recognition for topical authority.
While each site may contain high-quality content and have its own respective authority, the website that focuses on all things red wouldn’t be recognized by a search engine as a topical authority on the subject of Red Delicious apples. This is because the site about all things red wouldn’t contain any indicators aside from the one article on apples to let a search engine or other readers know that the owner of the site has any additional knowledge on the subject of apples. There also wouldn’t be any additional pages on the site to provide readers with answers to queries or questions related to apples, unless the queries or questions also related to the color red.
This is a great example of how search engines perceive topical authority. Websites that cover a relevant area of interest with a broad set of ideas will possess higher topical relevance than sites that cover a range of specific ideas that differ from one another in subject matter.
Why is Topical Authority Important?
The Internet has come a long way in understanding how people think and what they want over the last couple of decades. With the advancement of artificial intelligence and machine learning, these technologies are now being used in SEO to help search engines offer the most relevant and high-quality content possible in response to user queries.
The biggest reason that topical authority has become such an important focus for SEO is credibility. While keywords alone help direct users to relevant pages on a specific topic they search for, there’s no way for a user to know whether they’re being directed to a website that has credibility or any in-depth knowledge on that topic.
While creating an SEO strategy that focuses on topical authority instead of keyword research requires more careful planning and some extra TLC, it can go a long way in establishing trust and encouraging loyalty among customers. It’s a marketing landscape that’s built on the foundation of care and hard work.
How to Gain Topical Relevance
Topical authority is the future of SEO, so it’s important to make sure that you optimize your SEO strategy in such a way that your site can gain topical relevance. In short, you can do this by identifying the broad niche that your specific area of interest relates to and then expand your brand through quality content that relates to the broad niche. While this is a long and tedious process, it’s what will earn your site the recognition it deserves.
The Hub-and-Spoke Model
The hub-and-spoke model for SEO provides an effective way to not only keep your content neatly organized but to gain topical authority in your niche. In addition to gaining topical authority, this strategy will also help you gain link authority. Like topical authority, links with authority are recognized as higher-ranking than links that are simply relevant to a topic.
The hub-and-spoke model not only helps increase your topical authority on a subject but helps strengthen your link building. These are arguably two of the most important factors in an effective SEO strategy today. If you devote the time and effort needed to create a website based on this model, the recognition your site will receive is sure to increase exponentially.
Here’s how you can use the hub-and-spoke model to organize and optimize your site.
Create a Hub Page
Start by brainstorming topics for your hub pages. While you’re brainstorming, consider the topics that have a winning combination of search traffic potential, informational intent, and are broad enough for you to create a variety of “spoke” pages that can link back to the main “hub.”
Check your ideas by using a keyword explorer to narrow down broad topics to top search phrases. Go through the top 10 phrases to see which ones have the most informational intent. You can see this by looking at the search results. Stay away from topics in which the results contain mostly eCommerce pages or local pages. Look for topics in which the search results contain blog posts and articles – this is how you know that the people who search that topic are looking for information.
You’ll also want to check the traffic potential for each hub topic so that you know your hard work will have the potential to actually send a decent amount of organic traffic to your site. To check this, look at both search volume and estimated monthly traffic results. Choose topics that have a high volume in both areas.
Once you have your hub pages outlined, you can start to create the “spokes” or subpages for each hub page topic. To gain the most topical relevance, the subtopics need to be highly related to the hub topic.
For example, if you’re an agency that focuses on marketing and management for social media, you can create a hub page about Instagram marketing, and more specific subpages like Instagram marketing for small businesses, advertising on Instagram, how to get more followers on Instagram, and so on.
If you want help coming up with the best subtopics, you can first take a look at the top-ranking pages for your hub topic. As with the hub pages, you should also check the traffic potential for each subtopic so that you’re not writing on a bunch of topics that no one wants to read.
Use Internal Linking to Connect Subpages to the Hub Page
Internal linking is what connects the hub page to the subpages and the subpages back to the hub. These links are one of the most important elements in the hub-and-spoke model as your site cannot gain topical or link authority without them.
One way to use internal linking is to put them all in a custom table of contents that’s accessible from anywhere on the site. While this is the most aesthetically pleasing and user-friendly way to use internal linking, it’s a custom model that takes a lot of time and resources to implement properly.
You can also link everything together the regular way, by using drop-down menus or other menu styles on each hub page that will connect users to the subpage they’re interested in. The most important thing is to make sure that each subpage has a link back to the relevant hub page.
Measure Your Success
Use analytical tools to gain insights into how users interact with your site. By analyzing the behavior of your viewers, you can learn how they arrive on your pages, where they go from there, and where they end up. When you understand how traffic tends to flow through your site, you’ll begin to see which areas are gaining the most recognition on search engines and which ones need some more work. You can increase the authority to lower-performing areas of your site by pinpointing the topic hub and adding more relevant spokes to it.
Topical Authority for Narrow Subjects
It’s important to note that while the hub-and-spoke model is effective for creating topical authority, it isn’t for everyone. If you have a site with a narrow topic, the best way to gain topical authority is through a blog post section. Each blog post should be relevant to the main topic of the page and should contain links back to the home page or other relevant sections of the site.
Now that you understand what topical authority is and how to use it, you can get to work to create an organized model for your site and watch it gain the recognition and traffic it deserves