Building topical authority for your blog is a smart way to rank fast and grow traffic (without needing loads of backlinks). But what exactly is it and how do you build it? In this guide, I’ll show you how.

What is Topical Authority?

Topical authority is a measure of Google’s level of trust in your blog as an authority in its niche (it also applies to other search engines, like Bing). In this situation, it’s important to pay attention to what Google says about how it evaluates trust signals.

According to Google’s SEO fundamentals guidelines, your content should be: “written by an expert or enthusiast who demonstrably knows the topic well.

Google also wants your content to “clearly demonstrate first-hand expertise and a depth of knowledge (for example, expertise that comes from having actually used a product or service, or visiting a place)?”

And lastly, how does Google determine who is an authority on a topic? In a 2021 Q&A, Google’s Danny Sullivan said that the search engine understands “broad notions of topics” and that “sites with a history of authoritative content may do well in those areas”.

So the starting point for building topical authority is choosing your niche – ideally, one where you (or your main writers) can demonstrate genuine expertise and experience. Then, publish lots of high-quality content covering all the key topics within that niche.

How Topical Authority Benefits Your Blog

Topical authority benefits your blog in many different ways. Here are a few of them:

  • Faster ranking of new content
  • Less effort is required to rank
  • More clarity about your content strategy (you’ll know what works best)
  • More trust from your readers
  • More traffic (because you’ll rank higher)
  • More earning potential
  • Your blog becomes a more valuable asset overall

The “Topical Authority Tipping Point’ (And How To Get There)

If you publish enough properly optimized content, you’ll eventually see results like below.

Your traffic will suddenly take off and embark on a sharp upward climb. Your new blog posts will rank quickly, sometimes within a few days.

I like to call this stage the topical authority “tipping point”. Google now recognizes your blog as a trusted source in your niche. It’s rewarding you with higher rankings and more traffic.

Once you reach this stage, your life as a blogger becomes much easier. You’ll start making money, you’ll get a massive motivation boost, and you’ll generally feel great about your decision to start a blog.

But the road to that topical authority tipping point requires patience and determination.

Depending on the level of competition in your niche, you’ll need to publish a lot of blog posts before Google trusts you as an authority.

You’ll also need to approach your keyword research strategically, while making sure your site’s E-EAT (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness) is properly dialed in.

Start your keyword research process by exploring the sites competing with you for your broadest “seed” keywords. I recommend regularly conducting an SEO competitor analysis to monitor your environment and uncover new opportunities.

Topical Authority vs Domain Authority

In 2024, the concept of ‘authority’ goes far beyond mere backlinks.

Many new bloggers working on their SEO focus too much on increasing their site’s domain authority, for example by purchasing backlinks from low-quality sources, such as link farms, or spending loads of time doing outreach for guest post opportunities.

Doing guest posts or HARO outreach (to quality and relevant sites) is not a bad idea. But as a new blogger, your time is much better spent on creating lots of top-quality content – which is totally within your control (unlike backlinks).

Content is what will get you to that topical authority tipping point, and hence move the needle, faster.

And, once you achieve topical authority, you can rank high even with a low domain authority (I’ve been on page one outranking far more powerful sites while my site’s domain authority was only 16).

While backlinks do matter somewhat, content is far more important. Often, those links will show up naturally once you start ranking on page one.

Note

Different SEO tools use different metrics to measure domain strength. Semrush and Moz use domain authority (DA), while Ahrefs uses domain rating (DR).

Both metrics assign domains with a score from 0 (weakest) to 100 (strongest), and draw on a combination of factors to reach their final score.

But the main factor in both DA and DR is the number and quality of backlinks pointing to your website.

How To Build Topical Authority in 6 Actionable Steps

#1. Pick your niche (and stick to it)

You might think it’s a good idea to blog about a wide range of different topics. After all, you’ve got so many interests and that way you’ll appeal to lots of people – right?

Nope. To succeed as a blogger in 2024, you must pick a niche for your blog and stick to it. You can write about different topics within that niche, of course, but your blog should have a coherent overall direction.

For example, this blog is about how to build a profitable blog with SEO. Under that main umbrella, I write about topics related to blogging, SEO, and making money online.

Sometimes I branch off into a different, but related, area, such as how to use LinkedIn to build your brand. But all in all, this blog maintains a fairly narrow focus, which improves its chances of achieving topical authority.

What’s more, the blog’s focus relates directly to one of my personal and proven skills (building profitable blogs). I highlight this expertise everywhere I can: in my About page and author bio, as well as weaving it naturally into the content of my blog posts themselves.

#2. Get ready to E-EAT (a lot)

E-EAT stands for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness.” It’s a method Google uses to evaluate if its search ranking algorithms are providing high-quality, helpful, relevant, and accurate information.

Google’s goal with E-EAT is to evaluate the extent to which the content writer has real-life experience of what they’re writing about. Experience is defined as “the extent to which the content creator has the necessary first-hand or life experience for the topic.” 

Have you either done the thing you’re writing about personally or learned about it in some other way? This is a wise move from Google – after all, do we really want to read content that’s not written by a subject matter expert?

Approaching your blog like a business is a great mindset for building EEAT. Be upfront and clear about who you are, what you do, and what your experience is all about. Here’s my full guide on building strong E-EAT signals for your blog.

#3. Build your topical clusters

The road to topical authority is paved with A LOT of content.

But not just any content. To be considered an authority, you need to cover each topic comprehensively and in-depth. As a rule of thumb, expect to publish at least 30 blog posts around a topic (and that’s just for starters).

And it’s not just the number of posts you publish, but also the way you structure and link them together. The fastest way to signal authority to Google is by building your content in clusters, then linking them together with internal links.

This usually involves one “pillar post” (typically a broad overview of many aspects of the topic), then multiple “cluster” posts (standalone blog posts that dive deep into the various aspects of the topic). All of these link back to the pillar post, which then links out to all of them.

For example, a pillar post could target the main keyword “blogging”, such as “The Ultimate 2023 Guide to Blogging For Beginners“.

This is a broad, competitive, and high-traffic keyword. You’re unlikely to rank for it with just a single post. That’s why we need cluster posts.

For the cluster posts, you target multiple long-tail keywords around the broad topic of blogging. Over time, once you reach topical authority, the entire cluster will start to rank – bringing in lots of juicy traffic.

#4. Front-load your publishing schedule

When I started my most successful blog (which had over 100K monthly visits at its peak), growth was slow for many months.

Why? Because my publishing schedule was too infrequent and sporadic. I made the mistake of only publishing new content when I felt like it, which was typically once or twice per month.

As a result, my blog grew very slowly.

But things changed for the better when I decided to publish a new post every day for a month (using the topic clustering approach).

That was when my blog reached the topical authority tipping point and embarked on a steep upward trajectory.

So don’t make the same mistake as I did. Don’t skimp on your content velocity.

Instead, front-load your content by publishing a new blog post every day. Do this for at least the first month or two of your blog’s life – and you’ll reach the topical authority tipping point much sooner than I did.

Once you’ve got there, it’s okay to take a step back with your publishing schedule. But I’d recommend publishing a new post at least once a week, to maintain your rankings and build out your content foundations.

And of course, don’t forget to go back and improve your old posts to keep them fresh. Google loves fresh content.

#5. Leverage the power of internal linking

External links (backlinks) are great, but internal links are one of the most underrated aspects of SEO.

And the best part is, internal links are entirely within your control. You can add them whenever and wherever you like. I recommend using internal linking to build out topic clusters in the way I described in step 3.

As a general rule of thumb, whenever you publish a new blog post, aim to add at least five internal links to other relevant posts. Also, you should find at least five relevant existing posts and link from those to the new post.

The second part works especially well if the existing posts have already attracted significant traffic and backlinks. Internal links help pass that “SEO juice” onto the brand-new post and help it rank faster.

It’s okay to use exact match anchor text for your internal links (although you should avoid doing so for external backlinks, to avoid over-optimization penalties).

Still, I recommend mixing things up from time to time, e.g. using a combination of exact match and contextual anchor text for your internal linking.

PRO TIP

Link Whisper is one of my favorite tools for managing your internal linking. It’s a WordPress plugin with a handy dashboard that shows all the internal links in one place. You can easily identify blog posts that need more links, then add them automatically at the click of a button.

#6. Create your “online universe”

My final point isn’t necessarily a direct factor in building topical authority. But it’s an important consideration nevertheless, especially in the age of AI-dominated search.

Your blog is just one place to share your expertise with the world. I strongly suggest going beyond just your blog to create an entire “online universe” for your personal brand.

By that I mean, you should also create a presence on at least one social media platform to complement your blogging strategy. For example, if you blog in a business-related niche, then LinkedIn would be a great place to build a presence.

YouTube is another great place to do this (and having a library of videos will help to protect you against the repercussions of AI-driven search).

That might sound like a lot of work, but with a clever repurposing strategy you can make it relatively streamlined. For example, you could start by publishing an optimized blog post targeting your main keyword, then use ChatGPT or Jasper AI to convert that into a YouTube video script.

Blog posts also lend themselves well to repurposing as LinkedIn posts. Just take the key points of your blog post (e.g. if it’s a how-to post then you could just extract the individual steps) and combine them with a snappy LinkedIn hook and a call to action.

At the very least, consider doing the following for easy wins:

  • Open the comments section for your blog posts and encourage your readers to comment. Reply to their comments to build up a conversation (you can always use a spam filter to cut down the chances of spam sneaking through).
  • Create your “social fortress” by claiming your profile handles on all the major social media platforms, including Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. For best effects, use the same name as that of your blog. This shows Google that you’ve got a real presence beyond just your blog – even if you don’t publish regular content on those platforms.

How To Use Topical Authority To Make Money With Your Blog

Once your blog has reached topical authority, you’ll naturally start getting more traffic. BOOM! 🚀

But how can you leverage this golden opportunity to start making more money with your blog? Here are just a few of my favorite tactics.

Monetize with display ads

Running ads on your blog can be a good way to earn passive income.

It’s possible to set up ads on your blog right from the beginning, using Google AdSense or Ezoic (I highly recommend Ezoic as it pays better than Adsense).

But you’re unlikely to make much money, so it might not be worth it to clutter up your blog with ads in return for a few dollars in revenue. I recommend holding off until you have at least 5-6,000 visitors per month before putting ads on your blog.

Once you hit the topical authority tipping point, your traffic will start growing quickly. Then, as soon as you reach 50,000 visits per month, I recommend applying to Mediavine.

To get accepted there, you’ll need to have the majority of your traffic coming from the US, which may not fit everyone. But Mediavine is a great experience once you’re on board.

Extend your topic clusters with affiliate content

If you followed the instructions from earlier, you’ll already be writing blog posts based on topic clusters.

]Perhaps you’ve already started publishing some commercially focused posts, such as product reviews or comparison posts in those clusters.

But in case you’ve only published informational content so far (like how-to posts and ultimate guides), then reaching topical authority mode is a good opportunity to add some relevant affiliate content to your topic clusters.

Of course, you have to keep it relevant to the niche and the cluster. Start by doing some keyword research, looking for commercial intent keywords in your topic area.

These typically include keywords such as:

  • “X product vs Y product”
  • “Best X product for Y task”
  • “X product review”
  • “Alternatives to X product”

If you can find any of these keywords, then you’ll be in a good position to start creating affiliate content that converts. Your blog’s topical authority will help the new content to rank quickly and start bringing in the dollars.

Sell your own info products

Another way to leverage topical authority is by selling your own information products. These can include a wide range of formats, such as e-books, templates, video courses, cheat sheets, masterclasses, or even your own software.

Build an info product that solves a relevant problem for your readers. Then subtly weave mentions of it into your informational blog posts, presenting your product as a solution to the problem that brought them to your post.

Get sponsored brand deals

Once you reach topical authority and have plenty of traffic, you’ll be in a good position to promote brands in exchange for sponsorship payments. This differs from affiliate marketing, because you’ll typically receive a regular payment every month, or a flat fee for each mention of the brand.

It’s not always easy to figure out how much to charge, but you could start by looking at other blogs in your niche to see if they’re doing any sponsored brand deals. Then you can examine their traffic and use that as a benchmark to gauge how much you could charge for sponsored brand deals.

Actionable Next Steps

Reaching topical authority will be an exciting and transformative moment in your blogging career.

When it happened to me, it made me view my blogging endeavors in a whole new light. What’s more, it will open up a whole new range of opportunities for making money with your blog.

To get there, don’t forget to focus on the steps I’ve outlined above, and keep on publishing top-quality content in your niche. If you do this long enough, you’ll reach the topical authority tipping point sooner or later.

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