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Step-by-Step Topical Authority Guide
How Google Decides if You're Worthy of Being on Page 1
Welcome, Anons! I’ve learned a lot from BowTiedBull going back to the WSPB days as well as from the rest of the Jungle and it’s time to start giving back.
Helping people is the ultimate flex.
My first article is going to cover something that’s become somewhat of a hot topic in the SEO community: topical authority. It sounds simple enough and it is, but a lot of people don’t understand exactly what it means. If you do it right, you can actually start ranking *without* building any links. How do I know this? Because a few months ago one of my sites started getting crushed by a low-authority competitor who followed this strategy to a T. Once I implemented a similar strategy on my site, my rankings began to go up.
Here’s what you need to do.
Step one: establish a broad niche and break it up into content silos
A lot of NGMI types out there believe that topical authority means that you need to find a micro-niche and position yourself as the subject matter expert in that extremely narrow topic. This is wrong.
The way to go is to establish an extremely broad niche and create content silos within that niche. For example, if you’re creating a site about athletic gear for high school sports (no idea if this is a good niche, just using it as an example), you wouldn’t want to create a site named “SoccerCleats.com”. It’s too narrow. Instead, you’d want to target all high school sports. Something like “VarsitySportsGear.com”.
You’ll then break that broad topic down into several silos. In this case it’s obvious: each individual sport should be its own silo. You’ll have a section for football, soccer, swimming, golf, etc.
An excellent tool for this is Surfer SEO (LINK). Once you create an account, go to “Content Planner” and enter a keyword. It will spit out a complete content plan with all of the different articles that you need to write if you want Google to view you as an authority on that specific keyword. You can also enter your domain and it will create a content plan for your entire website.
For example, here is what happens if I create a content plan for the keyword “Banks are Zeros”.
Since this is an obscure keyword, some of the topic clusters are irrelevant but you’ll notice that it actually manages to pick up a few clusters that appeal to bow-tied animals.
High search volume keywords typically get better results than lower-volume ones.
The Content Planner feature is still in beta, so it’s not 100% perfect, but it’s a great starting point if you’ve just been winging it so far.
Step two: create content within each silo one at a time
Choose one silo that you think is promising and create content about *everything* related to it. That means individual product reviews, comparisons, and best-of lists. It also means informational articles that won’t necessarily be monetized but help position you as an authority.
For example, let’s say you decide to start with the soccer silo. Your goal is for Google to view you as a subject matter expert about soccer gear for high school athletes and nothing else. That means individual product reviews, comparisons, and best-of lists. It also means informational articles that won’t necessarily be monetized but help position you as an authority.
This can include topics like “best cleats for high school soccer”, “best socks for high school soccer”, “Adidas cleats review”, “How to get grass stains out of soccer jersey”, etc. You will write an article about anything you can think of that’s related to that topic, even if there’s no way that you’ll rank for that specific article. Well-written articles about high search difficulty keywords are still something you should focus on, even if you are starting a brand new site from scratch. The goal here isn’t for each article to rank on its own, but instead for you to build a content ecosystem that establishes you as a subject matter expert. Once Google knows what you’re all about, then you’ll start ranking for the long-tail and low-competition keywords that you’re actually trying to rank for.
How do you decide which articles to start with?
Check the search volume for each keyword and target the ones with the highest search volume and the lowest search difficulty first, then work your way down.
A very cheap tool to check search volume and keyword difficulty is UberSuggest (LINK).
Log in to your dashboard and click on “Keyword Ideas”. Enter your keyword into the field and it will spit out the search volume and difficulty. It will also give you related keyword ideas and content ideas.
I once again recommend using Surfer SEO to help with writing your articles once you have decided on which ones you want to start with.
Click on “Content Editor”, then enter your keyword into the form. It’ll then give you an option to select a target country and either desktop or mobile. I recommend that you almost always choose the United States (unless you have a good reason to target another country, e.g. a product that is only sold there). You should always choose to target mobile as well, since the market share for desktop is going to continue to decline. The rare exception for this would be if Analytics is showing that you get the majority of traffic from desktop. This is really rare but there may be some niches that are desktop-dominant.
Click “Create Content Editor with NLP” (You always want NLP to be on, even if you have to pay for extra credits). The content editor will be ready within a few seconds.
It will load a blank page with a content score and suggestions on how to improve your content to the right. A suggested word count, headings count, paragraph count, and image count will be provided underneath the content score.
Beneath that, you’ll see a list of keywords and a suggested frequency for each one. It’s important to stay within the range provided. Using a keyword too many times or too few times will lower your score.
Your content is ready to publish once the content score turns green (68).
Step 3: Interlink intelligently
It’s actually shocking to see how many affiliates (even major sites) are absolutely terrible at interlinking their articles.
Smart, focused interlinking is one of the most important things you can do if you want to establish topical relevance, but so many people are randomly linking outside of their content silo using ridiculous non-contextual anchor text located in random sentences that have nothing to do with the article that they’ve been inserted in.
When interlinking, you need to almost exclusively link within your content silo. Using my high-school sports example above, soccer articles should be linked to other soccer articles. You do not want to link to your “best football helmet” article in a piece of content that’s about soccer balls. It doesn’t make sense.
This seems astoundingly obvious and I feel like it shouldn’t even need to be said, but looking at my competition I can see that people are still randomly interlinking like it’s 2007. Even worse, they add a random sentence to an article in an attempt to justify adding an internal link that makes no sense. There is no reason why you’d write a paragraph about soccer balls and compare them to swimming caps, but people try it all the time just to increase the density of internal links.
Relevance > quantity.
I recommend using Link Whisper (LINK) if you want to use a tool for your internal link building. Don’t blindly check all the boxes to add a massive amount of internal links. Instead use it to identify opportunities and be selective, making sure that they’re relevant to your article.
Again: you should almost exclusively be linking within your content silos. You *can* link to articles outside of the silo if it’s extremely relevant, but make sure you aren’t forcing the relevance in the name of adding another internal link. It *will not* help. Google is getting too smart.
100% of your internal links should use relevant anchor text. Google doesn’t view exact match internal linking as spammy the way they do with external links.
If you want to play it safe, you can lower that to 80/20, with the 20% being random words like “click here” or “read article”.
I have personally seen many new websites start to rank by focusing on topical relevance using this strategy. I first became aware of topical relevance when I saw newer lower-authority competitors start outranking me on keywords that I assumed I had on lock. Turbo Autist note: if this is happening to you then you can simply copy their content strategy. Write a better version of every single one of their articles and you should start outranking them.
Topical relevance is the very first thing you should be focusing on when building a new website. Link-building might be sexier, but in 2021 content is king.
If you have an established site that is not improving despite building links (or worse, declining), this is likely why. Laser-focus on your content for a few months and your traffic and rankings will improve.