Topical authority is getting quite important for sites’ SEO score with search engines becoming more intelligent and you probably know that. What not so many talk about – but you should be considering seriously – is that topical authority is even more important in relation to gaining your target group’s trust. Are you doing everything you should be doing to get people to visit your site – and trust you enough to come back, do business with you or recommend you?
Why is Topical Authority Important for Gaining Your Target Group’s Trust?
Topical authority is the key to earning people’s trust because it satisfies the following needs and expectations that are basic behavioral drivers for most of us:
- Content should be easy to find. Topical authority’s answer to this is better SEO ranking of relevant quality pages and optimal internal navigation and linking. High ranking in search results is accepted as a measure of trustworthiness and good site navigation signals professionalism.
- Content should be thorough and true. Sites living up to topical authority’s standards have focused content covering all aspects of an issue.
- Content should be appropriate. We tend to look for different types of content different places based on our expectations of a certain media. For example, we trust news websites to deliver trustworthy news and entertainment sites – to entertain us. Topical authority helps here by clearly defining the purpose of a site.
- Content source should be credible. It’s well known that we are most comfortable trusting established authorities. For that reason social signals and other forms for public approval, accept, and accreditation are considered when browsing web pages.
The way we evaluate web content might differ based on personal preference or experience, which makes it difficult to satisfy everyone’s need for proof of quality. For that reason the best way to do it is to combine a number of methods.
Considering your target group’s needs, interests, and mindset, you can create quality content that appeals to them. The key is to know whom you are writing for and avoiding the dangerous idea to try to appeal to all. This, combined with a serious dose of professionalism and expertise, is the core of topical authority.
10 Topical Authority Musts and How to Implement Them
Topical Authority is a umbrella term. This means that a site or blog has to live up to a number of requirements that combined give its topical authority. Such requirements include first and foremost the following 10 musts:
- The site’s content should be focused on a narrow or broad enough but clearly defined topic.
- The site’s topic should (if applicable) be divided into topic-relevant subtopics.
- Categories and tags should be used with care: not too many, including topic-relevant keywords.
- Internal linking should signal that content on the site is interconnected topically.
- External linking should signal topical relevance and trustworthiness.
- The different keywords on the site should support the topic and the subtopics.
- The site’s content should be a result of thorough research, sufficient experience, or cooperation with external experts.
- Credentials of authors or sources should be listed and, where relevant, linked to recognized accreditation institutions.
- Social connections and interactions should be visible for search engines and site visitors.
- Appropriate web design elements should support content structure and site navigation, and exclude spam risk.
Because topical authority’s requirements cover every aspect of blogging and managing a site in general, it signals much more than just what information might be found on your pages. It’s also a great way to target the right group of users and to gain their trust by convincing them that you’re the specialist that can solve their problems.
In order to get the most out of topical authority in terms of site visitor trust, you have to work on each of the 10 musts:
Your blog or website serves a certain purpose, for example to entertain, to provide information on a certain topic, or to help site visitors make a decision (review site). It’s important to convey clearly the purpose of your content in order to be able to target a specific group of internet users and a specific need that they have. Learn more about turning an idea into a blog from this post.
The reason why you should do your best to communicate the purpose of your site is that people usually search for something in specific, relevant to them and solving a problem of sorts (or fulfilling a need). If you can’t tell people what your site is about, they won’t spend time trying to figure that out. You should also avoid at all cost creating a site with multiple purposes as this will likely result in people not understanding or not accepting your intent.
To make sure that your site’s topic is clearly defined and not too broad, you should as a rule of thumb be able to explain it with just a few words. For example, I write about blogging. Or, I write about animal welfare in Africa.
Don’t try targeting more than one group of people with your content. The reason is that you can’t be relevant to all and you’ll likely end up not being relevant to anybody.
You should be able to describe the need of your target group, which you are solving with your content. For example, my target group is interested in WordPress setup. Or, my target group is interested in initiatives providing help in disaster-hit regions – and this is what I’ll write about.
Having established that, you’ve got your basic content guidelines for staying relevant and focused. Following them is a good practice as it helps people understand your intent and relate to your content.
NB! An important point here, even though beyond the scope of this post, is that you should also communicate the purpose of your blog or site via your domain name!
Subtopics, often displayed in the main menu of a site as separate pages, are by many seen as having primarily navigational purposes. However, they serve much more important roles in connection to topical authority.
They help people evaluate your content from the viewpoint of their needs and knowledge about a subject. Does your site have the answers they’re looking for? Are all aspects of the issue covered or is your content superficial?
Furthermore, subtopics have crucial importance as content guidelines. After making sure that you’ve truly understood the content needs of your target group, you should divide the main topic into relevant subtopics covering all major aspects of the issue. Besides helping you navigate within the topic, this will give you direction – what to write about to be thorough and what not to write about to avoid being irrelevant.
If we take for WP Blogging Nerd as an example, I’ve chosen 5 major subtopics which I believe cover every aspect of the issue you as a reader might be interested in (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’ve also added a 6th category, Get help, to make sure that if you don’t find the answers you’re looking for, you’ll still get the help you need.
If I want to write about the best blogs for cats, for example, I check whether it fits under one of the available subtopics. If it doesn’t, it means that I shouldn’t be writing about.
If, on the other hand, I don’t have enough posts under one of the subtopics, I know that I should focus on it in order to keep the site useful for my target group.
Categories and Tags
Categories and tags have several roles in relation to topical authority. They are, first and foremost, a way to communicate your site’s major keywords to search engines. They do, however, also help site visitors find what is relevant to them by pointing them to a group of posts on a similar subtopic or to a specific post.
Last but not least, categories and tags can help you optimally organize content and avoid publishing irrelevant blog posts.
The way you should use them is pretty straightforward: choose a small set of 4-6, max 10 categories for broad topics, prior to content creation – and not labelling each new post with a few new categories. The reason is that gathering posts under one category instead of spreading them under 3-4 similar categories helps people find relevant content easy and fast.
Imagine that you run a stock photo site and you have categories called Forest, Bare trees, and Young Forests. For a site visitor exploring your content by category it’ll be difficult to figure out where, for example, to find pictures of young trees in a winter setting. Try therefore categorizing content as straightforward and site visitor-oriented as at all possible.
Tags, on the other hand, can serve the purpose of precise labels for content to allow for quick discovery when tag-based search is performed. Therefore tags as Trees, Young, Winter, etc. are appropriate to use and mix when labelling posts. Try though again to use as few labels as possible and to group content under the most fitting ones only. This means that, for example, all winter pictures should be labelled with Winter, instead of labelling some of them with Winter and others with Cold Weather.
You know that grouping pages and posts on your site by internal linking is a way to boost the topical authority of your site and your SEO score as it’s interpreted by search engines as a sign of topic-focused content.
When it comes to using internal linking to the benefit of your site visitors, the goal is to help them find interconnected content that might be useful to them. Thus, you shouldn’t think that excessive internal linking is a good idea. For optimal user experience you must make sure that your links serve the only purpose of helping website visitors and making the time they spend on your pages worth it.
Remember that your posts should be answering all questions related to your major topic. Thus, when you have published content that supplements and completes the information you provide in a new post, you should make sure to link to it.
For example, if you have posts on what a keyword is and how you should use keywords in a blog, you should link to those posts, if your current post is on, let’s say, long-tail keywords. The reason is that some of your readers might need an additional insight on what actually a keyword is or what rules apply to its optimal use.
This is the only way to gain your target group’s trust – by making spending time on your pages worth it.
While external linking is primarily a SEO tool, especially in the form of backlinks, its meaning for gaining site visitors’ trust is just as important. In this connection external linking is a way to show people that you have the support of authorities (for example Forbes for business) when links to your site appear on their pages. This is, in fact also what search engines still put the most value on when evaluating your domain.
Just as important is, though, whom you’re linking to. When using topical authority as a way to earn the trust of your target group, it’s crucial to implement a careful linking strategy. The good practice that gives optimal results in terms of site users’ trust includes the following:
- When using information from external sources, link to them. Be careful though, how you choose your sources! They must be credible and rank OK in, for example Google. You can learn more about how to check a source’s credibility from this post on content curation.
- When linking, remember to list the credentials of the source in order to make your content trustworthy.
- Avoid twisting facts to get support for your ideas! A quick source check might discredit you for always.
- Don’t link to spam websites or such with low quality content. This won’t only hurt your SEO score but also your standing in the eyes of those who are mislead by you to visit those sites or trust their content.
Keywords are usually connected to SEO and this is also the case here. You have to structure your content carefully and use appropriate keywords that will make it easy for people to find your pages in search.
Remember that one of the basic behavioral drivers, mentioned in the beginning of this post, was ease. If your content is impossible to find in search, nobody will care enough to look for it.
The good news here is that topical authority helps you improve your SEO score while making user experience considerably better. Following the rules for use of keywords can help you create better texts by making them easier to read and assimilate.
The rules for use of keywords are as follows: unique keywords for each post, concentration of keywords under 5 % but above 2,5 %, and use of keywords in all elements of a page – from title to ALT texts.
True, Accurate, and Thorough Content
For the purporses of topical authority and especially in connection to gaining your target group’s trust, delivering true, accurate, and quality content is an absolute must.
If you aren’t proficient in what you’re writing about or you don’t check your sources, you risk to lose people’s trust.
When having a content-driven website your content is your product and as such you should follow the rules applying to products – living up to standards, not causing harm, offering quality, and being useful.
To live up to topical authority’s standards for content you should make sure that:
- You only write about what you are proficient in, that is what you’ve studied or worked with, or have alternative experience with. You should tell people straightforward how you’ve become proficient within your area. Stick to the facts. Normally you do that in the About section of your blog or as a short author description around a post.
- You only present facts and if presenting an assumption, you label it as such.
- If using external sources, you check their credentials and cross-check the information by searching for external confirmation.
- If cooperating with experts, you make sure that they are indeed experts within the field they’ll be commenting on. You should point them as the source of your information and list their credentials.
- If quoting, you should make sure that the quote is precise and fits the facts. You should also link to the original source and point it as such.
- Be as thorough as possible.
Many online marketers advise the same as this MOZ article when it comes to your About page: be honest, tell your story, and present your purpose based on knowing your target group and wanting to help them with a certain need they have.
It’s indeed very important to be truthful and honest and tell people why you’re creating content. This will help them relate to you and your work – and ultimately trust you.
It’s a must to list your credentials, such as school or university, work experience, volunteering, etc. Furthermore it’s a very good idea to link to a portfolio of sorts, if applicable. Think of it as a job interview and try to answer the question Why should we choose you among all others?
If working with external authors, use external sources, or publish as a collective, remember to state the quality standards you make sure all live up to – and how you do it.
Last but not least, present authors’ and sources’ credentials in relation to the respective posts where you’ve used them.
Today having active social media pages is becoming a proof of professionalism. Therefore you should re-consider your social media presence and try to make the most out of it.
Even though organic reach can be as low as 0,5 % on Facebook and 5 % on Twitter (based on observation of their analytics data for two profiles over a 1-year period), you should make sure that your pages are presentable, your followers’ comments and questions are always answered, and your content and contact information and full and current.
Furthermore, you must make sure that you give people enough sharing and liking options in the form of appropriate social sharing buttons. Even though you might only have 2 shares of a post, it’s worth it to show that to new visitors. The fact that someone else has liked or shared your content before is a confirmation of its quality in the eyes of those new visitors.
So if you want to make people trust you, you should re-think and optimize your social strategy.
Last but not least, to gain site visitors’ trust you have to design your pages appropriately. In terms of topical authority design is understood as well structured navigation, appropriate page elements, and appropriate text formatting that make it easy for site visitors to find and assimilate your content.
This means that your text fonts and sizes should not be too flashy, too big or too small. Good practice is to choose simple classic fonts and sizes that make it easy for people to read. Besides making it difficult to read, colors and flashy fonts often scream spam.
Text should, furthermore, be structured well, with clear post elements (introduction, presentation, conclusion), short paragraphs, and subtopic-grouped content.
You should also be careful when applying elements as pictures and commercials. Too many commercials, inappropriate pictures, and too many flashy elements are read as signs of spam.
To earn your target group’s trust you have to apply page and text designs that fits their expectations, use of technology, and use of content.