Topical Authority SEO: A Semantic SEO Strategy

There is a basic semantic SEO strategy that can help your site gain massive traffic.

Topical authority.

This SEO paradigm shift is a result of search engines attempting to understand the meaning of search queries as well as web content in order to bring the best results for those queries.

This has changed SEO as we know it. Instead of targeting and creating content around keywords, we should now target and create content around entire topics.

When we do that successfully we achieve topical authority.


The process of researching entire topics is different from keyword research. When researching a topic you are not merely trying to find search volumes and keyword difficulty scores. Instead, you are trying to understand how Google relates to the topic as a whole.

In this post, I’ll answer:

  • What is Topical Authority in SEO?
  • How to identify the Topical Authority of a website
  • What is the content strategy for Topical Authority

But first, we need to understand topical authority.

What Is Topical Authority?

Topical authority is an SEO strategy aimed at making your site an authority for one or more topics. When search engines view your site as an authority, it will use it to satisfy multiple search queries in your topic. To do this, you must target entire topics rather than single keywords. Each topic represents a single entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

Now you might be wondering how and why this works. So let’s start at the beginning.

Google has an insane amount of content in its index. And, magically when you query the search engine, it’s able to figure out what you are looking for and bring you resources that accurately answer your search query.

All in the blink of an eye.

Now, according to Koray Tuğberk GÜBÜR, something we don’t often think about is the cost of retrieving this information is astronomical.

And, never forget that Google is a for-profit business that sells advertising space.

So, to manage information retrieval for the entire World Wide Web, one of the strategies Google uses is to break the information up into topics. Topics are broken up into subtopics.

Each topic is called a Knowledge Domain.

Google associates known queries with each Knowledge Domain as well as authoritative websites that include content about the topic.

This means, when someone queries Google, the search engine first figures out what Knowledge Domain the query exists in. Once the Knowledge Domain is identified, it has a finite number of known sites to choose from to answer the question.

And why do you think Google does this?

Significantly limiting the number of sources Google has to choose from significantly reduces the cost of information retrieval.

Because Google only has to rank content that is topically relevant to the user’s query.

How Does Topical Authority Affect Your SEO?

Until now we’ve covered how Google:

  • Breaks up the content in its index into different topics (or Knowledge Domains)
  • Associates a list of queries within each topic
  • Associates a list of content within each topic

It stands to reason that you want your site to be associated with your chosen topic within its Knowledge Domain.

But that’s not enough. Your site must be a trusted source of information to Google. Because when you achieve that Google will trust your site to answer many queries within your chosen domain.

The result?

Higher rankings for many more queries potentially result in massive traffic gains.

How Do You Establish Your Site as an Authority in Your Topic?

At a high level, you establish your site as the go-to resource for a topic by covering that topic thoroughly.

The way to become an authority on a topic is to create a network of quality content that not only covers the topic completely but also covers every sub-topic and answers every question.

Don’t forget that Google associates questions within each topic or Knowledge Domain.

By answering as many of these questions as humanly possible, you associate your site with that same topic.

When you do that, you must consistently share accurate information that is free of logical fallacies.

Do this consistently and you will have a proven track record of clarity and accuracy within your topic.

The net result is that the search engine will learn to ‘trust’ your site as the authority and use it to satisfy more queries with greater certainty.

This saves Google substantial money while still providing a great user experience.

The key to achieving that is to prove your quality by having great and thorough content.

That is done by publishing a large network of content hierarchy within your chosen topic.

This proves your authority.

Digging a Little Deeper: Becoming an Entity Authority

Let’s understand this a bit further.

When you become an authority on a topic, you become the go-to authority on an entity in Google’s Knowledge Graph.

The reason this is so powerful is that specific search queries are requests for information about entities. Google is able to categorize these queries into what, when, where, who or how type questions about the entities included in the query.

For instance, if you type the query ‘funk brothers bass player’, Google is able to figure out that this is a ‘who’ type query about the entity ‘funk brothers’.

Google then pairs up the query with content that sufficiently answers the query.

So for our query, the results look like this:

Google SERP presenting results for the keyword 'funk brothers bassist'

Naturally, when looking for content to answer the query, Google will look for content published by the authority on the subject.

The way to become an authority on a topic is to create a network of quality content that not only covers the topic completely but also covers every sub-topic and answers every question.

Now, since semantic SEO has been around for a while and since Google has algorithms that are feeding its Knowledge Graph, it’s highly likely that Google already has your chosen entity or topic in its Knowledge Graph.

This means to be an authority, you must first research how Google ‘understands’ your topic before planning your content.

Now, I’ll cover the topical authority strategy.

How to Build Topical Authority: Create Your Topical Map

The first step to achieving topical authority is to map out all the content you need to create by creating a topical map.

Don’t skip this step as this strategic planning stage will enable you to see exactly what content you need to create to compete with your top-ranking competitors.

Creating a topical map can be broken down into two stages:

  • Working out your topic/subtopic hierarchy
  • Figuring out what content you need to create for each topic and subtopic

Researching your topics and subtopics is simpler than you might think.

The next step is to find all of the queries your audience is asking and clustering them into your topics and subtopics.


Here are some steps you can take to figure this out.

Figure Out Your Topic / Subtopic Hierarchy

You need to figure out how to break your topic down into subtopics. Once you’ve planned this you will eventually bake it into your site architecture.

There are a number of ways you can do this.

Firstly Google’s Knowledge Panels give you great information.

Google’s Knowledge Panels

It’s important to understand that Google’s Knowledge Panels come directly from the information in Google’s Knowledge Graph. This means Knowledge Panels should be the first place you go when trying to understand the related entities and hierarchies in the Knowledge Graph.

What’s more, often Google tells you where it’s pulling the information from. This is low-hanging fruit and your best source of information.

To do this, simply search Google for your entity and hope for the best. I say hope for the best because you might hit the jackpot but you might not.

Here is an example of Google giving you some great information to work with.

Below is the Google results page when searching for the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. (Actually, I’m listening to one of his symphonies as I write this!)

ask boxes

As you can see from the screenshot above Google breaks the topic of Jean Sibelius into subtopics, including:

  • Overview
  • Compositions
  • Listen
  • Videos
  • Tone Poems

Since we are looking for subtopics you will create content around it makes sense to ignore Overview, Listen, and Videos.

Another Way to Figure this out is through competitor analysis.

Topical Hierarchy Through Competitor Analysis

One of the easiest ways to see how to break down your topic is simply to look at how the top sites in your niche break up their topics.

You can often see how they break topics down in their site architecture.

Look for the topical hierarchy in:

  • Their menu & URL structure
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Internal links

For instance, if you were to Google pet food, you might come across the eCommerce site

Take a look at their ‘Shop’ menu.

shop menu

You can easily see how the site breaks up the pet food topic into:

  • Dog
  • Cat
  • Fish
  • Bird
  • Small pet
  • Reptile
  • Farm animal
  • Horse
  • Pharmacy
  • Pet parents

What’s more, each subtopic is broken down further. For instance, the Dog topic is broken down into:

This works best when you analyze niche-focused websites. In other words, sites that are focused on a single topic.

Ecommerce sites work best because they generally have mega menus that break topics down into subtopics.

Once you’ve figured out your hierarchy, it’s time to plan what content assets you should create.

Do that by finding user queries for each topic and subtopic.

Collect Every Query You Can Find

The next step is to find as many questions as you can find that exist in your topic. Because Google ‘understands’ what topics a query relates to.

There are a few ways to do this.

Keyword Research Tools

Manually looking for every related search query is time-consuming. What’s more, it doesn’t take much brainpower. Tasks like these are best left to automated tools.

That said, I’ll be sharing some effective free entity research strategies later on in this post.

Keyword research tools can quickly and easily bring you a solid list of both related search queries and related entities.

But, it’s important to note, there is no substitute for using your brain. Tools won’t do your thinking for you. Instead, they’ll mechanically bring you whatever you request of them.

Use the tools for general research and then be selective. More often than not, when used correctly, tools will speed you up and help you find hidden gems you might not have already found through your manual research.

Find Search Queries Using the Queries Filter

A quick and easy way to find a comprehensive list of search queries is to use a keyword research tool and use the ‘Questions’ filter.

I’ll show you how to do this using the Similarweb Keyword Generator.

For this example, I’ll be using the search term ‘Jean Sibelius’ as a seed keyword.

First, search for your seed keyword.

Then click on the ‘Questions Queries’ filter.

questions queries

Once you’ve done that you’ll find a list of questions that you can answer in your content.

list of questions

Similarweb brings you a list of user queries you can create content around.

As you can see in the screenshot above, there are some interesting queries including:

  • Why did Jean Sibelius compose Souvenir op 79?
  • How did Jean Sibelius die?
  • Why did Jean Sibelius write his violin concerto?
  • What is the theme of Jean Sibelius Symphony 1?

At this point, you are just getting started. Next, expand your list of queries by doing some competitor analysis.

Competitor Analysis and Keyword Phrase Analysis

Let’s look at how you can find keyword clusters that your competitors are ranking on.

To demonstrate this, I searched for on the Similarweb Website analysis report.

I then scrolled down to the Keyword Phrases report.

phrase based clusters

As you can see from the screenshot above, Similarweb groups your competitor keywords into phrase-based clusters.

This is super useful when looking for keywords related to your competitor’s topics.

Once you’ve done that, you can easily expand your research by analyzing any of your keyword clusters in the Keyword Generator.

clusters in the Keyword Generator

This will bring you to the Keyword Analysis Overview page. To find more keyword ideas, scroll down to the Keywords Ideas tab and either click on the Phrase Match or Related Keywords reports.

Phrase Match and Related Keywords

Now, you might be wondering what’s the difference between Phrase Match and Related Keywords.

Phrase Match keywords give you keywords that include your keyword phrase. Related Keywords find keywords that have a similar search intent.

Once you’ve exhausted all of your options, here are some free ways to find keywords that are related to your topics and subtopics.

Google’s Auto Suggest and People Also Search Features

In your analysis above, you have collected a series of related entities and sub-topics. You are now going to find a series of related search queries.

So let’s look at the Autosuggest feature. To do this, start typing your entity into your browser. When you do this, Google will automatically show you related search queries.

Autosuggest feature

As you can see in the screenshot above, Google is showing you queries such as:

  • Jean Sibelius Finlandia
  • Jean Sibelius violin concerto
  • And more

Include all of these queries in your notes under related queries. If you want more queries, you can use Google’s Auto Suggest to make more suggestions. To do this, try adding letters before the query or after it.

For example, in the screenshot below, I’ve added the letter ‘a’ to the query and Google has suggested a list of queries that include the original entity ‘jean sibelius’ and modifiers that all start with the letter ‘a’.

query suggestions

Look through these query suggestions for anything you’ve missed. You can repeat this process by adding different letters.

Another source of related queries is the People Also Ask feature.

Below is the People Also Ask box for the search query ‘Jean Sibeilius’.

Also asked box

As you can see this feature brings you a series of search queries related to your entity. Include each one that makes sense for your content in your notes. If you click on any one of them, Google will bring you more questions.

Google will bring you more questions

You may need to do this many times before you get every question.

How to Measure Topical Authority

The big question is how do you track your Topical Authority?

So, if we recap for a second you’ll remember that Topical Authority is a strategy for your website to become a trusted authority for one or more topics. We also saw that the way to achieve that is to cover your topics thoroughly while breaking up the topics into a topic/subtopic hierarchy.

To track your Topical Authority you can easily set up rank-tracking campaigns that group each topic and subtopic separately.

That way you can easily see the search visibility of each topic and subtopic.

For instance, I’m tracking the site

If I look at the site unfiltered I see my topic as a whole.

site unfiltered

But, I’ve also set up filters that allow me to see each subtopic individually.

looking at the Bugs Bunny subtopic

As you can see I’m only looking at the Bugs Bunny subtopic.

chosen subtopic

This allows you to find unique opportunities from within your chosen subtopic by using the other filers.

data is yours

This means the data is yours to play with.

Taking the Next Step – Content Structure

By now your Semantic SEO strategy is starting to form. You’ve chosen an entity or topic to become an authority in and you’ve found a list of related entities, sub-topics, and related search queries.

The remaining questions are…

  • How do you put this all together in a way that satisfies Google?
  • How do you actually create content that Google considers to be high quality?

Your goal at this point is to create a content hierarchy with your main entity at the top. You need to break your main entity into sub-topics and your research will help you with that.

But, since my goal in this post was to show you how to research topics, I’ll leave the rest for my next blog post.


What is topical authority SEO?

Topical authority SEO is an SEO strategy where a site features an extensive network of quality content that covers a topic thoroughly and structures it in a way that search engines and people can easily navigate. The goal is for the site to become an authority on the topic. When the site becomes an authority on a topic Google is likely to rank it higher.

Why is topical authority important?

Topical authority is important because it establishes your business to search engines as an authority in your niche. When your business has topical authority, it is perceived as a trusted source of information and is more likely to be respected and recognized for its knowledge and experience. This

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