At Last: An answer to the question "What is topical authority"

splishsplash

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Everyone is always talking about topical authority and how it helps your site.

But what exactly is it? Why and how does it help?

The answer you'll find everywhere is that topical authority is something you gain when you have enough content about a specific niche.

Ok great, but why does that help us? Why does google rank sites that have more content about a niche?

I have a great analogy for you.


Imagine you are a software engineer, and you go for a job interview.

What will the interviewer do?

He will probably ask you a whole bunch of questions he already knows the answer to.

The more correct answers you give him, the more you show him that you know the topic.

That's it. This is topical authority.

You are simply showing google you know the answers.

Now, this is slightly different when it comes to SEO and AI(Which is what google is now)

Google isn't actually "checking" your answers. It's checking your questions. This is exactly why PAA sites are so powerful.

Google already has all the connections between sub-topics and questions within a niche. It's already mapped out niches based on existing websites.

By covering as many questions and sub-topics as possible, you are showing google you understand the niche. You aren't proving to it you know the answers. They don't really have the computing power to be doing fact checking on a large scale. But you are showing to them you are covering all areas within the topical graph that they know about.

I can explain to you how they actually use AI to determine your topical authority score relative to particular niches.

They use embeddings and vectors.

An embedding is a high dimensional vector space which can represent very complicated entities. You can then reduce that high dimensional vector down to a low dimension vector in order to compare them very quickly(or with the human eye).

Google maintains a large vector database of topics.

Let's take an example.

You want to rank for the keyword "how to train my rabbit"

Google has this keyword represented on a vector database.

So if you have an article on your site called "how to groom your rabbit", then it can measure the distance between the 2 keywords.

It'll do this for all the articles on your site, as it's a very fast and easy computational operation.

This, mathematically, is what topical authority is. Analogously it's the interviewer description above.

They can calculate the vector distance for every article on your site, to a keyword, and give you a score. That score is your topical authority.

On-page uses similar concepts. They're measuring distances in vector space to work out how close your topics are to the main user intent.

Here are some patents that talk about their usage of embeddings and vectors.


This one is just talking about word vectors.

But here is a very interesting one..


"

Generating a graph data structure that identifies relationships among topics expressed in web documents​

"​


WO2021252076A1 - Generating a graph data structure that identifies relation.. 2022-11-08 at 3...jpeg



And here is a highlighted part of the document where they talk about measuring the distance between the vectors.

WO2021252076A1 - Generating a graph data structure that identifies relation.. 2022-11-08 at 3...jpeg



There you have it. Topical authority explained in practical terms, and an explanation of the AI that makes it work. Embeddings aren't "AI", but they are used by the AI and play a big role in machine learning.
 

8492reks

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Wow, amazing share mate. Thanks for the hard work and research.
Google isn't actually "checking" your answers. It's checking your questions. This is exactly why PAA sites are so powerful.

Google already has all the connections between sub-topics and questions within a niche. It's already mapped out niches based on existing websites.

By covering as many questions and sub-topics as possible, you are showing google you understand the niche. You aren't proving to it you know the answers. They don't really have the computing power to be doing fact checking on a large scale. But you are showing to them you are covering all areas within the topical graph that they know about.
No wonder the PAA website has so much traffic, it makes sense.
 

blekhek

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do you have site that fulfill google topical authority requirement?
.
how do i design questions that will fulfill google requirement?
 

The Clutch

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Heck yeah, I was hoping some more info on BHW about topical authority, but there wasn't much. And you nailed the coffin with one POST.

THANKS A LOT for share. The thing triggered in my head is "THEY ARE ANALYSING OUR QUESTIONS NOT THE ANSWERS" and it certainly makes sense.

WILL try to add some changes to my websites now.
 

splishsplash

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Heck yeah, I was hoping some more info on BHW about topical authority, but there wasn't much. And you nailed the coffin with one POST.

THANKS A LOT for share. The thing triggered in my head is "THEY ARE ANALYSING OUR QUESTIONS NOT THE ANSWERS" and it certainly makes sense.

WILL try to add some changes to my websites now.

Yep, because they're using embeddings. It's vector math.

There's no way to check answers with this. Just how close one sub-topic/question is to another with things like a dot product.
 

LetsFkingDoIt

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This was interesting to read. Got my doubts cleared about what topical authority is once and for all. Thanks for explaining it with a simple example without much jargon.
 

LetsFkingDoIt

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do you have site that fulfill google topical authority requirement?
.
how do i design questions that will fulfill google requirement?
According to me, it would be covering all the possible questions that can come to your visitors' minds when they are searching for something. Include as many as questions you can that talk about the topic/ title you are writing on and you will be good to go.
 

tazarbm

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They're measuring distances in vector space to work out how close your topics are to the main user intent.
so, for this to work, google would have to have a predefined set of user intents. Do you have a list (or happen to know) what those intents are?

Regardless, mind blowing stuff.... well, for me anyway, as I'm not a tech-savvy guy by nature, and this engineering / mathematical stuff leaves me more alienated than if I were to learn an alien language. Still, thanks for the effort and enlightenment :)
 

saleali

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Excellently explained so that everyone can understand, Thank you.
 

4440

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I'd also add that, google ranks on page level.

You don't need a bunch of contents in one topic to rank, it's not mandatory.

There are so many cases that, for example, your one article on gaming ranks in 10 while your entire site is mainly about food, only because your gaming article is written well and answers search intent.

Always focus on page level, and write each article to be the best.

Don't expect to rank only because you write a bunch of low quality content covering all topics in one niche. It's not going to work.
 

splishsplash

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do you have site that fulfill google topical authority requirement?
.
how do i design questions that will fulfill google requirement?

By covering your topic in-depth. Going deep on a topic.

Most people go *wide* and not deep.

You need to go deep, and then map out the connections from the depth.

So if it's a site about Barcelona, you have a sub-topic beaches, which would contain many topics like the best beaches, when they were built, swimming at them, history, man made vs real, nude beaches, hotels near the beaches, climate, sun set and sunrise, volleyball on the beach, articles on every beach, how to travel to the beaches. DEEP.

Then you connect the related topics with internal links and you externally link to other related knowledge graph entities to further strengthen everything and build a picture.

It's a combination of covering the topics, mentioning the right entities, linking to external sites that are relevant and internally linking to the most related pages.

so, for this to work, google would have to have a predefined set of user intents. Do you have a list (or happen to know) what those intents are?

Regardless, mind blowing stuff.... well, for me anyway, as I'm not a tech-savvy guy by nature, and this engineering / mathematical stuff leaves me more alienated than if I were to learn an alien language. Still, thanks for the effort and enlightenment :)

The user intention has to be a keyword/phrase of some sort. User intention is maybe misunderstood.

For Google to map a page to a user intention, it is mapping a page to some phrase.

If the keyword is "how do I cook salmon with cream", then the user intention in almost all cases is probably just "how do i cook salmon with cream"

But it gets more complicated for broader keywords like "cook salmon". What do they want?

If we google it now we get a "how to cook salmon perfectly", "how to bake salmon in the oven", "pan-fried salmon recipe", "how to cook salmon", "8 easy ways to cook salmon", "how to cook salmon perfect in 10 mins" and it's a mix of sites, people also ask, rich snippet and videos.

Google in many cases definitely shows mixed results. Ie, it's showing how to bake, pan-fry, cook perfectly and cook quickly. Could be coincidence but in many cases I definitely see a pattern of it trying to show more varied results for more broad keywords.

So for that keyword it will build a list of "user intent keywords" or perhaps GROUPS of user intent keywords. It might then decide to show 1-2 pages for each, or 3-4 pages for 1 group, and 1-2 for another group depending on what it thinks the majority want. It's often changing, and in many updates you'll see rather drastic changes in page 1. This is probably the result of the machine learning changing what it thinks the user intent is. But more often than not updates contain changes that reflect *multiple* things. It's rarely just 1 thing, so there could be changes to how it evaluates user intent and also changes to how it evaluates topical authority in 1 update, plus a bunch of minor things.

A broad keyword like "jaguar", might have one user intent that's the keyword "pictures of the jaguar cat", and another "pictures of the jaguar car", another "what is a jaguar cat". If you google "jaguar" the wikipedia for jaguar is around #5. If you google "what is a jaguar cat" it's #1.

User intent is just keywords.

If I say to you "do you want to grab a coffee?" You know my user intent is actually "Would you like for me and you to go together somewhere we can drink coffee, then proceed to make 2 cups of coffee in a cup, then drink them together while sitting at a table having a conversation".

I'm not literally asking do you want to just grab that bag of coffee over there then do a victory cheer. I COULD be. How do you know? Your neural network is trained :)


I'd also add that, google ranks on page level.

You don't need a bunch of contents in one topic to rank, it's not mandatory.

There are so many cases that, for example, your one article on gaming ranks in 10 while your entire site is mainly about food, only because your gaming article is written well and answers search intent.

Always focus on page level, and write each article to be the best.

Don't expect to rank only because you write a bunch of low quality content covering all topics in one niche. It's not going to work.


That's quite rare for more mainstream keywords. But it depends on the competition.

If there's a lot of sites with high topical authority, you aren't going to beat them.

But, your ranking is a combination of topical authority, site authority(power/trust/juice) and the on-page of the article its self.

You can lack topical authority for some keywords if you have enough of the other. You can lack 1 and 2 if the keyword doesn't have much competition.
 

splishsplash

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Does Google measures topical authority in numbers?

Of course. Computers don't know what words are. They have no concept of words.

All words to computers are numbers.

The most basic type of AI's would use word2vec which converts words to vectors, then it would be trained on those vectors to see how those words are used with each other. Like it could learn that "dog" is a type of animal, and "cat" is a type of animal through training it on a large text corpus.

There are more sophisticated models that act on sentences now, but the basic NLP models were just converting words to vectors.

But with word2vec you can do a cosine similarity or dot product to determine how similar/related 2 words are.
 

llarasati

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How many words or articles does Google need to see our site have that topical authority?

are there any minimum requirements?

for example if we want to beat the big boys like news sites that update every day. even when their main niche is completely different, they can still steal the top spot.

example: a site about ferrari but publish one articles about the best football players. and still get to the first page.
 

J javid

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He will probably ask you a whole bunch of questions he already knows the answer to.

The more correct answers you give him, the more you show him that you know the topic.

Google already has all the connections between sub-topics and questions within a niche. It's already mapped out niches based on existing websites.

According to your post, can we say that the philosophy behind bolding keywords is that Google is telling us that the answer to your question in our database is those keywords that have been bolded?
and we have to use those keywords in our articles?
 

splishsplash

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How many words or articles does Google need to see our site have that topical authority?

are there any minimum requirements?

for example if we want to beat the big boys like news sites that update every day. even when their main niche is completely different, they can still steal the top spot.

example: a site about ferrari but publish one articles about the best football players. and still get to the first page.

That's a "how long is a piece of string" question. There isn't a definitive answer.

Your ranking is a combination of topical authority + site authority + on-page. So it depends on the other 2 factors, plus what the competition has.

The "big boys" probably have more topical authority than you realize too :) Even news sites can have a surprising amount given their size.

The best answer I can give you is "as much as you can create".

According to your post, can we say that the philosophy behind bolding keywords is that Google is telling us that the answer to your question in our database is those keywords that have been bolded?
and we have to use those keywords in our articles?

You mean the bolding in the SERPS? That doesn't have anything to do with bolding in your article.

I really doubt bolding keywords in your article now has any meaningful impact on rankings. 1 or 2 bold keywords is fine, but I wouldn't spam your page with bold. Google is very far beyond using keyword densities and bold keywords to rank.

This here for example - https://blog.searchmetrics.com/us/rhinoplasty-plano-story-about-rankings-1/ wouldn't work in 2022.
 

MisterF

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Topical authority, content optimisation, semantic, knowledge graph, links, etc etc, almost all SEO factors follow the same principle. The connection between nodes.

Dixon Jones is doing a case study I think currently which will be worth reading if he makes it public.
 
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