Topical authority in SEO roughly translates to equity in a certain topic. You’ll notice your topical authority is going up when you gain higher rankings faster for new content related to a certain niche.
For example, if you’re a furniture retailer, you’ll notice it becomes easier and easier to rank for more difficult keywords related to furniture as time passes.
On-site keyword targeting and providing high-value, information-dense content on trending topics helps you build topical authority. Topical authority is also built by “proving” you’re the right resource that Google should promote to users: getting sign-offs from experts in the field, linking to valuable resources, and collaborating with influential names to create content.
Aside from keyword targeting on-site, Google (and other search engines) establishes topical authority based on a few off-site factors:
- What anchor text is typically used when someone is linking to your site?
- In what content/context is your website linked/mentioned?
- What is the niche of the website that has mentioned you?
On a banal example, no matter that a furniture seller is targeting exclusively furniture keywords – if they had 100+ sites mentioning them in the context of cleaning services, Google may start ranking them for cleaning service keywords, as well. Their potential for ranking for furniture keywords is also going to be much less than websites that have a strong backlink profile in furniture content.
How do Backlinks Build Trust with Google?
Aside from topical authority, Google also uses quantitative and qualitative evaluation of your backlink profile to establish your legitimacy and trustworthiness. Every single backlink on a good, trustworthy website – no matter whether it’s in your niche or not – is a trust signal for Google that you are, indeed, a real business that users can safely explore.
Backlinks could be compared to references and citations in academic research – the more good references and citations you have, the more respected your work is. Whenever a website links back to you, they pass down a fraction of its own authority to your website. In the example of Google’s index: the more high-quality backlinks you have, the more Google trusts your website, and the easier you will rank for medium- and high-competition keywords.
Understanding Metrics – Trust Flow, Citation Flow, Authority Score, Domain Rating, Domain Authority
Google has previously had a transparent PageRank testing tool that evaluated a website’s backlink profile on a scale from 1 to 10. Google has since sunset PageRank metrics, so that webmasters don’t focus on reaching a certain number – but rather, focus on delivering good, authoritative content. Nonetheless, several other SaaS companies have since used all of their knowledge to try and replicate Google’s PageRank score. These are:
- Majestic’s Trust Flow & Citation Flow
- SEMrush’s Authority Score
- Ahrefs’ Domain Rating
- Moz’s Domain Authority
All of these metrics range from 0 to 100 as opposed to 1-10, as they are even more complex and granular than Google’s PageRank was back in 2016. It’s important to note that all of these “scores” are logarithmic, meaning that jumping from a score of, let’s say, 20 to 21 is twice as difficult as increasing your score from 19 to 20.
Fire&Spark has evaluated Domain Authority to be the most accurate metric in evaluating the strength of a website’s backlink profile.
Are backlink authority metrics important for rankings?
While you do want to focus on creating good content that will gain natural backlinks and not stress about numbers, as Google intended – these metrics are still a great indicator of whether or not your website is getting mentions from trustworthy publications, or whether you need to ramp up your PR efforts to combat the spam.