Two of my recent interviews have revealed something a bit surprising. Both of these guest essentially said that they feel like link building is dying or is less important. They both clarified that links are still important right now, but they feel like in the future links may not really matter that much.
One of these guests was Matt Giovinisci, and his pool site is doing over $25,000 a month. The other guest (his episode has yet to be released) is Deacon Hayes and his site is doing over $100,000 a month.
These 2 have HUGE sites that are powered primarily by Google Organic traffic, yet they both feel like links are becoming less important and may eventually be unimportant in the near future.
What?! How would Google rank pages?
Well, the answer is content depth and topical authority. SEO for Google is becoming more sophisticated and they understand what content is truly better to match the user query and intent.
As I’ve been building my new site for Niche Site Project 4, I’ve been concerned that my topic is too broad. So, throughout this post I’d also like to explain how I’m adjusting my strategy ever so slightly to make sure my site is topically relevant and establishes authority.
What is Topical Authority?
Topical Authority is the concept that you or your site is an established expert or authority over an entire topic as opposed to just one single keyword.
So, what site do you think has more topical authority for the term, “best baseball glove”? A site that does top 10 reviews on every product under the sun, or a site dedicated to the subject of baseball?
The answer is the baseball site of course. And this makes perfect sense. As a reader, if you truly want to hear the opinion of someone that knows about gloves, you’ll talk to the baseball expert…not the person that builds a site of 5,000 random top 10 reviews.
Google wants to rank those sites that have the true topical authority on those subjects.
As proof, let’s look at a couple of examples. Here’s the baseball glove example. These are the top 10 sites for “best baseball gloves” (as shown on SEO Rambler).
Ignore the wordcount column, it’s not working properly. But I do want to point out the DA and PA column. Notice that BaseballMonkey.com is ranking number 1 even though it’s page authority is less than NYmag.com and others.
So, NYmag.com has more links and more authority, but BaseballMonkey.com is ranking above it. The reason is content depth and topical authority.
In other words, content depth and topical authority are more important than links.
When I search for “best running shoes”, I mostly get running websites…not general review sites. When I search for “best knitting needles” I mostly get crafting and knitting sites.
When you establish your site as an authority in a particular topic area, you have an easier time ranking for those terms.
Why Should I Care About Topical Relevance?
Now obviously it’s not ALL about topical authority, as evidenced by the fact that sometimes random subject sites do still rank in Google. As we all know, Google has over 200 ranking factors and I’m not going to try and pretend like I know every reason one site ranks above another.
I would like to clarify that content depth does not always mean length. In fact, I think The Wire Cutter and Top Ten Reviews will help establish my point.
TheWireCutter.com is indeed known for doing really long form content. So, in their case depth does essentially equal content length. This site is regularly producing content that is 5,000 to even 10,000 words long.
However, Google isn’t just looking for length. They are looking for relevancy. So, the wire cutter does a good job of covering the subject matter in depth. So, when they talk about what baking pan to buy, they don’t just talk about price and what customer reviews have been like. They cover baking pans in depth: rimmed vs rimless, aluminized steel and tri-ply construction, heavy-gauge and warp resistant.
Google is aware of the types of keywords and topics that come in clusters and The wire cutter is doing a good job of hitting these clusters. By covering this subject in-depth (by mentioning the relevant terms more effectively), Google knows that they should rank well.
TopTenReviews.com on the other hand is not regularly producing extremely long content. However, the content is still extremely in depth.
How is that possible? Well, they regularly produce quite in-depth comparison charts that has TONS of data that adds to the depth of their content. Here’s just one example:
(Note that the above chart scrolls to reveal about 20 more columns).
So, even though they may not have an in-depth written explanation of Cloth filters or Filter retainers, they are adding this depth to their content with a great comparison chart.
Short Plug for Table Labs: As a sidenote, I created a software tool that helps you create great looking shopping comparison charts really quickly. You can check out Table Labs right here.
But one thing I want to point out is that even though Top Ten Reviews has a massive site with tons of content depth…
They are losing traffic almost by the day.
Here’s a view of their organic traffic over the course of the last year:
You can see that the traffic used to be bumping 5,000,000 visitors per month. Now it’s at about 2.6 million per month.
Top Ten Reviews has very in-depth content, but they are still losing a monster amount of traffic.
It’s important that your site doesn’t just have depth; but you have a specific niche that you target.
How to Establish Topical Authority
Establishing topical authority goes beyond just the content depth of a single article. Yes, mentioning the correct LSI (latent semantic index) keywords is important. Yes, covering the subject in-depth is important.
But there are other factors at play including on-page and off-page relevancy.
Let’s imagine that you wanted to establish your site as a topical authority on bow hunting so that you could also earn commissions when writing articles like the “best compound bow”, etc.
You can’t just write one article on the “Best compound bow” and expect that Google will view you as the topical authority on that subject even if that article is the most in-depth article ever written on the subject.
In order to help Google better understand what type of categories your site is clustered around, you should write additional articles on: the different types of bows, the best bows for a particular purpose, how bows are made, what the little feather thingys are for on arrows, what arrows tip materials are the best, etc.
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In other words, if you are writing lots of articles around bows and interlinking all those articles together, Google is going to start seeing your site as a topical authority.
So, if you end up competing head to head with another site trying to rank for your money terms like “best compound bow”, which site is Google going to rank better? The site that writes articles on nearly ever site under the sun, or your site that is clearly knowledgeable about everything related to bows?
The answer should be obvious, your site that is a topical authority.
As you write additional content around these topical categories where you want to establish your site as an authority, Google will rank your new articles faster that match these topical clusters.
On-Page and Off-Page
As mentioned, you should be interlinking all of your relevant articles with great liberty. The more interlinking the better in my opinion. After all, Wikipedia seems to have taken interlinking to an extreme and they seem to be doing pretty well.
Yes, link to relevant articles…but it’s totally okay to link to topics in other categories as well. For example, even though I’m talking about topical authority right now, I might just randomly link to an article where I talk about buying a Mom blog. See I just did it, and it’s just fine! Google is cool with that.
The honest truth is that establishing what categories, niches, or topics Google views your site an as authority on is well within your control by staying focused and using on-page factors.
If you want to improve your on-page factors, you’ll notice that building internal links is one of the most frustrating parts of SEO. To solve this need, I created my own plugin called Link Whisper.
Link Whisper helps make it easy and fast to add internal links to and from all of your content. You can check out my post on how internal linking helped us double our traffic to Niche Pursuits.Improve your topical authority by internal linking with Link Whisper
However, off-page factors still do matter. Getting a link from a bow hunting site if you have a compound bow niche site is better than getting a link from my Mom blog. The link from the Mom blog won’t hurt you and actually will help, but the relevant link is MUCH better…even if it is lower authority in my opinion.
Topical Authority, SEO, And Building New Sites
At this point, I’d like to discuss how this subject has directly impacted my decisions when building my site for Niche Site Project 4.
I’ve already revealed my site and made it public that I’m in the yard niche. But for this example, let’s pretend I’m in the home living niche.
So, at first I get really excited about all the opportunity that’s out there. I could discuss things like products you use in your home, home design ideas, home safety tips, diy projects, and so much more. This could be a HUGE site!
It would be easy to get caught into the trap of writing a random article on the best blender for smoothies one day, and then DIY picture frames the next. These all fit in my home goods niche, right?
But perhaps it’s a better decision to pick a sub-section…let’s say you want pick one room like the Kitchen. But even better might be to pick a sub-section of the Kitchen space.
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You could focus on kitchen design ideas or baking products only.
Once you establish yourself as an authority on kitchen design ideas (for example), maybe you could venture into bedroom design ideas.
Then over time, perhaps you might have your full site that covers every room in the house, a full home design ideas site.
So, this is essentially what I’ve decided for my niche site. The first couple of weeks I was just thinking about how broad I could make the site and I published several articles on only very loosely related subjects (although they all fit well under the niche I’ve selected).
However, now as I consider the importance of topical authority a bit more, I’m going to hone in on just one very small sliver of the niche and establish my site in that particular category.
Once, I’m doing well in that one category (which could be 6 to 12 months), I’ll then consider taking on a new topical cluster in the same niche (like moving from kitchen ideas and products to bedroom design and products).
So, to drive my point home without revealing my own niche, here’s what I was considering and here is what I’m considering now.
|Topics/Categories Before:||Topics/Categories After:|
|Kitchen Design/Products||Kitchen appliances|
|Living Room Design/Products|
So, not only am I zeroing in on just one topic, instead of 5. I’m actually niching down to a sub-segment of that one category to start (kitchen appliances instead of kitchen design and products overall).
As my site starts to do well in Google as an authority for that one sub-segment, the goal is to over time cover all the 5 categories that I had originally listed. However, this could take well over a year before I get to all these topics.
A Quick Update on My Niche Site
As I now begin to narrow the focus of my site for Niche Site Project 4, I thought I’d share a quick update.
[Update: Site is revealed. I have over 200 articles published now 🙂 check out my most recent Niche Site Project 4 update]
In total, I’ve now published a total of 29 articles. I should be able to publish another 4 or 5 by the end of October.
I only started publishing content on the site about a month and a half ago, so I’m learning patience as the site tries to catch the attention of Google. I’m not getting many visitors from Google yet, but I know it will as I continue to put in some effort and time.
Even though I haven’t made my first commissions yet for the site, the silver lining is that I’m starting to get more visitors from Pinterest. If I put up some Google Adsense, I’m sure there would be earnings this month. But I’m more concerned with the long term earnings of the site.
Here’s a quick look at the stats so far this month (October 2018):
Now that I’ve decided to zero in on one sub-niche, I believe that as I establish my topical authority a bit more over the next couple of months, the rankings and earnings will begin to improve rapidly.
If you want more tips on ranking better, you can read Brady’s post on how to improve SEO. He goes more in-depth on improving topical authority, boosting relevance, and ranking better there.
Any questions on topical authority? Leave a comment below!